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Newsletter #28
December 2022

Hey, All.

Welcome.  Hope each of you is safe.


This month I have four topics, with the ‘HoMM3 Recollection’ being part 3 of 3.  As always, ‘thank you’ to everyone who wrote, especially those with positive sentiments.


For the time being, I’m going to suspend any new questions or comments regarding Fanstratics (FST) or Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM3).  Presently, I have a large backlog and want to clear my queue before I open it up again.  I know some of you have been waiting several months for a reply, but I have not forgotten you.  Eventually, I will get around to answering your email(s).


Lastly, congratulations to Archon Studio and Iana Venge.  Their Kickstarter for the HoMM3 Board Game was an overwhelming success, generating almost $4 Million from 26,500+ backers.


Until next time.




Fanstratics Game Director & Designer






Fanstratics Troop: Dwarven Alchemist.


Largely eschewing runic magic for the emergent art of chemistry, the Dwarven Alchemist can utilize several interesting potions for Battlefield Combat.  Crafted Boosters and Depressors, held in breakable glass potion bottles, are thrown at Allies and Enemies to apply predictable and cumulative effects with unpredictable durations.  This instability can be both a blessing and a curse for either side of the Battlefield.   For the Alchemist's ultimate concoction, an extraordinary elixir is ingested, transforming the dwarf into a giant, hulking brute, eager to smash Enemies with his bare fists.


This was a fun one.  From the start, when reviewing the thumbnails, I couldn’t help but toward the ‘mad chemist’ vibe.  Justin pushed it further with a ‘more vials is better’ approach.  Very happy.  :-)


For those who want to see Justin create the drawing, you can always watch a VOD of his Twitch stream.




Fanstratics Question: Will there be new ways to influence the opponent's economy?


Assuming I understand your question correctly, I have not created any Hero Spells or Artifacts which directly hamper an enemy's economy.  There are, however, some 'player-chosen events' with the potential to positively or negatively boost the overall economies of specific players.




Fanstratics Question: Maybe you'd like to offer some thoughts on Songs of Conquest (SoC)?


Others have written, asking me to comment on SoC, but I am politely declining to do so because I am friends with Magnus Alm (SoC Designer).  Prior to Early Access, Magnus sent a Steam key to me, and I gladly gave him my personal feedback.  Delivering private opinions to a fellow developer is one thing, broadcasting any critiques... publicly... is entirely different.  I hope you understand.




HoMM3 Recollection: Stumbling Out of the Gate (part 3 of 3).


On Thursday morning, the day after my ‘political tussle’ with Wario, my phone rang.  It was David Mullich.


David, “Could we talk for a few minutes?”

Me, “Sure.  Your office or mine?”

David, “Uh... mine.”

Me, “Okay.”


After hanging up the phone, I walked next door to David's office.  He turned around in his chair to greet me with a smile, as I took a seat in his guest chair.


David, "I spoke with Phelan (Sykes (Art Lead) and Mark (Caldwell) yesterday.  In a couple of weeks, some artists on Might and Magic 6 will run out of work to do.  Do you have something... anything... you can give me, so they can start work on Heroes3?"

I thought for a second and exhaled, “Uh... well... it’s gotta be creatures.  I’ll need to figure out the factions and the creatures before I can work out anything else.  It’ll take a week or two.  No stats or anything, just factions and creature concepts.”

David, “That’d be great.”

Me, “I’ll try to grab Jon (Jon Van Caneghem) right away.  He should know what I’m doing, as he’ll need to approve everything.

David, “Okay.  Just let me know when you have something.”


Immediately, I made my way to Jon's office.  I could have called him and discussed it over the phone, but I thought face time was better.  Upon arriving at Jon's office, I looked through his opened door and saw him inside at his office desk, working at his computer.


I knocked on the opened door, “Jon?”

Jon looked up, smiling, “Morning.”

Me, “Got a couple minutes?”

Jon, “Sure.”


Stepping inside, I stood behind and rested my hands on the nearest guest chair.  There was no need to sit.  This should be a quick meeting.


Me, “I just spoke with David Mullich.  As you probably know, in the next week or two, a bunch of artists are coming off of Might and Magic 6.”

Jon nodded, “Yeah.  We just got over the hump on the art... pending needed revisions.”

Me, "Well, David wants to give them Heroes3 work when they're free.  I suggested we hash out the factions and creatures first."

Jon, “Okay.  Sound good.”

Me, “So... how do you want to handle it?  Do you want to do it together?  Do you want me to work it out, then you look it over?”

Jon, “The second one.  Put something together, and we’ll go over it.”     

Me, “Okay.  I’ll try to have something for you by next week.”


Jon pointed to the long, waist-high bookshelf, behind me, on the other side of the room.  It had numerous books, gaming modules, and table games.


JVC, “You can take my Monster Manual if you want.”


I inspected the bookshelf, looking for the book.


JVC, “Upper shelf.  In the middle.”


Looking closer, I spotted a collection of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) books: Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Fiend Folio, Deities & Demigods, and the Monster Manual.  What separated Jon’s collection of AD&D books from David's, was the version.  David's books were the more common, professional-looking books with excellent cover art, typically bought from a bookstore at the local mall.  Jon's books were the original versions with the raw, energetic, somewhat amateurish art.


I pulled the AD&D Monster Manual off the shelf.  My personal AD&D books were still with my parents at my childhood home.  It didn't make sense to bring them to Los Angeles, at least not yet.  In my time in West LA, I had yet to settle down and moved into a new apartment almost every three years.  Seeing and feeling a copy similar to my distant Monster Manual was nice.


JVC, “It’s got everything you need.”

I flipped through the pages of the Monster Manual, “I’ll start here.  I’m also going to take your Fiend Folio and Demigods books.”

Jon chuckled as I grabbed the extra tomes, “Sure.  Take what you need.”

Me, "I've got some other books, and there's some good mythology sites online."

JVC, “There’s also Titan.  You might want to look at that.”

Me, “Titan?”

Jon, pointed to another area of the bookshelf, “Back up.  The thick pink box.”


Looking, I spotted a pink box.  On its ‘spine’ was the lettering, “Titan.  The Monster Slugathon Fantasy Wargame.”  I pulled the box from the bookshelf.  On its front, I saw a unicorn, a red dragon, a human male in a helmet, and big red letters spelling TITAN.  I’d never seen or heard of this game.


Jon, “There’s a lot of Titan in Heroes.”

Me, "Okay.  I'll give it a look."


For the next week, I researched different creatures and potential faction configurations.  Any and everything fantasy related was a potential source of inspiration.  When I had finished my brainstorming, my list of prospective creatures was large enough to create 10 different factions.


At this point, I distinctly remember taking a very conscious pause.  With around 70+ creatures and 10 potential factions, my chaotic assemblage needed a governing principle.  More to the point, my design for HoMM3 needed a governing principle.


A governing principle is a ‘theme’.  A ‘theme’ is an age-old writing technique.  Most authors, when working on a book, need self-imposed guidelines to help them choose what to include and what to remove.  Typically, these guidelines are thematic, and a story’s theme is the skeleton upon which a story is fleshed out.  Figuring out the theme of a creative work can take a lot of time and a lot of effort.  False starts and blind alleys are common, and if you are on a deadline, you may run out of time... and the final work suffers.


When we were making HoMM3, the mindset surrounding computer game sequels was, “You can’t take enough risks.”  Giving players ‘more of the same’ was considered a bad idea.  It was all about ‘new’ features.  What were the new and different programming features?  What were the new and different art features?  What were the new and different design features?


To get any traction in magazines or in stores, a sequel needed to be, in one form or another, radically different from its predecessor.  We couldn't do this.  We had to use the existing HoMM2 engine within a tight window of time.  On top of this, we had a passionate fan base who absolutely loved HoMM2, and for its sequel, didn't necessarily want a radical departure.  It went against all conventional wisdom, but I realized I could not play fast and loose with the design of Heroes of Might and Magic 3.  I needed design evolution, not design revolution.  Thus, my overarching guideline for HoMM3 became, "If it isn't in the spirit of HoMM... kill it."


Firmly rooted in this philosophy, I set about drafting my factions and creatures.  As I worked, I was relatively confident Jon would approve of my efforts.  Still, eventually, I would need to interact with Wario.


While I'd effectively cut him out of the design 'chain of command', he could still fight me over every potential feature and make it all very messy.  It would be dangerous for him to do this, as it could destabilize production.  If he were to destabilize production, he would risk demotion or possible termination.  Thankfully, while I worked away, Wario spent a lot of time in his office, hunched over his computer, looking at the HoMM2 game code.  Occasionally, he would emerge, and with David Mullich at his side, they would interview new potential programmers for the team.


I only saw David and Wario interview two programmers: John Bolton, our eventual Lead Programmer, and David Richey (D.R.), our eventual Tools Programmer.  John had longish hair and was physically bigger than D.R.. Still, both fit the general programmer stereotype: average height, glasses, and overweight.  Before interviewing at New World Computing (NWC), both John and D.R. had worked at The Dreamer’s Guild (TDG), which had recently shut down.  To my knowledge, TDG had been a development house for hire.  Previously, they had worked with NWC and David M to develop More Vegas Games Entertainment Pack for Windows and Harlan Ellison: I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.  Specifically, John had been the Technical Director of David M’s Harlan Ellison game, so there was a direct connection between the two.  Both John and D.R. started almost immediately, and almost immediately, problems began to brew between them and Wario.


Three or four days after D.R. was hired, he was in his office, which happened to be across from mine.  He puttered away at this computer, occasionally taking notes while playing with the HoMM2 Map Editor.  It was morning, and Wario was just coming into work when he passed by D.R.’s office.  D.R. called out to him.


D.R., “Hey!  Wario.”


Irritated, Wario stopped and backtracked.


Wario, “Yeah?”

D.R. “Uh... are we going to have a meeting or something... soon?

Wario, “For what?”

D.R., shrugging, "Well, it's been a couple days, and I'm just sitting here playing with the Heroes2 editor.  Don't you want to get together and make a plan?"

Wario, tersely, “I am currently looking at the Heroes2 code base.  When I am finished, I will let you know what I want you to do.”


Wario then turned about and walked away, leaving D.R., standing alone in the doorway to his office.


Working at my office whiteboard, I had seen this interaction from the corner of my eye, heard their brief conversation, and couldn't help but look in D.R.’s direction.  He looked back at me... exasperated... and shrugged helplessly.  All I could do is ‘shrug’ in return.  Taking our unspoken exchange as an invitation, D.R. walked across the hall and stood in my doorframe.


D.R., “You got a minute?”

Me, “Sure.”


D.R. sat down in my office guest chair.  I put down my dry-erase marker and sat in my office chair.


D.R., “Do you know what you want to do with the Map Editor?”

Me, “At this point, it’s just a general idea, but nothing specific.”

D.R., “Do you know when you’ll have something?”

Me, “Not for at least a week.  Right now, I’m working out the factions and creatures for the artists.”

D.R., “Could you at least point me in the right direction?”

Me, “Well, at its most basic, it needs to have all the features of the Heroes2 Map Editor, but I want to overhaul the interface.”

D.R., “Do you have a picture or something?”

Me, turning to my computer, “Not right now, but I can show you what I had in mind.”


Unsurprisingly, I had several games installed on my computer, one of which was the DOS version of Command & Conquer.  Along with C&C, I also had a community-made map editor, programmed by two guys from the Netherlands, named C&C Ultimate Map Editor.  Using this editor, I had made and played several C&C maps and very much liked its C&C-like layout.  After booting it up, I gave D.R. a brief tour.


Me, “What I like about this editor is having the various objects on the right, visible at all times.  Right now, with the Heroes2 editor, every time you want to pick an item to place, all the potential choices cover up the map.”

D.R. watched me place several items using the C&C editor, “Yeah.  I see what you mean.  Can you put that on the network for me?”

Me, “Sure.  Everything you need is in the folder.  The ‘readme’ tells you how to get started.”

D.R., “Okay.  I’ll check it out.  I’ll probably have questions for you later.”

Me, “No problem.”


At this time, John Bolton appeared in my doorway.  After purchasing a morning soda pop from the machines in the NWC kitchen, he decided to stop by and say 'hello' to D.R., who just happened to be in my office.


John looked at D.R. and smirked, “Getting any work done?”

Once again, exasperated, D.R. pointed at me and exhaled, “I’m getting more from him than Wario.”


Registering his mutual frustration, John smirked, chuckled, and shook his head as he departed.


On Monday morning, after roughly one week of focused work, I sent an email to JVC and David M.  Attached was an Excel document with my draft of the HoMM3 factions and troops.  Half an hour later, my phone rang.  It was David.


David, "Do you have time to discuss your creature list?"

Me, “Sure.  I’ll be right over.”


After hanging up my phone, I walked next door.  Inside David's office, sitting in his guest chair, her feet barely touching the floor, was Phelan.  Near her, on David's desk, she had a printed copy of my 'creature list'.  David also had his own copy.  As David had only one guest chair, I sat on the floor, facing Phelan.


David, “I showed your list to Phelan.  We’ve been talking about scheduling.”

Me, “Is it too many?”

Phelan, “Not really.  We should be able to do the eight towns, but I’m not sure about the Neutrals.”

Me, “Including the upgrades?”

Phelan, “We can just add stuff to each upgrade.  Change colors.  Most of the animations should be the same.  Shouldn’t be a problem.”


Music to my ears.


Me, “Opinions on the breakdown?”

David, “I like it.”

Phelan, “Me too.  I already have ideas for the visual themes.”

Me, “I know, originally, we were thinking at least one extra town, but once I got into it and started moving things around, I ended up with eight.  In fact, I could do one more, an Elemental Town, possibly for an expansion.”

David, “Any word from Jon on the list?”

Me, “Not yet.  Also, I take it this is enough to keep the art staff busy for the time being?”

David nodded, “Oh, yeah.”

Me, “Okay.  Good.  This should give me some breathing room to work on the Map Editor.”

David, looked at Phelan, “Interface art.”

Phelan, “Yeah.  Scott White is coming off of Might and Magic 6.  I’ve already talked to him about handling the GUI.”

Me, “Where’s his office at?”

Phelan, “Next to Mark’s, but I’ll tell him to stop by.  You should show him your mock-up, then go from there.”


Roughly five to ten minutes, after the conclusion of my informal meeting with David and Phelan, Scott White knocked on my door.  In my opinion, Scott was one of the unsung 'heroes' of Heroes3.  Not only was he responsible for all the interface elements, which was a truly monumental amount of work, he was also responsible for the game's most iconic towns: Castle and Tower.  As for Scott's appearance, he was of average height, average build, with longish hair, and was predisposed to baggy pants.  His personality?  Relaxed.


Scott, putting out his hand, “Is your name Greg?”

Me, shaking Scott’s hand, “Yes.”

Scott, “You look like the person Phelan described.”

Me, “How’d she describe me?”

Scott, “Tall.  Glasses.”

Me, nodding, motioning to my guest chair, “That’s me.  Have a seat.”


As Scott sat down, I displayed, on my computer monitor, my graphical mock-up for the Heroes3 Adventure Map.


Me, “What did Phelan tell you?”

Scott, pointing to my computer screen, “Just that she wanted me to work on the interface, and you had a mock-up.”

Me, “I put this together last week.”

Scott, “She said the default resolution was 800 by 600, not 640 by 480.”

Me, “Correct.  We’re keeping the tiles the same pixel size, so we’ll have extra room to play with.”

Scott, “Okay.”


Next, I displayed the Visio file I'd created before I assembled my mock-up.


Me, "This is a Visio file I used to lay out the mock-up.  It has all the labels for the different buttons and screen areas."


Scott leaned in for a closer look.


Scott, "Okay.  So, you've got buttons, labels, and screen space.  How close do you want me to stick to this?"

Me, "Depends.  For this one, I like how the screen is divided up, but you have wiggle room when it comes to button sizes, text, etc.  For others, I'll tell you what I need, and leave the rest up to you.  If you think you have a better idea, let me know, and we'll discuss it."


Scott seemed to like my ground rules and nodded his understanding.


Me, “Is this going to be enough for you to do your work, or do you need more detail from me?”

Scott, “This is more than I usually get.”

Me, smiling, “Okay.  Good.  Going forward, I’ll just give you these to work with.  My goal is to do all the interface elements like this.  Adventure Map.  Hero Screen.  Town Screen.  Battlefield.  Spell Book.  Pop-ups.  Everything.”

Scott, “Can you put the mock-up on the network?”

Me, “Already there.”

Scott nodded his acknowledgment as he got up from my guest chair, "Anything else?"

Me, “Not really.  We’ll just work it out as we go.”

Scott, “Okay.  See ya later.”


When I emailed my Excel file of factions and creatures to Jon and David, I had expected Jon to review it at home and return it to me with notes.  Later in the day, I got a reply telling me, "Let's go over it when I'm in the office on Wednesday."  This was unexpected.


While I understood Jon only came into work on Wednesday and Thursday, I assumed he was also working from home.  This was not the case.  Jon, for the most part, was only working Wednesday and Thursday when he was in the office.  He was effectively... semi-retired.


In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Jon first published Might and Magic: Book One... in 1986.  After 11+ years of stressful work in a growing, dynamic, ever-changing industry, coupled with financial instability and long periods of crunch, Jon needed a break.  In late 1997, he was finally getting it.


On Wednesday morning, I was in my office when David stopped by.


David, “I just walked by JVC’s office.  If you want to catch him, he’s at his desk right now.”

Me, “Alright.  Thanks.”


Quickly walking to Jon’s office, I found him, as David described, sitting at his desk, more than likely, checking emails.  I politely knocked on Jon’s open door.  He looked up with a smile.


Me, “I was hoping I could book some time with you today, and go over the creatures list I sent to you on Monday.”

Jon, “How about after lunch?”

Me, “1:00?  1:30?  2:00?”

Jon, "Let's call it 1:00.  Could you also make a copy of the list for me and bring it with you?"

Me, “Uh... sure.”


After an early lunch, I printed two copies of my factions and creatures list.  One for me.  One for Jon.


When 1:00PM rolled around, I picked up both copies of my 'creatures list', a notepad, a pencil, Jon's Monster Manual, his Fiend Folio, his Deities & Demigods, and his copy of Titan.  I made my way to Jon's office, where once again, I found him behind his desk, working at his computer.  I knocked on Jon's open door.


Me, “Ready?”

Jon, “Yep.  Come in.  Close the door behind you.”


Shutting the door behind me, I put Jon’s desk, he AD&D books and his copy of Titan.  I then handed him my 'creature list'.  Sitting in one of Jon's guest chairs, I watched him examine my printed spreadsheet, reading the various faction names and troop names.


Me, “Most of the creatures have temporary names.  I figure we can work on those later.”

Jon nodded, "Okay."

Me, “Do you want to dive right in, or do you want me to explain what I was thinking?”

Jon, “Why don’t you go first.”

Me, "Well, first, we have the original 6 town types from Heroes2, but we want to add at least one more.  We also want to add at least one new troop tier per town type.  So, I put together a big list of creatures and put them where they seemed to fit with the overall town theme.  I had to move some creatures around, as some of the newer troops made more sense than the existing ones."

Jon, “Okay.  I see you moved the Griffin from the Warlock to the Knight.”

Me, “Yeah.  I also moved the Roc from the Wizard to the Barbarian, and the Gargoyle from the Warlock to the Wizard.  Seemed to make more sense as there’s an ‘animated’ theme with the golems and the Titan.”

Jon nodded, "Okay."

Me, “I tried to stick with fantasy stereotypes.  We’ve got a lot of troops, and I want them to be relatively easy to identify.”

Jon, “So, this demon town is from Might & Magic 6?”

Me, "Yes.  I talked to Paul (Rattner), and he told me the story for Might and Magic 6, and I liked the idea of a demon town.  He also suggested we follow Queen Catherine, who is visiting her father on a completely different continent.  Following her gives us complete story freedom.  It also means we can play around with the town concepts."

Jon nodded his approval, "Okay."

Me, "Last town is a swamp town, which is mostly reptiles."


For the next couple of hours, Jon and I went over each faction, each creature, and each adjustment I'd made concerning troop placement and tier.  When it was over, Jon hadn't changed a thing and seemed rather pleased with the factions and the troop rosters.  Additionally, to my satisfaction, he also seemed happy with the unofficial process we'd established.


Over the course of HoMM3’s production, I would spend my time designing the game.  When JVC came into work on Wednesday and Thursday, we’d review what I’d created, and he’d veto what he didn’t like.  When this happened, we immediately worked it out until we arrived at a solution he liked.  Ultimately, it gave him oversight of the game's conceptual development and production, without requiring him to get his hands dirty building the game's low-level details.  Truthfully, my job was threefold: design HoMM3, anticipate Jon's preferences, and make Jon's oversight as easy as possible.


With our session concluded, I got up to leave Jon's office.  Holding the approved Faction and Troop Rosters in my hand, I told him what I had planned for the next couple weeks.


Me, “After I hand this off to David, I’ve got to work on the Map Editor for David Richey.  After I’ve taken care of him, I was thinking I’d focus on creature special abilities.  So, it may be two or three weeks before I have something else.”

Jon, “Not a problem.  I’ve got plenty of Might and Magic 6 stuff to do.”

Me, "For the creature special abilities, I was going to follow the Heroes2 template and give specials to about half the upgrades."

Jon waved his hand at me, “Eh.  Give specials to all the upgrades.”

Me, not realizing I was about to agree to an incredible amount of intensive work, "Okay."


Returning to my office, I took a quick detour and poked my head into David’s office.  I knocked on his door, and David spun around.


I gave him a 'thumbs up', "Just finished going over the factions and creatures with Jon.  We're good to go."

David smiled, “Alright.”


The following week, on an early Monday morning, I was in my office working through my emails and video game news websites.  I spotted Wario walking past my office, but thought nothing of it... until minutes later... when I heard him knock on David's office door.


Wario, “Could I talk to you.”

David, “Uh… sure.”


David’s office door closed.  As I worked at my computer, I could hear muffled voices.  After less than ten minutes, the conversation concluded, David’s office door opened, and Wario departed.


Immediately thereafter, David left his office and hurriedly walked toward Mark's office.  When David returned, he skipped past his own office.  Something was going on.


I kept working, but left my office door open.  After roughly 15 to 20 minutes, John Bolton walked past my office with George Ruof.  Both stopped at David Richie’s office.


John, “I changed my mind.  We’re going to use the Meeting Room.

D.R., “Will I need a notebook?”

John, chuckling and shaking his head, “I don’t know.  Bring it anyway.”


As John and George departed, D.R. grabbed a yellow legal pad and stepped out of his office.  A moment later, David M followed D.R., and walked toward the Meeting room. 


Something was definitely going on, and after roughly ten minutes, I decided I needed to check in on Scott White.  Stopping at the NWC Kitchen, I bought a Coca-Cola.  Popping it open, I took sips from the aluminum can as I casually walked past the Tester's Room… to the NWC Meeting Room.


Doors to the Meeting Room were closed.  Inside, David Mullich, John Bolton, David Richey, and George Ruof sat at the meeting table.  All had their respective notepads, pens, and pencils before them as they talked.


Walking past the Meeting Room, I made my way to the office of Scott White.  His door was open, and I softly knocked as I stepped inside.


Scott turned around in his chair, somewhat surprised to see me, "Uh… morning."

Me, “Anything new?”

Scott, “Not really.  I might have something for you to look at after lunch.”

Me, “Okay.  I’ll pop by later.”

Scott, obviously wondering why I was checking up on him, gave me a mildly suspicious look, “Okay.”


Leaving Scott, I made my way back to the Meeting Room.  If it wasn’t clear the first time, it was now clear.  David, D.R., and George were reacting to John.  John was leading the meeting.


Back in my office, I returned to my work.  It wasn't too much longer before everyone else returned to their respective offices... except for John Bolton.


Stopping at my open office door, John politely knocked.


John, “Do you have a feature list for the game?”

Me, "You mean like a back-of-the-box list of features?"

John, “Something like that.  Something to help me figure out the direction we’re headed.”

Me, "Not at the moment, but I could have something for you in... a week?"

John, "That'd be fine.  I've got plenty on my plate for the time being.  Also, at some point, David (Richey) will want a more detailed design for the Map Editor."

Me, “Okay.  I’ll try to prioritize it.”

John, “After that, I’ll need something to work on.”

Me, "Do you have a general idea of what you want from me first?"

John, "Doesn't really matter.  Just give it to me, and I'll put it in.  If there's a problem, I'll let you know."

Me, “Well, JVC and I just finalized the factions and creatures.  After that, I’ll probably do the Map Editor, then the troop special abilities.”

John, “Okay.  Sounds good.”


With a quiet wave goodbye, John departed.


Clearly, something significant had occurred.  I got up from my office chair and went next door to David's office.  David seemed unusually energized.


Me, “John Bolton just asked me for the game’s feature list.”

David waved me inside, “Come in.  Close the door.”


Closing David’s office door behind me, I sat down in David’s guest chair.


David, “Wario stepped down.”

Me, subtly surprised and immediately relieved, "Really?  What happened?"

David, "Well, he couldn't do the job, and he knew it."

Me, continuing to work through my puzzlement, “I don’t understand.  What part of the job couldn’t he do?”

David, “As far as I can tell, he couldn’t figure out the code.”

Me, “Seriously?”

David, “I suspected he was far more junior than he projected.  I’d already talked to Mark about replacing him.”

Me, “Well... that explains why there’s been so much friction between him, John, and David (Richey).  That also explains why he derailed every meeting and hated every new feature or change.  He didn’t know how to program it.”

David, "I also think he liked Heroes2 the way it was and just wanted us to re-skin the game.  Before he left, he told me, 'You're killing Heroes.'"

Me, screwing up my face, “How?”

David shrugged, “I don’t know.”

Me, “Sequels exist to give players a good reason to move on from the previous game.”

David nodded, "I know.  He's just being spiteful.  Anyway, going forward, John Bolton is our lead programmer.  After Wario stepped down, I informed Mark, went to John, and asked him if he would be our Lead Programmer.  At first, he said 'no', thinking I was doing something underhanded.  When I explained Wario had stepped down, he accepted."

Me, “Good.”

David, “The first thing he did was call a meeting with David Richey and George.  He told them he’d been looking at the code base.  Phil (Steinmeyer) didn’t comment any of his code.  So, he assigned different portions of the code base to himself, David, and George.  Starting today, they’re going through it, line-by-line, and adding the comments Phil never bothered to include.”

Me, “Seems like an obvious first step.  How long is it going to take?”

David, chuckling, “I don’t know.  I forgot to ask.”

Me, “Still... it’s good news.”

David smiled, “Yeah.  John’s great.  I’ve worked with him before, and he’s a genuine Lead Programmer.”


With Wario, HoMM3 had stumbled out of the gate.  Had he stayed as Lead Programmer, who knows how much damage Wario would have inflicted on the game's development before he was formally dismissed.  Now, with John Bolton as our Lead Programmer, we had found our footing.


Following his removal from the project, Wario would occasionally stop by my office and chit-chat.  He would show his charismatic side: pleasant, assured, seemingly knowledgeable, humorous, and I genuinely thought we were on good terms.  Years later, long after the collapse of 3DO and NWC, I learned from David Mullich how Wario had been extremely two-faced.  Throughout HoMM3's production, to anyone who would listen, Wario took every opportunity to talk negatively about Heroes3.  Predictably, he was bitter and continually claimed his failure wasn't his fault... but David's fault... or my fault.

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