Veteran UK game designer Peter Molyneux, who’s now working on Fable 2, feels that players should be able to directly affect the game world, immediately and specifically, as well as indirectly over time.
The head of Lionhead Studios and creative brain behind such games as Black and White and Fable spoke at the Game Developers Conference London today about how Fable 2 is being developed inspirationally.
An explicit disclaimer at the start of his 'Inspirations For Next-Generation Designs' lecture noted that all examples cited in his talk are not features of the game Fable 2, which is still in development, but are still considered “experiments” because they may be altered or cut completely between now and the game’s release.
Still, Molyneux emphasizes Lionhead’s position on next-generation gameplay as having a dynamic world. “It’s Lionhead’s job to approach things in a very inspirational way,” he says. The idea of a truly dynamic world, he says, comprises the world, characters, story, and combat—essentially the pieces of the game that Molyneux considers primary to the game experience. “We’ve got to push ourselves a bit further and the first place we can do that is in worlds,” he says.
One of the major changes of new games is the elimination of a heads up display or GUI, and Molyneux’s new game plans to keep on this new schema. He says there will be no hit points meter, no stamina bar, and no tutorials; all the information the player needs will still be provided, but it will be built into the game in other ways, such as visually or aurally.
As for dynamically affected in-game objects, Molyneux insists that the world needs to have a bigger influence on the gameplay. “When I’m playing role-playing games, I’m not really making a difference on the world,” he says. Fable 2, on the other hand, plans to set the story over the course of a lifetime, which will allow the player to have a dramatic effect on the world.
Other elements of design that are changing from Fable’s development to Fable 2’s are what the players can purchase and own (wealth is likely to play a large part in Fable 2’s characters); the responsiveness of and fantastical quality of combat (Fable 2 hopes to keep the combat more dramatic than realistic, but more responsive to objects and locations around the player); and the range of experience the player can have (Fable 2 is aiming to allow the main character to become pregnant, give birth, and raise a child).
The introduction of long-term family seems to be one of the driving inspirations for the game, allowing for more complex relationships to develop over time. Good and evil will still play a part in character creation, as it did in Fable, but in Fable 2 Molyneux says Lionhead is experimenting with passing on the nature of the character (good or evil) to his or her offspring.
Molyneux concluded his talk on the note that Lionhead’s aspiration is to think about games early, introducing new features and testing ideas early in a games development, when it’s still feasible to work them in.
In Black and White, he says, Lionhead had some very novel ideas, but they were born too late in the development. For Fable 2 he says the ideas needed to come before the production: “because it’s the start, we’re really weaving [our inspirations] in.”