Fabrice Cambounet Interview - Archangel Castle, 22 June 2006.
Exeter: First of all, welcome Fabrice, and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let's point out that most of the questions we'll ask here come from community members.
Let's get straight to the point and talk about the interface. It was cleanly simplified and, despite our early fears, it is very pleasant to manipulate. It was well received, with many positive feedbacks for its simplicity and ease of use. However, there are still some missing details: description of the starting hero in the game lobby, exact effects of the spells affecting creatures during combat, "wait" and "split" buttons, among others.
Do you think the interface mishaps will be fixed, and could you tell us which are already planned?
Fabrice Cambounet: There will be many changes in various interface panels. Part of it as soon as the second patch, this month. Creature abilities, for instance, will be detailed. Map locations will show a notification when visited. The shooters' range in combat will be visually indicated. And we'll continue working on this type of changes in our subsequent monthly updates.
Exeter: Many strategic innovations were introduced in Heroes 5. Alas, the oversimplification of elemental chains in the release version makes some fans wonder.
Are these kind of strategic innovations bound to be let aside, because they seem too complicated at first glance, or will you reintroduce them in some way?
FC: We tried many things during the beta test, some of them not viable, because they were too complicated to grasp, balance, or showed only limited interest. It is really difficult to be sure of the quality of an idea without the feedback of the end user. That is the foremost interest of a beta test, to be confronted to reality. We made many changes from the beta feedback, in particular on this point.
Exeter: The duel mode is a really nice innovation. Unluckily, it is not yet very well balanced, and playing over and over again with the same heroes and armies becomes repetitive. We read somewhere that you were gathering ideas and feedback from forums to make duel mode better.
Do you lean towards more randomness (the player would choose the faction, the hero and the army, but the spells and skills would be automatically balanced) or a customize-your-army approach, where the player would spent points to configure his/her hero and army.
More generally, what ideas did you find the most interesting to improve this mode? And what about playing duel mode in HotSeat or against the AI?
FC: The duel mode will get many improvements over summer. Additional options will be offered, like having a random hero or playing in HotSeat. In addition, it will be possible to create new presets and share them. Other ideas are currently being examined. Balance will of course get improved, for the duel mode as for the game more globally.
Exeter: The ghost mode is a nice solution to keep the player busy instead of waiting for the other player's turn. This innovative feature is very interesting to players, although lack of practice makes it difficult to use.
However, without being too greedy, do you think you can make it an essential feature of a multiplayer Heroes game in the future, and how? Or will it stay as an additional option, like dynamic battles currently is?
FC: This mode is a real innovation to the series, and as such we will have much attention to the feedback from the fans. I think we need to make it more fluent and attractive, and make sure it keep the player busy during the whole wait in multiplayer. This is a longer term subject, but the ghost mode certainly is a good basis. ^^
Exeter: At the beginning of the development, a "simultaneous mode" was reported in some interviews. In another interview, Nival developers said that they didn't have enough time to implement it, if the other parts of Heroes 5 were to be completed. Now that the game has been released, are "simultaneous turns" still planned for later?
FC: Indeed, we did not forget this feature, and it is still under development. It will be added to the game! ^^
Exeter: Since the release of the game, we have seen many mods coming out. Like new 3D texture models for creatures, new towns or useful tools. What do you think of these? And beyond that, what about developping tools with which fans could easily create new creatures or factions? Do you think we could hope seeing such software for Heroes of Migtht and Magic one day?
FC: These mods are a bright way to show the dedication of the fans and their creativity. It is a great satisfaction to see the determination of the players to add new elements or to adapt the contents. We do not have any official support for these at the moment, a label of some sort, but it is a subject we're planning to work on.
The moddable character of the games is an increasingly present feature in the big productions, and it is certainly the way we're moving.
Exeter: Heroes V received a rather good critic in the french specialized press. Can you tell us how the game was welcomed throughout the world? Do you already have sales figures for Heroes V?
FC: Critics were very good throughout Europe, and that was one of the best rewards for the team. The marks have been lower in the United States, where multiplayer was considered essential, while it was not very stable at the time of release. Globally though, the sales are very strong in all countries, and the fans are responding well! The game hit the first place in sales almost everywhere, and has stayed in the short list up to now. We are on the course to be the most acclaimed Heroes episode hitting the market.
Exeter: As a conclusion, can you tell us what aspect of the game you are the most proud of, personnally, what is the most disappointing feature, and what do you think would be the perspective for the Heroes lineage from now on.
FC: Globally, I'm happy that the project, after two and a half year of sometimes tricky production, did hit a good release: very good marks, very good sales and welcomed by the fans. This allows us to have a more ambitious update policy, and plan the future with more confidence. ^^
As a player, I would obviously have liked to polish every detail of the game, adding gameplay modes, fixing this or that, but this is luxury that developpers don't have. We have to achieve the best possible quality within the publication constraints.
With Heroes 5, we have proved that we can make a very good game, with this most awaited sequel in all game categories. I hope that many players will discover Heroes with this title. We will build from there by pushing the quality yet again and become a reference in the best strategy games. ^^
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