When you sit down at the beginning of the project and you... the undertaking of making a 360 game is a very complicated process, and there's a lot of thought on how to manage it, whether to do a lot of pre-design. A lot of people these days, and for very good reasons, want to be as reactive as they can be -- make things, test them, change them. How do you approach design these days, in this environment?
PM: Yes. I mean, that's one of the things that you learn, is that when you have got 100 people, you just cannot be that creative whirlwind anymore. You just can't walk into an office of 100 people and say, "I've had a really good idea, hey let's all do this for awhile".
Because it is all about the genius of planning out. There are people behind the scenes whose names you never hear, who are brilliant at planning out these terrible experiments that I give them.
Part of this process that we started off in Fable II was to say, "Right, we are going to experiment and we're going to take that experiment seriously, and we're going to have competitive experiments going on, and we're going to feel absolutely fine."
There's one rule in those experiments. Any experiment that was done, all the code and art would be thrown away, so you weren't burdened. A lot of the time you're burdened by the need to make things solid and sustainable and, "God, we're writing a piece of code now, and by the time we're finished it'll be three years old."
These experiments, we iterated around. The dog was an experiment, and the combat was an experiment, and the free roaming was an experiment, the breadcrumb trail was an experiment. There were many different iterations, and that is when the team is smaller and a lot more agile.
And then when you get to the end of those experiments you have to think about it, and say to yourself, "Right, I've got my list of ingredients. That is it. I'm going to make my game soup out of this list of ingredients. I'm not having any more. I can have more of this sort of ingredient and less of this sort of ingredient, but I'm not going to add a new ingredient."
That first experiment took about a year, and allowed the planners to plan out more consistently, into the rest of the project. What we don't do, a lot of the times, I think publishers have this term -- which I think is a totally invalid term. They say, "Are you in production?" We don't -- there isn't a sense of that, because sometimes you can't say that code is fully in production, because quite often, even though you've got these experiments, you know what you're doing; you're still putting something in and taking something out again because it may not work, or may not work for this system.
Does that answer your question?
Yes. The question I have, just from a perspective of how you do it at your studio is, do you work with Fable I and use that as a prototyping environment or did you work with other tools?
PM: Yes, we did, and there was a lot of time where we sort of white boxed using the Fable I code. I mean, one of the problems that we did have which was a complete nightmare, is not having the tools to support the environments we wanted to create until very late.
There was a lot of white boxing, but you know, you can only do a certain amount of that white boxing. Sure enough, you can say, "There's a tree going to be here, and there's going to be a building here," but how far apart they are depends on how fast your hero moves, which depends on how fast your framerate is.
I mean, there's so many iterations that you go through. I could show you the white box world that was done in Fable I. You may recognize parts of it. But an awful lot of it does change.
We had a real problem, because we wanted to tell this story that you would remember. Normally, when we did Fable I, for example, the story actually didn't come together till the last three months, because you didn't have the regions. And you had to have the regions to have the voice stuff in.
And this was our problem. If we were to tell a truly great story we need to get script writers and directors, and gosh knows, and actors involved way before our world was even started.
So we did something which I think you are going to see more of, in this industry, called staging. What we did: We wrote the story. We got a script writer in. He wrote the script to the story.
Someone with a background in linear media?
PM: Yeah, in fact the guy who did it was called Richard Bryant, who's a smart, clever guy who doesn't mind working with an idiot like me. He literally would sit very calmly in the meeting while I ranted and raved about emotion, and then write down, and say "Right, then if you want the person to feel that, than this is the line that they need to say."
We did all that. We then hired what's called a sound stage. It was a huge vast white room. We got seven actors in. We flew in a film director from Hollywood who was experienced in doing some film work, but also experienced in teaching people to direct. And we acted out the entirety of the story of Fable II, within this white space. We had never done that before.
And what we found is that we could get to that [result we wanted]. You've got to put it in... It's got to be there before you know it's there. We got to that before we had to put it in the game. So the story, the narrative, the emotional points of the story were there, acted in this sound space.