Monty Python's John Cleese will be your butler in the fall's role-playing game Fable III. Perhaps you are wondering why you will have a butler.
The top two men behind Fable III, Lionhead Studios' Peter Molyneux and Josh Atkins, took turns this morning at Game Developers Conference describing new and changed mechanics for the series.
The addition of Cleese is just one big change. His character wasn't shown, but Cleese will play the role of a butler that you encounter when you press the start button in the game. In Fable II you'd take that action and get a 2D menu. In Fable III, your character will appear in a room full of his clothes, potions and a table representing the world map. Cleese will be in there to add some humour.
The move away from a 2D character-customisation interface and toward a Cleese-enhanced 3D space is part of the Fable III team's determination to get series players to actually use more of the series' features.
Molyneux lamented that more than half of the people who play Fable games use less than half of Fable's features, despite all the hard work Lionhead puts into them. They don't change their character's clothes. They don't level up their various stats. By making more of these options thins the character can do in 3D, they are more likely to be used. Molyneux compared Fable II-style 2D wardrobe selection to wandering through one's virtual closet chamber in Fable III. The former, he said, "is kind of like ... using index cards to choose what you will wear". (The designers believe they will also be able to get more players to use more of the game's features by making those features more clear: This time, if you want muscles, just use heavy weapons; if you want to be lithe and agile, use guns - as we've reported, no more experience points.)
The Fable map shows up in this start-menu as one of those war-room-style maps on a table. The designers showed how a player can zoom onto it, dragging a magnifying glass across the new game's two continents, Albion and Aurora. The player can then zoom in and see a 3D representation of any part of their world, something that becomes handy once the Fable III player reaches the second half of the game and has a kingdom to rule.
(Here are four shots I quickly shot of the map being zoomed in on. Apologies for the poor quality, but you get the idea)
Among the other changes to Fable III mentioned by the designers will be an emphasis on tempting players to leave the golden breadcrumb trail that leads players to the goals in their quest; an ability to decree kingly judgments that amount to writing the laws of your kingdom, and striving to make players have a more emotional response to combat by associating enemies more closely to specific locations and behaviours. Of that last one, Atkins said: "We want you to feel powerful, but we want you to care." Care about what you're killing, that is.
All that, and John Cleese too.
We'll have more on Fable III in the days and months to come, as Molyneux is clearly still holding details back regarding everything from "additive" Project Natal integration to some mechanic inspired by having followers on Twitter. The game is set for a late 2010 release.