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RPG Codex Interview: Might & Magic X - Legacy

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RPG Codex Interview: Might & Magic X - Legacy

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 5 April 2013, 10:20:55

Tags: Julien Pirou; Limbic Entertainment; Might & Magic X: Legacy; Stephan Winter; Ubisoft

Just a couple of weeks ago at PAX East, Ubisoft announced Might & Magic X - Legacy, a new entry in the legendary Might & Magic RPG series. Described by Ubisoft as "a first-person RPG that has pledged to respect the tried-and-tested tradition of its illustrious ancestors, as it leads you to epic adventure and quests while exploring the wild peninsula of Agyn," Might & Magic X is scheduled for release later this year.

Surprisingly enough, in these days of "reboots" and "reimaginings" (Fallout 3, Tomb Raider and Thief being the most prominent examples), Might & Magic X continues to be inspired by World of Xeen rather than something like Skyrim, and features turn-, party- and grid-based gameplay. To find out more about the game, as well as why Ubisoft even decided to make it in the first place -- so far, they are the first and only major publisher to announce an "old school" title -- we sent some questions over to Ubisoft and had them answered collectively by Stephan Winter, CEO of Limbic (the company that develops the game for Ubisoft), Julien Pirou (Writer & Designer), and Gary Paulini (Producer). Read on to see what they had to say!

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Ubisoft is the first AAA publisher to venture into old school RPGs. What motivated this move, and how long has Might & Magic X Legacy been in development? To what extent did the Kickstarter-driven "old-school renaissance" and the success of such titles as Legend of Grimrock influence your decision to make the game?

Might & Magic X - Legacy has been in development for almost 7 months. To be honest, this title was in our minds for a long time... It was hard for us to be sure there was an audience for such titles, but many Kickstarter successes (all those old-school IPs and genres) and also the triumph of games like Legend of Grimrock (kudos to Almost Human guys, and thanks for this great title!) have proved the audience IS there.​

Back in 2009, M&M Community Developer Xhane stated on the Ubisoft forums that, even if there were to be another RPG in the franchise, it wouldn't be called "Might & Magic X" due to the new branding policy (prefixed titles over suffixed). How did it happen that Ubisoft changed their minds and decided to continue the main series with Might & Magic X? Who came up with the idea?

Well, as Ralph W. Emerson famously stated, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. : ) At that time we were convinced we would never release a game called "Might & Magic X". Since then though, a lot has happened, and as we’re doing a game that is truthful to the legacy of the series, in the vein of Might & Magic IV and V, we think Might & Magic X is the right name. For sure, we argued about it, asking ourselves what people would expect from such a title but we decided to go for it, as it makes sense to us!​

To you, what are the essential features of a Might & Magic game that you aim to preserve in Legacy? What about the series attracts you personally, and which of the Might & Magic games influence the new game the most?

To us, Might & Magic RPGs are about a party of adventurers exploring a large world in first-person view, meeting a variety of characters, visiting cities, and of course exploring dungeons and fighting monsters in turn-based combat. The specifics may vary from one game to the next (for instance Might & Magic 6 introduced free movement while the earlier games were grid-based), but these basic ingredients were always there and they are still at the core of Might & Magic X - Legacy.

Since there have been several "eras" as far as the gameplay of the series is concerned, we had to think hard about the kind of game we wanted to make. Several pitches were made, more or less faithful to the original games, but we finally decided to go for a gameplay similar to the World of Xeen episodes. We still kept some ideas of the later games, notably our skill system is similar (though not identical) to the skill system featured in Might & Magic 6-7.​

To build on the previous question, are there any aspects of the older Might & Magic titles that you believe have not aged well? Apart from the updated graphical presentation, what are the modern conventions and "upgrades" that you intend to introduce to Might & Magic X's mechanics and gameplay?

One of the strengths of the Might & Magic RPG series is the fact the previous games always aimed for greater accessibility. MM2 introduced the automap feature, MM3 had one of the very first questlogs – maybe even THE first one. The series quickly embraced mouse control, icons and colors to make the information clearer, etc. Thanks to that, a game like World of Xeen remains very playable today and has aged better than other RPGs of its time (not speaking of the technical side of course).

For Might & Magic X - Legacy, we tried to maintain this tradition of accessibility. Accessibility, by the way, is not to be confused with simplification. Accessibility is not about making the game less complex, but making it easier to use and understand. So Might & Magic X has detailed tooltips, clear signs and feedback, drag-and-drop interface, quick-action bar, etc. Nothing extraordinary, but important features players are used to finding in modern RPGs.

One thing we didn’t keep from the older games is the need to "validate" your level-up by spending gold in a training center. This seemed a little too old-school and in a grid-based game would have meant a tedious amount of backtracking.​

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Might & Magic games have always been open-world and not just corridor-based, which distinguished them from other first person RPGs such as Wizardry or The Bard's Tale. How open-world will Legacy be compared to the previous titles, and how big will the world itself be? Will the game have level scaling of any sort, i.e., will it scale the power or number of enemies in an area to your level (like Might & Magic II did)?

Might & Magic X starts with a smaller area. This is the "tutorial" area, which we call "Act I". Here you’ll explore your first town, get your first quests, complete your first dungeons, learning how to play along the way. When Act I is over, the rest of the world opens and what you do next is really up to you. If you want to go to that mountain over there despite the fact it’s notoriously full of angry Cyclopes, nothing will stop you.

There will be no scaling of the monsters depending on your level. We feel it’s one of the great pleasures in RPGs to become a demi-god and then return to those Cyclopes and teach them a lesson. However as you progress through the main story some new creatures and monsters may appear in some areas.

While it’s too early to talk the specifics of the game’s world, we can already say it’s bigger than the world of Clouds of Xeen for instance.​

In one of the previews from PAX East, it was said that the game will take around 25 hours to complete. Is that just the main quest estimate? Are there going to be any optional dungeons and side quests, and what will they be like?

We’ll have a clearer view on the game’s actual length once we have implemented all quests and all dungeons. But considering we have more than 20 dungeons of various sizes and complexity, and a whole outside world to explore, we’re confident there will be a lot to do in Might & Magic X: Legacy.​

Again, in a PAX preview it was mentioned that, in contrast to the older Might & Magic titles, there won't be any sci-fi elements in Might & Magic X. Is that true, and what prompted that decision? Aren't you afraid this might lessen the series' charm, especially in the eyes of old-time Might & Magic fans?

This PAX preview is right: There won’t be any sci-fi elements in Might & Magic X - Legacy. More accurately, you won't explore spaceships, fight killer robots or wield blasters. This decision is directly tied to the new world (called Ashan) we created since Might & Magic Heroes V, as those elements are definitely not part of the lore of this world. But it doesn’t mean there's no connection to the older games of the series. Actually, if you know the "ancient universe" you should keep your eyes open while exploring the world of Might & Magic X...​

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What does the character development system currently look like? What classes, races and skills (including non-combat skills such as swimming) are there?

Legacy will feature 12 basic classes, 3 per race. Each of these classes will also have a promotion quest, allowing, for instance, your Freemage to become Archmage.

As mentioned before, the skill system is close to the system seen in MM6-7, with skill points and Expert-Master-Grandmaster tiers. There are more than 20 skills, and of course, for any specific skill, depending on the character’s class, he might not be able to become a master or grandmaster – or learn the skill at all.

But we’ll get back to the topics of classes and skills in more detail in the coming months. : )​

Can you tell us more about the three-classes-per-race restriction? Is it that there are three archetypes (warrior, mage, rogue) tailored to different races and characteristics? What is the reasoning behind this design choice?

This is basically linked to the "game design laws" of the world of Ashan. While in the previous games you could have an Orc ninja or a barbarian Elf, in Ashan the associations between races and classes are a bit more "rational".

Each race has access to one Might class, one Magic class and what we call a Hybrid class – a class that has access to both Might and Magic skills in "balanced" proportions. Of course, all classes have access to different skills, so for instance, the Human Magic class is different from the Elf Magic class.​

Could you elaborate on how training for skills is going to work in Might & Magic X? When will you need to look for a trainer and when will you not?

While, as mentioned earlier, you don’t have to train just to level-up and gain your skill points, we did keep the idea of teachers that can allow you to reach the next tier for your skills.

You start as a Novice, and then you can become Expert, Master and finally Grandmaster by locating the appropriate teacher. Of course Expert teachers are fairly common, while there’s only one Grandmaster teacher per skill and they can be pretty hard to find. And when you do find them, you never know what they’re going to ask you to do before they grant you the title. : )​

Are there going to be random encounters, or can you spot enemy groups in advance? What will the maximum number of enemies in a group be? (After all, it could get really huge in some of the Might & Magic games!)

There are no random encounters in Legacy. Like in World of Xeen, you can have up to 3 monsters on the same tile. The number of monsters you’ll face will depend on the area and the level design. We have dungeons where monsters are not that numerous but very tough, and others where you will find yourself surrounded and blocked by melee enemies while their companions use ranged attacks against you.​

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As the Kickstarter craze has shown, most old-school PC gamers are particularly averse to all forms of online and social elements in single player games, as well as to any kinds of DRM or always-online copy protection schemes. Will Might & Magic X have any of that? Also, is there any chance it might be available on GOG.com in addition to Uplay and Steam?

No, there will not be "always-online" copy protection! Buy, download, play, that’s it.

However, implementing Uplay is a Ubisoft corporate policy and Might & Magic X - Legacy will not be different from any other Ubisoft title. So yes, Uplay will be in and you’ll need to be online for ONE time activation.

As the game will be based on Uplay, the chances of it being available on GoG are fairly slim, as their policy is no DRM at all (if we’re wrong and GoG is happy to distribute the game, please contact us! : ) )​

Not so long ago, old-school RPGs were an almost extinct genre and the exclusive domain of indie, tablet, and handheld developers. Do you think other big publishers may follow your lead in turning new attention to niche PC markets, such as that for old school PC RPGs? Do you believe this kind of model, which wouldn't involve spending millions of dollars on marketing and PR, can prove to be sustainable?

Well, it’s difficult to say about other publishers... We’re working (only) for Ubisoft! :p

As far as we’re concerned, we definitely think niche PC markets, not only old-school PC RPGs, but also other genres such as rogue-like (thinking about Faster Than Light of course) are interesting and could lead to success.

The difficult part for big publishers targeting those niche markets is to change their communications strategies and adapt them to their audience. For our particular project, spending millions of dollars on Marketing and PR is not the way to go in our opinion... You have to make sure every dollar is used the proper way, targeting the right audience.​

Thank you for your time!

Special thanks go to Zed, Grunker and Infinitron for their input on the questions, and to Ubisoft's Irina Kassina for making this interview possible.

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