After I'd finished choosing the exact right Kris Jenner gif for a friend's Facebook birthday well-wishing I was catching up with the Bank Holiday gaming news. The Fable universe card game's impending Kickstarter caught my eye.
Okay, so according to the infodump over on IGN, erstwhile studio, Lionhead were working on a free-to-play digital card game called Fable Fortune set in the Fable universe prior to the studio's closure.
That project is now under the aegis of Flaming Fowl Studios [official site], which is headed by a clutch of Lionhead alumni, and is seeking crowdfunding in order to finance the game's completion.
I've been watching the video on IGN which has a playthrough of a match and, as you might expect, it looks very much in the vein of Hearthstone, just with Fable things not Blizzard things. You've got decks specific to each playable character and you're trying to whittle your opponent's health to zero before they can do the same to you.
There's also a morality element that's very Fable-y. I think that means you complete quests as you play by casting spells or earning money or whatnot in order to make good or evil choices which give you slightly different options for some of the cards.
Something which did surprise me is how little of the Fable universe characters I could remember before I watched the footage. I did a kind of personal test where I figured I would name every creature or person I could remember and I managed "balvarines", "hobbes", "more hobbes", "Stephen Fry", "my character, the horrible relentless landlord of Albion", "my sock puppets for impressing town criers", "town criers", "my useless dog", "that evil guy", and "the bird that poos on your head".
Anyhoodle, having watched the video and listened to the dev it sounds like the big thing they're going for is finding ways to reduce the amount of luck in the game as opposed to skill. The good/evil stuff is a part of that, as are a bunch of other mechanics. I'm not sure how that will go for them, to be honest. Random number generator nonsense is a pain to be on the receiving end of but a joy when it goes hilariously in your favour - overpowered cards, damage to unexpected minions and so on.
Something which gets referenced a lot in relation to variable rewards (random loot drops or some other unpredictable cool thing happening as a result of your input) is BF Skinner's research into how reward schedules affect participation. Gamasutra has an interesting article by the head of user research at Bungie on how these types of reward schedule are used in game design.
I'm wondering whether Fable Fortune reducing the impact of RNG compared to something like, say, Hearthstone might end up making the game more predictable, but would lose some of that basic compulsion to play. The reduction of the role of chance is also at odds with the name of the game (unless they mean "fortune" in terms of earning one).
The exact details of modes and formats and so on will likely be shaped by feedback from the community if the Kickstarter is successful so I'm going to mark that stuff as "TBD" for now. So far, the teaser hasn't whetted my appetite, but it has reminded me how far behind I've fallen with Hearthstone.
The Kickstarter is expected this afternoon about 3pm BST so I'll update this post with any interesting tidbits but the expectation is that the team want to raise £250,000 and would be aiming for an early 2017 release with a closed beta phase in a couple of months.
As well as PvP there is also intended to be a co-op mode "allowing you to team-up with a friend against a host of Fable villains such as Nostro or Logan".
On the funding side, the team are asking for £250,000 which "will be used to complete the first six heroes and two co-op bosses, as well as fund our running costs as thousands of players are brought into the closed beta." They also say that "a lot of core systems are already in-game, so we’re a handful of months away from Closed Beta".
There's also an explanation of the franchise licensing and Microsoft's involvement. Basically Microsoft retain the rights to the franchise but they've granted Flaming Fowl a license to develop (or rather, to keep developing) this particular game. Flaming Fowl also have a license to use all of the original scores from previous Fable games.
Disclaimer: Well, disclaimer-ish. I'm friends with someone at Mediatonic - the company which was apparently a partner in the game's development in 2014. I assume that partnership still exists because some of the screenshots have the company's name in the corner. In fact that friend was the person whose birthday I was celebrating with Kris Jenner gifs. I went with this one: