The tone of Might & Magic
Writing a new Might & Magic RPG comes with its own challenges. We already talked a bit about that topic in the post dedicated to Articy:Draft, but there’s another aspect to be accounted for: the tone of the game.
The five first episodes of the series had a rather wacky tone, full of pop culture jokes and characters named King Malefactor, Joe the Exterminator or Lord Inspectron (not to mention good old Crag Hack). Also, the sci-fi background of the series was quite prominent, especially in the Xeen games that had a distinct Jack Vance vibe and were populated by all sorts of strange denizens.
The series arguably became more “serious” starting with Might & Magic VI and Heroes III, adopting a more “Lord of the Rings” feel and making the sci-fi elements less obvious (and completely absent in the case of the Heroes subseries). And of course, the background of the world of Ashan doesn’t involve sci-fi anymore.
It’s a bit hard to take this Xeen vampire seriously...
Why so serious?
Having grown up with the early Might & Magic games, I very much wanted to bring back some of their unique eccentricity into Might & Magic X. But it was clear from the beginning Might & Magic X would not be a parody of fantasy, because that’s not what Ashan is supposed to be. And truth be told, there’s nothing inherently funny or wacky about the adventure the Raiders are embarking upon in Legacy. Battles will be fought. People will die. The villains are not moustache-twirling caricatures: they mean business, and actually have good reasons to do what they do (or at least they think their reasons are good...)
However, while discussing the tone of the game with Erwan Le Breton, the creative director of the Might & Magic brand as a whole, we quickly agreed that it didn’t need to be as serious as the Heroes games are. Might & Magic X would be “a serious story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Even if Might & Magic VI is a bit more serious than its predecessors, it’s still filled with pop-culture references, such as these “Thundercats” Liches :)
One way to achieve that was through the character voices, that we call the “barks”. At creation, you can choose to give them a “cynical” voice, but it could be more accurately described as “silly”. Choosing this option will have the characters tell jokes and break the fourth wall, lampshading the usual tropes of role-playing games and echoing what the player may himself think. For instance, come into a town and one of your characters might say “Something tells me the locals will have work for us. Really, it's like they've been waiting for us to solve all their problems for them…”
(Before one of you say something about it: yes, we know the barks are currently too frequent and therefore annoying. That’s something that will definitely be fixed for the game’s release. Also note that if you want a more serious experience, you can also choose the “heroic” voices.)
And now for something completely different
Another important source of non-seriousness is the NPCs. While they are not as crazy as some of the characters of Might & Magic II or III were, some denizens of the Agyn Peninsula are still weird and quirky. I had a lot of fun writing them, and I hope you will feel it when you meet them in the game. By the way, if you have played the Early Access version, you might have met Isaak, a villager of Sorpigal who tells lame jokes. This character is actually a tip of the hat to similar characters found in Might & Magic II & III – let’s see if some of you remember the NPCs I am talking about :)
You might also catch some NPCs and enemies doing silly stuff if you watch them long enough ;)
Also, you can expect a lot – and by that I mean A LOT – of references to various movies, TV series and comic books. Star Trek jokes are a sort of tradition in Might & Magic, and Might & Magic X has its fair share of them. But there are also winks and nods to stuff like Doctor Who (a personal favourite), Monty Python, not to mention a couple of obscure in-jokes that only French nerds might get. Several NPCs are also named after former New World Computing developers and other video game legends (so yes, Caldwell the blacksmith is indeed named after NWC co-founder Mark Caldwell). And of course, there’s a ton a references to the old Might & Magic games and the Ancient Universe as well. There are many easter eggs hidden in the game waiting to be discovered by adventurous players.
To sum things up, we tried to achieve a balance between offering an epic sword-and-sorcery adventure on one hand, and staying true to the light-hearted, humorous tone of the old Might & Magic games on the other. We hope you will enjoy playing the game as much as we enjoyed making it :)