Peter Molyneux told me today that his decision to pour much of the emotional connection of upcoming role-playing game Fable II into the lead character's furry companion seemed justified after he ran into a duo of gamers in the lobby of his hotel earlier this week.
"I met a couple of people downstairs the first time who played Fable, I didn't know them before, and one guy was super fanatical about his dog," Molyneux said. "He just asked me a million questions. 'Am I doing this right?' and 'Can I find this book and train the dog?' and 'How come I've seen other people's dogs?' and they're better at finding treasure.' He was talking all about the dog, he really cared about the dog.
"The other bloke standing next to him said, 'Ah, you're such a wimp. I just left my dog and he was hurt and he had to crawl around and I found it funny. It just made me laughed he was so injured all of the time.'"
"That was a fantastic moment for me because I realised that's what I wanted. Some people are going to be fanatical about the dog, but I didn't want to ram him down your throat. I didn't want to insist that you had him."
But does that mean you can play through Fable II without the help and companionship of the game's emotional anchor, the dog? Sort of.
"If you don't use those dog treats to heal your dog he is going to stay sick and if he stays sick he is not going to be able to keep up and you're not going to be travelling with him," he said.
Not only is that built into the game, but the Lionhead team was so aware of the possibility that some gamers may want to go it completely alone, they created that opportunity very early in the game.
The first time you fight with the dog in fact, he gets injured.
"If you don't want your dog you just leave him injured. Thats it," Molyneux said. "Eventually, he's going to catch up to you, it may be in half an hour's time and you may be in a pub. But you can leave him way behind."
The decision to not include some sort of toggle for the dog and instead force gamers to abandon the dog to be rid of him was born of Molyneux's design philosophy for the game.
"I could have put into the menu, I could have put something that said disable dog, but how does that make you feel anything?" he said. "I wanted people to realise this dog loves you. There has to be a consequence to your action. The consequence is he is going to catch up to you and that's when he is going to make you feel guilty. It's an emotion consequence rather than it being a GUI tool."