Welcome. Hope each of you is safe.
This month I have four topics, followed by four more questions from the interview conducted by Marko Vidučić of GoodGame.hr from Croatia.
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).
Also, don’t forget, Songs of Conquest enters Early Access on May 10th.
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
Fanstratics Troop: Zombie Gravedigger.
While many consider all Necrotic Troops to be battle fodder, some are more suitable for the role than others. Such a Troop is the Zombie. Armed with a gravedigger’s shovel, this Troop can inflict typical Damage, but it is the Zombie’s potential to spread contagious Disease which makes this Troop surprisingly dangerous. In addition to this attribute, a Zombie can ‘self-detonate’, and disperse Disease via a potentially far-reaching Undead Outbreak.
When Justin and I discussed this month’s Troop, I suggested the Zombie Gravedigger. Justin was hesitant. He thought zombies, as a concept, had become tired and stale. He’s not wrong. Over the past 20 years, it seems like everyone has tried to milk the zombie cash cow. I reassured him. I didn’t want something grim. I wanted something akin to the HoMM2 Zombie, which I found to be oddly amusing.
I know it’s becoming a cliché, but I really like seeing Justin tackle these common mythological stereotypes. Another gem. For those of you who want to see Justin actually create the drawing, you can always watch a VOD of his Twitch stream.
Fanstratics Question: Do you know (or could surmise) what is the deal with the Basilisk on the Dungeon's puzzle map? Or any of other such discrepancies. I sort of figured out it had to do with beta lineups, and the idea for Dungeon was more "anthro creatures" in the start, that is why it had that badly obscured Gnoll (or whatever it is, it is not a minotaur) on the puzzle, too...and Inferno's puzzle has either winged demon or what used to be Manticore, as Manticore/Scorpicore fit the HOMM3's Inferno troop design approach to a T AND would have served as a nice opposition to Castle's gryphons. But that is just me.
Do you know (or could surmise) what is the deal with the Basilisk on the Dungeon's puzzle map?
From the beginning, the Basilisk was seated with the Fortress, and it was never part of the Dungeon line-up. Puzzle Map graphics were rendered by our concept artist George Almond, and he simply screwed up the Basilisk’s affiliation. He had already finished the work before we caught the error. It would have taken time to correct, and we were running short on time, so we let it slide.
Whatever it is, it is not a minotaur.
Actually, it’s supposed to be a Minotaur, but I would agree... it’s not a well-drawn Minotaur.
Inferno's puzzle has either winged demon or what used to be Manticore.
I can’t decipher it either and I suspect George was simply ‘off the rails’ in this instance. Again, it would have taken time to correct, so we let it slide. It was good enough.
Fanstratics Question: I really want to contribute what little I have into making the Fanstratics project a reality. Is there a way I could donate funds for the cause or should I wait for the Kickstarter to emerge?
Like a good number of gamers, I have been burned by overly optimistic Kickstarter projects, where the game never surfaces, and my cash disappears. I don’t want Fanstratics to be one ‘those’ projects. Only when I am confident the game... if funded... will deliver a finished product, will I ignite a crowd funding campaign. Until then, I would suggest keeping your powder dry.
HoMM3 Recollection: Jon Van Caneghem Race Car Driver.
Might and Magic 6 (MM6) was released in late April,1998. In late 1997, because MM6 was in active development, Paul Rattner and Peter Ryu had priority when it came to Jon Van Caneghem’s (JVC) time. As JVC was coming into work 2 or 3 days a week, typically Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, I would angle to meet with Jon, at least once, for a couple hours.
As it was important for us to maximize our time together, I would typically propose we get together for an early sit-down lunch. While we ate, we’d socialize and catch up. When we got back to the office, I’d collect any necessary documents (typically spreadsheets), and rendezvous with Jon at this office. There, we’d close the door, and for the next 3 to 5 hours, we’d hash out what I’d been working on since our last meeting.
Regarding the design of HoMM3, Jon and I eventually got into a nice rhythm, but in late 1997, Jon and I were still laying the foundation of our working relationship. On this specific occasion, I took a seat in one of the office chairs, on the other side of Jon’s desk. I dropped several pages of HoMM3 design on Jon’s desk (his copy), and began thumbing through my own.
Acting somewhat distracted, Jon stood up from his desk, “I’ll be right back. I need to tell Pete something.”
Jon walked out of his office, leaving me there... alone... in silence... bored. As I waited for Jon to return, I occupied myself by looking about his office. Just as I had done in my job interview, my eyes gravitated to his bookshelves.
Like I had done before, I scanned each boxed copy of each game New World Computing had published. I also saw a smattering of awards and plaques from the different game magazines of the time... Computer Gaming World, PC Gamer, Computer Game Review, Computer Games Strategy Plus, etc.
In time, I would witness Jon’s rather lackadaisical attitude concerning the game’s media. While he understood the necessity of public relations and marketing... he considered it a hassle. He just wanted to create his games, not meet, greet, network, or do interviews. A good game review was merely a marking tool, and a physical trophy, awarded by any game magazine, was typically an attempt at flattery, intent on maintaining access. However, amongst all of his video game award trophies, were a few quite different from the others. Specifically, one was topped with a formula 1 race car, another with a pair of checked flags, and yet another with a ‘winner’s cup’.
Jon returned, closing the office door behind him, “Sorry about that.”
Jon took a seat behind his desk and picked up his copy of my design documents.
I couldn’t help but interject, “No problem. I was just scanning your bookshelves, like I did when you first interviewed me.”
Jon chuckled, “Ah. Okay.”
Me, “I see your awards from the game magazines, but what’s with the trophy with the racing car?”
Jon, “Oh, you didn’t know about that? I used to race cars on the weekends.”
Me, “Well, I guess that explains the Viper.”
JVC frequently drove to work... a Dodge Viper. I’d seen the car in the parking lot, and I knew it was Jon’s, but I couldn’t quite square it with his personality. Jon like almost everyone at NWC, was an introvert, and a red Dodge Viper was not the type of car you would normally associate with an introspective individual.
Jon smiled, “Yeah. It’s fun car, but it’s not a real racing car.”
I was curious, so pressed the issue, “So, you raced... what? Like Indy cars or NASCAR?
Jon, “No, Super Unlimited.” (I think that’s what he said)
Me, “I have no idea what that means.”
Jon, “Super Unlimited has to do with the car’s mechanical specifications.”
Me, “Okay. So, racing is you second job?”
Jon, “No. Just a hobby. You register for weekend events, pay your money, they give you a car, and you race over the weekend.”
Me, “So, basically, amateur race car driving?”
Jon, “Yeah. Something like that.”
Me, “So? You’ve won some races?”
Jon, “Yeah. I’m not bad. I routinely place in the top five. Frequently place first.
I was impressed, “Wow... but... you said, ‘used to’. You don’t race anymore?”
Jon paused before answering, “Well... I haven’t raced for a couple of months.”
There was an awkward moment of silence. I could have left it alone, but it’s really not my style.
Me, “May I ask why?”
Jon took a breath. Obviously, he was unsure if he wanted to tell the story... or not.
Jon, “Well, I raced at a number of different tracks, but there was one I went to more than the others. Got to know most of the staff. It was nice.
Jon smiled and relaxed, “But, at these events, you have a lot of younger drivers looking to go pro. So, winning these races is important to their advancement.”
I smiled, “So, you winning ‘their’ races was getting in their way?”
Jon, “Yeah. I was told all of this second hand, but apparently, I was the rich guy mucking up the works.”
I scowled at the thought, “I don’t know. I mean... if they can’t beat you, what makes them think they can compete in the big leagues? Seems to me like you’d be a perfect skill barometer.”
JVC took another breath, “Anyway, in my last race, I was doing well. I was in second place, but I was having difficulty overcoming the leader... one of the young guys attempting to go pro. I thought something was wrong with my car, but I wasn’t sure. When we turned onto a straightaway, I was right on his tail. I put the accelerator to the floor... and my speed didn’t increase... but he tore off... leaving me completely behind. Our cars are supposed to be mechanically identical. That’s when I knew something was wrong with my car.”
Me, “I assume you didn’t win.”
Jon, “No. I finished second. When I got back to the garage, I was really angry, and I accused the crew of messing with my car. Of course, they denied it.”
I smiled, “Of course.”
Jon, “Anyway. After that, I stopped racing.”
I could see it on Jon’s face. Anyone could have seen it. A small group of people Jon had trusted, betrayed him, and soured his love of racing. Clearly, he missed it.
Irked by how these people had treated Jon, I tried to help, “Is there another place you could race?”
Jon, “Yeah. There are other tracks. They’re not as easy to get to. I’d need to hop a quick flight.”
Me, “Why not do that? I mean, if it makes you happy, don’t let those people ruin it for you.”
Jon chuckled and shrugged, “Maybe.”
And on this indifferent note, Jon’s story reached its natural conclusion. He and I picked up our papers... and got to work.
Once again, one week later, JVC and I got together for another session. Once again, I arrived, papers in hand, to chew through the material I had generated since our last session. After handing Jon his copy of my documents, I sat down in my usual chair.
Jon, “So, after we talked last week, I looked online for an event.”
Me, “Oh, good. Did you go?”
Jon, “Remember the place I told you about?”
Me, suspicious, “Yeah.”
Jon, “I went back there.”
It was bold move.
I raised my eyebrows, “Really?”
Jon, “It went well. Many of staff I’d known from before were happy to see me, but that wasn’t the interesting part.”
Jon, “The track owner overheard I was back and sought me out.”
I kept quiet and continued listening.
Jon, “When he found me, he took me aside and told me a story. After I disappeared, he asked around, wanting to know if anyone knew where I’d gone. I mean, I used to be one of his regulars. Well, someone told him what happened. After that, he had a talk with the staff and some of the younger drivers. He made it clear. He owned the track. It was his business. It was how he made a living. Regulars were important to his business, and he didn’t want anyone trying to run them off.”
Me, “So, he made it clear who was in charge.”
Jon, “Yeah. He laid down the law.”
Me, “That’s good.”
Jon smiled, “Yeah.”
Me, “Well? How’d you do?
Jon chuckled, “I was rusty and out of practice. I came in 10th on Saturday, but 4th on Sunday.” (unsure of this)
Me, “You gonna go back?”
Jon, “Yeah. I think I’ll keep going.”
Me, smiling, “Good.”
Looking back, I remember rather fondly, this exchange between myself and JVC. I have no doubt, Jon would have eventually returned to racing, of his own accord, but I like to think my encouragement helped him embrace what he was already thinking and feeling.
As I have stated before, Might and Magic 3 (MM3) is one of the reasons I became a video game designer, and is one of my all-time favorite games (Robotron 2084? (Legend of Zelda? Might and Magic 3?))). Indirectly, in creating MM3, Jon had a positive influence on the direction of my life. Through our exchange, in some small way, I felt I was ‘repaying’ a long overdue debt.
For next several years, JVC continued to race and became rather good at it. Often, I wonder if racing was Jon’s true calling. At the very least, he should have made a racing game.
Questions 5-8, of 11
This interview was conducted by Marko Vidučić of GoodGame.hr from Croatia, and was originally published in December 2021. It’s comprised of 11 questions. Below are questions 5-8.
5. Will the towns in game have a town view? Many newer TBS games seem to lack it, but we all remember beautiful art displayed in HOMM 3and fly by camera in HOMM 5. The last HOMM game didn’t have it and they added them later.
For me, the ‘Townscape’ was one of the most enjoyable parts of HoMM3, and I’m baffled when similar games purposely omit this feature. For Fanstratics, each Faction will have its own unique Townscape.
6. How many factions will there be in the game and to which those from HOMM series are they most alike?
There are nine Factions planned, and each has a loose parallel to a HoMM3 Faction, with one exception. Keep in mind, when it comes to Faction Rosters, some Troops have been shuffled about while others have been reinvented.
7. Are you planning to put out expansions of the game, or add piece by piece in DLCs?
If Fanstratics is successful... yes... I want to grow and expand the game with DLC (new factions, new campaigns, new maps, cosmetics, etc.).
8. If I’m not mistaken, you have decided not to put map editor and random map generator in your gold version of the game, and there is a possibility of them being added later. What made you decide to do such a move?
This was an error on my part. Originally, the plan was to mimic the release pattern established by HoMM3... but my recollection was incorrect. I thought the Map Editor was released with the Armageddon’s Blade expansion, but one particular fan politely pointed out my mistake.
A change has been made, and at this stage, the goal is to release a Map Editor with the initial game. As for the Random Map Generator, it will be released after the initial game.