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Jennifer Bullard Interview

Introduction

Jennifer Bullard is a talented, experienced game developer and a member of the original New World Computing team which created the Might & Magic franchise. She is most known for her work as a designer and storyline writer for Heroes III and IV as well as the Heroes Chronicles series. This interview was conducted in 2013 by Alchemik for Acid Cave.
Dla wersji polskiej przejdź tutaj: Wywiad z Jennifer Bullard

Q: I would like to ask you about the Might and Magic universe. I know you were a member of the Might and Magic team. Could you answer a few questions about this topic? I would be thankful for your time and assistance.
A: I would be happy to answer any questions you have about the Might & Magic universe. It has been many years since I worked on those games, so my memory may not be perfect but I will do my best.

Q: How do you recall your job in NWC?
A: Very fondly. I enjoyed working at NWC and learned a lot about game development there. Making maps, developing characters and designing games was loads of fun. I eventually moved into product management because I wanted a better work-life balance. Still have some great long-term friends from my time at NWC.

Q: What was the inspiration for you and the rest of Might and Magic team?
A: All of us loved strategy and role playing games, and we wanted to create our own. Many game developers have a strong passion for a specific genre and that is why they get into the industry.

Q: Did you have freedom in creating storylines or did you have to follow directions of the developed story?
A: We could create any storyline we wanted as long as it didn't violate certain rules. We had to stay away from adult themes, religion and had to keep it "E" rating.

Q: How did you like working with Jon Van Caneghem?
A: It was great. Jon was a good mentor and always knew how to ask the right questions. He has a strong eye for strategy and business, which is a valuable combination. We still keep in touch today and I've worked with him once since at NcSoft.


Heroes of Might and Magic III (and The Forge)

Q: Was Armageddon's Blade (the artifact) suppose to destroy the world by clashing with the Sword of Frost before "The forge" story was changed?
A: The story was relatively unchanged after we removed the Forge. It just had a different origin from the original story.

Q: What was the influence of removing "The Forge" from the final product, and what was the further story?
A: The influence was pretty large. We had already invested a lot of work in The Forge, so we had to remove a bulk of our work and start from scratch. This really hurt the development cycle. It didn't affect the story as much, we kept the same basic line and changed who did what. However, it of course had a great impact on individual stories for maps.

Q: I understand that Ancients and science fiction elements were still part of this universe after removing "The Forge"?
A: Yes

Q: Do you have any elements from the original concept of the Forge, like campaign texts?
A: No, it all stayed with the company.

Q: What did you personally think about The Forge and science-fiction elements in this universe? What did people who worked in New World computing think about The Forge town?
A: We had mixed feelings about The Forge. Some people liked it and some people didn't. I thought the Forge was a new take on a pre-existing theme of Science behind the Magic. It comes from the original Might & Magic series.

Q: What creatures were supposed to be in the Forge town? Most of all, on level 7?
A: The creatures were modified regular creatures, so a punk style goblin, or Orc. I don't remember the line up anymore, especially which monsters were supposed to be on which maps.

Q: After removing of The Forge, the good ending from Might and Magic VII was canonical. Were Ressurecta and her companions supposed to return in next games created by New World Computing?
A: We did not plan on returning any Ressurecta or her companions.

Q: Dragon Father: Who was he exactly?
A: The Dragon Father was not really a person, but a concept - the Father of all Dragons.

Q: How far was the design of this "concept"? Was it something specific?
A: This was just flavor text, it didn't really have a full design.

Q: Ethric the Mad from Might and Magic VI - The Mandate of Heaven. Was he the same master of Sandro from Heroes of Might and Magic III - Shadow of Death storyline?
A: Yes, we always tried to tie the different products together so people who played everything could see a theme.


Heroes Chronicles

Q: Gods and Ancients - How are Ancestors and Ancients related?

A: Ancestors were the biological start of the current crop of heroes. Ancients were often other powers who dabbled in the lives of mortals.

Q: We all remember the Ancestors from Heroes Chronicles as these super-natural beings. This was rather new to the Might & Magic games, where generally we met no other god-like creatures. Many times religions and "gods" in M&M were later revealed to be connected with the Ancients - the futuristic advanced race which "seeded" the worlds many centuries ago.
So were the Ancestors just these god-like entities or were they somehow connected to the Ancients and their Guardians from the main M&M storyline? Did they exist in the Might and Magic universe before Heroes Chronicles were written or are they a new element (and if so - who was their author)? Were gods more powerful than the Ancients or less? How much was Jon Van Caneghem involved in creating the storyline?


A: Think of the Ancestors as super powerful humans who have become legends to their descendants. Many people can view their ancestors as god-like, having done something truly heroic. Those are what the Ancestors were - people who went above and beyond with extraordinary skill and talent to do great things. They had never been written into the Might & Magic Universe before the Heroes Chronicles. The "Gods" were more powerful than the Ancients. Jon Van Caneghem was not involved in the Heroes Chronicles series - In fact I did a majority of the work myself.

Q: Until this day some fans are not sure on the subject of how the Heroes Chronicles fit in the general Might & Magic storyline. Some of them are even finding references which may not exist.
So did you write Heroes Chronicles more like a stand-alone story of the immortal hero Tarnum or was it meant mostly to expand the history of the lands and worlds of other Might & Magic games and if so - which ones? Did you reference elements from the M&M RPGs or just included some characters from Heroes III?


A: The Heroes Chronicles were meant to be more stand-alone than anything. Honestly, it was marketing who had the greatest hand in driving the products. We were slipping on Heroes IV and they wanted our fan base to have more maps to play. So I was asked to create 8 campaigns that could stand alone and be played in any order, without any reference to each other or the other products in development. So we created a series of titles that could do just that. Each original story & maps was written by one level designer and then I cleaned and polished them until ship. Each one was supposed to take place in 'the distant past' and we didn't create a specific order to their events.


Heroes of Might and Magic IV

Q: Is it true that at the beginning Heroes IV was supposed to have 7 campaigns about Emilia Nighthaven?
A: No, we were not going to do that.

Q: What happened with Pherlon and Genevieve Seymour? They are available in map editor as campaign heroes. Were they planned for the story?
A: We did have them planned as campaigns, but started to run out of time and had to cut them. If I remember correctly they were supposed to be a love story.

Q: What happened with campaigns "Every dog has his day" and "Unity"? They are listed on high score list.
A: At the end of the development cycle when we start running out of time we have to cut maps. The decision is usually based on how well the map plays and then how much time it would take to fix. Those two maps didn't play well and we needed to cut them to polish the main story maps.

Q: Was there another concept for the Heroes IV campaigns that had to be changed for some reason? Were the campaigns suppose to tell a single story, like in Heroes III: The Shadow of Death? Was Emilia Nighthaven originally the most important character of Heroes IV?
A: No, the stories we came up with the original and were not modeled after anything else. Emilia Nighthaven was never the most important character in Heroes IV.

Q: What caused the opening of the portals during the Reckoning? Were they opened by a Guardian?
A: The Guardian opened the portals. We wanted to wash a lot of the history away from the old world and needed a mechanism to do so.

Q: Was the Guardian (who opened the portals) Corak (from Might and Magic VII ending), Melian (from Might and Magic VI) or someone (something?) else?
A: It was Corak - it is always Corak.

Q: Where was Kalibarr when Gauldoth came looking for him? Is it the planet after the Reckoning or a different planet conquered by Kreegans? If it's the planet conquered by Kreegans, how Kalibarr got there?
A: Kalibarr was held on the planet after the Reckoning, he was kidnapped and brought there by Demons.

Q: Malustar - Was he supposed to begin a new demon invasion on Axeoth? I understood this from his biography.
A:Malustar believed he would begin the new demon invasion because of a prophecy - however not all prophecies come true. After all it takes hard work and determination to make things happen. His biography was to poke fun at the 'chosen one' concept so often found in literature.

Q: How far the design of Axeoth had been developed?
A: We actually had a fairly fleshed out world. Knowing we would do 2-3 expansions our initial work gave space to expand, but also hinted at existing places. However, the layoffs happened so soon after the launch I am not sure how much was utilized in the subsequent expansions.


Might and Magic Universe

Q: What was the name of the planet from Heroes 1-3 and Might and Magic 6-8?
A: In Heroes we never named the planet.

Q: In a very important interview, just after the Forge was dropped, Greg Fulton reminded everyone that the Kreegans are "aliens who look like demons" and added: "If I told you the origin of the Arch Angels I'm sure many of you would have a heart attack."
So was there a "schocking truth" about the angels in M&M?

A: If there was you would have to talk to Greg Fulton about that. I didn't write their backstory.

Q: Differences between Kreegans and demons - are creatures from inferno towns Kreegans or are they enslaved by them?
A: Kreegans were from the void and were actually an alien race who just happened to look like Demons. In many ways the Kreegans are the original demons faced in the M&M worlds.

Q: Do I understand correctly, that demons from Might and Magic I-V RPGs are Kreegans?
A: That was how it was written by Greg Fulton. But that was probably not the original intent of the writers for Might & Magic I-V. you have to keep in mind that these stories were written by different people, with different ideas at different times. Some of the early writers stopped working there and others came to take their place. The main reason behind wiping the history was because it had become convoluted and hard to manage.

Q: Kreegans and Creators - are they the same race or are Kreegans some soldiers of the Creators?
A: Kreegans and Creators are different races and often had different goals. The Creators was also an inside reference to the development team.

Q: So why were Creators described as the greatest enemy of the Ancients, if they never appeared in person, but the Kreegans were attacking and invading planets for over 1000 years? Were there plans for Creators to appear in further stories?
A: There was, but with the dissolution of the team those were never realized.

Q: Vori - the land of the Snow Elves. How far was the design of this land developed? From "The Sword of Frost" chapter we know that this Sword kept this land in a frosty climate. Was it the original concept of Vori?
A: That was the original concept of Vori, and I don't think we had designed the land very much. It was planned for future products, but never done.

Q: There is the Paradise to which souls go after death, but what is it the Plane of Death visited by Gauldoth spying Kalibarr? Is it the opposition of paradise like hell and heaven in our world?
A: For the most part. In a video game you want to use concepts the player is familiar with, but directly referencing religion can have problems. We want to appeal to a broad audience, so using Heaven and Hell can discourage some players. Which is why we use things like Paradise or the Plane of Death.

Q: Crusaders and Warriors of Might and Magic: were they treated by NWC as a canonical games?
A: No they weren't. Those games were developed elsewhere and we didn't follow their storylines.



We gratefully thank Jennifer Bullard for her time and her answers concerning the Might & Magic universe.

interview conducted by: Alchemik
editing: Acid Dragon
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