It's interesting, because you are talking about the complexity actually increasing, right? Your goal with Fable III is more about streamlining the design decisions to make the game more accessible, but now you're talking about things that actually are additive again. So is it a priority shift?
PM: What it is, is that one of the big design problems is, when you've got all this new stuff, what is also happening that wraps all this up is making stuff accessible and understood. You can have all of this new tech, but if it's not presented in a way which is ultimately -- especially in today's world, where everybody just needs to get to the point as quickly as they possibly can -- if it's not presented in an amazingly accessible way, it's just going to fail.
That's why the in-game shop in Fable III is actually an important idea. It's not that that's anything new; you could go onto the dashboard and download new stuff, but that's not accessibility.
You're relying upon people to remember to go to the dashboard, whereas this way of doing it, presenting it to the player as part of the world, means that that it's ultimately more accessible.
That applies to everything from Natal to the Sony Move to the Wii to online to digital to what happens when you get your new box and plug it in. All the interfaces to our technology and our gaming experiences are really changing radically -- and very quickly, as well.
It's fascinating, Christian, if you just look at tutorials. What was the last game you played that had a tutorial?
Like "Now push X and..."
PM: Yeah, exactly. "Push X, and that will take your sword out." I haven't played one for ages!
No, and I'm glad, because those were one of the worst parts of gaming.
PM: Yes, they were like forewords in books; you never read them. It would be arduous. Now, we don't have them anymore. When you go back to a game and play them again, they just seem arduous and tedious and, oh God, I just want to know the game; I just don't want to be taught to play the game. They seem so old-school, but three years ago we had them all over the place.
You know, there were a few games that came out that actually made the tutorial part of your world, which showed the way. We wouldn't think about it now. Look at Fable III; we had a really interesting journey with the tutorials. "We've got to teach the player to use the sword and use guns and use magic!"
And we then said -- you remember this, Josh -- Josh [Atkins] is our lead designer on Fable III -- we said to ourselves, "What if we just had one sentence that said, 'To do a quick attack, press the button quickly; to do a build-up attack, hold the button down.' Suppose we said nothing else after that."
Because of that, we then made swords work in a very similar way to guns to work in a very similar to magic. Suddenly, the whole hour of tedium went away for players because we unified that combat system and actually made it much more accessible for the more casual side of Fable III players, and made it much more interesting for the core players because they could start combining magic together and switching between guns and swords, because they were the same.
That meant that, even though it was simpler, it was actually more complex and sophisticated.
I think that's something the game industry has, up to this point, struggled with: "complexity equals depth", which it doesn't, necessarily.
PM: Well, that was my big mistake. It took me years, you know -- a ridiculous number of years -- to realize that adding more features actually took away from the game rather than added to the game. It's not the number of features you've got; it's how well-exploited those features are.
You know, Fable 1 especially and Black & White and The Movies -- those were all games where I just kept on saying to the team, "Let's have this idea! Let's have this idea! Let's have this idea!" Kept cramming features in, just expecting them to shine like gold, where actually it just muddied it and made the games a more brown color rather than making them brighter.
Now, it's been a very interesting journey with Fable III: taking a lot away from Fable III actually adds a lot to it. We took away leveling up. Taking away the leveling up in the GUI and saying, "We'll make leveling up part of the game experience. We'll put it into the world." So taking away the complexity and abstraction of it and making it all part of the world actually made it better and more understood. People anticipated it more, and that really worked well.
If you look at the genre, you see similar decisions are being made in parallel; I don't necessarily think that people are referring to each other when they do this. It all seems like it's happening at the same time. If you look at Mass Effect 2, they dropped a tremendous amount of fiddly complexity from it and made the gameplay action-based.
PM: Yes, it's right. Fable 1, Fable 2, Mass Effect -- I think all of those games we probably were inspired in some sort of way by other games like... Things like BioShock came along, and that had a great start. BioShock 1 had a great start to the game; it threw you in there.
Then you look at something like Uncharted 2, which was another great start; there were no tutorials, and you were just kind of thrown in there. That was great. And the Modern Warfares and Call of Dutys -- that's looking really, really good. It's all happening at once.
So often, this happens like that. If you look at films and books and TV, everyone seems to have the idea at the same time.