Heroes VI: Q&A, Heroic Corner

1. The situation about Black Holes departure was quite controversial. Its great that we have Limbic to continue the improvement of Heroes VI, but the fans are still concerned whether or not the whole story will be repeated, or whether the development will get painfully longer. We would be glad to hear some assurance.

Limbic and Ubisoft have worked together on past projects and we always had a great relationship with them. We are glad of our current collaboration as well: Limbic had to get used to the code of the game and did it pretty quickly. The 1.3 & 1.4 patches released by Limbic proved their ability to build upon the existing features and improve the state of the game while expanding its scope.
But we need to keep in mind that they are a relatively small studio which is not geared up to produce full scale content, so our objectives remain reasonable, with a clear focus on quality and on-time delivery. For the moment everything is happening as planned, so no reason to get worried about anything. :)

2. We know that the devs from Limbic have a huge experience in game development, having worked on the Anno games and many others. But how familiar are they with MM Heroes games? What are their favorites?

Alexander Frey, Producer at Limbic on Heroes VI, is answering:

Many of us (including me) have played MMH (which was HoMM back in the days) from the first part on back in 1995 and have never missed a part. I was instantly hooked on the slow-paced strategical gameplay, the tactical turn based combat system and the richness of the world. Overall the series is a reference title (to the question: What are you playing? or What games do you like?) and we consider it a great honor to be developing on this IP.
My personal favorite is the 3rd part (which was the last one that was fully 2D). I like that part the most, because it was the most epic and complex part of the series. Especially the community efforts were worth mentioning; they provided players with large amounts of new maps/campaigns. Some of them in epic proportions and superior quality. This part has been a true evergreen we have played it at least for 5 or 6 years! Even now it is installed on my not so powerful-laptop and played occasionally when travelling (great game to kill travel-time).
The option to play in hot-seat was also much welcomed. I remember many relaxed matches with roomates/friends/girlfriends on rainy weekends (or during boring travels). Actually this is maybe also a thing to mention: this series has always been very female-friendly/gender neutral. I think I dont know any other game that had so many fans amongst females. I even know a few hardcore-non-players who became addicted to Heroes.

3. What do you think is the best feature youve done and the worst mistake? Which choices lead to failure and which had success?

One feature were especially satisfied with is the Area of Control system that really allows you to focus on your overall strategy and the most exciting parts of the game (siege battles for instance) rather than tedious micromanagement (endless re-capture of individual resource buildings with mule heroes).
Other features, such as the Reputation system, were cool on paper but not so interesting in the end. We wanted the Reputation to influence your heroes in every possible way: story (unique quests, dialogues and companions), gameplay (unique abilities), visual (unique appearance). As a result, the concept got diluted and less impactful. A more reasonable focus would have served the game better.
The skill system is probably our biggest disappointment. Theres really a huge gap between our original intention and the actual ingame implementation. We wanted specialized factions, distinctive heroes, cool and powerful abilities, and all that presented in an attractive, user-friendly package Then came the negotiations, compromises, conflicting feedbacks, re-ordering of production priorities, and finally, the end result.
However, we feel that while not perfect, many of the new features of Heroes VI were necessary steps for the Heroes series. We really wanted to try and innovate in several areas. We may have pushed the limits of the game to undesirable areas, but we have learned valuable lessons in the process and we sincerely think that in a couple of years from now, when we look back at the vanilla Heroes VI, we will smile and whisper: this is when it all started :)

4. Similarly, what are your thoughts about the Conflux? Where did it succeed and where did it fail? While the social side may have potential, fans are critical about the DRM component; any words on that?

There were two main reasons for the Conflux to be an important part of Heroes VI.
The first is that in 2011-2012, we are all connected. And Ubisoft as a whole is striding (if not leaping) into this connected space. The Heroes series could simply not just be left behind. We wanted the Might & Magic fans to be connected with each others, with ourselves, the developers and publishers of the game, and with the Might & Magic universe as a whole.
The second reason is that we wanted to bring to the fans something they had been requesting for years: a persistent reward for playing the game. Being able to carry over some kind of gameplay benefit from one campaign to another, from the single player game to the multiplayer, from the core game to its extensions, or even to its next installment.
This is also what the Conflux, with its Dynasty system, is all about.
But we agree that as of today, the Conflux has mostly been an interesting potential. Were working hard to make it real, and as cool as its promise. And by we, we mean all the online teams at Ubisoft, not just the producers and developers of the Might & Magic games.

5. Were happy to know that the townscreens are in development. Its good to have interactivity and to finally see all the buildings, but will there be some additional environment effects (like weather) or animations for buildings to make the scene look lively?

At the release of Heroes VI (and even a bit before during the various Beta tests) weve got a lot of your feedback pointing out that a critical must have in a Heroes series is integration of beautiful, immersive and functional townscreens. Being a major ingame change, including creation of town art, rework of interface and balance of features/eye candy effects, it was one of our priorities to bring them to Heroes VI.
The work is nearing its end, so we would suggest you to keep a close eye on our official channels and community sites for more news.
While the town screens will be 2D (our benchmark are the Heroes III town screens), they will be animated. There will indeed be atmospheric and visual effects such as creatures flying, particles and other stuff that will add a touch of life to these grandiose vistas.

6. Heroes VI is said to be the flagship of the series. Does it mean that the upcoming games will be closely tied to its story? And the ones who would like to see some different time periods (like after Heroes 5) should wait? Also, what period of Ashan history would the team members like to explore?

The upcoming titles of the Might & Magic series are all tied to Heroes VI, either because they take place in the same time period, or because the events they depict are linked to things that took place during H6. In a way, H6 opens the second big story arc of the Ashan universe (the Dark Messiah arc being the first).
There are many time periods in the history of Ashan that would be interesting to explore: the Shantiri era, the succession wars after the end of the Falcon line, the civil war in the Seven Cities... Maybe someday well even be able to tell what happens after Dark Messiah.

7. Since the delay in delivering patch 1.3 crossed your previous patching plan, are you going to make a new one or you will be releasing the patch info when youll have complete confidence of what will be done and when?

Releasing new patches on existing tech with a new developer is always a challenge, and brings it own issues. So yes, it is true that our patch planning was a bit modified, but we plan on keeping improving and adding stuff for Heroes VI for the next few months.
This week we will communicate about the patch 1.5 (dont miss this information on all of our official channels). As youll see, its a big one: it will bring balance changes, compatibility of on-line/off-line changes and more. Well give you the full list at the release of the patch. We will indeed make sure before announcement that we will be able to respect our engagement.

8. How far can you currently go in balance and when can we expect changes? Should we continue giving feedback or you already have a large list of things to think about?

We have completed the first balancing pass and we are quite satisfied with the results so far. We plan to make the modified .orc file available as a pre-release for eager players in the next few days, and the same modifications will see officially the light with patch 1.5, early July along with other improvements.
Of course, once patch 1.5 is released into the wild, we will keep a close eye on the players feedbacks and stand ready to return to the workbench.

9. So far weve heard the plans for balancing the core units, magic damage and healing. Do you have any ideas for elite and champion tiers yet? Their relatively low damage and high health values take their part in overall sluggish pace of battles and often lead to frustration. Statistically the champions dont seem powerful like level 7 creatures, which may hinder player enjoyment of playing with a small but mighty squad (or the choice of such playstyle). Similarly, many of the creature abilities are considered lacking and could be amplified to further differentiate them and improve the combat experience. And, since every choice on the battlefield counts, could you improve the defense action so it could also be a meaningful choice sometimes and not just something that one usually presses when theres nothing to do?

You will indulge us for a not-so straight answer but we plan to release this first balance patch and then think later on. Some of the changes you are talking about are quite important code and design wise, and we could not delve too deeply regarding some of them with the time and resources we have on our hands right now. But as said before, we keep a close eye on players feedback.

10. And the final one: anything else you would like to say to the fans? :)

Once more, we wish to thank our fans for their enduring dedication, support and understanding.
Weve already said it several times, the Might & Magic fans are always at the heart of our discussions concerning Heroes VI. Now more than ever.
Theres not a single fan feedback that stays unnoticed by our team, and we sincerely hope that in the upcoming months we will demonstrate our own commitment to answer your wildest dreams One at a time. :)


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