You mentioned the promises that your character will be making along the first part of the game. How does that play out with the leveling-up mechanics and with the action?
This whole idea of experience and experience-spending is still a very, very important one, but it’s completely different in “Fable III”. So, normally in role-playing games, you get experience for fighting, which kind of doesn’t work when you’ve got a game that also gives you the ability to get married, the ability to make friends or to buy houses. We needed a score which applied to all of that. We translated it into the idea of followers. The more followers you get, the more powerful you become.
Did you get that idea off of Twitter?
[Laughs] It does sound like that, doesn’t it? But, no, the followers lead into another visual representation that we’re calling the Road to Rule. It’s another location that shows you your journey, your path to becoming King. As you earn more followers, these gates on the Road unlock. They are like levels. And what you are doing is getting closer and closer to this castle in the distance, so when you go through the final gate, you are at the right level to take on the castle. I love the idea, I’ve made it super clear. The player sees that he’s going up levels and getting nearer to becoming King.
So, what does changing up these systems offer the player? And does it teach you anything, in terms of design?
The other thing that we found, which was a really exciting thing when we realized it, is that if you asked ten people what “Fable III” was to them, you’d get ten different answers. Some people say, “I love the socialization side, the customization side, the getting married, I love the combat, whatever.” Well, in “Fable I” and “Fable II,” we made the mistake of just throwing all this stuff at you, without any sense of pacing your progression. But, now as you go through the gates on the Road to Rule, there are these chests. On one side of the road, all of the chests have to do with combat, so you can get extra spells, you can power up your combat. The other side is all the stuff to do with the other parts of the game. If you want to, you can spend your followers on dyeing your clothes. Effectively, you are crafting your own “Fable III” experience. So some people will play this game and never want to get married, they’ll never want to get involved in sin, they’ll never want to buy houses, why do we force it down their throats? Now we can give you the option, it all kind of flows through these followers.
The followers are a bit abstracted; what will your interactions be with people in the gameworld?
So, here we have this woman that we’ve been taking into the pub. We’ve actually turned her into an alcoholic, so much so that last time we came back here, she started throwing up all over the place. I find it funny, but it probably has serious political consequences about drinking in the game. And, again, you have unlocked this as part of your game experience. If you are not someone who wants to do this, you don’t have to do it.
And we’re trying to win her trust here?
What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to win her trust and she’s given you a challenge to take her trust a little bit further and you may be able to get married to her. She’s asked me to deliver a package to the mystery dweller’s camp but what I can do is just take her along with me, just by reaching out my hand.
Are we going to take her with us?
Peter: We’ll just take her with us. You can do this to anybody. And you know, just taking her with us will gain you these followers. I’m gaining these followers and this will increase the bond between the two of us and she may well help me in combat, she may prove helpful in social situations as well. In fact if we take her to this romantic place, she may well display her, er, affections… It is very emotional because if we can get her to hate me, then we’ll have to drag her along. And if someone comes to you and asks for a promise to be fulfilled, you can then take them by the hand and drag them into your dungeon and have them executed. It’s a very harsh thing to do when they’re begging for mercy and you’re dragging them along, but we let the player do that.
With so much that you’re allowing the player to do, it can’t be easy to describe the scope of the game to newbies…
There’s this terrible, awful, atrocious thing that executives like to say. They say, “show me the fun.” That’s when I feel like going postal and going out with a machine gun and going corporately postal on them because what do you mean,”show you the fun?” It’s like saying, “Alright, ok, let’s look at your movie, you’ve got five seconds to show me how amazing the movie is.” It’s an impossible thing to do. What you are doing is putting the player into a certain state of mind. It’s not just an input/rsponse loop. If I had to mash a button for 15 minutes, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got on the screen, it’s going to get tedious. Your thumb is going to get sore, you’re just going to get exhausted from just driving through this. We’re trying to create pacing and balance, and it’s knowing when you let the player breathe and take stock of where they are. That’s not got anything to do with gameplay, nothing to do with gameplay. It’s all to do with, you know, with getting the person emotionally involved and taking them on that journey. I think from moment-to-moment you are balancing the amount of interaction the player has and the amount of interaction they don’t have. When a scene in a game goes on too long, I know what I’m doing, just putting the controller down and letting my eyes glaze over. As a game designer, that’s when you know, “Oh, ok I’ve lost you.”