Session with Peter Molyneux and Fable 2
Everyone knows that Fable’s harshest critic is Peter Molyneux, the game’s designer. Various hardware limitations prevented Fable from being Molyneux’ realized dream. With the sequel, Molyneux promises to deliver one of the most dramatic stories ever told, and one feature no game has really ever been able to capture – freedom. Molyneux walked us through portions of the game to help us experience this.
Yes, the pre-rendered opening sequence is visually impressive, as it should be. You’re given a look at the living world you will so drastically affect from the perspective of a bird, and at the end of the scene, the game begins with you, a young boy; nothing more than a simple street urchin, living in the slums. The game will not take you through your entire childhood, but it will give players a chance to get emotionally vested in the character, and the character’s humble beginnings. Molyneux is set on providing a game that conveys the story of a boy coming of age, and having a real, evolving effect on the world around him.
We’re given a couple of examples of the effect a player can have on the world. In one instance, a town’s law enforcer pleads your character to deliver ten warrants so that a band of criminals could be stopped. The choice may seem trivial in any other role-playing game. In a typical RPG, ignore the request, and you don’t receive a particular reward. You move on, and the world goes on as if you never made that decision to begin with. In Fable 2, ignoring the request will slowly change the town. Crime will increase, and the town itself will begin to transform into a crime-ridden cesspool (in which you can then become an assassin). Alternatively, deliver the warrants, and watch as the town prospers without crime.
Another wild example of this effect on the living world had to do with a roaming gypsy camp. As the character wandered around in the wilderness, he discovered a very active gypsy camp that really seemed to be independently alive – children were playing games with one another (and if you watch closely, they will be acting out the story from Fable – and your Fable 2 story eventually), adults were doing random activities, living life. And then there was you. Molyneux did not show us this on screen, but he described how you can settle down with this gypsy camp, taking a gypsy to marry you, procreate, and move around with the camp, living a life as a gypsy. Or you can wipe all the adults out like a maniac, and go to the orphanage to see all the children suffering.
All this to say that the freedom we’ve experienced in other games is nothing compared to this world. It’s interesting to realize that without true consequence and effect, freedom is just entirely artificial. You’re not a ghost wandering from town to town, being ignored by NPCs – you are a part of the evolving world, and you can dictate how it advances. Hug a weeping mother who has lost her child, or point and laugh – the world will react.
Now, not everything can be affected by your actions – there must be some limitations. After all, Molyneux does have a convincing and compelling storyline for you. But there seems to be enough in the game to really translate a new idea of in-game freedom here. And on the topic of freedom, somehow we were really excited about this: every building you see, you can enter, and buy, if you have the gold. Oh, and most regions have under-regions. This world is huge.
You can explore the world at will, and be rewarded with sidequests, treasure, and more personal encounters. Respecting treasure, or more specifically, gold, enemies you kill will not drop gold. You earn gold by doing some honest work, not through combat. Although there must be exceptions to this, since there is treasure to be found, and people to steal from.
In addition, Molyneux discussed with us the Xbox Live Arcade compatibility and features. Yes, there will be XBLA games prior to Fable 2’s launch that will allow you to earn gold, which can be transferred to your gave in Fable 2 (an in-game NPC will give you a gift of the amount of gold you earned in the XBLA game). In terms of what you’ll be spending your money on, Molyneux said that there are a hundred million gold pieces’ worth of things to buy in the game.
As you already likely know, you will have a dog companion in the game. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of the mechanics of the dog in combat (he does fight for you), but we knew that the dog was not just a random tool thrown into the game. From first 15 minutes of the game, we were emotionally tied to the dog. He will not just be a weapon in your arsenal; he will be your companion and friend.
The co-op play was particularly exciting to see in action. Like Gears of War, a buddy can drop in and drop out at any point in the game. Though Molyneux didn’t get into the Xbox Live feature specifics, he did tell us to expect a “big co-op surprise” to be announced forthcoming. We’re hoping someone can jump in as your dog for some canine combat, but knowing Molyneux, the big surprise will be way bigger than that.
We look forward to whatever Molyneux has up his sleeves, and recommend you to check out 2opgaming.com for an exclusive interview with Molyneux (should be available later tonight).