Location Scouting

...or "What I Did On My Holidays".


When I go on vacation, I tend to use the opportunity to bring back tons of pictures and iconography that might one day turn useful at work.


For instance, last year I went to visit Greece and its islands (something I had wanted to do since childhood, all because of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis…). The best parts of the trip were without a doubt the ruins of Knossos in Crete (which were one of the many inspirations for our Shantiri ruins) and the Santorini archipelago. As it turns out, Santorini, and especially its famous village of Oia (often nicknamed “the most beautiful village on Earth”), would become a major inspiration for some of the locales seen in Might & Magic X.


The village of Oia.


Located on the southern end of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, Santorini, also known as Thera, has a fascinating history. During the Bronze Age, it harboured a Minoan settlement known as Akrotiri. It became a centre of trade and exchange with the neighbouring Egyptian and Greek civilizations.


Another photo of Oia.


But the island of Thera was in fact of volcano, which erupted around 1650 BC. It was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history – the island was broken to pieces and Akrotiri was entombed in ash and pumice. The eruption was so strong that it triggered a gigantic tsunami that is believed to have caused the downfall of the Minoan civilization when it devastated the coast of Crete, 110 km to the south of Thera. The Thera eruption is also often mentioned as a plausible inspiration for Plato’s legend of Atlantis.


The Santorini caldera.


When we started fleshing out the Agyn Peninsula (which had at this point only appeared briefly in a Heroes VI map), we decided we wanted it to have a different feel than the classic Northern-European fantasy we see in most role-playing games. We instead went for a Mediterranean atmosphere, and Greece, Galicia and Moorish Spain became our references for the environments and cities.


Concept art of Sorpigal's buildings, by Liquid Development.


As you can see, the starting town of Sorpigal-by-the-Sea was heavily inspired by the pictures I brought back from Oia. Since Sorpigal was written as a lovely village where heroes go to enjoy a sunny retirement, it seemed more than fitting. After all, who wouldn’t want to retire in a place like that?


Next time I go on vacation, maybe I should ask Ubisoft to pay the bills. “It’s not holidays, boss, I’m doing research for our next game!”


Sorpigal, the most beautiful village of Ashan?