Heroes of Might & Magic Development Diary #1



DEVELOPMENT DIARY #1



REVAMPING THE M&M UNIVERSE

Ubisoft has provided us an in-depth account of creating the new
world in this interview with Erwan Le Breton, the Might & Magic content
director, and Richard Dansky, the Might & Magic world designer.


  1. First of all, could you introduce yourself and explain us what is your job on
    HOMM 5?

 



Erwan


 


My name is Erwan Le Breton, Might & Magic Content Director at Ubisoft.

 


My quest is to build the new world of Might & Magic that will be the setting of
all the current and future M&M games produced and/or published by Ubisoft.

 


And my

favorite

colour is red (for those with an unhealthy obsession for the airspeed velocity
of an

unladen

swallow.)

 


Outside of Ubisoft, I’m a published writer, author of a dozen pen & paper

RPGs
,
children’s novels, and comic books for various French publishers.

 



Richard

 

I’m Richard
Dansky, Might & Magic World Designer at Ubisoft

 


I’ve worked on numerous games for Ubisoft, including Far Cry, Ghost
Recon: Island Thunder
, and Cold Fear, and before that I contributed
to roughly 130 role-playing books for White Wolf. I’ve published four novels,
including the fantasy series The Trilogy of the Second Age, and various other
bits of fiction.

 


Outside of work, I enjoy building large wooden badgers, and running about with
silly knees-bent advancing

behaviors
.


 


  1. Why did
    Ubisoft decide to revamp the M&M universe?


 


There are

several
reasons for this.

 

1. The world
used as a background for the Might & Magic games has often changed from
one title to the next (Varn, Cron, Terra, Xeen and then Axeoth with Enroth,
Erathia, Jadame, Cheh’dian, etc.)

As a result,
the consistency between all the M&M games was not very strong and the overall
background was vague, if not flat-out confusing at times. We want to have a
single, deep world that’s consistent across the board and has layers of story
and content that players can just dive into.

 

2. There was
just so much information in the world that it was difficult for new players to
really embrace everything that was there. The mass of backstory and continuity
was almost intimidating, and we wanted to create a world that new players could
enjoy as well.

 

3. As much as
we enjoyed the original M&M worlds, they had a certain science-fiction
undertone, while we really wanted to focus on the fantasy aspects–the “might”
and “magic”, as it were. Those games were also “lighter” in tone than what we
had in mind for the new generation of M&M games.

 

Again, we
really loved what was done in the past, so it simply made sense to respect that
and build our world from the ground up, focusing on capturing the core essence
of what drew us all back to Axeoth over and over, rather than try to modify
things that people really loved and enjoyed.  


 


  1. Precisely,
    what did you keep from the old M&M universe?

 

The more
obvious aspect is that we are still in “high fantasy” world, ripe with valiant
human knights in shining armor, mysterious elves lurking in the woods, savage
orc tribes raiding the frontiers, undead armies gathering in the dark of the
night, and all that good stuff.

But of course,
in our new implementation, expect to find more than one twist on the canonical
representation of these elements. J

 

Then, we
decided to keep the factions that made the Heroes line so popular. By
“faction”, we mean the city/nation/race coalitions known to Heroes fans
as Haven, Inferno, Academy, Dungeon, Stronghold, etc. Many of them will be back,
some with a familiar aspect and “philosophy”, others with a bunch of surprises
up their sleeves.

Soon, we’ll be
revealing loads of exciting stuff on the factions, but for now, here’s a quick
rundown on the first two: Haven and Inferno.

Haven:
The Humans of the Holy Griffin Empire are inspired and guided by angels. It’s a
feudal society driven by the rigorous edicts of the Dragon of Light – not any
place you’d want to be a heretic. Picture an ironclad alliance of Arthurian
Britain and Victorian England and you get a general idea. Oh, and did we mention
the Spanish Inquisition? Guess not…

Inferno:
Imprisoned between worlds by the legendary wizard known as the Seventh Dragon,
the Legions of Chaos want out in the worst way–and we mean that literally.
Destructive, hateful, vicious, sadistic–that’s just a warm up for these guys.
Even worse, they’ve got a plan, and that’s where things get really interesting.

 

We preserved
the epic quality of the former M&M titles, which drives the player to experience
fantasy on a grand scale and participate in world-shattering events. The actions
the player takes impact the whole world.

 

We were also
determined to maintain the ambiguous oppositions and moral choices which made
the M&M narratives so compelling.

Indeed, rather
than a striking opposition between Good (Light) and Evil (Darkness), there has
always been, in the former M&M games, a balance of the opposites, with most
characters painted in shades of grey (ie: fully fleshed out personalities,
covering the whole spectrum between radiant benevolence and wicked villainy
instead of square-jawed caricatures).

Nobody is all
good, and nobody is pure evil. Any character (and the heroes above all) could
choose to be a villain or a hero at the moment. It’s a lot like life as we know
it.


 


  1. What are your
    objectives with this new world? What innovations can we expect?


 

First things
first: We want to make it deep, consistent, and exciting!

By “deep and
consistent”, we mean giving the world a sense of history and of scope. The
universe shouldn’t feel like it’s shiny and new and unwrapped just for the game.

You might not see
all the background that’s being built in Heroes V, but it’s important
that it’s there – that sort of continuity informs everything else, and lets you
know that the world doesn’t end at the edge of your mission map.

As for the
“exciting” aspect, well, expect to rediscover all of the familiar fantasy places
and races, with countless subtle touches that will spark your imagination.

 

Chief among
the races you’ll see will be our Dragons, which are, literally, the base the
entire universe is built on. They are a vital part of every aspect of our
world–from the cosmology to the nature of magic, to religion and the way people
talk day to day.  


 


  1. Could you
    describe us the process of re-creating a universe like this one? What are the
    key areas you are working on?


 

Our first task
is to design a common background: a b
rand
new fantasy world complete with history, geography, politics, culture, etc.

 

Then, we build
a common “identity”: a tone, an atmosphere, a style that will permeate all the
facets of any future M&M products from the global concepts (dramatic themes,
general mood, etc.) to the more specific details (graphic codes and symbols,
musical leitmotivs, etc.).

 

Finally,
because we are talking about games, we must also create a common set of “core
rules”: What is mana and how do we use it? What is a paladin or a fireball in
our world? These things seem pretty basic, but you really need to nail down your
definitions early–it’s amazing how many things can cascade off of simple things
like this.


 


  1. What are your
    inspirations for this new universe?


 

We’ve been
heavily inspired by seminal fantasy authors like J.R.R. Tolkien (of course), but
also Michael Moorcock, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Glen
Cook and George R.R. Martin. These are authors whose worlds and stories are both
epic and tragic, with the perfect balance of horror and wonder.


 


  1. On the
    graphical aspect, what orientation can we expect from future M&M games?


 

Let us say
that it’s time for Dorothy to ride the dark whirlwind and leave the gentle
lighthearted fantasy of Axeoth behind. Ahead lays a world of blood and shadows,
of jagged blades and voracious flames, of sweet lies and bitter poison…

 

That’s where
we’re taking you, and the best part is, you’ll going to ask for more J


 


  1. Why did you
    decide to work with Olivier Ledroit on this project? Could you introduce him
    to us?


 

Olivier
Ledroit is a French Comic book artist, very popular in Europe, best known for
his first series Les Chroniques de la Lune Noire (“The Black Moon
Chronicles”, 1989-2005).

 

He has more
recently worked with the British writer Pat Mills (of


Marshal Law

and Slaine fame
)
on several “dark horror” series such as Sha or Requiem.

 

Olivier is an
extremely talented artist, and his dark baroque fantasy universe was one of our
main graphic inspirations for the new M&M world. So the logical step was to ask
him to contribute on the project, and you easily imagine our extreme excitement
when we he accepted the assignment.


 


  1. Regarding
    Heroes of Might & Magic V, why was it important to have this new universe?

 

Simply because
Heroes of Might & Magic V will be the first M&M game published by Ubisoft, and
as such, it will really lay the bases for the “reborn” brand

 

So the events
of the single-player campaign you’ll play in Heroes V will have direct
repercussions in all the M&M games to be released in the coming years. Here is
where the avalanche starts, and it’s going to be a hell of a ride down.


 


  1. What are your
    plans for the future regarding this new universe?

 

In the future
M&M games, we will deal with the “apocalyptic” consequences of the main plot
featured in Heroes V.

 

We will also
expand the “known world” to include new Factions (5 are currently planned).

 

And we are
already thinking of a “prequel” saga that would let you delve into some of the
more obscure mysteries of our world.

 

There’s an
awful lot of backstory, culture and history in the world we’ve created, and we
want to give you a chance to explore it. This is, of course, another way of
saying we want to share all of the cool stuff we’ve been coming up with,
because, well, it’s cool and we’re just naturally both a couple of show-offs.
It’s still amazing, though. Honest.


 


  1. Can you tell
    us more about Isabel, the key character of the game? What does she look like,
    what will happen to her, how is she? Why is she so important?


 


Let’s just put it this way – when a child is born in a way that contravenes
every known law of the universe, it might be time to start worrying.

 


And Isabel was that child. She’s a beautiful woman of noble birth, the only
child of her older parents. H
er
upbringing was rather lonely — she had nannies, tutors, and maids rather than
siblings, parents, and friends. None of them could have prepared her, however,
for what she’s about to go through.

 

Now that she
has come of age, she is promised to Nicolai, the young ruler of the Holy Griffin
Empire.

 

But Isabel is
not destined to find happiness. Her fiancé will die, her world will crumble,
and, well, you’ll just have to see what happens after that. It’s going to be one
hell of a journey.

 

As for her
portrait, well, picture an immaculate apple-blossom frozen in its delicate
beauty and purity by an early, unnatural, frost, and set to a sharp, metallic
twig…


 


  1. Why will
    people enjoy the universe you helped to create?


  •  
    I
    think that the best praise we could get for this new universe is that “it
    feels strong and it feels real”.

  •  All of the
    different factions have very good reasons to justify their existence and their
    ongoing struggles with the rival nations.

  •  All of the
    characters have legitimate motivations and credible mindsets.


  •  
    The
    drama is tight, focused on a long chain of major events that covers millennia
    of spoken myths and written history.

  •  Everything
    is related. Every action has its consequences, sometimes hundreds of years
    later.

  •  And the
    Magic is there, stronger than ever and ready to lead you to places you’ve
    never seen before.