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Acid Cave's 20th anniversary Q&A
with Eric Damian-Vernet and Vicky Malineau

20 years ago Acid Cave was founded and became a mainstay in the Polish Might & Magic fan community. However, for the past several years we had not much to write about our favourite game saga. Is this about to change? The Might & Magic games have new people in charge and apparently - new projects in the works. This is our anniversary Q&A with Eric Damian-Vernet and Vicky Malineau from Ubisoft.

First, please tell us a bit about yourselves :). It's our understanding that you are "in charge" of the Might & Magic franchise now. What are your experiences with the brand?

EricDV: I love video games. I've been playing since I was 4 years old on Apple2, Thomson TO7, Amstrad CPC, Pentium, NES, Megadrive etc. I joined Ubisoft after my studies, then moved to Shanghai, China, and went on to work on tens of games and projects in various roles and capacities, mostly branding, business and strategy. Back in 2015 I had the opportunity to take an active role on the development and release of 2 Heroes of Might & Magic mobile projects from China-based partners. It was a great adventure but I was also convinced that there was so much more we could do with this iconic series. I was particularly interested in bringing back classic Heroes having fond memories of playing King's Bounty and Heroes III back in the day. I'm now Brand Director for the Might & Magic and Heroes IP and since then, with Vicky (we've been working together for close to 8 years now), we've been caring for Might & Magic with of course the objective to make it once again a leading Fantasy franchise in the 2020s.

Vicky: My roots are in fantasy and science fiction, not only games but novels, movies, etc. Although I love a wide variety of media, I think that video games are the ones that have stuck with me the most and with which I have never really stopped interacting. I joined Ubisoft as assistant to Erwan Le Breton 10 years ago and have been working on Might & Magic since then in various formats (freelance consultant, full time employee more recently) for most of this time. I am currently the narrative director for the IP. I believe that I have been involved with all IP projects since MMX, including PC releases and mobile games plus many more "to be announced" projects. Also, yes, as could be deduced from my picture here, I live in Japan!

As the first Might and Magic game was released way back in 1986 and the first Heroes of Might and Magic game in 1995, there are decades of history and now even whole generations of players. How do you approach a brand like that?

EricDV: It's a step by step process: make sure we start again from a healthy base and rebuild trust with the core fans and the community. To achieve that I think it's critical to balance fan-pleasing projects, like the Heroes 3 board game, with more "innovative" experiences such as mobile games like Era of Chaos. We did mostly the latter in the past years, so I'm looking to address that in the coming years with a more balanced "roadmap" of projects.

Vicky: I love how this franchise has so much variety. It is so full of life and ideas, even from the early days of NWC with the mix of SF and fantasy and its own multiverse, plus an entirely separate High fantasy world (Ashan). I just love every single part of it and even though I began my work life on Ashan, NWC's world is so inspiring. I think that when approaching this IP, we must embrace this variety and try to make sense of it. Not every project is going to please everyone because different people have connected with it at different times and loved a different aspect. I like to look at the various periods and try to analyze the larger trends and elements that people became fond of and how to bring them back, making them relevant today.

Is your target for the brand mostly new players that you want to introduce to the franchise or old/current players that are either still playing the games or just nostalgic about past titles?

EricDV: Might & Magic has always been a multi-project universe and brand, meaning a brand that exists and expands throughout a variety of experiences, video games, table top board games, transmedia,etc. By offering these different experiences and touch points instead of trying to cater to everyone with a single project, I'm hoping to reach and please different types of fans and audiences, and newbies to the franchise.

For the past several years, the Might & Magic brand was more or less "silent". After disappointing results of Might & Magic X and Heroes VII we only got to see some mobile games like Era of Chaos, but no AAA games. Are there any chances to see a major Might & Magic release in the foreseeable future?

EricDV: It's definitely a step by step process and it may take some time, perseverance and patience but my goal is definitely to bring back the Might & Magic brand on the map of Fantasy IP. AAA is a loosely defined term and although there's no way we can be competing with Baldur's Gate 3 or Diablo IV right away, It's definitely our target to deliver ambitious and high quality focused Might & Magic experiences in the foreseeable future.

Many players were pleasantly surprised by the recent success of the Kickstarter campaign for Heroes III the Board Game. What is your take on this game, and what is Ubisoft's role in its upcoming release?

EricDV: I love this, kudos to the amazing people at Archon studio for this massive success. It's definitely a benchmark for us when it comes to the type of brand project we want to encourage, the type of teams and partners we want to work with and how we like to work with partners. Vicky and I were there from the very beginning and accompanied the Archon teams through every aspect of creating this game - art, design, writing, communication etc -helping shape the game as you see it today. We're very proud and are happy to see the community's incredible support.

Vicky: The board game question is quite important to me because, as Eric said, this was a dream project. We worked extremely closely with the Archon studio team on the 2D artwork, not just the cards, every tile, counter, city design we just spent so much time designing and polishing and the result is stunning. The figurines are clearly Archon's specialty, and it shows. I love how this game is not just faithful to Heroes 3 but also Archon's vision of Heroes 3 and I mean both the visuals and the gameplay obviously but also the story. Archon's writer did a fine job sourcing various elements from the maps like reports and letters and articulating it into a narrative that brings new light to H3's story; we were honestly delighted by it.

The board game's success as well as still ongoing Heroes III tournaments and other events (such as Heroes music concerts) prove that Heroes III has stood the test of time and is still being played and praised. Some people suggested making a "Heroes III 2", however weird that may sound. Would you consider doing a remake / sequel of this classic game?

EricDV: It's interesting to observe what Microsoft did with their Age of Empires franchise lately, one of these big strategy franchises from the 90s-00s making their comeback. You get the Classic Remake with AoE2 Definitive Edition, a completely new game with AoE4 from Relic Entertainment. Both are successful, and are carving their own respective live paths catering to different types of Age of Empires fans, old and new. There are today 2 main Age of Empires games co-existing harmoniously , one a faithful high quality remake and the other a more modern take on the AoE gameplay. Activision Blizzard also took a similar approach for their Diablo, another classic franchise from the late 90s-early 00s, with Diablo 2 Resurrected and Diablo IV. It's a very interesting approach that I could envision also working well for the Heroes series.

During the Polish Pyrkon convention I had the pleasure of giving a presentation about Heroes games and at the end I did get to show two pictures that I received from you (thanks again, by the way!). One represented a map of Antagarich/Erathia after the Reckoning (so after the events of Heroes IV) and one was a picture of Griffin Cliffs, a place from the Heroes III campaign. Is that a suggestion that there is a possibility of returning to the world of Enroth/Erathia?

EricDV: Every time I try to analyze what made Heroes so great and loved back in the day, there's great gameplay but there's also the World. I believe both go hand in hand. Ashan was an attempt at something different and it was definitely an interesting universe and lore, but for many it wasn't Heroes any more. To recapture the original Heroes "flavor", I think it makes sense to return to the original World and setting, adding the right modernizing touches here and there of course, while trying to recapture the same emotions and feelings of playing the first 3-4 games in the saga. Easier said than done but we're definitely opening the door back to Enroth.

Vicky: Oh, I would like to talk a lot about all this :) but Eric's answer will have to suffice for now! Let's just say that Enroth is strongly present in our minds.

What about Ashan (the world from Heroes V-VII)? Are there any plans to revisit it or is it the end for now, as Erwan Le Breton suggested 5 years ago (for our 15th anniversary ;) ?

EricDV: It is really too big of an effort for the Might & Magic IP team in the current context to maintain and develop 2 fantasy universes in parallel. Also it can be confusing for non-core players if we were to switch and alternate Universes too often. So for now we are focusing our efforts on building around Heroes III and its World. That said, the Ashan door is not totally closed, as shown by the recent release of Clash of Heroes on Switch and PS4.

Vicky: As I said earlier, my very first video game job was to work on the creative direction of Ashan by assisting Erwan Le Breton. I know Ashan to bits; I love this universe so much. But, at the moment, the universe is dormant. I don't think all is said and done for Ashan, and maybe we will find our way back to it someday.

The Big Question: any plans for Heroes VIII ?

EricDV: Actually I'm not too keen on using numerals, because it means that the previous one is outdated and needs to be replaced. With the phenomenal, long-lasting success of Heroes III, it's obvious it's not necessarily the case, people still want to play the original but with updates, new contents, patches, add on such as Armageddon's Blade or Horn of the Abyss. Instead I suspect there may be the place for different Heroes experiences: for instance some of the fans prefer the Heroes V take on the formula compared to Heroes III. So perhaps It's time to think in terms of different audiences and different variations of the formula instead of a "main installment" catering to everyone (and sometimes no one).

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Definitive Edition premiered on July 20th... to mixed Steam reviews and not many of them either. How are you feeling about this release?

EricDV: The game was released by our partner Dotemu and I have yet to debrief with them regarding the launch. Obviously we have noticed the mixed Steam reviews, we've probably set up too high expectations from the original COH fans who've been craving for a sequel for years. For context the original intent was to port COH, one of the best Puzzle RPG to modern consoles, Switch and Playstation. We later opted with Dotemu to also replace the original game on Steam with the Definitive Edition version so that we would not have 2 different versions on Steam, confusing players. I can understand why the owners of the original PC version are disappointed. What I can say is that Dotemu is a trustful partner with a proven track record when it comes to addressing the concerns of the community. Stay tuned for more news.

In general - what can we expect in the foreseeable future? Are there any Might & Magic games in development? And if so, could you hint at what they are about or what genres they belong to?

EricDV: There have always been Might & Magic games in development although not always what the core fans have been expecting :). What I can say is that we are now trying to find a better balance between fan-pleasing projects and exploratory projects - new platforms, tech, gameplay or business models. It's pretty safe to assume that at first we'll gravitate towards the mainstays of Might & Magic, that is to say the Strategy and RPG genres. Stay tuned for more news :)

The Q&A was conducted on August 23rd 2023 by Acid Dragon.
A big "Thank You" to Eric and Vicky for their time and answers!

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