As revelations about the various features of Fable III continue to emerge, we recently had the chance to sit down with the godhead of Lionhead himself, Peter Molyneux, to talk about the eagerly anticipated follow-up. It’s clear that Molyneux isn’t willing to simply churn out another by-the-books sequel and when asked about the notable additions to this third journey across the kingdom of Albion, Molyneux’s excitement for the series remains still palpable.
G4: Fable III seems more based around building relationships than the last two games. What was the inspiration behind making that a prominent gameplay mechanic?
Peter Molyneux: It really is all about emotion. The thing about the Fable III story is that we wanted to make it more memorable. You know, from journalists, to people we bump into on the street, if you ask them about Fable II, very few people could tell you what the story was about. That seemed wrong. So memorable characters like Walter and Jasper, those characters travel with you a lot of the time, build relationships with you. This makes them more memorable.
It's like schoolboy narrative storytelling, it's all about characters. You can make stories that are more about the execution and plot, which is more the James Bond approach. Or you can make stories around characters where you center the story around the characters. Because then, for example, when the Walter character goes blind, that is so much more meaningful. He is the one that led you by the hand at the beginning of the game and acted as your mentor, and then half-way through the game you are literally taking him by the hand, now that's a great character relationship.
G4: The emotive aspect of the game in terms of gaining followers and befriending random townsfolk...Was there a temptation to make that the only way to gain experience?
Molyneux: How far did you get in your four hours?
G4: Around Brightwall. Where you start doing random quests for townsfolk.
Molyneux: Where you can dress up as a chicken?
G4: Yes, yes. I definitely did that.
Molyneux: We had this idea fairly late on: “If people can craft their own weapons, and people can craft their own hero, why don't we let people craft their Fable game?” So we have this leveling-up system which, as you go through each level, you are able to decide which features in the game you really want. So, if you want to just get followers from making friends and getting married, you absolutely can. What you probably didn't realize is that every single NPC in the world is a quest-giver. If you can get the relationship to a certain level, every single person will give you quests. You can take that person by the hand on the quest with you if you want and that person will give you followers.
So, absolutely, a lot of your followers come from building relationships, being a great landlord and doing odd jobs. But you still have to do the combat. You still have to fight the king; there's no way around that.
So we have this leveling system which allows you to completely customize your game, whether that means upgrading your combat skills and spells, or spending experience on dyes for your clothes and different ways to interact with NPCs. And it's all done through the Road to Rule. It's a very simple thing. I never want you to feel like you leave the world.
I actually really seriously thought of eliminating the concept of pause. That's an incredibly powerful feature. It really aggravates me that in every game now, like in Red Dead Redemption, you press pause and a 2D screen pops up showing the map and all the rest. I go there so often, I just don't feel like I'm part of that world. Everything's abstracted. But in Fable III, as everything feels like you're still in the world and there's this visual metaphor on the Road to Rule of “you're going to be king, you're going to be king,” it all fits.
G4: Speaking of removing the GUI, the Sanctuary is basically a menu screen. How difficult was it to get a balance between fun-to-explore and efficient-to-use as a menu?
Molyneux: We actually measured, down to literally the half second, how long it took you to navigate the 2D screen versus the 3D screen. I remember the meeting where I suggested “let's do it in 3D” and everyone said, “You can't do that! It will be too slow.” So immediately people were going down the path of “Oh, this is going to be rubbish.” So we measured it and if you purely look at how much you're moving the analogue stick and pressing the A button, the 3D version is a lot faster.
We give you some shortcuts. You can use the D-pad to go straight to each room, but you're able to do far, far more using fewer button presses. Remember, you can pull this up mid-combat if you need to.
G4: Was it always a given that the dog would make a return, or was there a need to discuss it?
Molyneux: The dog's a bit of a problem for us, to be honest with you. He was a real star of Fable II and we had the meeting about, “Maybe we should give him super powers.” Maybe super hearing, or super running speed, or maybe he could be really useful to you and have a sonic bark. Then we realized that was really stupid and we should just keep him a dog. There are no new dog functions. He's still just a dog. He is very useful; he'll find things for you, but he's just a dog. It wasn't easy to make a decision. We did consider a cat. We even considered a parrot, bizarrely.