Jon Van Caneghem says that staying hands-on with projects is the best way to create success new IP

Might and Magic creator on the battle between ‘finance and features’

Jon Van Caneghem is best known for the PC strategy franchise Might and Magic, as well as its sister series, Heroes of Might and Magic.

Van Caneghem created the iconic titles under the company he founded in 1984, New World Computing, which was later purchased and absorbed by 3DO in the mid-1990s.

In 2014, the development veteran created a new company, VC Mobile Entertainment, backed with support from Chinese investment firm Tencent. As the name suggests, the outlet is primarily focused on creating mobile titles – a stark change from Van Caneghem’s PC roots.

Despite this, VCME’s debut release, iOS title Creature Quest, which is due out later this year, echoes some of the strategy elements that helped Van Caneghem originally make his name.

It also sees the designer return to a more hands-on approach to game creation, with Van Caneghem juggling both management and development tasks.

Develop asked Van Caneghem why, more than three decades after he first founded NWC, he still insists on being directly involved in the process.

When did you transition from developing games directly to managing teams instead – and why return to a more hands-on approach with Creature Quest?

Jon Van Caneghem, VCME: I’ve always had to strike a balance. For example, in the early days of New World Computing it was easy to focus more heavily on design, but as New World grew and we produced multiple products simultaneously, more time was taken up by managing the business and the different product teams.

I’ve always been hands-on when it comes to design, though—regardless of the situation I want to keep as much time free as possible to work on designing games.

What are some of the biggest challenges of being both a game designer and a studio head?

The biggest challenge is having the tug-of-war between finances-and-features-fight by two halves of the same person.

Every team has to fight the battle between how much you want to put in the game versus how much you can afford to put in the game, and I’ve had to fight that out on my own.

On the other hand, having the lead creative and the head of the studio in synch is a requirement to generate successful new IP, and that’s much easier to do when they’re the same person.

"Having the lead creative and the head of the studio in synch is a requirement to generate successful new IP, and that’s much easier to do when they’re the same person."

Jon Van Caneghem, VCME

Can you provide some specificity about your input into Creature Quest’s design?

I’ve been as or more involved with Creature Quest as I was with the Heroes of Might and Magic games.

VCME is a small company focused solely on Creature Quest, and that gives me a lot of bandwidth to focus on design.

I’ve had the ability to contribute across the entire game, though most heavily in game systems.

Why are you transitioning into mobile games with VCME? 

I’ve always said I want to make games where the players are, and mobile is the largest gaming platform in history.

Smartphones are rapidly becoming commonplace, and each one can instantly access your game from almost anywhere in the world.

That kind of platform is incredibly powerful to make games for, and it’s very exciting as a designer to consider all the possibilities that platform allows.

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