Welcome. Hope each of you is safe.
This month I have four topics, with the ‘Recollection’ being part 2 of 2. If you missed part 1, you may find it here.
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: Goblin.
Goblins are dumb, vicious... and feared. What they lack in brains or stature, they compensate with a gleeful, rabid, reckless application of violence. Quick tempered and fueled by rage, they become more dangerous as a battle persists, and when accumulated in number, they become foundational to Zubhewen strength.
For Justin, this task was ‘easy mode’... one rough, one render. In my personal opinion, this Goblin encapsulates everything Justin does to artistically define Fanstratics. :-)
For those of you who want to see Justin actually create the drawing, you can always watch a VOD of his Twitch stream.
HoMM3 Question: How were the backgrounds for each city made? Was it all hand painted or was it 3D models? Always wondered that. They still look amazing today - assuming one uses that Russian HD mod that makes everything razor sharp.
At the time, in HoMM3, the cityscapes were made in 3D using 3D Studio Max, then the individual pieces were captured as 2D sprite images for the GUI. So, yes, the source imagery was all 3D models.
Fanstratics Question: Do you have a map of the world? Or at least tell us how it will look approximately.
Months ago, I rendered a first draft ‘map of the world’, but I wasn’t happy with it. How factions relate to one another geographically, is somewhat story sensitive, and the fine details of the overall story have yet to be finalized. When the time is right, I will tackle it again, but I suspect this will not occur until after the crowd funding campaign.
HoMM3 Recollection: Origin Story, part 2 of 2.
At breakfast, the following morning, while everyone was in the process of leaving for work or school, I approached my Dad.
Me, “Dad? Could I use your office computer tonight?”
Dad, “Something for school?”
Me, trying to indirectly answer, “Uh... I got some programs from Tom I wanted to try out.”
Dad, “Can you do it after work, after everyone else has gone home?”
Rummaging around our kitchen’s ‘junk’ drawer, my Dad fished out a spare Office Key. He held out the key, then looked me in the eye to emphasize his next point.
Dad, “Lock-up after you’re inside. Lock-up when you leave. Double check.”
Me, nodding my understanding, “Okay.”
I was set. Tonight, would be my first step onto a whole new video gaming landscape. I couldn’t wait.
More than 12 hours later, around 8PM at night, using the key given to me by my Dad, I entered into the communal setup, where my Dad had his office. There were three different rooms, each occupied by a different business, who utilized a shared copy machine and Secretary. At this hour, it was dark, and I had the place all to myself.
Angling toward the back, I opened the door to my father’s office, and flipped on the light switch. My father’s desk occupied the middle of the room, with the computer setup in the corner. Pulling his chair from his desk, I set it in front of his computer, sat down, put Tom’s box of floppies next to the monitor. As to what happened next... my memory is foggy... but the overall gist is accurate.
Compaq? Hewlett-Packard? I couldn’t tell you the make and model of the system, but I knew it was an IBM compatible, with an amber monitor, a 286 Intel processor, and it ran some version of MS-DOS. Pulling the floppies from their box, I scanned the crudely written labels until I saw ‘Red Baron 1 of 3’. I put Disk 1 into the floppy drive, closed the drive door, and typed out the command to read the disk contents. As Tom had said, there was a text file with step-by-step instructions to install the game to the hard disk drive. There was also some instructions to edit the Config.sys file, and something to do with the Himem.sys driver. Blindly, I made the adjustments, along with a couple other edits. Crossing my fingers, I ran Red Baron.
At this point in my PC education, relatively speaking, I knew nothing about PC hardware, software, and most important of all... troubleshooting. In my ignorance, I did not know my father’s computer was simply incapable of playing Tom’s games, because... well... it didn’t have the required VGA card. In fact, I suspect it was strictly a text-only machine, and didn’t have a dedicated video card of any kind. For the next 15 minutes, I tried my best to get the game to run, but failed. In defeat, I rebooted the system...
A mild panic overwhelmed me. Not only had I failed to play Red Baron, but I had borked my Dad’s computer, which he used for his business, and I had no idea how to restore its functionality. How do you fix something when you have no idea how you broke it?
Defeated, confused, and feeling like an idiot, I turned the system off, got up, and returned my Dad’s chair to his desk. After locking up, I left his office.
Returning home, I found my Dad watching television in the Family Room. As there was no point in attempting to avoid what I had done, so... I walked right up to him.
My Dad looked up at me. He was immediately suspicious.
Me, “I screwed up your computer.”
My Dad rolled his eyes and exhaled. His worst fears had just been realized.
Dad, wary, “What do you mean you screwed it up?”
Me, “It doesn’t work anymore.”
Dad, “It doesn’t work anymore?”
Me, “It boots up, but after that... I get an error.”
Dad, “What did you do?”
Me, “Well, I made some changes to the config.sys file.”
Dad, “What’s the config.sys file?”
Me, shrugging, “I don’t know.”
My Dad then gave me... that look. He wasn’t happy in the least.
Dad, “There’s a guy in the adjacent office who’s good with computers. I guess I could ask him for help.”
After school, the following day, I stopped by my Dad’s office. When I walked in, he was sitting with his friend from the adjacent office. Thankfully, his colleague had managed to fix my Dad’s computer, and was now showing him what he had done to restore its functionality. At the moment, the system was running a rudimentary spreadsheet program (which probably came with the system).
My Dad introduced me, and I sheepishly said, ‘Hello’. Deep down, I was wondering if my Dad had told his office mate, how I was the one who mucked up the computer. Responding with a ‘Hello’ of his own, my Dad’s friend got up and excused himself. He had finished the necessary ‘repairs’, and it was now time for my Dad to resume work.
Taking a seat on the other side of my Dad’s desk, in one of the ‘client’ chairs, I looked at him as he cleaned up his desktop.
Me, “Everything back to normal?”
Dad, “Yes. It took him about 20 minutes, but he figured it out. Something about extra lines in the config.sys file.”
After an awkward moment of silence, a wonderful opportunity presented itself.
Dad, “I’ve got client files on this system, so I can’t have you screwing it up. You need to get your own computer.”
Me, “I don’t have that kind of money.”
Obviously, having thought it over from the night before, my Dad had considered all the options.
Dad, “Why don’t you figure out how much it will cost to get your own computer. We’ll go from there.”
Officially, the door was open.
At the Computer Lab, the following night, I was excited at the prospect of a new computer, and broached the subject with Tom. I explained what had happened, causing Tom to laugh. He theorized as to what had gone wrong, and how I should have simply reversed what I had done. More to the point, he explained how my Dad’s system probably didn’t have the required VGA card.
Regardless, there was now the possibly of me getting a new computer, but I didn’t know where to start.
Tom, “Just go to the bookstore at the mall. Buy a couple PC magazines. They’ve got all kinds of ads for systems. If you have any trouble figuring things out, just let me know.”
Over the next couple of days, I jumped into the deep end of PC computing.
At the local shopping mall, I went to Crown Books, where I scanned the magazine rack for anything useful. In the end, I purchased two surprisingly thick issues of PC Magazine and Computer Shopper. With a little help from Tom, I was able to slowly figure out ‘what-was-what’.
In the end, at home, I presented my research to my Dad.
Me, “There’s basically three tiers. $1000, $1500, and $2000. $1000 will do what I need for school. $1500 will get me some multi-media options. $2000 is high end.”
My Dad quickly thought it over, “I can put together $1000. Anything after that is up to you.”
For the next couple of weeks, I saved what cash I could from doing yard work, and sold a handful of valuable comic books I’d collected: original TMNT’s, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Punisher, and McFarlane’s first issues of Spider-Man. Managing to quickly assemble $500, I flipped through the pages of the latest Computer Shopper magazine, made my final decision, and placed an order over the phone, with a small company from California.
IBM PC Compatible Desktop Computer
2MB of RAM
40MB IDE Hard Disk Drive.
1.2MB 5.25” and 1.44MB 3.5” floppy drives
14” Color Monitor with 16-bit VGA video card with 256K.
Sound Blaster Sound Card
101 Key Keyboard
3 Button High Resolution Mouse
2 Button Joystick
Total price... $1385.
Within a week, the computer was delivered to my Dad’s office. He brought it home and left it in the front foyer for me to find. When I got home from school, I immediately knew how I was going to spend the remainder of my evening. After unboxing the system, I set it all up, installed my personal pirated copy of Red Baron, made the proper adjustments to the Config.sys file, crossed my fingers... and ran the game.
It worked. Hallelujah!
Over the next week, through trial-and-error, I slowly learned how to use my PC. Much of my education came from playing the small collection of pirated games I had gathered from individuals at the Computer Lab. While I enjoyed playing these relatively new PC games, all of them were from 1989 or 1990, and I still had $115 remaining from my PC budget. I wanted a NEW game.
Driving once again to our local shopping mall, the same place hosting the previously visited Crown Books, I walked into a computer software retail store named Electronics Boutique. Before there was GameStop there was EB Games. Before there was EB Games, there was Electronics Boutique.
For a good 20 minutes, in my attempt to make a decision, I looked at the front and back of each big box PC game on the shelves. Ultimately, there were too many choices, and I was paralyzed with indecision. I needed guidance. I needed a computer gaming magazine.
At Electronics Boutique there were two potential literary options at the register: Computer Gaming World (CGW) or Computer Game Review (CGR). I quickly flipped through each, and in the end, purchased a copy of CGR. Limiting each game to a single page, CGR had an interesting, concise, review system. Following a broad overview of the target game, three different people each gave a quick personal review, leading to a final game rating from the average of their scores.
At home, I devoured the newly purchased Computer Game Review magazine, and based on their evaluations, I narrowed my decision to Wing Commander 2 (91%) and Might and Magic 3 (87%).
Computer Game Review Oct 1991: Cover
Computer Game Review Oct 1991: Table of Contents
Computer Game Review Oct 1991: MM3 Ad
Computer Game Review Oct 1991: Review WC2
Computer Game Review Oct 1991: Review MM3
As you might guess, I chose Might and Magic 3. Why? Wing Commander 2 retailed for $69.95 (~$150.00 adjusted for inflation) with an estimated playtime of 80 hours. Might and Magic 3 (MM3) retailed for $59.95 (~$125.00 adjusted for inflation) with an estimated playtime of 200-400 hours. Eventually, I would purchase both, but MM3 was clearly the better value, and... I just really wanted a Role-Playing Game.
Most of my old Dungeons & Dragons buddies, upon leaving for college, had left the area. On only one occasion did we regroup for a quick game, but I missed playing with those guys. On some level, MM3 presented an opportunity to recapture a semblance of those lost times.
With my decision made, I returned to Electronics Boutique, proudly bought my copy of MM3, and returned home. In front of my new PC, I pulled the shrink wrap off the box and opened it. Inside were a surprising number of pack-ins.
Large, full color map of the world
After installing all three 5.25” floppy disks to my fresh 40MB hard drive, I started the game. From the very beginning, I was hooked.
Colorful and charming art
Mouse and keyboard interface
Complete party creation
Character class dynamics
Extensive inventory and equipment system
Open air world above
Big, unfolding world
Surprise ‘twist’ ending
Just as I had done with select games before it, I played MM3 obsessively. When I had any free time, I was in front of my computer, advancing my crafted party of adventurers through the game. Over the course of a month, after numerous marathon sessions, I finished the final quest, and was rewarded with the ending ‘cinematic’. MM3 gave me everything I could have wanted, along with more I didn’t know I wanted.
At the time I played it... MM3 was the best game I’d ever experienced. To this day, looking back, I can objectively say, while MM3 is not the best RPG I have EVER played... it is my favorite.
In 1991, starting with Might and Magic 3, I became, primarily, a PC gamer, with a deep-seated, unconscious desire to pursue video game development. Six years later... in late 1997... I found myself sitting across from Jon Van Caneghem, interviewing to become the Lead Game Designer for Heroes of Might and Magic 3.
It was almost... magical.