Curious Volumes of Forgotten Lore
The story behind the Lore Books
Looking back, it seemed an innocent idea. But they always do. It all started with a message I sent to the rest of the team, on April 2, 2013.
“In Might & Magic X the player will find a few Lore Books. For those, I think it would be nice to use the Book GUI, maybe just changing the colour of the cover in the background. The title would be put on the left page, and the actual text on the right. What do you think?”
To illustrate what I had in mind, I posted a quick-and-dirty mock-up using text from Dark Messiah as example.
The Limbic Entertainment team was immediately enthusiastic about this idea, although a couple of potential issues were quickly identified: “If the text is in general longer, we'll need a page flip function”, Karsten noted.
As we discussed this feature, we agreed on a couple of things. Firstly, using the left page for only a title was not so good. Putting a picture there would actually be better – and a great opportunity to showcase some rarely-seen artwork and concepts created for Might & Magic X Legacy and other Might & Magic games. Secondly, due to the way inventory is handled in MMXL, we would need a special interface to “store” the Lore Books the player has already found so he can read them later on. That would mean creating new GUI assets that were not originally planned.
Thomas, our technical lead, also had to cool our enthusiasm a bit and be the voice of reason: “Because it is an additional feature we should keep the extra work on a low level. For that we should use one layout for all lore books. There will be no lore book which will have the image in the upper right and then another will have it in the lower left. One pattern for all lore books.”
We now had a clearer idea of what the Lore Books would look like. We decided there would be 30 of them found throughout the game, split into 3 categories: general lore of Ashan, lore specific to the Agyn Peninsula (the region where the game takes place), and “others”.
(There’s actually a fourth, special category dedicated to a peculiar series of poems… if you played the Early Access version, you might know what I’m talking about.)
All that was left to do was actually writing them. Easy, right?
At some point it became clear I was a bit over my head. I still had most of the game itself to write, dozens of NPCs and quests, and with everything else I needed to do I would never have the time to write 30 lore books of 300 to 500 words each and still meet the deadline. (You might believe we can actually write text until the very moment the gold master is done and the game put on a disc, but in truth we have to wrap up the writing a lot earlier than that, because of this little thing called localization that’s often taking as much time as the writing itself.)
So I did the sensible thing: I called for help. Thankfully, our veteran writer Kurt McClung stepped in to write several of the books, especially the ones about Ashan as a whole. Discussing the tone we wanted for the lore books, we decided we would write them as if they had been the work of in-universe authors, each with a distinctive style.
That also meant we purposely included some slightly inaccurate or erroneous information, as the authors might use different sources when writing about the same events, mix up dates or have their own interpretations of what actually transpired. After all, that happens all the time in the real world too – “history books” written just a century ago might not be completely reliable... Players will have to decide by themselves how trustworthy some of the authors are, as some of the lore books are obvious propaganda!
In the meantime, there was the question of how exactly lore books would appear in the world of Legacy. The designers in Limbic Entertainment crafted a special interactive object for Lore books, a sort of pedestal with a floating book which you have already seen in the Early Access version of the game.
A last, but non-negligible problem eventually arose: the impact on the game’s planned word count. You have to know that when a game project starts, an estimation of the number of words needing to be translated is done, so a localization budget can be decided. Because of the lore books, the word count of MMXL literally exploded. That meant more work for the translators (sorry, localization team!), and a bigger localization budget than anticipated (sorry, dear producers!)
Was it all worth it? You’ll tell us. I believe it was, and I hope you’ll have fun trying to find all the lore books and reading the stories Kurt and I came up with.