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25/02/2014

Heroes III: Testimonies from Devs

To get the week off to a good start, we are pleased to share you some insights about Heroes of Might & Magic III development!

To get the week off to a good start, we are pleased to share you some insights about Heroes of Might & Magic III development!

Indeed, David Mullich (Game Director of Heroes 3 of Might & Magic) & Chris Vanover -Sir Christian- (Associate Director) made us the honor and friendship to relate “The Tale of Heroes of Might & Magic III”!

---

The Tale of Heroes of Might & Magic III
By David Mullich

The video game industry is a relatively small and tight-knit community, and most of the opportunities for the games I’ve developed came to me through someone I had previously known.  Heroes of Might and Magic III was no exception.

I first met Jon Van Caneghem, the founder of New World Computing and chief designer of most of its games, in 1994.  We were both speakers on a panel about “The Art and Craft of Game Design” at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  Jon was familiar with some of the games I had worked on in the past, such as Disney’s “DuckTales” and Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream”, and suggested that we should work together sometime.

That opportunity came three years later when New World Computing contacted me about becoming director for a new sequel in the Heroes of Might & Magic franchise.  It was an exciting proposition but also a somewhat daunting one – Heroes of Might & Magic II, which was released the previous year, had just been named the sixth-best PC game of all time by PC Gamer magazine.  What could I possibly do for an encore?

That is precisely the question I was asked by Trip Hawkins, president of The 3DO Company, which had recently purchased New World Computing.  Trip made it the habit of personally interviewing every key employee joining the 3DO family (in my case, it was a phone interview, since I lived in the Los Angeles area, where New World was located, whereas The 3DO Company was based in the San Francisco area), and he wanted to know what I brought to the party.

Fortunately, I had an answer ready.  I had spent about a week playing Heroes II and found it to be a remarkably addicting and well-designed game.  However, my one qualm was with the art style.  I thought the artwork looked about five years behind the times, and so my focus would be on bringing the graphics up to current standards.  Trip seemed satisfied with my answer, and I could only hope that my bosses at New World agreed with me.

It turns out, they did.  On my first day on the job, my manager told me that the company was unhappy with its current art direction and wanted me to “secretly” find a new art director among the art staff.  So, on the pretense of introducing myself to everyone, I held one-to-one conversations with each artist.  They were all capable artists, but one, Phelan Sykes, used our discussion to talk about how unhappy she was with the status quo.  “I have found my art director”, I told myself, and as I later discovered, she was also the most talented artist in the company.

Another person I was happy to meet was Greg Fulton, a new employee New World had hired to be the lead designer the Heroes of Might & Magic III team I was putting together.  Greg was hired on the same day I was, and we had never met each other previously, but we quickly became fast friends.  I told Greg about my plan for upgrading the franchise’s art style from its past cartoony look to one that I called “extreme fantasy.” Greg showed me some artwork from the Warhammer tabletop miniatures game, proving to me that he knew exactly what I meant.

Together we went through galleries of fantasy artwork created by such great artists as Boris Vallejo, Larry Elmore and Rowina Morill, picking out images of heroes, creatures and environments that captured the look we were going after.  We then arranged our collection into eight themed factions, up from the six that were featured in Heroes II.

My attention then turned to programming.  My team started with only one programmer, George Ruof, who had worked on Heroes II.  For the rest, I had to go outside the company, because the other staff programmers were dedicated to the studio’s other franchise, the Might & Magic role-playing game series.  Luckily, my search didn’t take long as I was able to bring on two talented engineers who had programmed “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” for me at another company – John Bolton, who I assigned to be lead programmer, and David Richey, who I hired as level editor programmer.

Since we were on a very tight development timeframe – fourteen months altogether – we decided to re-use the game engine that had been created for Heroes of Might & Magic II but added the new game features such as upgradeable fighting units, an underground level, a revamped magic system, and many more map objects to visit.  However, David Richey completely revised the level editor so that the level designers had a very robust quest creation system they could use to create a wide variety of levels to explore and conduct warfare upon.

I soon found that each of my leads were so talented and got along with each other so well that I realized I was working with a dream team the likes of which I have never again experienced in my thirty-five years in game industry.

Greg Fulton worked very closely with Jon Van Caneghem on creating the stats for all the combat units and other game elements, modeling them first on Excel spreadsheets to test out whether verifying that everything was balanced before being programmed into the game.  Greg also managed our assistant designer, Chris Vanover, who under the name “Sir Christian”, was our community manager and did a terrific job keeping the fans updated on progress with the game.  In addition, Greg supervised our six-person level design team lead by Jennifer Bullard (Jennifer would later become assistant designer on Heroes of Might & Magic IV and took over community management under the name “Maranthea”).

Systems programmer John Krause, whom I worked with at my previous company; multiplayer programmer Jeff Leggett; and artificial intelligence programmer Gus Smedstad soon supplemented our three-person engineering team lead by John Bolton.  (Gus would later become both lead programmer and lead designer on Heroes of Might & Magic IV).  As the deadline fast approached and we got into “crunch time”, even General Manager Mark Caldwell came in to join the programming action.

I spent most of my time with lead artist Phelan Sykes and assistant lead artist Rebecca Riel, helping them adapt the twenty-person art team to the new art style as they created over 10,000 pieces of artwork for the game.  Thankfully, the art team was more than up to the challenge, including illustrator George Almond, lead animator Adam McCarthy, user interface designer Scott White, and too many other talented artists to mention here.  Phelan also oversaw the creation of the terrific cinematics created by our third-party vendors.

I would be remiss if I did not mention audio lead Rob King, who with the assistance of Paul Romero and Steve Baca, created the game’s dramatic music, sound effects and voice over.

I was lucky enough to be overseeing a very well oiled machine that actually required very little supervision on my part.  I had few concerns when I left the project for a few days when my wife gave birth to our second son.  When I returned to the office, my team surprised me by creating a new hero for the game, Sir Mullich, whose in-game description was, “Generally stoic, Sir Mullich is prone to spasmodic fits of uncoordinated excitement believed to intimidate his troops into working faster.”  I was both touched and amused by this in-joke, and allowed them to keep it in the game.

Heroes of Might & Magic III launched on February 28, 1999, in precisely the fourteen months we estimated it would take to complete, a rarity in game development.  Even more amazingly, many fans and critics heralded the game as being better than its predecessor. But most of all, I’m proudest of the wonderful team with whom I was privileged to work, many of whom I still remain in contact with fifteen years later.  These incredible game developers are the real heroes of Might & Magic.

 

"Creativity"
By Chris "Sir Christian" Vanover.


I had already done many maps for Heroes III, as I had done for Heroes I and II, including all the writing and flavor text that players would encounter as they played. The tales of Xanthor that were posted on our community forums were also my creation, and it was a lot of fun to be able to craft each new chapter and see the immediate responses that it would generate.
 
So when the Design Lead, Greg Fulton, told me he wanted to hand off another design task, I jumped at the chance without question. It turned out to be two requests, actually:
 
1) Come up with names for the eight leaders of Erathia.
2) Write a short bio / backstory for each hero. Each of the one hundred and twenty eight heroes.
 
*Gulp*
 
Deep breaths, Christian, you can do this. But I wasn't panicked for the reason you might think. See, when it comes to writing, I can go on and on. But when it comes to names, I'm hopeless. They are my collective Achilles Heel. My own pen-and-paper character names are terrible, and it carried over to the video games that I play: a Diablo Barbarian named Smaash, who was later reborn as my Rock Band drummer. A SWTOR Bounty Hunter named Guido. I used the name Widowmaker because I was a fan of Glen Cook's excellent Black Company series. At one point I even started naming personal characters after Might & Magic characters, including Xanthor, Korbac, and yes, the hated Spaz Maticus (my Bothan Teras Kasi in Star Wars Galaxies).
 
What I'm getting at is that, when presented with the two tasks by Greg, I very calmly said to him, "You need to know that I'll come up with 128 character bios before I come up with 8 good names." He laughed, but not as much as he did when I had finished the bios, but still needed two more leader names. I think he took pity on me by allowing me to change the names of one of the Knight characters to Sir Christian - my most unoriginal name ever, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
---

If you want to discover more former developer’s interviews, check out MMX OpenDev where some amazing people answered our question, including Jon Van Caneghem!


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A few weeks ago Polish fan site  Acidcave  organized an  art contest  inspired by the Might & Magic universe. Learn who the winners are and discover their amazing arts!

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Might & Magic Mortal Fighters

01/04/2013

Might & Magic Mortal Fighters , a new fighting game situated in the world of Ashan, is finally revealed.

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Might & Magic: Heroes Kingdoms announces the Season 4

02/04/2013

The Might & Magic: Heroes Kingdoms team is delighted to announce the Season 4. Check out what new comes with this major update!

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Ultimate Adventurer

22/03/2013

Come at PAX EAST (from March 22 to March 24, Boston, US) and win an exclusive Ultimate Adventurer card!

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Might & Magic X Legacy finally revealed!

21/03/2013

After a decade, a Might & Magic® RPG is back with both the unique core formula and a new set of improved and fine-tuned features. The best RPG of its class!

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Might & Magic at PAX East

19/03/2013

We are happy to announce that this year you can join the Might & Magic team at PAX EAST from March 22 to March 24 (Boston, US).

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Might & Magic Heroes Online

15/03/2013

Join the MMHO developer blog and discover a lot of exciting content first-hand!

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Might & Magic Heroes Online

12/03/2013

Enough of just telling you how awesome Might and Magic Heroes Online will be – it’s time to show you.

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March 8th

08/03/2013

Happy Women's Day!

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Evolution of the Angel

05/03/2013

Angels have often been  in Might & Magic: let's recall all of them, from Heroes 3 to Duel of Champions! 

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Evolution of the Naga

28/02/2013

It has been a while since we last discovered an evolution. Today let's have a look back at the evolution of the Naga in Might & Magic. 

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Discover The Best Might & Magic Collection Ever!

20/02/2013

"Best Might & Magic collection" contest is now OVER, thank you for your votes! To reward participants, we would like to add more items to these already great collections.

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Dev Diary: Dungeon

19/02/2013

Check out the video and learn more about new game features included in Shades of Darkness Standalone and new faction, the Dungeon.

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Evolution of the Air Elemental

31/01/2013

Today let's have a look back at the evolution of the Air Elemental in Might & Magic: from Might & Magic 1 to Heroes 6 and Duel of Champions. Which one is your favorite?

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Advanced strategy tutorial for Clash of Heroes

29/01/2013

Are you ready for the second part of the Clash of Heroes advanced tactics video? These tips are focused on the Necro strategy which, we hope, will help you to crash your enemies in the multiplayer mode.

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The best Might & Magic collection

28/01/2013

Might & Magic Heroes 6 Shades of Darkness will be released in a month! In the meantime we would like to share with you some HD arts: Heroes 6 arts, Clash of Heroes wallpapers as well as evolutions of different creatures throuhgout the Might & Magic games.

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The best Might & Magic collection

25/01/2013

Might & Magic'ers, have a look at this Might & Magic collection: games, books, CDs figurine, arts, cards. Can you recognize everything? 

This great Might & Magic collection is owned by Julien Pirou (aka Marzhin).

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Might & Magic Clash of Heroes

24/01/2013

One of the most critically acclaimed game is now available on iPhone and iPad

Develop your Hero, build your army, master devastating combos, play with your friends on the same device… or online in asynchronous! Check out the trailer!

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Dungeon townscreens are finally revealed

22/01/2013

Might & Magic Heroes 6 "Shades of Darkness" will be released on February 28th and today we would like to present you the Dungeon brand new townscreens: immersive and dark, Dungeon towns are ready to welcome you!

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The TAG GAMES developers about Clash of Heroes

21/01/2013

Might & Magic Clash of Heroes on iOs is getting closer to its release (January 24th) and we wanted to ask the development team about the game. Check out the answers from the TAG GAMES core team.

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Might & Magic Clash of Heroes: advanced tactics for Haven

11/01/2013

This is an Advanced Strategy tutorial focused on tips for Haven. After you watch the video, you will be able to crach every enemy you encounter and Clash of Heroes will always end in your favor! 

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Might & Magic Heroes 6: Shades of Darkness and the Complete Edition

11/01/2013

Today, Ubisoft® announced pre-order offers for Might & Magic® Heroes® VI standalone expansion, Shades of Darkness, featuring exclusive in-game content packages.


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Basic strategy for Might & Magic Clash of Heroes

14/01/2013

Might & Magic Clash of Heroes will be available on iPad and iPhone on January 24th: discover all the mobile basic strategies that will help you to master this awesome Might and Magic strategy game!

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The evolution of the Black Dragon

10/01/2013

Let's have a look back at the evolution of the Black Dragon in Might & Magic: from Might & Magic 1 to Heroes 6 "Shades of Darkness". They are still as powerful as before!

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Might & Magic Clash of Heroes

08/01/2013

The award-winning RPG is coming to iPhone and iPad on January 24th! Check out the trailer! Learn more about the game from the official Q&A

Get ready!

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Dungeon

07/01/2013

The Dark Elves, trying to establish their nation, will have to face the eternal enemies of Darkness: the Angels. Who will be victorious in your opinion?

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The evolution of the Manticore in Might & Magic

04/01/2013

The Manticore first appeared in Might & Magic 1, then in Heroes 3, Might & Magic 7 and Heroes 5.

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Tuidhana

03/01/2013

Learn how the Dark Elves were born

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Assassins throughout the time

27/12/2012

Assassins… they have been introduced in Might & Magic 1 but they were mostly seen in the Heroes series. Now we are waiting for them to appear in Heroes 6 Standalone Expansion "Shades of Darkness"

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Merry Christmas!

24/12/2012

The Christmas Elves of Ashan are on a mission to bring all our Might & Magic fans the secret gifts that will let them enjoy the countless shades of happiness! 

Merry Christmas from the Might & Magic teams!

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End of the world

21/12/2012

Definitely, the End of the World is the topic of the day everywhere, even at Sandro's. And you, what's your version ?

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