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Peter Molyneux: Fable 3 and Emotional Games

Fable 3 in action

At this point, Molyneux and assistants fire up a closely guarded Xbox 360 to demonstrate Fable 3. It’s set around 60 years on from the second game, and the world of Albion has undergone its own industrial revolution. The scene shows the main character on a cobbled, lamp-lit street.

Molyneux shows you can pick up your daughter, or take her hand and walk her through the city; while this happens, she’s still an AI-driven character – when he tried to walk her into the pub, she giggles and says “Dad, that’s silly, I can’t go in there.” Next, he shows off a darker side of the touch mechanic, taking a beggar by the hand. “He thinks I’m taking him home to meet my family, Molyneux explains, “but actually, I’m going to sell him into a slavery at one of the factories.

PM: You can see, as soon as you give the power [to the in game character] to reach out, touch and embrace, it makes a really big difference. It’s so much more intimate than just pressing X – because you physically have to drag him there, it’s so much more involving. There are so many times when entertainment, a film or something, hits us like a tidal wave and then it just goes. If you own your own touches, if you’re making them, then you’re so much more likely to remember them.

Peter Molyneux: Fable 3 and Emotional Games Fable 3 in Action
A touch mechanic helps you feel connected to your loved ones

FR: So you’ve said Fable 3 is going to use Natal?
PM: We’ve been working on Natal for some time – we created Milo for the first demo – and we’d be crazy not to integrate the two. I have to be careful what I say, there are PR policeman in the audience with sniper rifles… Natal is a fantastic amazing device because it’s so new and different. It makes designers like me sweat like never before. We were getting lazy, tweaking people’s thumbs for 20 years. A button does this, it’s all so standard. We, as an industry, we have failed, to some extent, to create a unique form of entertainment and Natal makes you [as a games designer] think again.

You still need a controller to play Fable 3 but there are places in the world where you can use Natal, where it’s cute, funny, engaging. You don’t need it but it does enable an enhanced Fable 3.

FR: What appealed to you about this industrial revolution setting?
PM: We’ve always had a feel for Fable as a game that’s got a big story, that starts in King Arthurs time and goes through this big arc so in some ways we’re [just] playing out that, but I’ve often thought it would be brilliant to be walking through Charles Dickens’ London. It was such a dark place and very episodic too – so we’re doing that with Fable 3, we’ll give you the first big episodes, and you’ll be able to download new episodes, which is analogous to the way Dickens wrote.

[Molyneux goes on to talk about the levels of internet awareness in the game] Some of the shops in Albion are linked to the internet, and every so often, populated by stuff from Lionhead. You don’t have to go out to some horrible dashboard and download the Armageddon Pack 5.

Peter Molyneux: Fable 3 and Emotional Games Fable 3 in Action
Fable 3 is still set in Albion, but the land has undergone an industrial revolution

FR: How did you research the game?
PM: We looked at some of the great rebels, like Che Guevara, some of the great monarchs and dictators, Henry VIII and Stalin. Henry VIII spent five per cent of the entire national income on his own personal wine cellar. No wonder he died of syphilis. He was terribly corrupt. We saw there was this theme throughout history, that people will promise pretty much anything on the way to becoming ruler, and drop these when they’re in power.

FR: You’ve talked a lot about immersion – how immersive can games really get?
PM: At best playing a game is like looking through a security window where you can’t touch anything – we’d love to break through that window. We have a long way to go before we can make characters who are really like you – or who like you, love you – how would that make you feel? We’re explorers who have just discovered this new continent of emotion.

FR: Don Quixote lost his mind getting too obsessed and too immersed in the novels he read. Can games be too immersive?
PM: My vision is imagine if we could have a really joyful experience. What we showed at E3 with Milo, it’s a little crack in that. We can make something wonderful and joyful. Games can be as full and rich as films and books and there are multitudes of ways of executing that, which a lot of computer games haven’t even touched upon. It’s very rare to have a romantic interest in game for instance, yet very rare in movies for that not to be there.

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