Fanstratics – Update #9 – Necrotics faction

This month’s Troop concept sketch is the Medusa Vanguard.

Fanstratics Faction #4: Necrotics

Lifeforce drained from the living, is most sweet when consumed at the moment of their inevitable death. To this end, tyrannical Necromancers create and control vast hordes of undead, directing them to consume all… to feed their immortality addiction. Decayed on the outside, dead on the inside, the diseased Necrotic exist on the vacillating Dead Lands. Forever they creep forward… unrelenting… unforgiving… unbowed. Playing the undead can be a lot of fun, so… did anyone really think there wouldn’t be a faction in the spirit of Heroes 3’s ‘Necropolis’? Representing the Necrotic is the Feral Vampire.

The Heroes series has a storied history but doesn’t really have consistency since it has been remade and its previous canon thrown away every time. Are you planning for the longevity of what you’re attempting to make? Are you planning to keep the great writing that made Heroes 3 so great going in your successor?

My goal for Fanstratics (FST) is ‘longevity’. There may be other stories, involving different characters from different continents, but I would prefer to stick with one world and one line of characters. Truthfully, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on Heroes 3 story elements, and map makers were given relative freedom to work within established guidelines. With FST, I want to lay a strong foundation and put a considerable amount of effort into the story. We’ll see what happens. There are many hurdles to overcome.

For its time, the graphics for Heroes 3 were insanely good, and the method of producing sprites from 3d models made it age like fine wine – it still looks good to this very day (if somewhat small/low res). Something very typical and important in H3 spirit, imo, is the photo-realistic environment. And overall, I think the “realistic” side is an important point, ’cause it makes me feel like going for a true adventure back in old times, not playing a random video game inspired by Japanese anime. For example, for me the undead has to be kind of “sober”, not as colorful and distorted as in H5 or Warcraft3, where it feels like Halloween in Disneyland.

Your point regarding sprites from 3D models is well taken, but keep in mind, Heroes 4 also produced sprites from 3D models. In my opinion, it really comes down to the people involved: Phelan Sykes, Scott White, Adam McCarthy, George Almond, and David Mullich. Phelan and Scott were not involved in Heroes 4… and it showed.

Fanstratics’ art will be 3D, but with a forced perspective mimicking an old school 2D presentation (sometimes called 2.5D). This type of interaction is habitual for every HoMM3 player, and I believe it is important to stick with what is familiar. As for the art style, we are attempting to fashion a ‘realistic fairy tale’ or ‘creative caricature’, which I believe Justin Gerard is accomplishing. Just as the game play will be a spiritual successor to HoMM3, I want to art style to also be a spiritual successor.

How soon can we get some map pictures, town screens, or some tiny video?

Unfortunately, images or video are a long way off. For a couple of reasons, my approach to development has been ‘design and programming first’. This means art and audio will be fashioned only after most of the design and programming are in place. While this method is more efficient and cost effective, the approach is uncommon as it requires ‘vision’.

Most people have a difficult time ‘seeing’ anything unless it is shown to them. One of the reasons developers produce ‘fake demos’ for publishers, management, media, and gamers, is to ‘show’ them the ‘vision’ for the game they are attempting to make.

In 1998, at E3 in Atlanta, I sat on a chair for eight hours a day, showcasing HoMM3 to numerous industry people. Our HoMM3 E3 demo was effectively fake, but it got HoMM3 the mainstream press coverage it needed. It also helped the team ‘see’ what we were building.

Remember the ‘No Man’s Sky’ demos from 2013 and 2014? Heavily scripted. If Sean Murray didn’t have a scripted demo, how many people could have ‘seen’ what he was talking about? Remember Cyberpunk 2077’s demo from 2018? Heavily scripted. I’m not excusing what Hello Games and CDPR did, but I understand how and why it happened.

Overall, fake demos are a deceptive practice, but without it, most developers cannot get the external or internal support they need. As for myself, I know asking people to wait is asking a lot, but I want to avoid producing a ‘scripted demo’. So… as I mentioned… images or video are a long way off. Which leads me into the next question…

To successfully crowd fund the game, you say you need 50,000 subscribers, yet you have less than 3,000. Are you concerned? When do you see a possible release happening?

Truthfully, I’m satisfied to see we’re closing in on 3,000. I do sincerely wish I was emailing 50,000 people each month, but I don’t expect to see subscriber numbers accelerate until I reach out to the mainstream media. I can only reach out to the mainstream media when I have a collection of screenshots, clips, and a video. Anything short of this will simply be ignored (as for the reasons detailed above). Until I have more to show, I’m content to fly under the radar, communicating specifically with the hardcore fans. So, to avoid any concerns, miscommunication, or misunderstanding, I’m removing the ongoing subscriber count.

As for the game’s release, I have a very, very loose timeline for Fanstratics. This year’s goal is to program, program, and program, while finalizing the game’s design. If things go reasonably well, I want to crowd fund sometime in 2022, with an Early Access release sometime in 2023. I know it’s a long time to wait, but it’s the eternal dilemma of ‘good-fast-cheap (pick two)’. At this stage, I can only afford good and cheap, so development will be slow.

For some perspective, consider Valheim, which sold over 3,000,000 copies in February, and is still in Early Access. Most people don’t know the game’s Steam page has been live since October of 2018. In January of 2020, they had ~5,100 Steam followers, with ~50,000 wish lists. Prior to February of 2021, they had ~1,700 Twitter followers, but now have over ~58,000.

What changed? A couple mid-tier Twitch streamers played the game. Soon thereafter, larger Twitch streamers liked what they saw and joined in. Add in some Youtubers and the game took off like a rocket. I’d surprised if there weren’t some complimentary Steam keys handed out, but the point is this… at this stage, ~3,000 non-Steam newsletter subscribers isn’t bad.

Fanstratics Feature List

Why am I now revealing a list of features? Since June of 2020, I have sent a Fanstratics Game Proposal to different publishers, venture capitalists, game investments firms, and government grant programs. At this point, what I am attempting to do is not really a secret, so I thought… why not publish the features list and expand upon each one every month?

Keep in mind, these are ‘new’ features, in addition to those commonly expected from a Heroes inspired game. Also, this list avoids detailing the real core of the game: heroes, troops, spells, skills, destinations, structures, etc. Some items have been purposely omitted as they have been mentioned before (fully 3D game, 6 resources not 7, etc.), and others have been purposely omitted (i.e. spells, skills, etc.) as they are currently unresolved. In the end, I suspect most fans will find the proposed items to be relatively logical and evolutionary. Please remember, if a feature does not work as envisioned… it will be cut. Nothing is set in stone.

  • 9 Playable Factions
  • Base and Alternate Troop Types
  • Troop Rally Ability (this month’s feature)
  • Ether Gate Structure
  • Player Determined Weekly Events
  • Battlefield Artifacts
  • Artifact Upgrade System
  • Legendary ‘Boss’ Battles
  • Experience Potions
  • Quality of Life & HotA Efficiencies
  • 2 or 3 Campaigns and ~45 Solo Maps
  • Hardcore Mode
  • Community Map Editor & Random Map Generator

As for this month’s feature, I’m going to start with… Troop Rally Ability.

Feature: Troop Rally Ability.

For those of you who haven’t already figured it out, this feature is clearly inspired by Street Fighter, and was actually an old idea I had back in 1997, when I was working on HoMM3. I didn’t push for it in HoMM3 for a couple of reasons. First, I was already asking for a lot of new features, and the programmers had their hands full. Second, I thought it was foisting upon the fanbase, too much complication too quickly.

Now, as to the feature… on the Battlefield, in the course of basic attack and defense, a Troop Division will accumulate ‘Energy’. When a Troop Division acquires 100% Energy, it earns the option to activate a Rally Ability (aka. a Super or an Ultimate). Each Rally Ability is relatively unique to each Troop Type, and largely amplifies a Troop’s unique attributes for one action. Conceptually, the purpose of the Rally Ability is to add an extra layer of strategy to Battlefield Combat. Specifically, ‘focusing down’ a Troop Division may not be the best or most obvious tactic.

Fanstratics is currently in pre-alpha production. For future updates, please subscribe to newsletter.

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