Lionhead's Josh Atkins Talks Fable III's Mission Structure, Mission Variety & Your Time as King
Written Saturday, October 23, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Unfortunately for Microsoft and Lionhead's pre-release coverage of Fable III, it seems as if the limelight has been taken off it slightly by a little device known as Kinect. If people aren't questioning Lionhead's figurehead, a Mr Peter Molyneux, about the Kinect compatibility for their game - which has seemingly been put on hold - then they're asking his opinion on Kinect as a device and that pesky is-it-a-game-or-isn't-it Milo.
Today, however, there is no talk of Kinect and no talk of Milo, we're focussing on Fable III, the game. We caught up with Lionhead's Lead Designer, Josh Atkins, this week to talk about Fable's missions and quests in a bid to give you an insight into next week's release of their action-RPG.
We talk Fable III's mission structure, variety and even touch on your time as a king and why there's been a lack of coverage on that aspect.
How does Fable III’s mission structure differ from that of Fable II’s? And what can we expect to do outside the main quest in terms of activities?
Structuring a game like Fable is really tricky because we have to balance out a strong narrative against periods of nonlinear story telling. Because of this problem the previous versions of Fable felt a bit like the core story, the side quests and simulation did not have a lot of overlap and honestly everything felt quite self-contained. In Fable III we have worked hard to try and make it feels as if all these aspects of the game are well connected and that everything you do in the game is part of the narrative and your overall goals. One way we accomplished this is by creating the idea of ‘followers’ who are the individuals you collect who believe your hero would make a great leader. The player can collect followers by doing any kind of quest as well as by simply interacting with the simulated villagers across the game.
In isolated missions in Fable II, your outcomes often shaped the environment. Can we expect to see that mechanic return in Fable III? If so, how often will we see these sort of situations and will your decisions be more widespread this time?
Giving the player the ability to shape the world based on the decisions they make in the game is a huge part of Fable. It is an aspect of the game that is both fun to play (hopefully) but also fun to design and concept! In Fable III the player will have many aspects to truly change the world in ways that we’ve never done before in the past. For example once you become the ruler of Albion you will have the opportunity to do simple things like change the castle to more serious things like draining Bower Lake to mine it. The really interesting thing is that some of these judgements that change the world can also open up new levels and new quests which we hope players will find pretty cool.
Obviously the touch mechanic is one of the big innovations for Fable III this year. How much of a part will this play in the general missions and what have you done to make sure you don’t rely on it too much?
The term’ touch’ can mean a lot of things in regards to Fable III. The origin of the idea is built around an attempt to emotionally root the player into the game. When we think of features for Fable we often discuss what we want the player to ‘feel’ and how that feature will matter emotionally to the audience. Overall we felt that actually being able to touch another character or another player created an immediate emotional bond with that character. Therefore the touch mechanic can mean holding a child’s hand as you rescue them from a cave full of wolves, it can mean hugging a co-op player, it can mean kissing your spouse and it can mean shaking hands as you promise to make someone’s life better if they follow you.
A lack of mission variety can be a massive issue for most free-flowing games. What have Lionhead done to ensure that the missions stay varied – both main quest lines and side missions? And what sort of variety can we expect? Should we expect plenty of set-pieces?
The short answer is ‘yes’ you should absolutely expect a lot of unique experiences across both the core story quests as well as a lot of unique side quests. Overall we do our best to ensure that each of the core narrative quests feels extremely varied and unique but on top of that we create a substantial number of unique side quests that have unique creatures, stories and mechanics. One of my favourite side quests is one where the player gets transported on to an Albion Table Top game and must complete a quest for the three table top players.
Are you worried that making the game more accessible – simplistic combat, less RPG aspects, etc – will alienate the already established fan base? What have you done to make sure the game appeals to them as much as the first game did many moons ago?
This is a really interesting question because accessibility has been a paramount pillar for Fable since the first game. Our goal has always been to create an accessible experience that also has a lot of depth. Overall we like the fact that Fable is easy to understand, fun to play and a game that anyone can complete. With all that being said I do think we still want a certain amount of intensity from the game and if the game is so easy that the player just sits back in their couch and stops caring then I think we have made a mistake. Therefore a lot of our set piece moments in Fable III revolve around interesting and compelling combat encounters that really raise the blood pressure and create a sense of thrill and intensity.
Very little has been said about the latter part of the game when you’ve become King. How much of that makes up the overall Fable III experience and are you concerned that by potentially not revealing your hand for that, potential buyers won’t realise what they’re missing?
Fable III is out next week. Keep an eye out for our review on Tuesday.