It seems like, when you play an RPG as a gamer who likes the genre, at different times you want different things; that's one of the reasons why the genre has its own unique fan base. I have very fond memories of grinding levels in certain RPGs that I've played, and it seems like in other genres there's this pressure to propel people forward always and to always be showing them something new.
PM: It is an overwhelming urge, and that's all part of the craft of what we're making. There aren't many -- if you look at this in an analogous way to movies -- there aren't many movies like action games, which are all about actions.
Most action movies have the love interest bit; they have the "Ah, my parents are wonderful" bit; the sort of enriching bit. They have those -- to me, a lot of them are very bland -- but the good movies that do it right, just when you think, "Oh, God, I don't want any more action; I just want a bit of downtime," then they give you that downtime.
I think we're just realizing that what we're making is a sort of arc of enjoyment, and that arc of enjoyment should have definitely a variety in it. It's so easy to get the balance of that wrong, I think.
It's like the basic philosophical argument that, without evil, good can't exist; without some downtime, action doesn't have any meaning.
PM: That's right; absolutely right. Yeah, you need the high action moments, and you need the low action moments. Quite often the journey to the action moment can be as enjoyable, in a very different way, than the actual action and the anticipation of defeating the enemy. It's a very interesting thing with Fable. I don't keep on saying "Fable III" because I want to market Fable III to you; I'm just saying it to show that we think about these things.
With Fable III, building up the bad guy -- and Josh will remember this -- I keep on saying, "Make the bad guy a real bad guy. Don't make him a little bit of a nice guy; make him a bad guy. Make me want to defeat him!" And then, when I defeat him, that will feel more emotionally powerful, and then you can turn the cards and say that this bad guy isn't all he's cracked up to be. Then it becomes more interesting.
But there's a lot of craft and skill which all comes together, which makes games a true art form now; I think it is growing up to be a true art form.
You also talked about how some of your motivation for streamlining or making Fable III accessible is commercial.
PM: Yeah. I mean, a lot of it is commercial. A lot of it is -- I said "We want five million people to play our game." That's me as a greedy kid just saying, "I want more; I want more." Of course you want people to enjoy it more.
A lot of times, I think, if I speak to someone and they say, "Ah, I really liked Fable, once I got into it" -- that's a disaster! That's a disastrous thing to think that you were crafting something which somebody has to struggle to get into.
That's never going to work, and that's what accessibility and simplicity are -- making sure, when you get the game, within a few minutes you're understanding who you are and who your allies are. These are all impossibly hard crafts that we've had to learn, and it is all about getting more people to enjoy it, for sure.
I think that people have a knee-jerk negative reaction to a commercial impetus.
PM: It's an odd thing, that, isn't it? It really is. I think it's kind of saying, "I want to make a game because I want to make it just for the creative sense." Is that right to do that? I think that you can be unbelievably brave and be commercial as well. I don't think one is the polar opposite of the other.
Quite often, we mistake this altruistic reason for making a game for being "Oh, well, that's just a piece of art." But why can't pieces of art be as successful as anything else? I think they should be; I think there's very good reason to be.
It's almost as if we're ashamed of success -- especially being British! The British people hate successful people; that's why our newspapers are so successful -- because we as a nation build people up, and as soon as they smell success we smash them down into the ground again! That's part of the British culture; we're ashamed of success.
I think the problem is sometimes people overreact; you see people go, "Well, this has got to be commercial. We can't innovate." I think people get a bit nervous themselves when they're faced with that problem, and we're finding out as things evolve that that's not actually true.
PM: Yeah. This is where, I think, creative people really have to have a voice: when something starts to be successful, the overwhelming urge is to use things like focus groups and research saying, "Well, 90 percent of the people enjoyed this in your game, so you should do more of this and less of this. Oh, no, we don't want any new stuff because they might not enjoy it as much."
I think that's where you need creative people to say, "Look; this is what we created. It was this successful, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't carry on innovating." When something -- like what so often happens in the movies -- when something gets into that rut and it's almost defined and created by the research, then I think bad things tend to start happening.
I have no doubt in my mind that a film like Avatar would never have existed if it hadn't been for James Cameron's force of will in saying, "Look, now I'm going to create six-legged animals. Why? Because I think it's right." I could bet you that some logistical people would sit down and say, "Why don't you make them four-legged animals, because they're so much easier to animate?" "No. I want six-legged animals." And it ends up, as a whole, being a more successful thing.
It's the creative texture that's required.
PM: Yeah, it's the creative texture and the belief in the creative process; the belief that the creative process should allow you the flexibility to do things against what research says and that bucks the trend of research. Sometimes, like in Fable, we use research a lot to actually say, "Okay, what bits didn't work, and what bits did work?" But I think if you feel like the creative direction of something is led by research, then that's a bit scary.