BARCELONA, Spain--Earlier today at Microsoft's undeniably good X06 event in Barcelona, we met with Peter Molyneux to discuss his plans for Fable 2. Molyneux got the proceedings underway with an apology for having nothing to show us save for a few pieces of concept art. He went on to more than make up for that, though, with talk of his incredibly ambitious plans for the game that, in his own eyes it would seem, could make or break him as game designer.
Fable 2 will take place some 500 years after the events of the first game, and among other improvements, it will boast a number of gameplay features that were originally promised for Fable. Molyneux apparently received two death threats from Fable fans when they realized that you couldn't plant an acorn and witness it growing into a mighty oak tree over time--he didn't enjoy the experience, and so we're told that this feature will definitely be in Fable 2. To further illustrate his vision of a game in which you can influence the world in dramatic ways through simple actions, we were shown a concept image of an area called Brightwood--a small campsite tucked away in the middle of a forest.
The first time you encounter the camp, you might think that any decision you make on how to interact with it is insignificant, but according to Molyneux, the effects of even your seemingly trivial actions will be felt for decades. If you choose to trade with the camp, for example, you might find that it has developed into a small settlement when you're in the area again 10 years later. After another decade, that small settlement might grow into a village, and ultimately it could become a thriving town or city. If you decided to loot the camp and kill its inhabitants, on the other hand, the land it occupied would be reclaimed by nature, and 10 years later you'd never even know it was there. Molyneux calls this technology "dynamic regions," and it's one of several features in the game that he seems genuinely excited to talk about.
Among the features that didn't realize their full potential in Fable were the promises that you'd be able to invest in property and have a family. These somewhat gimmicky features of the original game will not only be fleshed out in the sequel, but also have the potential to occupy huge chunks of your time--perhaps even becoming an important part of your Fable 2 storyline. Regardless of whether you choose to play as a male or a female, you'll start out as a street urchin with absolutely nothing to lose. Your physical transformation as you become an adult in the game will be determined by a number of factors in addition to the requisite good/evil mechanic, including cruel/kind deeds, and whether you become rich or poor. If you manage to accrue a significant amount of wealth in the game, you'll have the option to unlock additional game content by purchasing each and every building in the world, including castles, catacombs, and the like. If you never have more than two gold pieces to rub together, your experience, your appearance, and the ways that people in the world react to you will be very different.
On the subject of family, Molyneux's goal is to introduce unconditional love to video games by giving you the ability to have children with whichever character from the world you decide to marry. After meeting the woman or man of your dreams (you can play as a woman, remember), you can marry them and then, if you're so inclined, you can opt to have protected or unprotected sex with them. If you choose the latter, we've heard nothing that leads us to believe that your hero will be at risk from infection, but there is a chance that you might become a parent nine months later. Your offspring's appearance will be determined by your spouse's characteristics and by your own at the time of conception, and regardless of what path you choose to take through the game, that child will love you unconditionally. If you've opted to play as a woman, it'll be you that gets pregnant, of course, but that's a preview topic for another day.
Molyneux said that one of the most magical moments of his career was when he recently saw the Fable 2 family features in action. Returning home from a lengthy quest, Molyneux found that his baby son had grown up in his absence and, as he approached the house, the boy swung the doors open and ran toward him with his arms outstretched. Molyneux also stated that your child's development will be determined to some extent by your own actions, almost as if he or she is trying to imitate you or gain your approval. So, if you play as an evil guy covered in tattoos, you might find that your son gets himself some ink the first chance he gets. As the bread winner of your family, you'll be responsible for making sure that they always have enough money to eat, and your performance in this regard will also play a part in your child's development.
Although many of these features were talked about as if they are confirmed for Fable 2, we should point out that Molyneux made a disclaimer of sorts at one point when he explained that many of his ideas are still being experimented with. An amusing example of a feature that won't be making the cut, for example, was the idea that you would assume the role of your offspring if you died. The reason why this won't be in the finished game? Testers at Lionhead started procreating like bunnies in the game, because every child was essentially like an extra life.
Perhaps the most amusing part of our meeting with Molyneux, though, came when he turned his attention to Fable 2's combat. This portion of the meeting was entertaining not because Molyneux's plans are crazy or anything, but simply because we recognized a lot of what was said from his "this is not Fable 2" keynote address at the Leipzig Games Convention earlier this year. Among the features mentioned (but not demonstrated on this occasion), was the "constrained combat" that occurs when the way that you swing a sword, for example, varies according to the vicinity of allies, walls, and anything else that would interfere with the kind of generic motion used in Fable.
Molyneux ended the meeting by telling us that the feature he's most excited about in Fable 2 is also the one that he's not willing to talk about yet. The top-secret feature is apparently so revolutionary that we won't believe it until we can see and play it for ourselves. In fact, it's so ambitious that nobody on the Lionhead development team wanted any part in attempting to make it work when it was first suggested. What could this feature possibly be? We're 99 percent certain that you'll find the answer in the aforementioned Leipzig Games Convention keynote, in which Molyneux detailed his plans for incredibly varied and realistic combat in fully interactive locales being played out using only a single button. We look forward to bringing you more information on Fable 2 as soon as it becomes available, though according to the man himself, we're unlikely to see the game in action until March of next year.