We were told we would be attending a "Microsoft Media Briefing," but we somehow ended up in Peter Molyneux's giant living room, hearing him speak about the newly-announced but not altogether surprising Fable III.
And you know what? I was totally fine with that. As with David Cage's Heavy Rain presentation at Sony's press conference yesterday, I always enjoy game developers speaking from the heart about grandiose ideas concerning player interaction. Molyneux's speech was more akin to a GDC presentation, which I'm sure caught a lot of people off guard. But though I didn't make it very far into Fable II (just far enough to own most of the town marketplace and be hated by almost every citizen), as soon as I get back Stateside, I'm popping that disc back in to prep for Fable III.
Click through for the rest of my write-up.
Molyenux draws comparisons between the third game in a series to the third child in a family, that they both are "problem children." (My younger brother had more speeding tickets, so I can buy that.) The way around this is to play with expectations, and to make the player "expect the unexpected." This is but the first of many vague references to what Molyneux has in store for Fable III, and, maddeningly, he begins by telling us to think about what's fundamentally wrong with RPGs (and what's been wrong with them since the 1980s). In my head, I guess "numbers," but I probably won't know the answer until his next speech. I didn't want to actually think about it, I have lots of DVR to catch up on.
But he was generous enough to give us the general core of Fable III: power. The kingdom that you grew up in and became a hero in during the first two games is now yours to rule, and the poli-sci major in me got giddy when I realized Molyneux was planning on giving us a government (i.e. corruption) simulator. In my notes, I was going to make a joke about Albion interest groups writing new legislation, but lo and behold, one of Molyneux's slides describes how during your rise to power against the current corrupt regime (which comprises the first half of the game), you'll have to make promises to your supporters. When it comes time to rule, you'll be faced with the choice whether or not to uphold those promises, or conveniently fail to recollect if you ever in fact met that person. If and when the Albion oversight committee is revealed, I will put down my pre-order money.
Referencing historical events and rulers in Europe and Africa, and even the current Obama administration in America, it's clear where his head is at. During the game's uprising phase, you'll be exposed to Albion's societal underbelly. And then when your rule is in place, you'll be reminded of those injustices and have to make a decision -- he intends to show how the thirst for power drives the common man to become something greater, and how the acquisition of that power immediately changes that person's situation and perspective. Very, very interesting stuff, if he and Lionhead can pull it off.
His speech became even more intriguing when he started talking about the new gameplay mechanics. First are "Judgments," a new form of quest-generation that put you in the role of judge, jury, and perhaps executioner. You'll be presented with a problem, evidence and testimony and in some cases the chance to investigate for yourself. Once you have all the facts (or, if you're impatient, whenever you want), you can pass judgment on the person in question.
Then he started talking about the game's "Touch" system. How a handshake can turn into a hug, which can turn into an embrace, which can turn into something...more serious. That's the "expression touch." The "dynamic touch" is described as a very involved moment for the player, the example given of rescuing a small boy from a fire.
What I found incredibly interesting during this section was while Molyenux was describing the physical acts of reaching out and saving this child, not only did he not mention that you were doing this with a controller, he was physically acting out the situation himself on the stage. Which made me think of only one thing: Prjoect Natal. I could be wrong, but I'm willing to gamble that Fable III will be associated with Microsoft's upcoming motion tech.
And all that was just, in Molyneux's words, "one tiny sliver" of the new mechanics of Fable III, which is coming out in 2010. We're meeting up with him tomorrow for a one-on-one interview, so stick around for further thoughts on Fable III and global politics.