Welcome. Hope each of you is doing well.
As always, ‘thank you’ to everyone who wrote, especially those with positive sentiments. 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 14 days before I reply (it’s taking longer-and-longer as production continues).
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
Fanstratics Troop: Forest Dragon.
When I began searching for a concept artist, Justin stood out for many reasons. Variety of characters and creatures were a large part of it. Justin has rendered numerous Dragons, along with some wonderful Treefolk, but he has never rendered a Forest Dragon. Until now.
This month, I emailed to him a list of conceptual candidates, and asked which Troop jumped out at him. His enthusiastic reply was, “Forest Dragon!”
What more can I say... he nailed it.
Bonus... if you liked the Medusa Vanguard, it’s inspiring to others as well.
Fanstratics Faction #8: Boggish.
From deep in the Swamp lands, lurk the cold-blooded Reptilian Boggish. Secretive and isolationist, they typically foist their influence on other civilizations, from the shadowy cracks and corners, via bribery, blackmail, and sabotage. While they rarely venture forth from their homelands, when they do, they are a truly frustrating foe.
Anyone following the monthly Troop reveals will be unsurprised by this Faction’s inclusion, and will immediately recognize its similarity to HoMM3’s ‘Fortress’. Representing the Boggish is the Gatorkin Caster, which can be viewed in the Fanstratics Gallery.
Fanstratics Feature: Community Map Editor & Random Map Generator.
Some of you may be a little surprised by my listing ‘Community Map Editor & Random Map Generator’ amongst the ‘new’ features for Fanstratics. Why? Simple. People keep asking, “Will there be a Map Editor?” Obviously, “Yes.”
I will do what I can to make an easy to use community Map Editor, very similar to the HoMM3 editor. As for the Random Map Generator, there have been numerous advances in algorithmic content manipulation since 1999, and I really want to do some deep research before I finalize my plan. So, at this stage, I cannot say how the RMG will operate.
When will the Map Editor and Random Map Generator be released?
Before I answer this question, I must first tip my hat to ‘Timothy’ (you know who you are), who wrote and pointed out a mistake I made in an earlier Newsletter. Specifically, I said, “HoMM3’s map editor and random map generator were released with its first expansion pack ‘Armageddon’s Blade’. For Fanstratics, I expect to rollout both a Community Map Editor and a Random Map Generator, well after the game’s official public release.”
This was incorrect. HoMM3’s Map Editor was initially released with Restoration of Erathia. HoMM3’s Random Map Generator was released with Armageddon’s Blade.
My goal for Fanstratics is the same. Release the Map Editor with the base game, followed by the Random Map Generator sometime thereafter.
It may be too early to ask, but still, “Will HoMM3 have a limit of 8 players with more than 8 factions? Will there be a similar limit in Fanstratics?”
Yes. In Fanstratics the maximum number of players will be eight, and the maximum number of Adventure Heroes on the Adventure Map will be eight. As for Factions, nine are being developed, but one, two, or three more could be added with DLC, assuming the game is successful.
HoMM3 Recollection: The Day the Coke Machine Caught Fire.
Some of you may remember this story, but three weeks from finishing the game... the New World Computing (NWC) Coca-Cola machine... caught fire.
Once ‘crunch’ was declared, at 7:00pm each night, Mark Caldwell would unlock the company Coke machine. No need to feed the machine money, just pull open the front half of the appliance, reach inside, and pull out a cold can of... whatever. If you have ever purchased a can or bottle of soda pop from a vending machine, you will know these machines are big and made to endure all sorts of vandalism.
I vaguely remember grinding away, at my desk, with my office door open. Prior to NWC’s growth and expansion, my room was sandwiched between the offices of David Mullich and Benjamin Bent (NWC Office Manager and part time Producer (Vegas Games)). Outside my office, the hallway diverged, leading to the Tester’s Room and the Break Room.
As my office wasn’t too far from the Break Room, I remember sitting there... smelling smoke... thinking, “Is that smoke?”
A moment later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young man dart into Ben’s office. I heard a muffled, hurried exchanged, followed by the same young man rushing out of Ben’s office... followed by Ben.
Now, I could definitely smell smoke.
Down the hall, I heard an additional, brief conversation, after which I saw Ben calmly returning to his office. I caught Ben’s attention and he took a detour to my doorway.
Me, “What’s going on?”
Ben rolled his eyes, “The Coke machine caught fire.”
“It caught fire?”
“Well, it looks like opening and closing the machine sheared some electrical wires, and they caught fire.”
Ben shook his head, “This idiot tester just stood there with a soda can in one hand, pointing at the fire.”
Me, “Do we have a fire extinguisher?”
“Yeah, but just unplugged the machine.”
“So, we have warm Cokes now?”
Ben chuckled, “We will. Get ‘em while they’re cold.”
A moment after Ben returned to his office, David Mullich appeared outside my office door, “Do I smell smoke?”
I remember this event rather well for a couple of reasons. First, its absurdity fit within the general absurdity of game development. Second, in many ways, it was an apt analogy for game development... something goes wrong, someone panics, someone else calmly solves the problem, and work continues.
In game development, the Coke machine is always catching fire.
Behemoth Cave Interview
Questions 7-8c, of 18
This interview was conducted by Behemoth Cave (Webpage & Facebook) and originally published on November 10th, 2020. It’s another relatively long interview, comprised of 33 questions in 18 parts. I’ll be posting around 5 questions per Newsletter, until we reach the end, after which we will roll into another interview. Below are questions 7 to 8c, of 18.
7. While developing the game, did you anticipate that Heroes III will be a competitive title with many tournaments such as overwhelmingly popular Polish Championships which have gathered a four-digit number of contestants?
Not in the slightest. Network play in HoMM3 was an afterthought. In 1999, the idea anyone would be playing the game, competitively, twenty years later... was unimaginable. I still have a difficult time wrapping my head around it.
8a. A breath of new life - the modding of games. What is your opinion on modding?
I think most game developers consider modding to be a good thing. It extends the life of the game, and provides an avenue for potential game developers to learn the nuts-and-bolts of game development. Quake mods probably exhibited the best of this. More recently, are the jaw dropping mods for Fallout and Skyrim.
8b. Is modding a chance for a game to have a second life, or is it rather an unnecessary interference in the designers’ original product?
In my opinion, mods tend to give a game a second life. If a mod goes ‘too far’, this is more a reflection on the modder, not the original game developer, and I’m confident fans know and understand the difference.
8c. Have you played any Heroes III mods?
When I was doing my research for Fanstratics, I went out of my way to try every mod I could find: WoG, VCMI, HD, HotA, and the numerous smaller mods changing specific game aspects. Like some fans, I have a unique install for each ‘version’ of HoMM3.
8d. Do you follow the progress of Horn of the Abyss? The dev team behind it came up with the idea of a brand new faction - Regnan pirates (Cove). Also there is a new faction just around the corner which blends in steampunk and the Wild West - the Factory, which might be recognized as the spiritual successor to the technological Forge with original additions.
Yes, I do follow HotA. Many of the technical and gameplay changes were very logical, and overall, the art is equal, or better, than many of the original HoMM3 assets.
The Factory was something of a surprise. Is it a ‘spiritual successor’ to the Forge? To a degree. There were two potential approaches to the Forge. My conception was a more horrifying World War 2 approach, where David Mullich wanted a more Jules Verne ‘glass and brass’ approach. The Factory has a ‘glass and brass’ theme, with an American Western twist. It’s very unique.