Fable II had "huge design flaws," says Molyneux

Develop 2010: Lionhead founder talks about the lessons learned from Fable II and some of the improvements in the upcoming sequel.


Who Was There: Peter Molyneux is the founder of Lionhead Studios and the man behind the Fable games and such classics as Dungeon Keeper, Populous, and Theme Park. His studio is currently working on Fable III and Kinect-powered game Mylo.

What He Talked About: Molyneux started his talk by discussing many of the issues he had with Fable II, saying, “It had some terribly messy things about it.” He continued, "There were huge design flaws--at one point Fable II had 67,000 bugs." This actually pushed Fable II to a “super-black” rating, making it completely unsuitable for release. He also criticised many of the features that were implemented, saying many were used just once or twice, such as the marriage feature, which was an “excuse to have sex.” Molyneux had other annoyances to share about the title, including the menu-driven levelling system, which he referred to as “DOS-like,” a lack of drama, and the graphical look of women, whom he said, “looked like Russian shot putters.”

Of course, these are flaws that Molyneux says are fixed in the sequel Fable III. “The first thing we did in Fable III was create a great cast,” he boasted, referring to the likes of comedian John Cleese who has a part as the butler in the game. The co-op system has been overhauled, allowing gamers to have the same interaction with their co-op buddy as they do with the non-player characters in the world. This includes getting married and experiencing “intimate” moments, which are “not quite as realistic as the real thing, but less messy.” Other improvements he mentioned included an overhauled menu system called The Sanctuary, which now takes place entirely in the 3D world, and maps that are four times bigger than those seen in Fable II.

Molyneux then showed off sections from a current build of the game, including combat, The Sanctuary, and a new way of levelling up a character. While combat remains similar to the previous games, the levelling system has seen a huge overhaul. In keeping with the ethos of having every menu item in the 3D game world, levelling is now represented by the visual metaphor of gates. Each gate represents levels, which are unlocked by accumulating the single experience points in the game, called Guild Seals. Players can choose how to spend the seals as they see fit, using them to unlock gates or chests containing magic spells and other rewards. Weapons will level up separately from the character and are represented by the “Fist of Power.” It is levelled up the more weapons are used and will reflect the type of fighting that players indulge in. This results in unique weapons, which can be traded or gifted to friends and enemies.

The final feature revealed was promises, which is the game’s way of reflecting a player’s good and bad actions in the game world. Molyneux gave the example of a librarian, who agrees to back a player’s pledge to become king, but only if the player promises to save the library from closure. They can be ignored, but this will cause many characters to distrust the player or become rebellious, affecting the look of the gameworld.

Takeaway: Molyneux was very negative when speaking about Fable II, referring to it as “boring and tedious.” Of course, he praised the forthcoming sequel, referring to the huge drama and depth of characters. It’s “clear and simple” he said, “We have to get people to care.” Fable III is looking to be a huge overhaul from its predecessor, and Molyneux promised that more about the game would be revealed before its release later this year.

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