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Molyneux: 'We Didn't Have The Time To Craft [ Fable III ] Into What That Dream Was'
Molyneux: 'We Didn't Have The Time To Craft [Fable III] Into What That Dream Was'
June 27, 2011 | By Staff

June 27, 2011 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Design

In a new Gamasutra feature interview, veteran developer Peter Molyneux talks about how Fable III didn't live up to his hopes -- saying that this has resulted in a "very, very different process" for Lionhead Studios moving forward.

One of the game's ambitious ideas was to take leveling out of the user interface, abstractly represented by numbers, and put it directly into the game -- tie it to the world, the character, and key moments in the story. Unfortunately, Molyneux says, this did not come across as hoped in the final product.

"I thought the idea of leveling outside the GUI, but leveling in the environment and the world was actually quite a good one, but I'm not sure..."

"The real dream of that leveling process was that, as you went through each gate, there would be these tough choices for the player. Which chest should I open? This one or that one? The feeling that you're going through the game at your own pace, but having to make these tough choices, was never actually realized," he says.

The problem, he says, was with the way the development studio worked.

"The process, the way that we designed, and the way that we crafted -- meant that the game came together very late. That is one of the things that we're changing; that is just such an old school way of working."

This left the team with "so little time to balance and refine" the game, says Molyneux. "That meant that what could have been a great mechanic turned out to be a good idea."

"I don't think that good ideas are a reason to do something; I think it has to feed into the overall experience to be a great idea. I liked the idea of not pressing the pause key and going to some abstracted GUI; I think that worked reasonably well."

He also admits, however, that "we didn't have the time to craft that into what that dream was."

"Lionhead -- especially me -- has never created projects in less than two years. This was the first time we ever did that," he says.

So how have things changed since? "It's because of those things that, now, when we approach development, it's very different, because we want to know precisely how long the experience we're crafting is up front, rather than waiting to the end, so that we have a clear idea how each of these mechanics is used, how they're meted out, how they're exploited, and how they're really used to amplify the whole drama of what that is.

"So we've got a very, very different process of designing now," Molyneux says. "We've spent a long time thinking about that and doing our research on how you can have a creatively-led production process and how you can take the complete randomness out of the way that a lot of ideas are developed and evolved."

The full interview goes into further depth on the travails of developing Fable III, contains new information about Milo, and more -- and is live now on Gamasutra.

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David Amador
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Every single time, excuses excuses. Fable 1 was a great game but a disappointment compared to what Mr. Molyneux promised.

So, what lessons have you learned Mr. Molyneux? Don't promise stuff you don't even know it's possible or not or at least only talk about it when they are implemented.

Pogo Wolf
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Personally, I don't care what the excuses are. There IS NO excuse for releasing a game with that many bugs and NOT fixing them.

Yet they had enough time to release a bunch of DLC that broke the game even more.

I, for one, WILL NOT be buying Fable 4.

Thierry Tremblay
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What if Fable 4 is very good and has no bugs?

John Martins
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He'll probably make that promise among others, then none of them will be kept.

Gary Beason
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Parts of Fable 2 were excellent, while others were dreadful and oversold. I liked that I could make my character say or perform several actions whenever I wanted, reminding somewhat of the old text adventures where I could type anything and be surprised by the reactions. Unfortunately, that experience wasn't deep, and it still felt more like canned dialogue than free speech. But at least, I could fart whenever I wanted. At first, Fable 2 was fun, but it quickly became boring and easy. (Not to mention that I hated the invisible walls preventing me from going wherever I wanted, an inane design for an open world.)

At this point, I feel that Molyneux has given us his best, but he will continue to promise better. I have no interest in them, especially when they seem like such gimmicks.

Dave Sodee
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1 and 2 where ok but 3 sucked and did not feel newer or better just the same old with crap tacked on.

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I don't know. I feel he is stuck in previous decades when games were sold on promises, and we tended to overlook cut features because they would be "in the sequel".

I thoroughly enjoyed Fable II. Fable III was...interesting. Was still a good game, even though the re playability is low.

I still enjoy Molyneaux though. He is passionate, and I haven't been disappointed by him yet.

kevin wright
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Fable 3 is the last of this franchise I will play- it is a product that shows glaringly why we need to develop memorable, fun and good design instead of profitability. 10 years from now, no one is going to look back and say "I wish they still made games that were fun like 'Fable3' (or similar); I miss pie making/lute playing.

Jonathan Gilmore
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Agreed. In hindsight I should have realized when he kept talking about sales targets that Fable 3 was going to be more about dolla dolla bills than about crafting a fantastic game.

I loved Fable 1 (even if it was a bit short) and I did enjoy Fable 2 a lot (especially the Spire sequences), but Fable 3 really left me cold. Some good ideas, lots of extremely poor implementation, in almost every way a major step backwards.

Alan Jack
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As someone who struggles to define the roles of producer and designer in a practical sense, I feel for Molyneaux - what he talks about here is very much the same thing as what I see happen with a lot of student projects around me: clever ideas, big plans, but no real thought of how to implement them realistically.

It gives me the impression that Molyneaux has a great understanding of games, and a great imagination, but little understanding of how to make a modern game. I feel for him - I struggle to get my head around scheduling and planning, but unfortunately as budgets, expectations and team sizes grow, these things become exponentially more important.

Maybe he just needs to find the right producer?

Keith Patch
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They just need to stop announcing features before they are set in stone... this way people won't be able to whine about their disappointment.

I like hearing about the things they are trying to do... but clearly, gamers do not. I think they should have a post-release to talk about all of the cool things they tried to do and why they didn't make it. It would appeal to people like me, and it'd stop the complaints.

Glenn Sturgeon
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I like the first 2 fable games, i still don't have 3.

I would say he over hyped the first game but the franchies is fun and pretty unique.

It has it own look and feel which i think is realy important, specialy in a generation of clones.

Besides theres hardly any action RPGs made these days i'd hate to see the series fail.

The reason i don't have F3 yet is becouse i've seen so many people who liked F2 say this new title sux and i realy enjoyed fable2. Yes it was buggy and it had optimisation issues but theres nothing else like it as far as an active franchies goes. I would say its easy but thats not a bad thing IMO if i want to play a challenging action rpg i already have demons souls.

Granted it'd be nice to see fable steer a bit towards the depth legend of mana (another easy but fun game) had but with all the interactivity with NPCs of the 1st two fable games as well.

I think peter is very ambitious and gets excited wanting to see the end product as much as the franchies fans. That is too rare, i've only seen a couple of people in the industry like that. The guys at Runic games are pretty fired up about Space marine and i like that. It makes me think they will do the best they can to make a fun game. I think peter does the same and doing your best under whatever circumstances the work is being done is all you can hope for a guy to do. The delivery is up to the company, dev team along with any money and time restrictions. I think if pete could do it all(solo) to make it just as he visioned, he would.

Jonathan Gilmore
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Don't get Fable 3, it will sour your memories of the first two games. In particular, the limitations on NPC interaction really obthered me, more even than the new menu system.

J Benjamin Hollman
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The day that Peter Molyneux actually figures out what the hell he's doing, it will be the death of Lionhead. I personally wish we had 10 such pompous Redcoats for every director who thinks a proper sequel is to take the design from their previous game, stuff it in a bottle and send it off to market with a new, tackier label.

So I say Godspeed, you barmy Englishman.

P.S. -- Fable 3 was just awful

Joe McGinn
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Seems like a lot of excuse when the real reason Fable 3 underperformed is right there in the artcile - Microsoft didn't give them enough time to make the game. Seems simple enough.

Florian Garcia
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I respect Peter Molyneux and I've always been waiting for the new Fable games without expecting more than discovering a new tale and good/bad rpg gameplay.

Of course, I've always wished for specific improvement after finishing one (for example the very limited number of weapons and armors) but i really didn't expect more than that. And I haven't been disappointed much. Haven't since Fable 3 though. I enjoyed the idea of splitting the game in 2 parts and the idea of giving hard choices to make but i have to say that I have been quite disappointed about the game becoming so simple. I really felt that the game was trying to babysit me -think in my place -remove items because more items might be too much for my small cerebral performances -level up for me for the same previous reasons -reduce the armors to mere pieces of fabric that have for sole purpose of covering my winner and please my fashion design wannabe ego.

All in all, i felt that the Fable 3 looked down on me and considered me as unable since Fable 2.

SO in the end, i didn't enjoy Fable 3 for its gameplay value at all but only for the tale.