You told me that you were interested in the future of how online can be used in games, and I know that Fable has dabbled in ways of using online that are a little bit different, and I find that most uses of online tend to be very typical, and there's probably a lot more room to explore, so I was curious about your thoughts on that.
JA: Yeah, that's definitely true. Where things stand today, I don't think any of us can complain about the fun that can be had on Halo, on Call of Duty, on Gears, and those games that I think of as a sport, where you are generally playing against other people to be the big dog of that match, of that day.
That is fun, and there's absolutely no problem with that, but personally, there's a lot to be said about the kind of relationship you can have online with other players that isn't competitive. We want to build on the anecdotes we've heard from people who have played Fable and said, "I played with my kids" or "it's a game I played with my partner."
We want to make sure we capitalize on those experiences also, because co-op, in a lot of ways, yields -- I don't want to say it's more fun, because that's in the eye of the beholder -- but it certainly yields a different kind of experience that has a lot of merit to it.
For us, with online, we looked at two things. How do we capitalize on these experiences people have together? We created two things that I think are interesting. One is we are letting two heroes get married.
Unlike Fable II, you can have two heroes in a game, you can have two dogs. But now you can get married and have a family. You can go on the entire adventure together; you can level together, you can buy property together. One person can buy property while the other decorates houses and gets a job, one person can take care of the kid while the other goes to the job. It's pretty endless what you can do.
You can hire a nanny to watch the kid if both of you want to go adventuring, you can do a lot in that kind of experience. No game I know has ever done it, and I'm not sure any game but us could do it.
On top of that, there are many kinds of relationships you can have with people. You can have business partnerships where you and a friend elect to share all your gold and play the game together as two business partners buying houses, buying property, splitting the money earned, and really trying to create a new kind of gameplay based around co-op.
Is any of that stuff asynchronous?
JA: Some of it is. There's a certain amount of -- you can manage your relationships with people even when they are not online. If you decide to break a business partnership, you don't have to be in the same game to do that.
But because the experience is based around both of you being there, in most cases, we designed it so you both play together. You can do a lot of management of your relationships asynchronously, but the actual relationships are built around two people talking to each other and actually having the experience together. It will support drop-in/drop-out, but we are trying to encourage people to play together.
I don't know about other people, but the only time I play co-op is when I spend a little bit of time to get off the ground on my own. I don't just turn on my Xbox and play co-op.
JA: I'm actually the same way. You can break it down into two kinds of players. Two people that go out the same day and pre-order the game and eagerly wait for it to come out so they can play together the first night, and then you've got people who are more drop-in/drop-out who just want someone to drop in their game to play for a while, but they are not so linked in to the hip.
The thing for us was to make sure we provided an experience to both kinds of players. We also support the idea of if you want to just drop into somebody's game, you can earn gold, and we treat it as a job, and you can earn quite a bit of gold if you're helping other players out.
If you look at social games on Facebook and whatever, I think what's good about them is their asynchronicity, not necessarily the social interactions they are espousing -- but that's opinion on my part.
JA: For those games, I completely agree with you. For each platform, we have to design the experience we think is best for that platform. I think the beautiful thing about FarmVille and those games is that because they are asynchronous and on the PC or mobile applications, they are really built around a coffee break mentality, where you can play them during a coffee break, waiting at the bus, sitting at your desk, or whatever.
With console games, the good ones are high-end, dramatic experiences that have a story to them, and an overall dramatic arc that you want people to experience and feel fully immersed in. You play it on your fancy TV with your fancy surround sound and make it a fully immersive experience. You can certainly combine the two, but for us, the first stop on the train was making a compelling experience under that banner.
It's interesting because Nintendo is really pushing the idea of the tag mode, recently with Dragon Quest IX. Nintendo is also making a big deal that the 3DS is going to have always-on communication, and all your games that have this function will look for passive communication with other 3DSes. I can see that making more of an impact in my life than a co-op mode, in a lot of games.
JA: That's one reason why we like our orbs so much. If you remember, we are bringing back our co-op orbs that either let you see everyone playing Fable, or just your friends playing Fable, and at that point, you can talk to them, find out what they are doing, and choose to jump into their game, give them a gift, or do whatever you want -- but you don't have to actively play with them.
I guess I just see a lot of places to go, and it's cool to feel like we are only hitting the tip of the iceberg, in the sense that we have a lot of stuff still to come. But personally, it's a little frustrating because I'm not interested in what is typically defined as "multiplayer".
JA: I definitely think there's a way for us to continue to try and find things for everybody, there's no question in that. I do feel like the most important thing to do is not copy what everybody else is doing but to try to bring new things to that puzzle. We understand the Halos, the Gears, and how all that works, at least thus far. You can kind of guess where those are going to go. But thinking about asynchronous play, how to build on the relationships we have in our game, are things that have yet to be proven. There are new areas and new directions to go.