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Might & Magic X Update: Neal Hallford Interview

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Might & Magic X Update: Neal Hallford Interview

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 3 September 2013, 20:07:30

Tags: John Romero; Might & Magic X - Legacy; Might and Magic; Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World; Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra; Neal Hallford

It appears that the folks at Limbic have decided to take a page out of the Codex's book (heh) and branch out into the retrospective interview business. Today's post on the Might & Magic X Legacy open development blog is an interview with Neal Hallford who, as you may know, also worked on Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra. Here's an excerpt:


Might & Magic III is a very happy memory for me because it really marked the very first game I worked on from the very beginning. With "Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan," I'd been brought aboard to help finish up re-localizing the title into English, but on Might & Magic III, it was pretty much a blank slate. I remember a lot of time in Jon's office as we kicked around stuff about Sheltem and puzzles and all sorts of stuff. Jon was very open to whatever weirdness I threw out, and all for all, one of the easiest going bosses I ever had.

In an effort to alieve the problem of treasure chests always containing predictable items, Jon and I brainstormed the idea of objects with randomly assigned attributes. I built the first, simple version of the generator in BASIC (not the version in the game) and tested our idea. One of the most bizarre combinations led to the creation of the "vibrating leather buddy rod of aids". Needless to say, "aids" had not been intended in the context in which it had oddly appeared, but some tweaking was required to produce objects which would be acceptable for us to ship to the public.

Not terribly long after we started work on Might & Magic III, Jon also wanted me to start work on Planet's Edge which was pitched basically as Might & Magic in space (it could be strongly argued that Might & Magic was already in space, but that was beside the point). The further and further we got into it, I realized that there was simply no way I could really tackle doing both of them simultaneously, not while holding the reigns. I was still a brand-spanking new designer, and was really worried that I had the potential to wreck not only the flagship title but the new title as well by trying to do too much all at once. So after talking to Jon, I suggested that we get hold Ron Bolinger who was my best friend, former writing partner, and co-producer of the radio drama series that had originally helped me land my job at New World. From that point on Might & Magic III, from a story standpoint, was a collaboration between Jon and Ron, with me unofficially on the side as sort of creative consultant. Jon continued to generate all the stuff regarding the puzzles and the combat for Might & Magic.

Because the cost of living in LA was way higher than either of us could have afforded alone, Ron and I shared an apartment in Los Angeles (ironically formerly occupied by the owner and operator of Task Force Games), and our desks at New World were right next to each other, we were really pretty heavily involved with each other's projects. (Officially I don't think my name is even on M&M III and I don't think his is on Planet's Edge because we both were getting started in the industry and wanted to each have our "own" game. And the titles that we each chose primarily bears our stamp, with some influence from the other). Whenever we got bored or stuck with whatever we were working on, we'd trade and write for a bit until the stuck party felt unstuck. A lot of the really awful music puns in the game came from Ron and I talking nonsense at three in the morning while eating bags of cheapo Del Taco hamburgers (we called them novacaine burgers because they had an odd quality that was vaguely like having your mouth go numb). I remember chiming in a lot about the Sleepers and of course Fordehal the Mad is a sort of anagram of my last name.

In the long run, handing the story reigns to Ron was really the best decision that Jon and I made for the title. Part of what made that title so unique was that Ron was a complete outsider in terms of fantasy fiction. He wasn't a devotee. I, by that time, knew Tolkien backwards, forwards, and upside down. Ron, by contrast, wasn't really interested.

His literary hero was Jack Kerouac. He really didn't know what the tropes were. I remember at the time when he was talking about dwarves living in the desert I was thinking that I'd never go there because I'd gotten so wrapped up with the established dogma of fantasy fiction that it was a chain wrapped around my neck. Ron went places I never would have gone because he just didn't know any better, and Might & Magic III is all the better for it.
That's some hardcore interviewing. :salute: You may also be interested in the interview Limbic did with John Romero (yes, that John Romero) two weeks ago. Apparently he worked on the C64 port of Might & Magic II, before his id days.

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