Hope each of you is doing relatively well, and welcome to Fanstratics Newsletter #3 (November 2020).
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This month's Troop concept sketch is the Feral Vampire.
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‘Thank you’ to everyone who wrote, especially the well wishers. If you have any questions or comments, regarding Fanstratics (FST) or Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM3), feel free to send them along, and I’ll try to answer them in future newsletters (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please keep in mind, it may take at least 7 days before I reply.
Moving forward, I’m splitting the Newsletter in two. Section 1 will dedicate 5 to 10 questions to Fanstratics news and general fan inquires. Section 2 will dedicate to 10 to 15 questions to written interviews I am in the process of doing, or have done, with different websites.
Some of these interviews are very long, and will transpire over a couple Newsletters. To start, I will begin posting questions from a very lengthy interview I did with Tavern of Might and Magic. Hopefully, you will find it interesting.
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
(Questions, Answers & Comments)
I have designed 9 Factions, not including Neutral Troops, which could be considered a unofficial 10th Faction. There are also conceptual markers for 2 or 3 additional Factions, which could be part of subsequent Fanstratics (FST) expansions, assuming the game reaches market and is moderately successful.
Note, I say Factions... not Towns. In HoMM3, we should have changed the terminology from ‘Towns’ to ‘Factions’, but we were trying to remain somewhat consistent with the HoMM2 convention (Barbarian Town, Knight Town, Warlock Town, etc.).
This is the reason the largely human culture was called ‘Castle’ and not something else, like... the Alliance. In Fanstratics, each culture will have a proper Faction name.
How many Factions ship with the initial game, is ultimately dependent on budget. If crowdfunding and Early Access sales meet expectations, it would be reasonable to craft and ship all 9. If crowdfunding and Early Access sales do not meet expectations, we may be forced to craft and ship less than 9. There is always the hope, post release sales would generate the revenue to continue building the remaining Factions, but there are no guarantees.
Starting next month, I’ll detail a little about each Faction, but you can already begin to deduce the various cultures from the released concept art. To date, each piece of Troop concept art is taken from 1 Faction, and this will continue until we have revealed 9 Troops. Thereafter, we will start another cycle of 9.
I’ll reveal conceptual details for the first Faction, starting with the December Newsletter.
Will there be a forum for suggestions and feedback?
At this stage, I’m unsure. Typically, if someone likes the game... they tend to quietly enjoy it. If someone plays the game, but is upset with a particular aspect... they join the company forum and vomit verbal poison.
I’m looking at the viability of an in-game system to report bugs and give feedback. In this way, we’d get the player evaluations we desire, without the public misbehavior. Regardless, any feedback system won’t happen until Early Access.
Will Sir Mullich be in the game?
‘Sir Mullich’ is copyrighted by Ubisoft, and will not be in the game... but it wouldn’t be proper, for a spiritual successor to HoMM, to not have the screwy expression of ‘David Mullich’ somewhere in the game. I have told David, of my desire to put him in the game, and he hasn’t voiced any opposition. Of course, we will need to get a recent photo of him, which shouldn’t be a problem, as he likes to ham it up for the camera.
Would you work with Ubisoft, if they approached you to make another HoMM game?
I seriously doubt Ubisoft would approach me. If they did, I would want specific guarantees (production, financial, and creative), and I strongly doubt they would acquiesce. Overall, when you consider the collection of Might & Magic games Ubisoft has created, I suspect they have made money, but not the big numbers they desired. Unfortunately, for Ubisoft, Might & Magic has become a middling franchise, suited more for easily marketed spin offs. Which leads into the next question.
Have you seen Might & Magic Era of Chaos?
Yes. I have been playing Era of Chaos (EoC), since it became available outside of China. It’s about what you would expect from a F2P mobile game; semi-automated game play, very long progression system, specific pay-to-win elements, etc. This being said... it isn’t bad. In many respects, the HoMM3 lore, characters, and mechanics, are well suited for a mobile translation. I must admit though, it’s a little odd seeing the HoMM3 ‘universe’ given another life in another genre. Once HoMM5 hit the shelves, I thought Erathia and Catherine were at a logical end.
Tavern of Might and Magic
Questions 1-11, of 58
This interview was conducted by Tavern of Might and Magic and GoodGame.ru, and published on February 28th, 2019, the 20th Anniversary of HoMM3. It’s a very long interview, almost 60 questions, and delves deep into unresolved lore, as well as other common questions. I’ll be posting between 10 to 15 questions per Newsletter, until we reach the end, after which we will roll into another interview.
I will answer these questions to the best of my recollection, but please keep in mind, it has been almost 20 years since HoMM3 and HoMM3: AB were created.
1. Have you followed the games that came out after you quit NWC (like Heroes Chronicles, HoMM4, etc,) to some degree?
I continue to follow the M&M catalog of games. Specifically, I have all seven HoMM titles, and have played each to varying degrees.
2. Did you consider the Price of Loyalty expansion for HoMM2 canon?
Price of Loyalty was not developed in house at New World Computing, but contracted out to Cyberlore Studios. It was on the shelves before I ever joined NWC, and I do not recall ever having any lore discussions regarding the expansion. With this in mind, I cannot give an authoritative answer to this question… I can only give you my personal opinion. Yes, I consider it cannon.
3. Does Price of Loyalty take place on planet Enroth or just some random world (like HoMM 1-4 scenarios do)?
Succession Wars, Restoration of Erathia, and Armageddon’s Blade all took place on the same planet, but in different locales. For Price of Loyalty, I had no reason to believe it was not on the same planet, but tucked away in a different region so it would not interfere with NWC’s ongoing work. Keep in mind, if in some way it did present a ‘creative or continuity issue’, I could easily imagine a quick conversation among the design leads to retcon it to another world.
4. How familiar were you with the story and lore of the core Might and Magic series (particularly MM7, as it also takes place in Antagarich) and other Heroes titles?
Prior to becoming an employee at New World Computing, I was like most fans. I played the games, followed the story, but was not deep into the lore.
After becoming an employee, I focused on ‘big picture’ elements affecting what I was doing. For the gritty details, I relied on Christian Vanover and Jennifer Bullard to notify me of any thorny issues.
I had near zero involvement in the development of MM7.
5. How far ahead had you planned the storyline for future installments when working on HoMM3?
Officially, there were never any storylines planned beyond the games in production. If we had any goal, it was to loosely tie one game into the next. MM6 into HoMM3 into MM7 into HoMM3:AB, etc.
Having a ‘grand plan’ typically requires a singular individual, with the desire and power, to enforce such a long term goal over multiple years and multiple teams. In game development, people come and go, teams come and go, and turnover is high. For example, after HoMM3:AB, 3 of the 5 team leads either left the company or moved on to other projects.
6. How much were you involved in the second HoMM3 expansion’s development? The Shadow of Death was released after you’ve already left NWC, but maybe you know something about its story and lore details (so that we know if it’s appropriate to ask you questions regarding SoD)?
I was not involved in the conception or creation of SoD. As far as I know, Jennifer Bullard was the project’s Lead Designer, and any questions you have about SoD would best be directed to her.
7. In one of pre-release short stories published on the official website prior to the release of HoMM3, the one that serves as a brief introduction to the continent, there’s this phrase: The History of Erathia is long indeed, and like the Ironfists of Enroth, the Gryphonhearts have been the ruling family since before the Silence. However, HoMM1’s manual features letters from Lord Ironfist that established him coming to Enroth from another world and uniting that continent-spanning kingdom under his rule. HoMM2 was stated to take place 25 years after the end of HoMM1 campaign, Roland and Archibald being Lord Ironfist’s sons. That makes Ironfists ruling from around 1126 A.S. Was that backstory subtly retconned (and thus, HoMM1 is just Ironfist fighting other lords to succeed the throne that has already belong to his family)? Was it just a mistake? Or something else entirely?
To me, this looks like a simple mistake.
Fun fact: the part about the Gryphonhearts ruling Erathia since before the Silence was retconned in Heroes Chronicles: Warlords of the Wasteland. That game clearly takes place after the Silence and the downfall of Colonial Government, with technology already being quasi-medieval, the oppressive empire of Bracaduun ruling over most of the continent, and there being a barbarian conquest several generations prior. Granted, the campaign texts never directly state that WotW takes place after the Silence, but the depiction of the world heavily implies that. Plus, Armageddon’s Blade appears on the final map along with its default text about the hero finding the vault of the Ancients from before the Silence.
8. There’s also an obvious retcon in another HoMM3 short story that deals with the origin of Deyja. It mentions this land being home to necromancers for nearly a millennium. MM6 establishes that Ethric the Mad simultaneously became the world’s first lich and necromancer after being buried in his tomb and rising from the dead. The tomb is said to have been built not very long ago, during the life of Edrics' great grandfather. Another NPC text calls necromancy a very new science. Thus, Deyja’s origin story retcons the time of Ethric becoming the first necromancer, making it take place much further in the past. I find this change to be interesting, as it makes necromancy an ancient menace (although the original concept of it being a new, but still very dangerous science is no less appealing to me), but am curious to know about how it was made, and how the backstory for Deyja was developed. Also, Deyja’s origin story mentions liches having to feed on the living to sustain their existence, which hasn’t been brought up since? Is it something more subtly that a vampire draining its victim, like the lich slowly causing the life around it to die, much as the necromancer did to that part of AvLee which is now Deyja?
Unfortunately, for HoMM3, Deyja had no real backstory developed beyond what is commonly known.
The Necromancers' cult was exiled from the nation of Bracada (the southern mountains I mentioned earlier). Wandering the continent, the cult eventually settled in AvLee - a region teeming with life.
As for Liches feeding on the ‘living’, I suspect you are referring to the short story, ‘Necromancy Origin’ by Marcus Finch. Your assumptions are generally correct.
In the short story, Liches are described as needing to ‘feed on life to survive’. Think of a Lich as something of a ‘lifeforce vortex’, slowly and progressively draining life from its living surroundings. For a Lich, ‘lifeforce’ is the air in which it breathes. This doesn’t mean a Lich couldn’t ‘life drain’ a singular human target, but a Lich certainly has no taste for flesh or blood.
9. On that note, a question about Armageddon’s Blade. From what is revealed about it both in the original version of the expansion’s story (a fragment of that is the cinematic intro) and the final one, this artifact is an Ancient weapon, either created by the Ancients or stored by them underground. One Armageddon’s Blade is created by Kreegans, forged from demonic relics by Kazandar. The text about another such blade being found in an Ancient vault still remains in the game (and this weapon is already fabled in the world before being constructed by Kazandar). Can you tell us something more about Armageddon’s Blade? Was the one that is deep underground ever found?
If I understand this correctly, ‘context’ appears to have led to a continuity issue.
There are Armageddon’s Blade references in the intro movie, the origin campaign, and the single player maps. For the campaign, Armageddon’s Blade was supposed to be a ‘recipe’. A terrible weapon from before the Silence. Anyone could create it with the required parts. The obvious analogy is a nuclear bomb. Anyone can make a nuclear bomb if they have the resources and knowledge. In the case of the campaign, Xeron has the resources and Kazandar has the knowledge.
In the case of the intro cinematic and single player maps, Armageddon’s Blade is presented as a singular artifact. When an artifact is collected by a Hero, there is a window displaying a paragraph of flavor text. For Armageddon’s Blade, the text is...
“Deep beneath the earth, you find a vault of the Ancients from before the Silence. Inside you find a sealed casket, deeply etched with dire warnings. Ignoring them, you break the seal. Inside, you find Armageddon's Blade.”
How would I resolve all of this? I would say, Armageddon’s Blade was built by Kazandar for Xeron to use in the war between Lucifer and Catherine. This does not exclude other constructions of the same recipe from existing elsewhere. Regarding deep lore, unless there is evidence to the contrary, I would say Armageddon’s Blade was an angelic weapon (note the golden bird on the hilt), forged from demonic weapons, used primarily to exterminate the Kreegans. Knowing this, the Kreegans attempted use of the blade in the campaign is rather ironic.
10. Near the end of the Armageddon’s Blade campaign, Gelu has a dream that involves him uniting Antagarich, doing so with the help of a blade (presumed to be the eponymous sword) and a mysterious steel-haired woman. Who was the woman?
Marcus Pregent was responsible for putting together the fine details of the Armageddon’s Blade Campaign. If I remember correctly, he was simply laying the groundwork for potential storylines he was hoping to develop in later expansions. Officially, there were no plans for the ‘steel-haired woman’.
11. Also, Gelu’s dream is revealed to be prophetic, as one possible course of events. The other being that a great destruction befalls the worlds if Gelu’s destiny is disrupted. Was the Reckoning (the destruction of the world depicted in HoMM4) planned way back then, or was it just a potential story branch you guys considered, and the team decided to make it happen later?
Again, this was Marcus laying the groundwork for potential storylines in later expansions. At the time, this ‘story hook’ was unrelated to HoMM4. Lore work for HoMM4, and the idea for ‘the Reckoning’, did not begin until long after I had left NWC.