Campaign vs AI
Since v3134 our Heroes V mod comes with Marzhin's great Legends of the Ancients (LotA) campaign preinstalled. This makes sense, at least for the time being, while I go over the LotA missions one by one to ensure these play well. The idea is that once a mission has passed thorough testing, it is added to our download. This way you get a grand and polished campaign that expands during this winter.
At the moment the missions 1 - 4 from book 1 are included and ready to play. Combined with the enhanced AI and the reworked treasure vaults and high-level dwellings these offer a unique treat for experienced strategy players. The recommended difficulty is heroic.
This shift to LotA signals a more profound change for the project as well. Initially our idea to rework the vanilla campaigns was born from the desire to give the AI a proper showcase of how it changes the gameplay. Realistically, it is a massive mountain of work for which we don't have the resources right now. It requires people with a positive attitude and the right skills. Unless there is a huge outpouring of support in favour of us reworking the vanilla campaign, this work is shelved for the foreseeable future.
Looking back to what this year brought for me, it was uniquely challenging. It required tons of work to develop the AI, I am ok with this as I love it and it makes sense going forward. But there were also a lot of tasks that required me to work to give people a platform to work from. I had to learn a lot of hard lessons, and in essence it amounts to the conclusion that sometimes less is more if you have only a limited time that you can spend.
One thing that I definitely want to change going into the new year is to focus on the subjects that matter to me: strategy and AI. The recent shift to LotA serves this goal. It provides a solid fundament for the project. The LotA missions in book 1 and 2 are designed with a strategy gamer in mind. These are challenging. Moreover each mission also offers new challenges for the AI. So these are suitable for the AI to improve and demonstrate what it can do, that you can experience the difference first-hand. As already said, the missions are already very good, but with further AI upgrades these will become unique touchstones.
So what can you expect from this project in 2021?
Definitely AI innovations. The upgraded combat AI will come. The adventure map AI, the strategic component, will be upgraded to our latest tech, universal sequencing. This is an important step, as it will tie everything the AI needs together: exploration, resource management, building, hero skilling, recruitment, hero equipment, the mana and spells, combat assessment, and strategic planning. Currently these components are not interconnected properly, but with the upgrade to full universal sequencing, everything will fall into place.
If you so will, the AI will advance from 5% to 100% completion, whereas only the last 5% of work remain. It will be exciting to see what the AI is truly capable of.
LotA will be made to play with the upgraded AI. I am confident that the missions of book 1 and 2 can be released during this winter one by one. I hadn't a chance for a proper look at book 3. It isn't clear how much work this requires. If there will be sufficient support by then, even the production of the final book 4 is a possibility. No promises though.
I would also like to add some quality of life improvements, like a replay option for the combat. Particularly with the tougher battles at the treasure sites, you shouldn't be required to load a savegame just because you made a silly mistake.
Fixing the multiplayer mode and even bringing back the Ubisoft tournament server would be nice to have. But I doubt this will be possible, definitely not without massive support. It is a valid question whether there are still enough people playing Heroes V these days.
Beyond that I will reach out to a number of people. AI is a wide and exciting field these days and there are many interesting games produced in the industry today.
Who knows, maybe the AI will find its own natural home and something genuinely new will emerge. Or maybe an old game will be reborn. Simply keep a watch on this space in 2021.