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Peter Molyneux: Fable II, From Conception To Reality
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Peter Molyneux: Fable II, From Conception To Reality

October 27, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

Lionead's Xbox 360-exclusive action adventure title Fable II has just debuted -- and to significant acclaim thus far, it seems.

And of course, the charismatic and talented -- if divisive -- personality at the center of this massive development effort is Populous and Black & White creator Peter Molyneux, whose Lionhead Studios developed the game, its first since it was acquired by Microsoft in 2006.

The grand ideas and inspirations get talked about a lot. But what about the actual processes used in creating the game? Gamasutra had a chance to speak with Molyneux during this month's Tokyo Game Show in Japan, and asked about the development process of the game, from white boxing and prototyping to high-level design; in a major reveal, Molyneux details the intensive process by which Lionhead formulated the story sequences in the game.

Gamasutra also discussed the then-breaking controversy over the possible exclusion of co-op play, a promised feature, from the shipped game -- and how stories like this can become massive, for a brief period, in today's media environment.

I do have one real question that I've been really interested to hear your reaction to. It was announced that the cooperative play would be added later, after the game shipped.

PM: That's not quite...

Please clarify.

PM: We thought this was a complete non-event. But let me explain why we thought it was a non-event. Because we're from the PC world originally, and of course you always patch PC versions, and we never intended not to do it for day-one ship.

When you're doing multiplayer, as you probably know, you need to get single player completely bug-free before you weed out the final bugs on multiplayer, because if there are any inconsistencies in the two versions when you're playing over Live, it just won't work. You end up trying to fix multiplayer bugs but you're actually fixing single player bugs.

So we got to the end of doing the single player game. It went into certification; it came out the other end. And we knew we had three weeks left just to weed out some of those final bugs in the multiplayer. And we greedily used that time. We always intended for it to be a day one patch.

We were totally mystified, in a way, that people got so upset and thought that we were taking features out of the game. And it wasn't that at all. The multiplayer is now in certification. It looks almost certain that it is going to be there for a day one patch. These things are never 100%, but we've never failed certification before. So I'm 100% certain that it'll be there day one.

I think you'll see this more and more. That the extra three weeks that you get when you don't have to manufacture disks, it's invaluable.

[Ed. note: The patch was completed and put up for download October 21, the day the game went on sale in North America.]

Most big games and probably even many small games have a Title Update the day you put the game in the drive, so it's nothing new. I think what it is, is that the broader question is, you said you're surprised to hear this reaction. Do you think that things got blown out of proportion? Or that people maybe not intentionally, maybe intentionally, misconstrued what was happening?

PM: Well I looked at a lot of the posts and some people were saying, and I can completely understand this, "Oh my God, it's happening again. We were promised features, and they're not going to be there." And with the heritage that I unfortunately gave Fable I, I can completely understand that.

And I just don't think we thought it through. And I think actually we should have waited a little bit longer and said, "Oh look, it's going to be a day one patch." But instead we were a little bit more diplomatic and said it may be a day one patch, which made people...

The PR cycles are getting -- the feedback loop is getting tighter and tighter and people are so plugged in these days that, even if a big story only lasts 24 hours, it'll create a lot of noise.

PM: Yeah. I know. It is. And in some ways it's quite exciting. It feels like you're on the edge of this whirlwind that could just blow up in your face at any time. And in other ways it's amazingly invigorating, in that, if you say something in an interview like this, to see people react.

Because normally, to be honest with you, I think I sit opposite you, and I think "Oh God, this must sound so bloody boring. I'm sure nobody's going to take any interest at all." And then when you get these explosions of interest, it is a fantastic feeling sometimes, when it goes well. You lose sleep when it goes badly, definitely.


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Comments


Nate Berens
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It was pretty inspiring to see a designer that was so clearly able to learn from mistakes of the past.



Also, it's always nice to read about a developer that realizes the importance of starting with story and emotional impact on the player. Molyneux is correct that Fable I's biggest failure was in emotionally engaging the player. I loved Fable but I don't remember a bit of the story. Reading about Fable II's emphasis on story from the get-go is very exciting to me.

John Petersen
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I often battle my own emotions of good and evil, and today I decide not to kick the dog.

Josh Barker
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I wasn't going to play Fable II immediatly because it seemed too similar to the first game but considering all the work they did on story and emotion which are the two things that make me most passionate about games, it's moved to the top of my list. It also makes me happy to see a vulnerable developer who isn't cocky and appears to really care. Great interview. Thanks!

Arjen Meijer
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It's a shame my Xbox is still broken I'd like to play it at home but ill wait for it to come on the pc i guess.

Peter is a nice person that's pushing the limits like everyone should do, always been a fan of him!

Billy Bissette
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I'm disappointed that Mr. Molyneux doesn't understand why people were so upset about the co-op patch. But he does mention the reason. He is thinking in PC terms, where people have learned to expect products to ship missing features and to sometimes even ship broken. The world where consumers have for many years been paying to beta test software.



That isn't the world of console games. Or at least it wasn't until console systems started supporting patches.


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