Lionhead's Peter Molyneux letter to reviewers for Fable II is much ado about nothing, the outspoken developer said in an interview today.
It was meant not to dictate how reviewers to do their job, but instead offer some insight into what the people behind the upcoming game would find interesting. It's also a reflection of the designer's shifting design philosophy, one that worries less about giving gamers more mechanisms of play and more about connecting with that audience of one or two.
"I think there are two reviews you could do and you could be very objective for," Molyneux said. "You could review this as a gamer's game and I think it will do well as a gamer's game. But really it has been designed to be a casual game as well, to be accessible and that would be interesting for me."
"This is what I was trying to say in the letter: Why don't you, after you've done the review give a copy of the game to someone who doesn't play games and see how they get on. Because you may find that is a completely different experience they are getting that of course us as gamers couldn't hope to ever get because we've been polluted by years and years of games. That's what I was kind of saying, I wasn't trying to steer you in to review it this way. "
The letter was spurred by Molyneux's belief that Fable II, while a game built in a genre traditionally most appealing to hardcore gamers, is trying to attract a more mainstream, perhaps even casual market.
"I think increasingly now we are making games which are trying to appeal to not just us but a wider audience," he said. "That's certainly what Fable is trying to do. It's interesting when I watch (a non-gamer) play, they just obsess about completely different things than what I as a gamer would. They are far less interesting in leveling up their character and far more interested in making sure the dog's OK. And that is quite a bizarre experience to see."
"I'm not being critical of Fable but I do think that Fable is quite a distance away from what people in Japan are used to (in terms of role-playing games.)," he said. "There isn't a million things you can configure for every battle, there are just those three simple buttons. What we are trying to do is make the experience of having your own hero, we're trying to open that up to a broader audience as well as keeping our core audience happy."
That doesn't mean, Molyneux said, that Fable II wasn't created for fans of role-playing games, but that they way they approached the genre was more about emotional connection and less about game play mechanics.
"It all comes down to he experience at the end of the day," he said. "How it makes you feel. I've come to learn more and more as a designer that it's all about how it makes you feel and less about the mechanics of whether you have growing trees or all of those things."
"I have been guilty in the past, I think, of shoving in more and more of these mechanics in the thought I would be making a better experience but actually... I've forgotten to ask does that mechanic make you feel any better or more involved, or more into the game."