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Heroes Community > Heroes 6 - The New Beginning > Thread: The End of Black Hole Games?
Thread: The End of Black Hole Games? This thread is 18 pages long: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 · «PREV / NEXT»
Cepheus
Cepheus


Honorable
Legendary Hero
Far-flung Keeper
posted April 16, 2012 06:34 PM
Edited by Cepheus at 18:41, 16 Apr 2012.

Quote:
Do you call this naivety? I would call it a decision by necessity.


I have to appreciate that we don't know all the facts, but assuming that Black Hole had looked into the anecdotal evidence regarding the situation with Nival and how that turned out for them before signing up themselves, naivety almost seems too kind a term.

If you had severe reservations as early as you say, it seems certain that from the kind of arrangement Ubi supposedly extended, you were starkly aware the customer would likely get burned in the end, lending a really, really depressing sense of fatalism to the whole thing - a sense which I was, conveniently enough, in no way privy to during my experience as a VIP. The only difference this time around is that BH got taken along with the hopes of fans. Let that serve as a big red warning to whomever steps up next, I guess.
____________
"Those who forget their history are inevitably doomed to repeat it." —Proverb, Might and Magic VIII

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Quique30
Quique30


Hired Hero
posted April 16, 2012 06:59 PM

Sense of fatalism... that's so fitting. Because in retrospect, we can all be pretty certain no one won in this whole situation. Not BH, not the customers and not UBI, even though they may not feel the impact right now.

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Cepheus
Cepheus


Honorable
Legendary Hero
Far-flung Keeper
posted April 16, 2012 09:32 PM
Edited by Cepheus at 21:42, 16 Apr 2012.

Well, like I say, the whole blame game stuff drives me to dispassion, but it is almost as if you'd construe that everything would have been fine and dandy with the game if only Ubisoft had been on the ball, whereas I have the benefit of relative objectivity in saying that late storyline scripts and missing cutscenes are the least of H6's problems.

For instance, if I recall, the constant challenges I issued about the AI were met with an excuse from a guy which went something like "we have the perfect AI guys but we will not implement it as you would find it too boring" (no joke). I've heard very contradictory accounts on town screens. The bugs and editor demand no comment. And not much fan feedback was elicited on anything, from the user interface to resources to anything much, because it became clear enough that BH was just out of its depth and scrambling to finish the project.

I don't know if all this was down to hyperactive ambition, the evils of Ubisoft, gross mismanagement on one or both sides or just plain bad fortune, but given my experience and what you revealed, that BH knowingly agreed to unreasonable terms out of desperation and could put 2 and 2 together in that there was a violent precedent in Nival's departure and all the other developers you listed yourself, I am simply not sure that ignorance is a workable plea here. But like I say, who knows all the facts.

I do have to say my thanks to you though at least for helping us towards getting a proper post-mortem on the game, which is something I can't legally conduct despite wanting to like all hell.
____________
"Those who forget their history are inevitably doomed to repeat it." —Proverb, Might and Magic VIII

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ywhtptgtfo
ywhtptgtfo


Hired Hero
posted April 16, 2012 11:37 PM

It's really hard to judge the situation without knowing Ubisoft's end of the story (that is assuming "derpson" is really a BH dev and not an imposter).

What appeared to have happened is that BH has knowingly forgone some of its legal protection during the signing of the contract and has taken a  risk that ultimately backfired.

Having played the game myself from start to finish, I'd say it's very hard to believe the storyline and plot would take 20+ months to deliver (and TBH, the plot sucked). One thing I also am skeptical about is the exactly list of crucial deliverables that Ubi is supposed to give. If it is just story, names, and characters, then why would be so crucial s.t. it completely stalls BH's development?

What specifications did BH know and not know before that 20 month wait? The towns? The creatures? The list of terrains/adventure objects?

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ywhtptgtfo
ywhtptgtfo


Hired Hero
posted April 17, 2012 01:04 AM
Edited by ywhtptgtfo at 01:06, 17 Apr 2012.

Quote:
Some examples: UBI had to give briefing on all characters, animations etc., one by one, prior to the start of the work on those items. Without them the work on those deliverables could not start.
Animations and models are certainly time-consuming to complete, but how big of a portion are they within the overall project? In the absence of information on how to complete these visual components, I'd imagine there might be a lot of other things the team could've worked on that's relatively independent to the design of animations, items, and visuals: i.e. the terrible A.I. the game is left with as well as the game engine itself.

Quote:
The funny thing is that they did not give feedback on most of the environment stuff, and still the environment looks great. I think - and always thought - that their feedback was quite useless, a real waste of time. It was just there to justify their importance.
Since it was pointed out that their feedback is wholly unnecessary for parts of the game's development, then could the BH team have, hypothetically, finished more prior to the arrival of their deliverables.

Quote:
And yes, the final story script took 27 months to be sent to BH. It sounds not too important. But if I tell you that without the story, BH could not have started working on the map design, I am sure you believe me that this was crucial.
Btw, the very first version was sent after the original alpha date (with the exception of the First Playable Map). We created the first campaign maps after the original Alpha Deadline! Man, the first maps after Alpha!

I could be wrong, but I'd imagine the design of playable maps to be one of the last things in the game's development cycle and probably among the least complicated of the project's tasks. This certainly does not preclude the development of a sound A.I. which BH appeared to have cheated with heavy map-specific scripting that is almost unheard of in strategy games.

If you are in BH and your story is that BH was not given enough time, then I'd be sympathetic. But if the story is that BH had the time but could not complete a good project because certain late-delivering of deliverables messed up their production priorities/schdule, I'd be skeptical and would look for some explanations.

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Bitula
Bitula


Known Hero
posted April 17, 2012 10:34 AM

Whould be nice to know what Derpson thinks about the overall quality, proficiency and maintainability of the source code. Since he didn't defend this aspect (avoided this topic) and the amount of bugs are evident it still follows to me that the source is in a bad shape.

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krs
krs


Famous Hero
posted April 17, 2012 10:50 AM

Quote:

BH had nothing to do with VIP fan feedback directly. It was UBI that decided. And UBI never wanted your feedback. When they asked your opinion on a specific item, it was always already too late to make the changes you asked for. Just two simple examples:

1 - Less resources: It was a UBI decision from the very beginning, and no one could change it. They presented the idea to you through the VIP forums, but they never wanted to change the design. Exactly the opposite: they wanted to "convert you", to make you get used to the idea over time, and then "convert" your mates through your fansites.

2 - Sanctuary lineup: When the Sanctuary creatures were presented to you and you complained about the many boring human female characters, all of them was modeled and animated already. It would have been a lot of money and time to change them. And while it would have been easy to show the concepts to you months before, Erwan had a vision, and didn't really care about your opinion.
Just look back: whatever you guys said was ignored completely.


Yup! Sadly so true.

I heard about VIP fans about the time they released the a**kissing UBI meets fans video (no offense to the VIP's not present or edited). It was also about the time I realized that everything is already done and UBI's mind set and no amount of player input will be taken into consideration unless it will resonate somehow with someone at UBI (+ it would have to be really cheap to implement).

Another personal conclusion from the video was that "Erwan had a vision" one of the not discus-able things being Sanctuary. (He just wanted add all this Asian philosophy (seen by an European) crap).

Another one is less resources. This probably comes from the blood and tears concept applied to resources and they just had to ditch one because it had no real use and since then they try to sell it to us as a great feature.

While the game could be great in spite of all these decisions, they reveal a deeper problem the series has with him in charge.

And since we never heard of Erwan since release, most like it, his work resonated with higher management inside UBI and got promoted for his "success". Probably he is now in charge of more important stuff. For our sake I hope hes responsible of a completely different product, but I bet hes still somewhere in the series.

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ywhtptgtfo
ywhtptgtfo


Hired Hero
posted April 17, 2012 12:02 PM
Edited by ywhtptgtfo at 12:03, 17 Apr 2012.

Quote:
Whould be nice to know what Derpson thinks about the overall quality, proficiency and maintainability of the source code. Since he didn't defend this aspect (avoided this topic) and the amount of bugs are evident it still follows to me that the source is in a bad shape.
Is the source code available? I haven't looked at it and so can't comment, but the A.I.'s the worst I've seen among strategy games and it appears to be independent of Ubisoft deliverables. :/

If my memory serves, there were a lot of gameplay and interface bugs too... I'd suspect many of the deliverables that were supposed to be provided by Ubisoft could've been subbed in with placeholders for the development of the game's core interface and functions... It's plausible things were not as simple as that, but I feel it's still a fair thing to ponder about.

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Cepheus
Cepheus


Honorable
Legendary Hero
Far-flung Keeper
posted April 17, 2012 12:14 PM

He is certainly not. Don't be paranoid.
____________
"Those who forget their history are inevitably doomed to repeat it." —Proverb, Might and Magic VIII

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nerevar
nerevar


Adventuring Hero
posted April 17, 2012 12:42 PM

Quote:
So I am just curious. Are you from UBI? You will say no, but I won't believe you, so you don't have to answer.

Or, you know, he could be trying to be objective - since all we have is your word, which would make it seem that BH was a flawless developer, who only made the one mistake of trusting UBI, and ALL of the errors present in the game are UBIs fault. Which isn't very likely to be true...

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Avirosb
Avirosb


Promising
Legendary Hero
No longer on vacation
posted April 17, 2012 01:29 PM

*Eagerly awaits Ubisoft response*

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Quique30
Quique30


Hired Hero
posted April 17, 2012 02:43 PM
Edited by Quique30 at 15:52, 17 Apr 2012.

Quote:
*Eagerly awaits Ubisoft response*


Don't hold your breath, there won't be any. They know better than to give Derpson credentials as to engage in a discussion like this, no matter what they would have to say about it.

If there is a response, it won't be in a public forum.

Quote:
Whould be nice to know what Derpson thinks about the overall quality, proficiency and maintainability of the source code. Since he didn't defend this aspect (avoided this topic) and the amount of bugs are evident it still follows to me that the source is in a bad shape.


He kinda touched that topic here: http://www.forum.acidcave.net/topic.php?TID=469&page=23#54598

"As for the many bugs: Heroes 6 is a gigantic project, with 1.5-2 million lines in the source code. This is bigger than most RPGs. Such a project can only be finished with good quality if there are several years and a huge budget (i.e. Blizzard games), or if there is a strict design lock date after 7-9 months of the start of development... in case of Heroes, the UBI guys were adding new ideas and were changing existing features during the whole development, even at the last months, so it was simply impossible to make a stable game for release. Just see what they are now doing with patch 1.3 (BH is not involved in that at all btw.). They cannot release a simple patch with a few smaller fixes in time, they are already in a 2-3 weeks delay. This is because the code is extremely complex, and UBI does not have the team to overview it and make it work in time, even if the Limbic guys are really great (and no, they are not involved in the Heroes development from the project start, they joined like 20 months later)."

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Kaasschaaf
Kaasschaaf


Hired Hero
posted April 17, 2012 04:00 PM

I only just saw this thread... Could anyone write an abridged version?

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Bitula
Bitula


Known Hero
posted April 17, 2012 06:16 PM

Quote:
He kinda touched that topic here: http://www.forum.acidcave.net/topic.php?TID=469&page=23#54598

"As for the many bugs: Heroes 6 is a gigantic project, with 1.5-2 million lines in the source code. This is bigger than most RPGs. Such a project can only be finished with good quality if there are several years and a huge budget (i.e. Blizzard games), or if there is a strict design lock date after 7-9 months of the start of development... in case of Heroes, the UBI guys were adding new ideas and were changing existing features during the whole development, even at the last months, so it was simply impossible to make a stable game for release. Just see what they are now doing with patch 1.3 (BH is not involved in that at all btw.). They cannot release a simple patch with a few smaller fixes in time, they are already in a 2-3 weeks delay. This is because the code is extremely complex, and UBI does not have the team to overview it and make it work in time, even if the Limbic guys are really great (and no, they are not involved in the Heroes development from the project start, they joined like 20 months later)."


Yeah, but that is fishy, normally if the source is scalable and modular from the beginning you won’t mess it up with so called unexpected change request. 1 million lines of what? What do we count in? Generated code? Third party code included as source? Lots of money? 1 million euro for  (semi) town screen, maps and cut-scenes. Not enough? And then how much was the remainder, you can feed a whole village from this money. It's quite unfortunate that nowadays IT is all about patching up bad quality code. People produce tons of b*llsh*t code and I hate when it is being legally justified and historically categorized as changes in trends in programming. "New age programming", you know it's like in the 60-s the trend for fashion was to wear long skirts for girls and in the 21th century the trend for IT is to fix bugs for several years after the product is released. And people sincerely believe this. I mean, you simply cannot do anything about this because general public thinks that this is some kind of necessity like a natural phenomenon similar to ice age, they say, it just inevitably happens, like dinosaurs were killed by a meteor…, what can we do about it, right? Wrong. Nowadays every fifth or so intellectual worker calls himself a programmer, developer, manager etc, because well, the world is undergoing a virtualization and the need for programmers grows exponentially. It’s quite typical (e.g. in Hungary) that a self proclaimed programmer changes working place every three months, but his botched up uncommented, dilettante code nonsense is not removed, then comes another one and builds his own “artistic” nonsense upon, well, already b*llsh*t base code. This is just one way how source codes eventually degrade. There are then people who simply harm the code and get paid for that. They amass diligently tons of lines of code during their many years of “fruitful” existence as a “new age programmer”. No offense, these are mostly nice and cute people who are forced to do this for living, and since coding, you know is nowadays sort of a lifestyle, it’s viewed as a cute phenomenon, and well, you know, fishes live in water, programmers sit at a computer and type, nice, nice.  Same goes for the budget, they say the more people you pay the better is the end result, it doesn’t really matter that in reality it may be so that a single person can produce ten folds more useful lines of code than 20 others. It’s just happens, like hydrae grow heads and eats more and more, programmers and managers multiply themselves into teams and eat up budget. Seriously, there is no rationality behind this, this again is just a trend, just because it is accepted as normal is why many think there is a reason behind it. So, but I rather stop here before I am being accused of confusing HC forum with a philosophy forum. The point is, that in reality code degradation due to customer intervention or due to its pure size is minimal compared to other factors described above. So I do understand this “necessity business”, I just don’t like it, but who cares that I don’t like it, so why did I write this long post, lol…

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War-overlord
War-overlord


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
Presidente of Isla del Tropico
posted April 17, 2012 07:12 PM

@bitula:

Even if I am the only one, know that there are people who know, at least in part, what you are talking about. And understand fully what you have been saying in this thread.
I have studied academic Information Science for 4 years before being broken up by the mathematic courses. I recognise your points and agree with them. Admittedly I have been out of the field for nearly 3 years, but it seems that it is still plagued by many of the same problems.
I know what you, and me in the past, have to say is something many in the field do not wish to hear.
Just thought I'd let it be known.
____________
Iron from Ice.

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ywhtptgtfo
ywhtptgtfo


Hired Hero
posted April 17, 2012 08:56 PM
Edited by ywhtptgtfo at 21:22, 17 Apr 2012.

Quote:
Quote:
Quote:
Whould be nice to know what Derpson thinks about the overall quality, proficiency and maintainability of the source code. Since he didn't defend this aspect (avoided this topic) and the amount of bugs are evident it still follows to me that the source is in a bad shape.
Is the source code available? I haven't looked at it and so can't comment, but the A.I.'s the worst I've seen among strategy games and it appears to be independent of Ubisoft deliverables. :/

If my memory serves, there were a lot of gameplay and interface bugs too... I'd suspect many of the deliverables that were supposed to be provided by Ubisoft could've been subbed in with placeholders for the development of the game's core interface and functions... It's plausible things were not as simple as that, but I feel it's still a fair thing to ponder about.


Just one last comment, or more precisely, a question. ywhtptgtfo, are you from Ubisoft? I would say yes. You are trying to smoothly erode BH and my comments with your tricky-worded comments. I could answer all your questions, but I won't, as I said, a real - public - meeting with all involved in the development would be the only solution to clarify the situation.

So I am just curious. Are you from UBI? You will say no, but I won't believe you, so you don't have to answer.

The questions I asked were fair and reasonable. If you would like to accuse me of being an undercover Ubisoft employee defending the company (and instead of answering the questions I had for you), then well... it's your choice.

Personally, I find it very hard to believe the delay of those storyboards from Ubisoft would've caused all those story-independent aspects of the game to be implemented in such a disastrous manner. If you tell me BH was also waiting on the code, core game design, and [insert important design documents], then fine - I may buy that. But that's not what I've read.

Quote:

Yeah, but that is fishy, normally if the source is scalable and modular from the beginning you won’t mess it up with so called unexpected change request. 1 million lines of what? What do we count in? Generated code? Third party code included as source?


Yeah. I have no idea of why Heroes 6 would need to have *much more lines of code* than *most RPG games*. I mean, the game doesn't bring in a lot of extra functionalities relative to previous games. In fact, it has arguably reduced many of the genre's pre-existing features.

Having written softwares, modded a few games, and debugged a number of third party softwares, I'd say codes in industrial-grade softwares are not necessarily very sensible or efficient. I've seen 1st-rate algorithms carrying out complicated tasks with a few dozen lines and I've also seen 3rd-grade code carrying out simple objectives with blobs of gibberish (and it's not the 1337-type of gibberish). What I am trying to get at is that: The fact that the game uses more lines of codes than other games can also very well mean it is not programmed as efficiently as other games, especially if the game is not a "Skyrim" compared to their contemporary peers in the market (And Heroes 6 certainly isn't a "Skyrim" - not even close).

Quote:
Lots of money? 1 million euro for  (semi) town screen, maps and cut-scenes. Not enough? And then how much was the remainder, you can feed a whole village from this money.


Well, there's salary, electricity, and rent, I suppose. Don't know the math there.

Quote:
It's quite unfortunate that nowadays IT is all about patching up bad quality code.
Oh, that's been discussed a lot. When I was in undergrad, this is one of the topics the profs ranted about.

Quote:
but his botched up uncommented, dilettante code nonsense is not removed, then comes another one and builds his own “artistic” nonsense upon, well, already b*llsh*t base code.


Oh yeah. When I once entered a project left behind by someone else, I had to learn not to inert our own "artistic nonsense" into the "already b*llsh*t base code".

It's always good etiquette to write code in a way that's easy for others to follow if you suspect your work is going to be used or handed over to others.

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Responsible
Famous Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 17, 2012 10:33 PM

If you wonder why a game like Heroes is more complex than Skyrim, you only need to look as far as the Heroes V fan manual, which is excellent by the way. Derpson's estimate of 1.5 million lines of code is reasonable, the codebase of H5 is many times bigger.

You need to be aware that you are not writing code for a Windows UI, every feature, UI element, interaction, command, script sequence and whatever needs to be routed and coded. Of course, a lot is automated, but not everything so that you have to write code for each tiny UI element, even if it is only coding adapters or database connections. All this needs testing and debugging. Not to mention that there might be semantic differences between icons (and other UI element classes) presenting different features, which leads to highly variable and heterogen functionality. Additionally, in a project of this size and of professional quality, there are many layers of safeguards and entire support class hierarchies to aid development and testing. Actually, what is implemented is a live system that supports adaptation by scripts, debugger commands and moddable database input.

IMO both Ubisoft and BH severely underestimated the complexity of the game when they signed contracts. It was only a question of time before they were to run into the hard realities. At that point communication became apparently difficult and broke down. The single biggest mistake they made was to replace Fabrice, who produced H5 and *did* know about the complexity of a Heroes game. My guess is they didn't even had him actively involved as an adviser, neither when the capabilities of the contractor were assessed nor during the production.

All the participants can be accused of naivity, but the real one responsible is Ubisoft's business department because they were (and most likely still are) clueless about the complexity of the project and its technical and budget requirements. Unless they learn this, every future Heroes game will be underfunded.
____________
Will the TBS genre evolve? Yes!

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ywhtptgtfo
ywhtptgtfo


Hired Hero
posted April 17, 2012 11:12 PM
Edited by ywhtptgtfo at 23:20, 17 Apr 2012.

Quote:
If you wonder why a game like Heroes is more complex than Skyrim, you only need to look as far as the Heroes V fan manual, which is excellent by the way. Derpson's estimate of 1.5 million lines of code is reasonable, the codebase of H5 is many times bigger.
I actually wasn't being serious when I compared Heroes 6's complexity with Skyrim's. But the fact that you actually asserted that the Heroes 6 is actually a more complex game than Skyrim is simply jaw-dropping (especially since you appear to be a professional software developer) :/. If you are to bring out the Heroes 5 fan manual (which is almost entirely populated by statistics + lots of fancy graphics), I'd point out that many games have VERY elaborate wikis loaded with information as well. Mind you, having big creature/spell/skill tables/trees does not automatically make a game functionally complex.

Heroes 5 is indeed a decent game, but certainly not among the most complex ones out there either.

The point about the million lines of code is not really about whether or not it is plausible for a strategy game to have that many lines, but rather whether or not it is indicative of whether or not it is more complicated than other games in the market. For instance, Heroes 5's A.I. algorithm takes 5 minutes to run between each turn. Does it mean it is the smartest A.I. out there? It's even dumber than Heroes 3's A.I. that takes seconds to load.

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Quantomas
Quantomas


Responsible
Famous Hero
AI Wizard
posted April 18, 2012 12:01 AM

The vanilla H5 code actually reused the H3 AI, only it suffered from poor adaption to the newly introduced rules. This fact alone should tell you a fair amount of the complexity involved. The Heroes V fan manual is not full of statistics, instead it is full of game mechanics. Feel free to develop a design that accomodates every single mechanic referred to in the manual. But this is entirely off-topic.
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Will the TBS genre evolve? Yes!

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ywhtptgtfo
ywhtptgtfo


Hired Hero
posted April 18, 2012 12:50 AM
Edited by ywhtptgtfo at 00:58, 18 Apr 2012.

Quote:
The vanilla H5 code actually reused the H3 AI, only it suffered from poor adaption to the newly introduced rules. This fact alone should tell you a fair amount of the complexity involved. The Heroes V fan manual is not full of statistics, instead it is full of game mechanics. Feel free to develop a design that accomodates every single mechanic referred to in the manual. But this is entirely off-topic.


Sure, let's take a brief look at the fan manual's table of contents:

Pages about stats:
Pages 12-71: Listing of heroes in normal gameplay
Pages 72-96: Listing of heroes in duel mode
Pages 97-105: Listing of heroes specialties
Pages 145-161: Skill tree
Pages 162-170: Listing of creatures
Pages 195-202: Listing of artifacts
Pages 203-240: List of buildings
Pages 244-259: List of building traits
Pages 260-270: List of adventure objects
Pages 270-273: List of weeks

That's about 2/3 of the manual and already.. and I am *quite lenient* about counting which section's not wholly about stats. For example, much of the skill and spell sections are lists of stat modifiers but I left the entire sections out of the equation for the odd few unique instances (i.e. gating).

Now, my point is not about bashing the fan manual being a book of useless stats. Rather, I love the manual for being so miraculously comprehensive. But at the same time, I wouldn't let its 300 pages (many of which heavily populated with beautiful art and lengthy lists of numbers) to be used as an evidence to support the game's relative complexity over other mainstream games in the market.

To put things into perspective, I'd point out that grand strategy games like Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis III, and Civilization IV are far more complex than something like Heroes V (which is a great game, don't get me wrong).

As for your comment about the difficulty in grafting the Heroes 3 A.I. onto Heroes 5's, I am a bit confused. What kind of additional features does Heroes 5 offer s.t. it renders the originally Heroes 3 A.I. inapplicable and that it'd take 10 mins to run between turns? As far as I remember, almost everything on the adventure map is the same. Sure, the combat A.I. would've been very different, but I am not referring to the combat A.I.

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