The Role of the Might & Magic Reference Team
Since Heroes V, all Might & Magic games have shared a common setting: the world of Ashan. The Might & Magic Reference Team has been created to ensure consistency despite the fact these games are created by different teams. We asked Erwan Le Breton, the Creative Director of the Might & Magic brand, to tell us more about Ashan’s creation and the work done by the Reference Team.
The Necromancer Aguirre, one of the characters of Heroes VI, looked suspiciously familiar… :)
For those who don’t know me yet, I’m Erwan Le Breton, Creative Director of the Might & Magic Franchise at Ubisoft.
I’ve been associated with the Might & Magic brand since its acquisition by Ubisoft in 2003, as an associate producer (on Dark Messiah), producer (on Clash of Heroes DS, Heroes V Tribes of the East, and Heroes VI), and also as the manager of the World Bible team, who created and developed the world of Ashan.
It’s always very rewarding for us to read your various posts, see our design and lore proposals dissected to the very bone, and measure the degree of your passion and dedication.
Why did Ubisoft decide to revamp the M&M universe?
When Nival proposed their story concept for Heroes V, it was set in Enroth but discarding the events of Heroes IV and M&M IX (the Reckoning never happened). As for Arkane’s first proposed story for the game that became Dark Messiah, it was set on Axeoth and referred to people and places from Heroes IV and M&M IX, but in a general context that was unrelated to the Might & Magic lore.
It was necessary for Ubisoft to become a central authority, and regulate what official setting we would use, to avoid feckless name-dropping, “retcons” of previous games or inconsistencies.
The fact the young Griffin Emperor in Heroes V is named Nikolai is a remnant of a previous version of that game’s story, when it was taking place on Enroth and that character was intended to be Nicolai Ironfist.
However, when we acquired the brand from 3DO, they didn’t give us any kind of “closing-kit” or world-bible, for instance a unified document compiling all Might & Magic background ever written. Information was out there, but in the various game manuals, community websites, etc. The mass of backstory and continuity was intimidating, and sometimes confusing.
Rather than try to modify things that people really loved and enjoyed, we considered it was better to build our world from the ground up, and offer a clear, controlled, and common setting for all our Might & Magic projects.
However, we tried to capture what we perceived was the core essence of the Might & Magic universe. The more obvious feature, inherited from the Heroes series, was the fact the world was split into various “Factions”. By “Faction”, we mean the city / nation / race coalitions known to the Heroes fans as Haven, Inferno, Academy, Dungeon, Stronghold, etc.
The Ashan Compendium is the bible of the world of Ashan.
We also wanted to preserve the epic quality of the former Might & Magic titles, which drove the player to experience Fantasy on a grand scale and participate in world-shattering events. By that we meant, for instance, the countless hours of gameplay that let us ascend from lowly (level 1) weaklings to semi-divine heroes, exploring / conquering dozens of cities and dungeons, casting awesome spells like Armageddon, defeating or commanding hordes of legendary creatures like Archangels, Dragons, Titans, etc., and ultimately saving the world from apocalyptic doom.
We were also determined to maintain the ambiguous oppositions and moral choices which made the Might & Magic narratives so compelling. Indeed, rather than a striking opposition between Good and Evil, we felt there was, in the former Might & Magic games, a balance of the opposites, with many characters painted in shades and grey.
What is the Might & Magic Reference Team?
In 2011, the Might & Magic Reference Team was created, to supervise, and facilitate, all Might & Magic projects at Ubisoft.
“Facilitate” means that we collect, maintain, and update all information and documentation relating to the Might & Magic brand.
We also define and codify the key elements of the Might & Magic brand and universe in briefing documents that give clear directions.
We then share them with the various Might & Magic teams and sometimes help them when needed, by providing expert consulting or assistance.
“Supervise” means that we evaluate all assets (graphic, audio...) and documentation (game design, story, marketing / communication plan...) related to the Might & Magic brand to ensure that they are developed in accordance with the overall brand and universe (the world of Ashan).
Below are some examples of briefings we share with the project teams.
Of course, in their original documents, they are more detailed and illustrated.
« Sylvan Elf armours are usually made of brown leather, emerald green cloth, fur, and starsilver chainmail
Elf clothing has a distinct “Fairy” inspiration, with multi-coloured feathers, giant insect wings, natural jewels (amber, semi-precious stones and woods...), etc.
Whenever possible, jewels and adornments will use iconic Elf symbols: the World Tree, the Triple Knot, etc. »
French artist Olivier Ledroit created the general art direction for Ashan.
« LIGHT MAGIC is the "holy" magic of Elrath and its ideals of Truth, Justice, and Perfection.
· Material aspect: The light that shines on the virtuous but blinds and burns the impious.
· Spiritual aspect: The incorruptible (but also self-righteous) light of Truth. Purity and Perfection.
· Related Attributes: Charisma (leadership) / Clarity (sense of truth).
· Associated colors: gold (icon frame), gold, white and pale blue (icon symbol, vfx)
Light Magic is Fast (think “light speed”) and mostly Defensive
Fast means short casting time but also short duration.
For instance, a “flash heal” spell versus a “heal over time”, or an “instant buff” (1 single turn) versus a longer one (ending only when the battle is over). »
I hope it clarifies how we work day to day with Limbic and the Ubisoft’s producing team on MMXL.
Once again, thank you all for the valuable time and ideas you share with us day after day on this exciting “back to the future” version of the legendary RPG series that started the M&M franchise!