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About Rainier

PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!

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'Heroes of Might and Magic V' Developer Q&A

by Rainier on July 13, 2005 @ 1:14 a.m. PDT

Gamers will delve into a more mature, consistent fantasy universe that will appeal to fans of all fantasy genres. Heroes of Might & Magic V will benefit from the features and characteristics that established the success of the initial saga while offering a wealth of innovations such as a highly immersive scenario, a variety of appealing factions, modern 3D graphics, a revolutionary tactical combat system, and a story-based campaign mode. Ubisoft sends along a pre-canned Q&A with producer Fabrice Cambounet.

Q: There hasn’t been a lot of information revealed so far about the game since it was announced, will there be more information soon?

FC : Since the game was announced in March, we’ve been working very hard on developing the game, trying out new ideas and testing features. Because it’s still so early, we want to make sure that we communicate confirmed game information and features.

We are bringing many great improvements to the game, and our priority is to make the right decisions and implement them, so we want to make sure we don’t talk about features that might never make their way to the final product.

Q: Which towns are in the game?

FC : There are six towns in the game, two of which were revealed at E3: humans and demons. Other towns will be revealed later. What you can expect in the remaining four towns is a completely new one and a bit of shake-up.

Q: What will happen with the old Might & Magic world?

FC : We decided to create a completely new world, so we know and can control all aspects about it. This is really a huge investment, and, I think, a testimony of Ubisoft’s involvement in the license. There are quite a few people here dedicated to the crafting and rebirth of the Might and Magic world.

The main reason for creating a new world is to avoid any mistakes or inconsistencies with previous titles: there wasn’t a complete bible for the old Might and Magic universe and because we were missing information, we would have run the risk of making critical errors in recreating the old universe.

The other reason is that we wanted to create a deep and dense world, in which we would be able to ensure better continuity—starting with Heroes of Might & Magic V - and decide what goes on in the world or in the scenario.

Q: Why are you simplifying the game?

FC : Though we’ve never said that we were simplifying the game, I’ve read this in some forums. I understand that fans have concerns about Heroes gameplay that they have enjoyed in the past. The truth is that the game is not being simplified compared to previous versions. The fact is that we’re making a game that is easier to access, and faster to play.

We’re working on a tutorial to help new players get up to speed (precisely because this game has a great deal of depth), along with a detailed world and intricate storyline.
It also means working on the game ergonomics and making multiplayer faster to play. Not seeing some interface or lengthy text doesn’t mean the inner structure was simplified, just that it will be easier to navigate in the game.

Q: Is this game just Heroes 3 in 3D?

FC : No, this is Heroes of Might and Magic V in 3D?. Now, this is a tough question. The fan community is clearly divided between Heroes 3 and Heroes 4. Both games have good ideas, and neither completely takes the lead over the other.

Early in the production we discussed where we wanted to go with the gameplay. We looked at how things were handled in previous games to see if there was a way to make it more interesting and if there was room for improvement.

In many cases—like with 3D, towns, world, scenario, campaign, and others, we made huge improvements for the new game. In other cases, the debate raged for a long time before we reached a solution that was balanced and understandable. For instance, we were faced with the question of “to be or to not to be on the battlefield” for heroes, so we designed an intermediate solution where they can enter the field to do specific actions. We also added some new elements, of course. Most of them will be optional so you can play the game the way you like. Battles, for instance, can be played in turn-based or in dynamic mode. There are also many small elements in battles that will increase the tactical choices. In other areas, we stayed true to the tradition: stacks, resources, turn structure, etc…

Finally, in the great realm of multiplayer gameplay, there will be a lot of new features. There is a mode where you will be able to play, even when it’s not your turn to play! This is a revolutionary mode for turn-based games. So, all in all, I believe we are making a real step forward. ?

Q: Why this particular graphical design?

FC : We want to update the look of the series, while keeping the core principles of its rules. The game must be recognized as a Heroes game at first look. We wanted create a lively world with many details and for it to have a medieval flavor, with bright colors, shiny items, bold heroes, fearless units, and impressive towns. The look of the game is inspired by many modern sources, from all parts of the world. These sources have been used and adapted by artists to create a more epic version of the previous games.

Q: Why are heroes out of the battlefield?

FC : This is one of the most difficult decisions we had to make on the gameplay. Heroes 4 proposed a new take on heroes by including them in the battles. This created new possibilities: More than one hero could be in an army, an army could be without a hero, an army could be made of heroes without any creature.

This was a bold step that also created an imbalance: fresh heroes were poor beings to protect, while stronger ones could wipe out whole armies by themselves. Unless the growth of heroes’ power was removed, this could not be balanced. But it was a great idea, and we looked for ways to stay close to it.

Believe me, many options were considered, and we agreed that the current one fulfilled all criteria. It is a mix of both versions that can be tuned and balanced, it allows the hero to act on the battlefield, gives out new options with the hero growth and allows different actions for different factions. That solution means that heroes, although having the ability to fight on the battlefield, are mostly commanders: They need an army at all times, and an army needs a commander in the same way.

Q: What about the retaliation system?

FC : We went for the alternate system of battles. It offers more tactical opportunities—you have to time and plan your actions, in order to get the clear advantage of being the attacker. Plus, it is certainly easier to understand visually, with less action and info jumping at you at the same moment.

Q: Is there no fog of war?

FC : Of course there is one! It was removed from the E3 demo, only to allow us to show the different areas of the map.

Q: What is this hero’s trail?

FC : This is a new feature of the game. Each hero will leave a sort of trail behind him, enabling others to track him. This trail will be different for each race, and it will grow in size with the hero’s level. Thus you will be able to judge who has come by in an area.

Q: What is the size of the battlefield? And how does it vary?

The default size of the battlefield is similar to previous games, in terms of the number of cells. It will switch to a smaller size, if both armies are small (with few stacks). The goal here is to play small battles faster, to speed up the game, especially the first encounters. You can, however, easily force a large battlefield, if your strategy requires it, by having more stacks. Sieges will be played on the largest version.

Q: Is the combat completely automated?

FC : No, it is not. This impression could be coming from the E3 demo. We removed all interface from the battle phase and all controls. This was done to get the best sequence of action, and elaborate better cameras. We didn’t want to show the control system at this stage.

Q: Why” less of this” or “more of that”?

FC : Heroes’ discussions are often a fight of figures. How many creatures? How many spells? “My skill system has more choices than yours,” that sort of thing. Although these elements are an important part of the game (especially when considering the number of missions or number of towns), this is not a complete picture of the gameplay. A better system, with more strategic choices, leading to more ways of playing, does not necessarily rely on more items.

So, for sure, in comparison with previous games, there are areas where Heroes of Might & Magic V will have “less than”, or “more than”. When this is the case, it was a deliberate choice to do so. This may have been done because the underlying system works well, because it will be easier to balance, or because this area of the game has a specific level of importance compared to the rest. It can also be that we want to have some room left to expand on for the future.

Q: Will there be open beta testing?

FC : There will be different beta tests, with a different number of seats and different objectives. There will be at least a closed one, which will include a good number of fans, and we are planning for an open one later for a larger community. More details will be announced, and the first beta test should open in late summer.

Q: What are these “random events”? What about that dragon appearing at the end of the trailer and the E3 demo?

FC : That was a cliffhanger?. This was done to round out the end of the sequence nicely, with some surprise. Perhaps it is also linked to the story…I’ve read wild speculations about this being a gameplay element using random appearances that could break the game flow. This is an assumption based on a rumor, of course.

Q: What are these “year-old” screens that popped up on the net?

FC : The game development started a long time ago, way more than one and a half years now. A few external people were allowed to have a look, and some leaked these very early screens over the Internet and broke personal and contractual trust. The important point to remember is that these elements are so old that almost all of them are outdated. The game has progressed a lot further, so these screens do not represent what the game is like today.

In conclusion, there are still many good things ahead until the game releases. We are releasing the first wallpaper which features the “Godric” artwork by Olivier Ledroit, who works with us on the artistic direction of the brand. We will be featuring an interview with Olivier soon, so stay tuned.

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