Welcome. Hope each of you is safe.
This month I have four topics, followed by the fifth and final set of questions in the interview conducted by Andrew Gasz of HoMM Hungary (Webpage & Facebook).
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 (email@example.com). Please keep in mind, it may take at least 1 month before I reply (it’s taking longer-and-longer as production continues).
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
Fanstratics Troop: Human Paladin.
Amongst the Allegiant, the staunch and slow-moving Paladin is a metaphorical battlefield tank, encased from head-to-toe in beefy, plate armor. As his rigid faith shuns cutting weapons, the Paladin utilizes a short, heavy, mace, while wielding a large shoulder-to-knee, thick, heavy, tower shield adorned by the Allegiant Seraph insignia. In combat, the Paladin can draw faithful support from Allied Troop Divisions, while naturally guarding against any Enemy Retaliation.
Shoutout to ‘ChaosIsGood’. He emailed and asked why I had changed the order by which I typically reveal Troops. Normally, the Allegiant come before the Stoutbluds, but I accidentally put the Ramfolk Headhunter ahead of this month’s Human Paladin. My mistake. I’ll get back on track with the Thornwood scheduled for next month.
For those of you who want to see Justin actually create the drawing (another gem), you can always watch a VOD of his Twitch stream.
Fanstratics Feature: Experience Potions.
As a game progresses, Artifact Artisans will begin selling ‘Experience Potions’. Obviously, a player can purchase these items to boost the XP of ‘lesser’ Heroes and hasten their advancement. Hopefully, this will accelerate the later stages of a game. File this feature under ‘experimental’. We are going to implement it and test it. If this feature works out as expected, we’ll keep it. If this feature does not work out as expected, we’ll cut it.
HoMM3 Fan Question: Hello, may I ask you are there actually magic in Might and Magic universe or is it all technology?
This is really a question for Jon Van Caneghem or Paul Rattner. Jon created the M&M universe, and Paul basically took over lore duties when Jon took a back seat after Might and Magic 5. As for myself, to the best of my understanding, there is no ‘actual magic in the Might and Magic universe’. For example, if a Wizard casts a Fireball spell... what actually happens? In my mind, the Wizard’s mental, verbal, or physical ritual invokes the capabilities of technological machines, deep within a world, causing the machines to create the Fireball and its resulting behavior. This is a pure guess on my part, but I suspect JVC was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke and his famous quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
HoMM3 Recollection: Malibu Grand Prix Embarrassment.
I believe it was a Monday, a couple months after E3 1998, a month or so after Trip declared he was going to grow 3DO by torching the company savings. Mark Caldwell, with a morning Coca-Cola in hand, appeared in the hallway outside my office. He quickly rapped on the open office door of Ben Bent (Vegas Games), whose room was adjacent to mine, and positioned himself opposite the office doors of myself and David Mullich.
I spun around in my office chair to view Mark. I assume David did the same. Ben appeared and stood in his doorway.
Leaning up against the hallway wall, Mark’s posture clearly indicated we were having another of his impromptu ‘stand-up’ meetings.
Mark took a sip of soda pop and spoke, “This Wednesday, 3DO is having a PR event in Redwood City. We are going to be there.”
I interjected, “Who’s we?”
Mark, “You, me, Ben, and JVC.”
David, “I don’t need to go?”
Mark pointed at me, “No. I’m just letting you know he’s going to be gone for two days.”
Me, “Two days?”
Mark, “We’re flying up Wednesday morning outta Burbank, doing the event, spending a night in a motel, then flying back Thursday morning. Jon’s going to drive up from his place and meet us there.”
Me, “I assume we’re giving demos?”
Mark, “I don’t know exactly how they’re running the event. They’re renting out some go kart place for the day. I requested two computers, one for Heroes, one for Vegas Games.”
After a momentary pause, Mark concluded the meeting, “Unless there’s a problem, I’m going to reserve the plane tickets and the rental car.”
Ben and I shook our heads ‘no’. I can only assume David did the same. With his plan in place, Mark departed.
I spun around in my office chair, returned to work. After a few moments... it dawned on me. In going to E3, I’d become the unofficial Heroes ‘public relations guy’. In going to this new PR event in Redwood City, I was officially the Heroes ‘public relations guy’.
For a brief moment, I thought about pushing the responsibility onto David, but I had reservations. If you have ever seen any of David’s video interviews, it should be obvious. He’s an acquired taste. While David is a good person, a good friend, and the best producer I’ve worked with... he can come across unemotional, stilted, and oddly silly. Don’t misunderstand me, David can be engaging, but he needs to make a conscious effort to be charming.
In the end, while I didn’t like the idea of being the PR guy, I was best suited for the responsibility. No one understood HoMM3 as well as I did, and no one cared about it as much as I did. I was trapped.
On Wednesday morning, I drove to Burbank Airport, where I met Mark and Ben. After a quick 30-minute flight, we landed at the San Francisco Airport. From there, we got our rental car, and drove directly to Redwood City, where 3DO headquarters was located. Once in Redwood City, we drove to Malibu Grand Prix.
What is Malibu Grand Prix? It’s family entertainment center featuring go karts, miniature golf, batting cages, bumper boats, and most importantly... coin-operated arcade games.
In the United States, the golden age of coin-operated arcades dated from 1978 (Space Invaders) to 1982 (Robotron 2084). I grew up playing a lot of coin-operated video games, so I know a good arcade from a bad arcade. When we pulled into the empty parking lot of the Malibu Grand Prix... I immediately became wary.
In the parking lot, weeds grew from the cracks in the shoddily spread black top. Made to look like a castle, the main Malibu Grand Prix Building, was dirty and mottled from rainwater stains. This was where 3DO has chosen to showcase its forthcoming games... a grungy and rundown, family entertainment center. How... ironic.
After parking the rental car, we walked into the main building. Considering what it looked like from the outside, I was surprised how surprisingly small it was on the inside.
We walked past various coin-operated arcade games, mostly from the early 1990’s: Street Fighter 2, Virtua Cop, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Daytona USA, House of the Dead, etc. Nestled between some of the arcade games, were the same kiosks 3DO had used at E3. On those kiosks were Developer Consoles for the Playstation and Nintendo 64. I don’t remember specifically, but I vaguely recall them being early builds of upcoming 3DO Army Men games and BattleTanx.
In back, off to the side, between a couple of ‘out of order’ arcade games, were two kiosks with Gateway PC’s waiting for myself and Ben. Mark reached into his satchel and pulled out two CD-ROMs, burned with the same game builds we’d showcased at E3. Respectively, he handed Vegas Games to Ben, and HoMM3 to me. I took the kiosk nearest to myself and Ben took the kiosk nearest to him.
As I began installing the software, an older gentleman moved past me. He carried with him, a power strip and a couple of extension cords. Most of the electrical outlets were occupied by the existing arcade machines, so he was looking for a free outlet to power the 3DO Developer Consoles. As we were amongst the ‘out of order’ machines, he found an unoccupied outlet on the wall between Ben and I.
Getting down on his knees, he began plugging things together. As he was closer to me, we glanced toward one another and caught each other’s attention.
Older Gentleman, “Hi.”
Older Gentleman, “What are you installing?”
Me, “Heroes of Might and Might 3.”
His eyebrows rose, “Oh. I loved Heroes of Might and Magic 2. I hope they don’t screw it up.”
I was a little taken aback by his statement. Clearly, he didn’t know I was with New World Computing (NWC). Clearly, he didn’t know I was working on the very game he was hoping I wouldn’t ‘screw-up’.
Initially, I was unsure how to respond to what I felt was a rude statement, so I simply looked him in the eye and flatly replied, “Well, I’m trying best not to.”
Realizing he wasn’t speaking to a 3DO PR representative, but an actual developer on the project, the Older Gentleman, now somewhat uncomfortable, asked, “Oh? You’re working on the sequel?”
Me, “Yeah. I’m the Lead Game Designer.”
Embarrassed by his behavior, the Older Gentleman said, “Oh. Uh. Nice to meet you.”
At this moment, Mark appeared. He hadn’t heard our conversation, and to my mild surprise, wasn’t interested in talking to me.
Mark reached out his hand to the Older Gentleman, “Rich! How are you?”
Rich, still showing signs of awkwardness from our previous interaction, shook Mark’s hand, “Hi, Mark.”
Mark turned to me and pointed to Rich, “Greg, this is Rich. He worked on Missile Command.”
My eyebrows rose... and my heart sank, “Oh?”
Missile Command is an arcade classic and a personal favorite. Here, at the Malibu Grand Prix in Redwood City, California, I had just learned its creator was a socially inept asshat.
Mark continued his conversation with Rich, “He has an original Missile Command cabinet. Got it free from Atari.”
Rich, “Not anymore. Lost it the house fire.”
Mark, “Yeah-yeah. I forgot about that.”
Rich, “It hadn’t worked for five years, before the fire. Took up a lot of space. No big loss.”
At this point, Rich had finished setting up the power strips and extension cords.
Rich, “Well, if you will excuse me, I need to...”
Mark, interrupting, “Yeah-yeah. Don’t let us hold you up.”
Rich stepped away, back to the Developer Consoles he was setting up.
On some level, I suspect Rich was afraid I would recount our conversation to Mark. I never did.
Much later, around 10 years later, I learned Missile Command was in fact, made by two men: Dave Theurer (Designer/Programmer) and Rich Adam (Programmer/Composer). My inner fanboy was relieved to know, the rude individual I met, was in fact Rich Adam... not Dave Theurer. For what it is worth, Dave Theurer (Missile Command, Tempest, and I,Robot) is a game development legend who doesn’t get enough recognition.
With HoMM3 installed on the computer, I quickly began testing the build. Everything was working as expected, and about this time, Jon Van Caneghem (JVC) appeared.
Jon, “Hey, guys.”
Me, “Hey, Jon.”
Ben, “Hey, Jon.”
Jon, “Everything setup?”
Me, “Computer’s different, but it’s the same kiosk from E3.”
Jon, “So, they want us to go outside. I guess they’re going to do some kind of presentation.”
I gave Jon a mildly suspicious look, “Okay.”
Myself, Ben, and Jon shuffled to the rear of the building. Mark joined us as we pushed through a pair of double doors and stepped outside. In front of us, behind chest high chain-link fence, was the Malibu Grand Prix Go Kart race-track. To the left of the track was an open grass field. In the distance, off in the corner of the grass field, I saw... a Humvee?
Jon pointed toward the grass field, “They want us over there, along the fence.”
As I walked toward the fence, I looked to my side. Outside of the ‘castle’, 3DO had assembled at least twenty game journalists, and was now ushering them toward the chain-link fence in front of the grass field. Representing various video game related magazines and websites, all were in their early to mid-twenties.
After taking a spot along the fence, a young man about my age, took a spot near to me. We caught each other’s attention, nodded to one another, and uttered an unspoken ‘hello’. My eyes drifted down to his name tag. It read...
Stephen ‘Blue’ Heaslip
Back in 1998, people still read game magazines like Computer Game World and PC Gamer, but websites were quickly becoming the primary source for video game news. If you had broadband internet, you visited GameSpot and IGN. For people like myself, using a 56k dialup modem from my apartment, Blue’s News was preferred. It was lean, mean, and bandwidth friendly, but there were also other considerations. GameSpot and IGN leaned toward consoles, but Blue’s News was strictly PC.
Curious, I asked Stephen, “You’re with Blue’s News?”
Stephen replied, “Technically, I am Blue’s News. I built the website. I put up all the posts.”
I was pleasantly surprised to meet the person behind my favorite game news website, “I visit your site every day.”
Me, “When I decide to buy a 3D card, your links to the various reviews was really helpful.”
Stephen nodded, “Adding hardware reviews to the site seemed like a logical thing. It’s where things are going.”
At this point, I spotted a number people moving around the fence and into the grass field. They wore green and tan Army fatigues and helmets, while carrying what looked like cheap plastic toy guns. I assumed they were 3DO staff, as Trip Hawkins was among them. Trip wore green fatigues and a patrol cap. In place of a plastic gun, Trip carried... a bullhorn.
As the ‘soldiers’ took up prone positions in the field, green to one side, tan to the other, Trip climbed into the Humvee and stood within the ring mount. Moments later, the Humvee roared to life with diesel clatter, and slowly drove toward the prone soldiers. As the Humvee neared, Trip began playing recorded ‘battle sounds’ through the bullhorn. On que, the green and tan ‘solders’ stood up and acted out a mock battle... with their plastic toy guns... with the green solders gunning down the tan soldiers. Stephen, along with a number of other journalists, openly chuckled at the display.
It was a big... embarrassing... ball of cringe.
After what seemed like an eternity, the defeated tan solders lay ‘dead’ on the field, with the victorious green soldiers taking a knee. Continuing to stand within the ring mount of the Humvee, Trip addressed the crowd using the bullhorn.
I don’t remember much of anything Trip said. As always, he took too much time and too many words to make his point. He talked about 3DO’s transition from hardware to software. He talked about 3DO’s acquisition of New World Computing. He told JVC to put up his hand, after which Jon sheepishly complied. He talked about other things, but I’d heard this speech before. So... I zoned out. I can only assume others did the same.
At some point, Trip sensed he has lost his audience, and quickly wrapped it up. He told everyone to head into the ‘castle’ building, where they would view demos of various 3DO games in development. Once the demos were finished, food would be available, they’d open up the racetrack, and all the arcade games would be on ‘free play’. Thankfully, this part of the ‘presentation’ was over.
Walking back into the ‘castle’, Ben and I assumed our positions at our respective kiosks. Escorted by various 3DO PR Reps, Game Journalists were brought inside and shown various 3DO games in development.
Ben and I waited... and waited.
Eventually, a 3DO PR agent escorted Stephen Heaslip toward Ben and myself. Stephen didn’t have any interest in Vegas Games and simply moved on to my kiosk.
3DO PR Agent turned to Stephen, “This is Heroes of Might and Magic. It’s a turned based, fantasy, strategy game, set in the Might and Magic universe. But you mostly cover first person shooters, right?”
Stephen, being polite, smiled and took a seat for my presentation, “Yes, but doesn’t hurt to try something new.”
While HoMM3 was not Stephen’s kind of game, he graciously gave me his full attention. Upon finishing the same presentation I had honed at E3 1998, Stephen said ‘thank you’ and was escorted by the 3DO PR Agent to another project.
Looking back, had we not previously interacted, I seriously doubt Stephen would have sat for my presentation. I’m a gamer, and Stephen Heaslip is a gamer. Gamers naturally recognize and gravitate toward one another, while easily sniffing out the posers. I didn’t try to stroke Stephen’s ego, or try to get on his good side, or try to get something out of him. My interaction with him was honest and genuine, and in the long run... it paid off.
Prior to our interaction, Blue’s News had never posted any news item concerning Might and Magic or Heroes of Might and Magic. After 3DO’s PR event, Blue’s News began posting HoMM related news items covering HoMM3, HoMM4, HoMM5, HoMM6, and HoMM7.
Blue’s News is still around, looking almost exactly as it did in 1999.
As it was in the beginning, it continues to be in the present... a lean and mean source of PC game news.
After I gave Stephen my presentation, I sat back... and waited. There was plenty of interest in all of the other 3DO development builds, but Ben and I just hovered... waiting. After roughly 30 minutes passed, the arcade games were turned on, and the Game Journalists went at it.
For Ben and myself... it was over. I never saw anyone else, or gave another presentation.
JVC wandered over to myself and Ben.
JVC, “How’d it go?”
Me, “I gave one demo.”
Ben laughed and shook his head, “I didn’t give one.”
JVC sighed, “Well, they’ve asked us to hang back and let the journalists have the run of the machines and the track. After they’ve had their fun, mix in if you want. Also, let’em get their food first.”
Leaving our kiosks behind, Ben and I moved outside and sat at a couple of picnic tables overlooking the racetrack. Out in front of us, the Game Journalists lined up to get food from a small blue tent. Some were already racing around the go-kart track.
I turned to Ben, “I think almost all of them are console journalists.”
Ben replied, “That would explain a lot.”
JVC reappeared and wandered over to Ben and I.
JVC, “Everyone from 3DO is going to a bar after this over. We should probably go.”
Dreading the idea, I groaned, “Wonderful.”
Ben asked JVC, “Are you going to race the track?”
It’s a story for another Recollection, but Jon’s hobby was racing cars and he was good at it. At this time in his life, he had raced for a period of time, stopped, and then gotten back into it. Both myself and Ben smirked at the thought of Jon exercising his skills in a go-kart on a kiddie track.
Jon smiled, “I might give it shot.”
As JVC wandered off, Ben and I noticed the ‘food tent’ was effectively abandoned. We walked over to grab our first meal of the day. What did we find? A sparse assembly of cold hamburger patties, smashed burger buns, room temperature cheese slices, raw sliced onions, store bought pickle chips, and near empty bottles of ketchup and mustard.
As best we could, we cobbled together a couple burgers and returned to our picnic table. There, we choked down the food and chased it with warm soda pop.
Wiping his mouth clean, Ben asked, “You gonna race?”
Me, “Doubt it.”
Ben, “Well, I’m going.”
Ben popped up from his seat and walked over the track.
Sitting there, alone, I pondered the whole event. Like everything 3DO did, it was clumsy, forced, witless, tone-def, and embarrassing.
Trying not to think about it, I must admit, I took the opportunity to do... well... nothing. For the last year at NWC, I’d been working hard. If I wasn’t toiling away on HoMM3, I was stuck in traffic, doing laundry, getting food, etc. Yes, I did have my weekends, but I rarely had the chance to just... relax.
Well, here I was, in Redwood City, at the Malibu Grand Prix, with an opportunity. So, I sat back, unwound, and enjoyed the gentle breeze and warm weather.
As time ticked along, I took on the informal role of ‘audience’ and watched everyone else race their go karts. It all looked rather reckless as each driver darted about the track in their gas-powered go-kart. Ben, with the biggest grin on his face, looked like a goofy seven-year-old trapped in the body of a grown man. He slid this kart around corners, hopped curbs, and generally had good time. Eventually, I spotted JVC, and as expected, he navigated the track with silky smooth speed.
When it was all over, and it was time for everyone to go home, Trip gathered everyone around himself. He announced they were going to give out prizes for the three best times on the track. Before he announced the winners, he noted his wife, who had shown up at some point, actually had the best time of the day. Jon came in a close second. Myself, Ben, and Mark looked at Jon, who smirked.
Marked chuckled, “How’d Trip’s wife beat your time?”
Jon explained, “In these conditions, it mostly about weight.”
Jon had a point. Trip’s wife was petite; barely over five feet in height, and she weighed less than 110 pounds. Jon, on the other hand, was around 5’10 and weighed somewhere between 165 to 185 pounds. Still, despite the disadvantage, he almost won.
HoMM Hungary Interview
Questions 14b-17, of 17
This interview was conducted by Andrew Gasz of HoMM Hungary (Webpage & Facebook), and was originally published in late January 2021. It’s comprised of 17 questions in 21 parts (~50% HoMM and ~50% FST). Next month I’ll be posting another interview. Below are questions 14b to 7.
14b. Maybe Karin Mushegain and other musicians and opera singers can return with them too?
Personally, I like opera and choir music, and would like to see it return in one form or another.For those fans who have a contrary opinion, we may offer a choice similar to HoMM2, where you can have the music with or without the vocals.
15. Will there an underground level too?
Absolutely. Lore for one of the faction’s requires it.
16. Can you tell us something about localizations? Subtitles , voices etc.
Because HoMM3 became an international game, for FST we plan to support a number of foreign languages: Russian, Polish, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, etc. I strongly doubt there will be any voice work, as story elements will be handled in comic book fashion with word balloons.
17. Can you tell us an approximate release date for the game? Which year perhaps?
I essentially began solo design work on FST in 2018, and estimated it would take at least three to five years before some sort of release. At this point, it’s looking like five is about right. As we approach 2021, I expect there will be continued work on game infrastructure. Hopefully, we would Crowd Fund sometime in 2022. Assuming FST is successfully funded, I would aim for an Early Access release, sometime in 2023.