Develop 10: Molyneux On Fable III

By Kieron Gillen on July 22nd, 2010 at 1:11 pm.

This head in the foreground is the best head in all my develop photography. Go Head!

The Fable 3 demonstration starts a little late, due to Peter Molyneux being a little too reliant on his SatNav. Which is the sort of thing which strikes me as a workable critique of the “bread-crumb” hand-holding in Fable 2, but we’re probably denying the existence of that non-PC Game. Which is going to make writing about the first public European showing of Fable III, it brings directly to mind its direct prequel.

The key idea which sticks out on the slides is trying to make Fable III more like an action-adventure than a techie-RPG, leading to an ever-expanding audience. In other words, gaming populism. As ever, Molyneux has some interesting approaches to that – and while my Fable 2 comparison was a little facetious, it’s a game which could profit from a second iteration. Molyneux admits to a lack of polish, telling the story of how with its 67,000 bugs pre-release lead to Microsoft quality team ended up rating it as Super-Black. No-one had even been plain old black before, which brings to mind Walker’s anecdote about people who get “N” grade at A-level. That there’s two sorts of people – those who don’t know that N-grade exists and those who receive them.

In other words, strimming down of the ambition towards release to make it – y’know – work was a key theme in the last months of Fable II.

So where to take it now? Looking at player data they realised there were enormous numbers of features which players didn’t ever use, or just use once (like getting married, which Molyneux didn’t add anything to the game and was an excuse to have sex. Though I quite like any excuse to have sex). More than 50% of the people who played Fable only understood 60% of the features. They’re planning a slower introduction of the full levels of powers to that end – and watching players who haven’t tried various activities for a long time to re-suggest or re-introduce you to the idea.

One area of improvements which is oddly skimmed over is that they felt they didn’t take the drama seriously enough. Molyneux felt most people didn’t really understand what was going on in Fable II, so they’re trying to create something which can actually move people. They’re doing this with better voice-actors – he compares the one person doing 300 voices of Black & White with the cast for Fable III which includes John Cleese, Bernard Hill, Stephen Fry and Zoe Wanamaker and MORE OSCAR WINNING TALENT. Hopefully actors, rather than people who win best costume making or something. Otherwise, the main drama reveal was how the game would be shaped around a simple idea – leading a rebellion against a tyrant, to become king. I’ve always been a strong advocate of this kind of concept for game plots – game plots are primarily motivation for more mechanics-styled games – so I’d like to hear more about what they’re doing.

Some of the details are interesting, however. For example, on the way to take the crown, when recruiting folk, you can make promises about what you’ll do when you get that crown. For example, turning a factory into a school. However, you don’t have to do them, which the obvious results. Molyneux also demonstrates dragging someone around and getting them drunk to be your friend, which is actually a fair simulation of most of my life. Oh – and people will respond more to what you wear. The example used is that wearing a chicken costume to get crowned will garner commentary. Quite.

Towards the accessibility aspect, they’re losing a menu-based inventory in favour of an actual sanctuary you teleport to. Press a button, you zap to a room full of – say – your costumes, and you run up to what you want to wear. A key art was making sure this more decorative system actually takes the same or less time as a traditional menu based system – which is the right route to take, but one which I’m only going to believe when I actually play the game.

The traditional tropes of the role-playing are re-imagined in the form of the Guild Seals – the single currency in the game which you collect and spend on everything, which is presented to you in the form of chests. So the ability to level up your fighting prowess or – say – buy a fancy house are bought with this same resource. The fighting prowess is also implanted with your weapons rather than the character. For example, powering up your gauntlet will give you new special abilities. However, since the weapons are tied to your character, morphing in effect depending on your choices, so it’s effectively a similar system.

Combat and Co-op seem refined from the previous version too – Molyneux seems especially pleased that you’re able to flirt, romance and marry your co-op partner. “Why can’t we have an intimate moment when playing Fable 3?” he wonders, which reminds me of my regular masturbation breaks when playing Darkfall, which probably wasn’t the idea. Combat’s infinite power-up are also cute, so the charge abilities – where you hold down a button to get increasing zap – has no top. Keep a button pressed overnight for a hyperblast, if you wish.

The dog’s also back. Can you have an intimate moment with the dog, Peter? Dare you. Double-dare you.

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62 Comments »

  1. Revias says:

    Responses based on what the character wears? I can bet everyone makes there hero walk around naked to see what they say at least once…

    • Nick says:

      I used to do that in Morrowind, there was a surprisingly large variety of different comments!

    • Premium User Badge

      Chaz says:

      You got arrested for doing that in Fable 2 if I remember rightly.

    • Kevbo says:

      You got arrested and game over for not typing ‘put clothes back on’ or ‘take condom off” in lesuire suit larry after playing with the hooker.

  2. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    I realise this is a sentiment which has led to me often being burnt, but I do love being optimistic about Peter Molyneux and his games. He always seems so ambitious and enthusiastic, and fair enough, it never works out – but one day, just maybe, it will…

    Fable 2 was pretty decent as well anyway, although the menu system was about as quick to navigate as the London Underground, so any improvement to that would be nice.

    • KingCathcart says:

      I agree. There is always a period of excited exploration as you play, seeing how closely the game lives up to the proposed concepts. However with each new Molyneux game the time between the exploration and the realisation it hasn’t lived up to his promises grows smaller.

      Still, we can only hope.

  3. Brulleks says:

    It all sounds very interesting, but it always does when Molyneux says it. He’s a bit like a high street preacher, promising the imminent birth of some Messiah who never actually turns up.

    Would like to know more about the environments. I haven’t seen Fable 2, not being a consolite, but these were probably the most disappointing aspect of the orginal Fable for me – tiny areas linked by long load times, most with about two or three items of interaction other than the combat encounters.

  4. Thelonious says:

    “Which is going to make writing about the first public European showing of Fable III, it brings directly to mind its direct prequel.”

    Needs moar editorz

    • megalomania says:

      Reading this hurt my brain.

    • jsdn says:

      Trying to understand that sentence has created a black hole in my mind that is visciously consuming my consciousness. I fail to know not what is anymore thus.

    • kikito says:

      Sir, you should consider a career in politics.

  5. Barry says:

    the charge abilities – where you hold down a button to get increasing zap – has no top

    So, they’re bring back the bug from Fable 1 as a feature.

  6. Heliocentric says:

    Overlord was a better fable game than fable.

    What kind of hero doesn’t have an army? Regardless a spammed my way though fable 1 with a small set of skills because thats all i had leveled up. Until i got a 200hit combo paused set a pile of steak, fish and mushrooms (or something) in my quick use slots, ate 100 of each and maxed out every skill.

  7. MartinNr5 says:

    Sorry Kieron but again I think you’re guilty of sloppy writing.

    “Which is going to make writing about the first public European showing of Fable III, it brings directly to mind its direct prequel.” This sentence makes very little sense.

    “like getting married, which Molyneux didn’t add anything to the game and was an excuse to have sex.” Should this be “… which Molyneux admits/says/confess didn’t…”?

    “However, you don’t have to do them, which the obvious results.” Should most likely be “with the obvious…”

    “A key art was making sure this more decorative system actually…” Should perhaps be “A key part…”

    I know you often joke about your less than perfect writing skills but your articles from Develop 10 is a lot worse compared to what I’ve read by you before (and I’ve followed RPS since it’s inception).

    Yes, RPS is just a blog and no, I’m not a subscriber but I still think I’m allowed to comment on the quality of the writing, no?

    Just to be clear though, RPS is my first source of gaming news and I thoroughly enjoy all of your articles (which is perhaps why I get even more peeved when this happens).

    Anyhow, back to work for me. :)

    • Rakysh says:

      It seems likely to me that the Develop 10 articles are probably written on an Iphone type device, which explains the errors.

    • jconnop says:

      *are a lot worse
      *since its inception

      Sorry, couldn’t help myself <3

    • MartinNr5 says:

      @jconnop: I understand that your reply was tounge-in-cheek but A) I’m swedish and B) I’m not a professional writer which Kieron is (his writing skills are lauded on comics blogs even!).

      And compared to Kierons typos I’m still in the clear. ;)

  8. Ubernutz says:

    I think the real question here, is can you have an intimate moment with Peter Molyneux?

  9. DrGonzo says:

    I don’t understand his point about the story and voice acting. Steven Fry was in the last game and it had a rather good voice cast. The voice acting is not the problem at all. The shit story was the problem.

    Same goes for the inventory. The problem wasn’t that menus are difficult to understand or use, just that their menus were absolutely awful.

  10. J Jonah Jameson says:

    but your articles from Develop 10 is a lot worse compared to what I’ve read by you before

    Hey kid, I like your style. You could come and do my job if, you know, you didn’t make mistakes!

    Now get out of my office and don’t come back until you’ve got a decent story to tell!

    • MartinNr5 says:

      If I’d been a professional writer with english as my mother tongue I’d probably be able to avoid mistakes like that.

      And, apple and oranges really here as confusing “it’s” and “its” isn’t quite as bad as that first sentence I mention.

      Btw, I got those pictures of Spiderman beating up a small child and a woman for you if… No, wait this is Mel Gibson. Sorry.

  11. Simon says:

    I swear people read these activley looking for errors. I never notice any, but then I am a quick reader.

    • kikito says:

      Activley lol

    • MartinNr5 says:

      No, I don’t look for errors but I would like to be able to understand what Kieron mean as I normally enjoy his writing.

      How fast you read has nothing to do with being observant. ;)

  12. Jakkar says:

    He’s a lying, vicious bastard.

    ._.

  13. NeutronSoup says:

    I disagree that marriage didn’t add anything to the game. Maybe I identify with my characters more than most, but the thought of my wife and kids back at home made the final decision of the game very tough. Treating this feature as expendable seems to fly in the face of the stated desire to focus on the drama. What’s more dramatic than your family being threatened?

    Now, I’m certainly not arguing that marriage is an essential feature – it’s not. But I do think that a lot of the “one-time use” features that Lionhead seems to think can be done away with really help the player identify with their character and the game world. That’s the one thing I’ve always liked about the Fable games – the way people in the game react to your character and the amount of silly customization you can do that, yes, have no real effect on gameplay. But then, it’s not just about gameplay, is it?

    • BigJonno says:

      The ending decision in Fable 2 is one of the better ones, in my opinion. There’s the obvious money hat for anyone being evil/selfish/it’s only a game and I don’t give a shit, why did it only take me eight hours to get through and what do you mean you can dye your clothes, but choosing between the other two for anyone playing a good character can be pretty tricky. Do you bring back your loved ones, or do you bring back the thousands of other people Lucian has killed? It’s one of the few occasions that a moral decision in a game has induced a chin-stroking “What would I do?” moment.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I concur. And giving my in-game wife and daughter the names of my real-life wife and daughter helped to double-down on the angst accompanying the decision.

      Ultimately, my character said, “Fuck it. I’ve suffered enough, here. I was shot out of a window as a wee lad, I was magically aged against my will, I was given a really bad haircut… let’s bring back my family.”

    • thebigJ_A says:

      WHAT?? The ending decision in Fable 2 was one of the most absurd, contrived, stupid decisions any game has ever asked me to make!
      You have a giant wish-giving tower which can A) give you a moderate amount of money (seriously, I had twice as much money at endgame than I got from that choice) B.) Save everybody who died EXCEPT people you give a shit about, and C.) Save the people you give a shit about and NOONE ELSE.
      The Dark Spire didn’t grant wishes, it granted a poorly thought out and contrived false black/white choice that falls apart as soon as you think about it for more than a second.

  14. Okami says:

    Molyneux is a fucking dog killer.

  15. stahlwerk says:

    100 years ago Peter Molyneaux would have made the ideal project lead for the Titanic. At least nowadays his ambition and marketing talent doesn’t get people hurt or killed (well at least I hope so).

  16. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    “the thought of my wife and kids back at home made the final decision of the game very tough”

    …except that I couldn’t actually tell any of the townspeople apart. They’re just identikit puppets with randomised names and comedy accents.

    P.

  17. Eight Rooks says:

    I’ve never understood how anyone could get emotionally attached to Fable at all. It’s beyond me. My family was no different from any of the thousands of other hapless clones littering Albion, my dog was utterly useless and offered a handful of preset animations that got boring very quickly, there were no lasting, meaningful consequences for anything and there was no challenge at all. And yes, I did beat the game, because occasionally I enjoy mindless, relaxing busywork in a broken game with some fairly pleasant visuals and brain-dead humour. And every now and then it did promise to turn into something genuinely involving, even if that promise never amounted to anything.

    I actually really like Molyneux. I don’t actively hate his work and his worldview the way I do Clint Hocking’s. But he’s been trading on his value as an innovator whose achievements more focused, grounded people can build on for a long time now. He hasn’t made anything I’d consider a genuinely good game, let alone a great one, in years.

    • MartinNr5 says:

      I’d say that you get what you give.

      I really enjoyed Fable 2 and I am very much looking forward to Fable 3.

  18. Alphabet says:

    Fable was good-ish. Fable 2 was utter shit, it played like it was aimed at Harry Potter reading children.

  19. Pijama says:

    Molyneux, shut up, get your money, break contract with Microsoft and MAKE SOME GAMES AGAIN, for fuck’s sake.

    And if you tell that any of your previous games were “serious mistakes”, just wait what you will have to hear about Fable some years from now.

    (We need a new Dungeon Keeper, damn it.)

  20. Kirian says:

    Looks like the monster has eaten Kieron again. This piece definitely reads like the regurgitated remains of Mr. Gillen.

  21. Jimbo says:

    Zoe Wannamaker was excellent in Fable 2. Stephen Fry was predictably irritating – much like he has been in everything since Blackadder. He ruined Fable 2, ruined Little Big Planet, ruined the internet and I’m sure he’ll ruin Fable 3. Please don’t tell him I think so though, in case he bursts into tears, claims to have some kind of Being Upset disease and then sets the most pathetic section of the internet on me.

    That went off track. Did I mention that Zoe Wannamaker was excellent in Fable 2?

  22. Dominic White says:

    This thread seems overrun with angry internet tossers. Random attacks on Molyneux, and now random hating on Stephen Fry? What the hell?

    I refuse to call them Men. That term is reserved for creatures with a spine.

    • Jimbo says:

      I appear to have made more positive statements than you have so far, have I not? Also, the comments are hardly ‘random’, given that the article is about Molyneux and comments on Stephen Fry being in (aka ‘ruining’) Fable 3.

      Stephen Fry is no more immune from criticism than anybody else. The internet / Stephen Fry love-in has gone on long enough – all it’s doing is enabling a serial entertainment ruiner.

  23. Eight Rooks says:

    I had no problem with any of the voice acting in Fable II and love Stephen Fry in just about anything. Not so keen on his writing, though he’s still very talented – I just take issue with some of the things he seems to like to write about. Part of the reason I was so frustrated/disappointed with Fable II was because the voice acting was obviously of such high calibre – it was just the story was rubbish and amounted to precisely nothing, much like the first game.

    And I try and make my attacks on Molyneux focused and articulate, thanks. Fable II is fundamentally broken from the word go; once you’ve got a couple of houses, turn off the game for a week and you. Have. Essentially won. That is a statement of fact, not an opinion. There is no challenge to the combat whatsoever, you have to work to ever die, so the only variable to consider is how much money you’ve got to spend on health potions. As soon as you’ve got an infinite money fountain, your dog is useless – it does nothing practical beyond dig things up for you (given it’s virtually impossible to ever ‘lose’), so once you can buy anything you could possibly want it serves no further purpose.

    The fantastic The World Ends With You did the same idea properly by making it so you could only earn ‘money’ (XP in this case) with your DS turned off for a week, at most, and by making the returns tail off dramatically after the first day.

    And that’s not getting into the virtually non-existent story, the unfunny humour, the lack of emotional attachment to anything, the lack of any consequences (oh no! All my XP has been taken away for doing something nice! But wait! I’ve earned it all back three minutes later!)…

    But if you were addressing some other angry internet tosser, then by all means carry on.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      You criticism may be mechanically correct – interesting that the same cash fountain effect could be obtained in Syndicate – but I feel you’re somewhat missing the point…

  24. Masked Dave says:

    That was easy, I wasn’t letting any bastard kill my dog. The lovely vicious hell hound that he was.

    I agree that marriage added a lot to the game, but then Fable does seem to work better for those people that really emphasise with characters easily.

    I was playing an absolute bastard, my children were all called things like Scorn and Vile and I had one from each of my three wives in various situations and one from my first wife who left me. Hell, I even had a whole story in my head of what would happen when my character, now the King, died and these were my heirs due to the way I’d raised them. (One in poverty, one in luxury, one in isolation and one who got out from under my influence very early on.)

    Sure, really I put all that in there, but only because the game allowed me to.

    Don’t even get me started about the fight with my childhood best friend from the first game…

    • Masked Dave says:

      That was supposed to be in reply to the statement about the ending choice of Fable 2.

      Since that didn’t work, I shall now share my anecdote about Fable 1. This is why all the incidental character building stuff is important, it allows you to paint your own picture of who you are and to properly embody your avatar.

      I just killed a girl. Her name was Winter, she had been my training partner since I first joined the Guild of Heroes as an orphan. We were fighting side by side in the Arena, laying waste to all the challenges they could throw at us and raking in the reward money.

      But the final challenge, for a secret, bonus prize, to be presented by the legendary Jack of Blades himself, was to duel to the death.

      Before starting though, we made a pact. Neither of us wanted to kill the other, so we would duel, and put on a show, but at the end the victor would show mercy.

      It was a tough fight, but I finally overcame her. One more blow would finish her off, and we both knew it. So I slung my sword over my back and began to walk from the Arena. Halfway towards the giant gate though, I turned back and looked at her, still standing there. And a thought suddenly struck. Was this her plan all along? Was she going to try and spin my walking out as a surrender, that she should be the victor and claim the prize!

      I went back to her and tried to make her walk from the Arena with me, side by side, but she wouldn’t! Plain refused. And in that moment I knew that I was right, she was jealous and this was the only way she could claim her glory, so in anger and, yes, out of greed for the thought of this ‘bonus’ prize and drew my sword and struck her down.

      The crowd went wild.

      But as I stood over her fallen body, I could faintly hear the announcer call that my bonus prize, was an extra 10000 gold.

      Ten thousand. Was that all my childhood friendship was worth to me? It seemed suddenly such small figure.

      Worse still, as I left the arena, they all still hailed me as a mighty hero, in their eyes I had done nothing wrong! I was being invited to the houses of the rich and powerful! They treated me as if I’d just saved the world, not commited murder. I was told about my mother, how she was a mighty hero, that nearly died defending those who couldn’t, and how she was had a good, soft heart and now lived as a hermit, isolated, distraught at her failure to protect her family.

      Only one man saw me for what I really was. Winter’s brother, Thunder. He told me that I was the walking dead, he would have revenge for his sister. That my death would be slow and painful. I wanted to tell him that he was right to do so, that I deserved nothing better. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t speak.

      That night, as I left the grounds of the Arena as it’s new ‘champion’, I gave up my name. Sabre was the name of the mighty hero who would strike down at evil in all it’s forms. Now I am Gladiator, the man who acts for glory and riches, with no thought to the consequences.

      I have had a message from my sister to meet her in an abandoned house, I am to head there next on my journey. But how I can face her, my poor sister, who lost her eyes for protecting me all those years ago, how can I face her knowing what I’ve done.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      I enjoyed playing through Fable 2 as a militant vegan – going around murdering pie shop owners, buying up their stores, then setting the prices as high as possible.

      I wish the economic systems of Fable 2 could be melded into something like Fallout3 (or RDR)

    • Mercurial says:

      @ Masked Dave: That was bloody awesome. Bravo!

    • Mr_Day says:

      @Masked Dave

      That story is fantastic, and makes my opinion of her seem childish and stupid. She had always been talked about in game as if she were the next great hope, but every encounter with her just made her into your whipping post.

      You need to practice dueling? Smack her in the face. Magic? Zap her in the face. Even the first big job you take, she has taken a job from someone opposing your employer, leading to yet another instance where you whack her in the face. Fighting with her in the arena led to me groaning because, in my estimation, she really wasn’t that good of a fighter.

      Though I did remember that her name is Whisper, but that is nit picking.

    • Masked Dave says:

      Thanks for the kind comments :)

      @Mr_Day
      (Not of Mr Day’s Penkinfe fame by any chance? From the Miss Marple’s Murder Mysteries forum?)

      I think that’s what I’m trying to get at, most people *didn’t* have that reaction to Winter/Whisper’s character, it takes a certain kind of (broken?) mind to properly slot into the world Molyneux has created but for those of us who do it’s incredibly rewarding.

    • Thiefsie says:

      @Masked Dave

      I think I got more out of your write up than I would by playing the two Fables completely. Thanks.

    • Mr_Day says:

      @ Masked Dave

      Yes, that is indeed my penknife which seems to have exactly the right tool for whatever job.

      Also, this has made me start to replay Fable, and my reaction to Whisper is currently the same: Shut up, you annoying bitch. Thought this time i am going to play as a good guy, so I might let her live.

      Might.

      don’t count on it, mind.

  25. Rath says:

    Getting rid of menu based inventory is the best possible thing they could do after the mess that was Fable II’s inventory. Even a “mark all is viewed and get rid of the poxy exclamation marks next to everything I have viewed three times already” function would have been welcome.

    Molyneux stated numerous times that in Fable II, you would have to assemble a sort of Magnificent Seven team to take on the worst, cruellest most diabolical villain ever written. The reality on release? UNDERWHELMING, SIR.

  26. Premium User Badge

    DarkNoghri says:

    “A key art was making sure this more decorative system actually takes the same or less time as a traditional menu based system – which is the right route to take, but one which I’m only going to believe when I actually play the game.”

    I was going to call BS on this, but then I remembered the menu systems from Fable. I now believe that this may be a true statement, but that it will still be a crap inventory compared to anything else out there.

  27. SuperNashwan says:

    Sadly the only amusement I’ve had from Lionhead for some time is what Molyneux says about a game before release and the inevitable apology after.

  28. Ozzie says:

    Normally I’m excited when I hear Pete talk about his games, but not this time around.
    All I hear now is WE NEED MOAR HOLLYWOOD TALENTS AND DUMBING DOWN.
    And more detailed, shiny graphics, so that people get more sucked in, probably.

    Sorry, but my vision what the ideal game should be is quite contradictory.

    • Ozzie says:

      Oh, anyway, either it means that it will be Molyneux’s best title or by far his worst.

  29. 2ds says:

    What really bakes my noodle is you’re all picking up on stupid spelling mistakes and no one comments on

    “which reminds me of my regular masturbation breaks when playing Darkfall, which probably wasn’t the idea.”

    W T F

    • bleeters says:

      @2ds

      Well, if we started criticising that, we’d all be hypocrites.

    • 2ds says:

      @bleeters

      I’ve never played Darkfall ;)

    • Acosta says:

      What’s the problem with masturbation?

      Loved Fable 2 and the ending, all alone in a gigantic mansion with half of Albion suffering from my abusive prices on renting, a full village destroyed, hundreds of corpses sacrificed to the evil gods and several status showing my greatness.

  30. Gundrea says:

    @2ds

    Oh I picked up on it. I was just trying not to think about it. I especially don’t want to think about whether one caused the other(Dwarf fetish?)