Q&A With Fable Producer Louise Murray

Wildgoose couldn't make it to an interview last week with Louise Murray, who heads the Fable franchise, so he sent me instead. Here's what Louise had to say about what's new in Fable III, including a different approach to co-op play.

The first thing Louise points out is that Fable III is less of a role-playing game and more of an action-adventure. Characters don't age like they did in Fable I and Fable II, because the whole story takes place over two or three years. Fable III also focuses more on the user experience to make sure players better understand the game's features.

What are the stats on Fable I and Fable II players playing good or evil? Were there any instances where everyone chose the good option or everyone chose the evil option?

We've found that 80 per cent of our players play good rather than evil. It's the players that play through two or three times that want to explore the darker side of things.

Do players tend to stick with one side through the game?

We think that people tend to pick good and try to be as good as they possibly can be. But in Fable III, we've really started to investigate shades of grey, so it's a lot less clear what is good and evil, and we start to pose some interesting questions that really make you stop, put down the controller, and have a think before you make your decision.

What are you trying to make players aware of with these moral choices?

I think really we're trying to achieve a sense of interest and awareness. These are wrapped into the bigger drama and the bigger story. It's really an entertainment piece that has interesting explorations of morality, which I don't think you get in any other medium or any other style of entertainment.

How has feedback on Fable I and Fable II influenced the design of Fable III?

We didn't focus on moral choices as much this time. This time it was really about accessibility and usability. We got feedback suggesting that most of our players didn't play all of the game, or didn't understand how to use all our levelling-up systems. So that's really where our focus has been much more so than morality, which we've explored quite in depth in the last two games. We're moving into new pastures.

What do you mean by accessibility and usability? What's changed in Fable III to help players better understand the game?

It's really about making sure the story is clear and that you're on an adventure that you're enjoying. They're not breaking you out of that adventure, so rather than taking you to a 2D screen of stats and things that you're trying to work out so that you can progress on, we've woven it into the fiction of the story. We've got a sanctuary with John Cleese where all your stuff is kept; it's not in a big list. There's a place, and you've got a person who can help you. But as far as levelling up goes, we've got another place called "The Road to Rule" - a visual place of gates and chests where you can very clearly see how you are progressing through the game. It's woven into the fiction, so it's interesting and engaging in and of itself.

What was it like working with comedians such as John Cleese, Simon Pegg and Stephen Fry? Do you have any funny or interesting stories?

I personally didn't get to go to the recording sessions, which was a damn shame. One of our best stories has been Sir Ben Kingsley, who came in to play a character called Sabine (pictured above). He looked at the character, read it, then played it in a Welsh accent! It's really cool. The voice talent have really contributed to the performance and the style of the game, and they've really made a difference in adding a level of personality and drama that just wasn't there before and I don't think is there in a a lot of games. So we're very lucky.

There was a lot of hype over co-op play in Fable II, but it didn't turn out to be what people expected. What's your approach to co-op play this time around?

That's a very fair comment and one we definitely agree with. In Fable III, we have taken that next step, so it is two cameras, you're not tethered together again - which was awful in Fable II - and you come in as a Hero. So if I'm playing in your world, I come in as my full Hero, I have all my stuff with me, I can go into my inventory - the sanctuary, that is - and anything I collect in your world I can take back to my world. And more uniquely for any video game, we can form a business partnership and share our money, or we can get married, or we can have babies. We've definitely got some elements which are going to make the game feel very, very different for people to play.

How does the whole idea of co-op play sit within the big picture of Fable? You're the Hero, and you shape the destiny of the world, but now you're letting other Heroes into the world. Isn't that a contradiction?

We've kept the fiction very clear - it's your world, your Hero. If I come into your world, I'm going to get paid, and it's the best job you can get, so if you want to earn money, that's a really good way to do it. But we haven't blurred the edges between the worlds. It's your world, your King or Queen in it, your journey, and I'm there to help you, and vice versa. So we don't blur the lines at all - we keep it very clear.

It sounds like a totally different game. Will there be some players who won't like the changes in Fable III?

That's always possible, but I think we've really kept the essence of Fable. So what we're very much hoping is that the people who love Fable for what it is are going to love this even more, because it's a better story, a better realised world, and the whole thing is more compelling. And then we're also attracting a whole new audience that perhaps have been put off in the past. RPG comes with some stigmas - there are people who aren't really into that whole grinding thing and just want a cool story and a cool adventure. Hopefully, those people will come check out Fable III, and hopefully, they'll love it.


Comments

    This sounds terrible, I was just getting over my dissapointment with the second game and then this interview rolls along and confirms my fears.

    Seems like anything worthwhile has been stripped from the game.

    Oh boy here we go again with the 'choices' and 'moralities'. The second and first game were so linear and the choices are just as bad. Fable I had a certain charm that made me enjoy it. Fable II was trash and can easily be broken with that time slowdown spell and teleport.

      What amuses me about the choice and morality rubbish is that the interviewee rambles on about shades of grey and choices and when asked specifically about choice says that its not a major focus and has been replaced by accessibility (otherwise known as "Press X to win game").

      Amazing, Fable sure is breaking new ground with this whole shades of grey thing... oh wait, no I'm being sarcastic.

        THe whole game is going to be downloadable in eeisodps again, just like Fable 2. The first episode will be free again. But its not yet uncovered, when the eeisodps will be released

    I really get excited about Fable games but have yet to finish one yet.

    With the first it's because I was playing on a freind's xbox. And with the second...well there just seem to be so many better games out there.
    I think I'll go back, I did once but...I'll see I guess.

    Damn it Lionhead, every time they build me up only to confirm my deepest fears. They're sort of like that toy clown that looks really good from a distance, but when you get in close you realise that they're about to rip your heart out and use it as a suppository.

    I was dissapointed with Fable 2, but I was starting to get a bit hyped for Fable 3 and was planning a pre-order.

    After reading this interview, I won't be buying the game.

    Thank you Louise Murray, you brought me back to my senses and helped me realise that Fable 2 was bad and this will be as well.

    I don't like this talk of shades of gray. One of the things I loved about Fable and Fable 2 were that it was clear cut which choice was evil and which was good. Every RPG now a days is trying to do shades of gray and I do like it when they do, I love BioWares games which are full of shades of gray but sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy a good old black and white, good and evil game and that's what Fable gave me.

      Actually, you're right. Shades of grey are nice, but only in contrast, ironically, to the black and white choices. Sometimes it's nice to be able to choose between kicking someone out of a window or not.

    well to be honest, i cant wait for this game. I loved the two first Fables and have pre-ordered this one. There are so many people out there bad mouthing this game. Cant people be a little more optimistic?

      I know... it's RPG lite.

      I've enjoyed the past ones... and it's still likely to be a better game than say, Army of 2.

    I have preordered this game too and i really enjoyed the the first. I just dont understand peoples problem with this game?! I understand Lionhead promises more then it gives out and that there was a terribly glitch in the game (which i admit having not happened to me after 3 full games) and that the coop sucked but everyone complains about the gameplay etc. But Fallout 3 has game stopping glitchs and alot of rpgs over promise (Kotor, Mass Effect and many more) and very few developers try adding something so different to the genre

    Can anyone help me understand? Cause its really starting to bother me

      Its not that its adding something new to the genre, I don't think anyone would have too much of a problem with that, the problem is that its removing so much to the point where these games aren't really RPGs anymore.

      In the eyes of lionhead Fable is a RPG with a lot of twists on the genre thrown in, in my eyes its stopped being an RPG and is just a garden variety Action Adventure game with fart gestures thrown in.

      I used to be a big fan, I loved the first game but the franchise is sinking fast and all the promises made that could really improve the games either aren't included or just don't have any effect on the game as a whole. You can have sex with co-op buddies? Really Peter, shouldn't you be working on something less silly.

      I'm open to it being good and i'm open to buying it should that happen to occur, i'm just not holding my breath.

      If ONLY it was just the glitches. Technical problems in a game can always be ironed out in time, the problem with Fable is that it's going in a direction that simply can't be put away with a software update.

      Fable brings nothing new to the table. Peter Molyneux claims constantly how his next game will reinvent the genre but can you think of anything Fable does that other games haven't done better and earlier? I finished the first game and was halfway through the second and I can't recall a single character name or plot development if I tried. The series is just THAT pedestrian. Fable's lack of a large, dedicated fanbase compared with other RPGs speaks volumes.

      Which brings me to the morality system. Personally, I believe it's extremely gimmicky when developers put them into games. Some (Mass Effect 2) do it better than others (Avatar: The Game). But when Bioware's going through the effort of building multiple story arcs that carry on through sequels, shapes the path of the story, the lives of the supporting characters, how or if the story progresses at all.... you can't compete.

      Lionhead's essentially boiled down the Morality system into a series of rudimentary and juvenile fart/belch/flirt icons that couldn't be more black and white (sorry) if it tried. It's lazy in the extreme. This isn't 1990, that sort of half-assed 'lipstick on a pig' approach just doesn't cut it.

        Thank you guys. Its mostly due to the promises by lionhead, mainly Peter, and the fact its become a rudimentary and simple system that has devolved.

        ^What he said. Summed it up perfectly.

        Hell, even if you ignore the fact that these games are meant to be RPGs, you can't ignore the fact that the series has yet to have a memorable character.

        Molyneux seems to be aiming for the quirky humour and charm of a Double Fine game, but its just not there, farting so hard that you shit yourself might be funny to a 9 year old but not for gamers who don't rely on their parents to buy them games.

    Peter Molyneux was blowing smoke up our ass this whole time? Well I'll be! Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me with every goddamn game?

    I don't care what anyone else thinks I'm pumped for this game.

      Yeah, I was actually wary of Fable II because of all the Molyneux hate, but jeez, I loved the game. My having a chicken suit probably helped that, I will admit.

    80% of people play good? That actually really surprises me. I find being evil to be more freeing, but then again, I'm evil IRL so...

    I absolutely don't understand why there's all this hate. They were boh great games but whatever. And the british humour is awesome i tell you! Awesome!

    Haters gonna hate. I loved the first two games and can hardly wait for this.

    I enjoy RPG's for the story, not stuffing around with character sheets trying to figure out if it's better to spend 1 stat here or there.

    That's what Fable does well, choices you make have lasting effects on the world, not just 1 NPC who's greeting dialog changes based on wether on not you scammed him for 50 gold.

    The only other game that does this is well is Mass Effect. You have to carefully consider your choices, because those choices will have ramifications throughout the game.

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