Sitting down to interview Peter Molyneux is an experience that's not unlike the Fable series itself--it's whimsical, charming and a little all over the place.
So with the very limited amount of time of 20 minutes I sat down with him and we talked about Fable 3. We discussed the new crafting system, how to marrying well, how Fable 2 was a little bit like DOS and how you just might get mobbed being a King.
It appears that crafting--in its own unique way--has made its way into the Fable series with 3. Can you elaborate a bit on the weapon morphing concept?
Well, I really love the idea of crafting. I think it's a really lovely idea, especially in RPGs, so we thought 'why not let players craft their own swords?' So we initially thought we would give you some kind of Blacksmithing mini-game or we would let you find different things like augmentations, but it was all a bit messy.
Then we thought 'hang on a second! Why cant we change this sword so that it's reflective of how you fight.' So as you're fighting, your sword will start to physically change. For instance the curvature of the blade is now dictated by how many times you've performed a specific action in battle, the notches in the blade represent how many times you've died using it, and the brightness of the glow of the sword indicates how many innocent or evil people you've killed. We've got about 88,000 combinations of things going on here and we mix in your Gamescore as well. It's really quite unique.
So, as you're doing this--as you're crafting your sword--you're unlocking abilities too. There are a lot of finishing and special moves that can be unlocked.
Also you're free, at any time, to actually sell that sword on line. You can trade it too!
In previous Fable games the player was often rewarded for exploring places like hidden caves and such with Legendary weapons. Are you pulling that stuff out of the game now that this new crafting system is being implemented into the game?
No that's a different type of sword, these legendary weapons, and they actually have everything these morphing type of swords have too. The thing is, they have an additional quest associated with them and when you successfully complete these little quests the sword gets even better.
But back to these other swords. These swords are crafted by you! They will have your Gamertag in their names, and if you grind it out then you can make some really superb swords.
Ok, just to be clear--all the swords are malleable including the Legendary swords, but these Legendary swords have these, sort of, side quests associated with them?
Yes. The Legendary swords have these side collectibles associated with them, something like killing 50 goblins or something of the sort. So yes, you know, the players will still have lots of things to find. By the way, this whole idea of crafting and morphing applies to Hammers, Guns, Swords, Rifles and Gauntlets in Fable 3.
Where will the player store and manage all their stuff ?
Well we've got this place called The Sanctuary and it's a replacement for pressing the Start button.
Pressing the Start button in Fable 2 brought up a 2D list of things and it was kind of like going back to DOS. It would list 200 clothing items or 450 swords, and we thought to ourselves 'Why does the pause button always have to do the same thing? Why can't we just teleport the player to another place in the world.' So when you press the Start button, very quickly, it just teleports you to The Sanctuary.
So, yes, we have this chamber with some rooms attached to it. One room has anything to do with your clothes, another room has anything to do with your treasure and another has anything to do with your weapons.
At this point Peter runs into the weapon chamber where two gauntlets lie, and with a big grin on his face puts them both on...
For instance, look at these two gauntlets. You can wear these two gauntlets at the same time. The first one is a Force Gauntlet and it allows you to push things away with your left hand. On the right hand here, we'll put on a Fireball Gauntlet so that, now, when you cast a spell you'll get a combination of pushing and fire. You can also have a combination of pushing and ice if you like. If you had the combination of ice and fire then they would cancel each other out. This way you're weaving these spells together.
See, this gauntlet is level 1 and that gauntlet is level 5 and that will vary the amount of power you get. I really really love that! I love the feeling of 'Hey I'll try to mix these two things together'.
Does the one-button combat remain the same?
Well, we've got one button combat but it's more interesting. For instance, one attack button can be the same as a combination of two other buttons. We can say 'Right, let's swing our sword and shoot our gun. We can say swing your sword and cast magic. We can say shoot your gun and cast magic.'
So now we've got one-button combat and I think a lot of casual players will just focus on it--they'll just keep pressing this one button. Then they're the core players who will really, strategically use it. The problem is, the core say 'what reward do I get for doing combat well'. My answer is, the weapons will now level themselves up.
So there is a lot more leveling up in Fable 3. It's not just happening on the GUI side. It's more focused on making and changing things, which you can do over and over again. It's also another way to earn money, because as you level up a weapon it becomes more valuable to sell. There is a lot of some really cool work being done here!
You say the weapons in Fable 3 will change their appearance as you level them up. So let's say you focus on fighting in one particular style and you love your weapon, and then later on you switch to another style changing it's appearance unfavorably. I'm curious if it's possible to go back to the sword design that you originally liked?
Its just like the morphing system that we have applied to our hero. If you start going down one path it'll start changing the sword, but you can bring it back too. You might have to work a little harder to bring it back though.
What's so cool about all this is that the name of the sword changes with your gamertag integrated into it, and it will always be known as that too. So you will be able to sell it and watch it on-line to see what other people do with it.
It's a really really cool system!
From the development side, changing what the different buttons do has lead us down this route of crafting your own weapons. It's lead to the player feeling like they're getting more powerful, this thing that you're holding in your hand is getting more powerful--I think it's just really really cool.
Is there any kind of visual indicator in terms of the weapon level-up process?
Yes when your sword levels-up, the player will have this sort of Greyskull moment and they will see their sword change.
You know, it's interesting that everything in the game is based on a scale of one-to-five. We didn't want these sort of complex systems in Fable 3. So, for instance, you can have a one-to-five sword, one-to-five hammer, one-to-five in jobs, the muscles in your arms--everything is one-to-five.
Let's say I've progressed my sword up to level 5 and then I put it up on the marketplace, would I be able to buy back my own sword?
Absolutely! Also, you can have someone come into your world--yes there is coop in the game--and you can give them your sword. They can use it, and then give it back to you and it will still be called your sword.
Do I have to give it to the person I'm playing with or is it possible for them to steal it?
No, there is no stealing.
But back to the coop stuff--we actually changed it an enormous amount. The part where your friend comes in, they're now their own hero and not a stupid henchman like they were in Fable 2. They come in with their dog and free to go off running around while you do your things. They're not tied to your camera now. The coop is really cool now.
You can even--and it's quite bizarre--but you can even bring someone in, get married, have sex and have children. If you want to enter a business relationship, you will be able to do that as well. Want to buy a house together? You can!
I talked about leveling up, well you can level your house from one-to-five now too.
We've tried to take all the raw gameplay stuff and really improve it without making is super-complex. There was a lot of leveling up in the previous Fable games and it was all about moving afar, from here to there and it wasn't very exciting. Now when you level up you get that big reward. I think that's a huge improvement.
In the original Fable the Guild Hall was the hub for everything and I really missed that quite a bit in Fable 2. There was a sense of home, or at least a place to be when you wernt out questing. So, in Fable 3, The Sanctuary looks a lot like the Guild Hall--is it back?
Yes it's back. The Sanctuary is indeed your hub. It has this map system we call a "Living Map" where you can zoom into the towns and see the people of the community walking about--it's alive.
You'll also be able to buy houses from the Living Map. It's a lot more detailed than the map in Fable 2 where it wasn't really a map. It's just so much more helpful, especially when you rule. Half way through Fable 3 you're going to become a king and this map is going to be very useful.
Ok, so let's talk pacing. Are you guys going to be more aggressive in your push to get the player through the narrative now that you've got this dramatic change half-way through the game, or are you still going to let players do whatever they want?
For me when a game is nagging me to do something in particular, and I all want to do is something else, I just hate it! I hate when quest givers are like "Go to the woods! Go to the woods! Don't forget to go the woods!" "Well shut the FUCK UP! I know where the woods are! I don't want to go to the woods. Why are you telling me to go to the woods?" So, you know, if you go up to a quest giver in Fable 3 you can tell them to shut up and give me the quest. That way you can move on, and if you don't want to accept the quest then you just walk away. I think that's really really cool.
Now if you go to The Sanctuary, there is this John Cleese character, and he's the butler in the game. He's there to help you be the best you can possibly be, so every once in a while he'll prompt you on occasions when the AI think you're really not doing anything, but he doesn't pester you.
When you become King is there going to be a completely different interface?
You know, here's the thing about us talking about being king--it's a MASSIVE spoiler. I don't really want to get into the experience of being king.
Listen, the only thing I've said is that there is this beautiful mechanic. See, you're a revolutionary, and you're going to lead this rebellion and you've got to get people to follow you. Once you do that you're going to assault the castle. You're ready to take on this evil--king Logan.
On the way through this you're going to have to make promises to people. For instance the mayor in one of the smaller communities will say, "That king Logan is rotten! He stopped giving us money and now our people arnt able to do the things they want to do. If we promise to support you, will you promise to give us 200,000 gold? If you do, then our community will support you." So, of course you do it! So you make all the promises on your journey and when you become king, you will have to decide if you're going to deliver on these promises, but guess what? You're not going to have all the resources to do it.
Actually, the follow mechanic--the idea of getting people to follow you--is unified across the whole game. It replaces experience. What's so cool is that you can grind and get a bunch of people to like you and follow you, or you can do the big quest to make these promises. So there is this great replacement of experience. You get followers for being good in combat, you get followers for making friends, you get follows for marrying well! If you marry well, you get a whole new bunch of followers and that will make you more powerful. That, in turn, makes the revolution more powerful!
Can you define "marrying well"?
Well, if you marry someone from the slums, she's not going to have much influence, and that will effect you and your followers.
I know there hasn't been any armor in the Fable series and I'm curious if there will be any in Fable 3?
You know, we're not fans of armor. It's just about weapons in Fable, and you know, your clothing is important too. As a king, if you don't walk out in some sort of disguise people will mob you, but no armor--we're just not fans of it. For me, armor is just like...it just doesn't make sense, in a way. It's just another confusion in combat.
As the interview wrapped up I informed Peter that my wife is a HUGE Fable fan and was bursting at the seams to read this interview. It was at this point Peter smiled, put his arm over my shoulders and informed me that I could get her name into Fable 3 through a pre-order program they're working on.
Charming and whimsical.