Fable Legends is Free-to-Play

Lionhead promises players will be able to experience the entire game for free; Business model inspired by League of Legends and DOTA 2.

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Fable Legends, the upcoming 4v1 multiplayer action-RPG, is launching as a free-to-play game on Windows 10 and Xbox One.

Initially, players will have access to "Season One" content, consisting of a traditional linear RPG storyline and side quests, along with four heroes to play as. Those who choose to play as a villain will have a range of different creatures to command, which are tied into the game's narrative.

Lionhead is promising that players will be able to experience the entire game for free, with no gated areas, along with open access to all quests, and no energy bar to limit play time.

Available characters will be rotated, but users can outright buy the chance to use them indefinitely.

"The only thing that will stand in your way from playing quest seven, is that you haven't finished quest six", Game director David Eckelberry told GameSpot.

"Just like your traditional RPG storyline, it's mostly linear with some side quests, so all of you have open access to all the quests in all of the seasons that we ever do."

Eckelberry also detailed some of the long-term plans for the game, promising a regular stream of updates that will include new quests, heroes, creatures, and items, all of which will be free for both Xbox One and Windows 10 users.

Notably, Eckelberry stressed that any items directly affecting gameplay "can be earned" organically via the game's chest and loot system. He also stressed that XP and resources like potions cannot be bought.

Money Maker

Fable Legends will incentivise players to make purchases, even if those items can also be earned through gameplay. Most notably, the four heroes you can play as will rotate on a fortnightly basis, and a new set of public-facing characters will be introduced. Any XP and loot earned with those characters will be saved until they next appear in the public rotation. However, users will also be able to purchase that character for use indefinitely, either by using silver coins collected during gameplay, or by forking over real-world cash.

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Similarly, Villains will be able to permanently unlock creatures using silver coins or real-world cash. Players will then be able to use those creatures non-canonically, bringing them into earlier story quests to change things up. Cosmetic and vanity items will also be available for purchase.

Lionhead has not yet disclosed the pricing structure of Fable Legends. Also up in the air is how long players will need to play the game in order to earn enough coins to unlock a character.

"We haven't really arrived at what [that time] is," Product Manager Ian Griffiths told GameSpot.

"The best we can say is that if you're playing the game a decent amount, as we expect a gamer to, it would be reasonable to assume that you'd unlock a character. Beyond that, I don't have the numbers, it's very much up in the air still. And we're still going to be looking at how people play the beta and what works for them."

According to Griffiths, while Fable Legends didn't start out as a free-to-play game, the ideas the team wanted to implement (ongoing updates and cross-platform play) were deemed an ideal fit for that business model.

"[We] touched on a number of games that we looked to as awesome of examples of doing free-to-play right, stuff like League of Legends, DOTA 2, Team Fortress 2," said Griffiths.

"That's the direction that we want to go. They're very commercially successful, they're well-loved by their players, and we wanna be in that kind of area...when you fall in love with a game and it's just such a great experience, you get to that point where you want to invest in it.

"Like I say, I've played DOTA 2 for 800 hours, and [Valve] has just brought out a Crystal Maiden outfit, and I was like 'I have to have it!'. I don't feel compelled to have it, I want it. That's where we want to be, and that's where I think we're going to find success. And that success is reliant on creating a fun and valuable experience for players, and that's where we're going--or at least that's where we hope we're going."

The Windows 10 Connection

While Fable Legends isn't the first free-to-play game to come from Microsoft, it will be the first designed exclusively for Windows 10 and DirectX 12, and the first to feature cross-platform play.

"Every time you make a launch game on a platform that is still forming there are bound to be challenges," Engineering Lead Raymond Arifianto told GameSpot.

"Like, we may say we need a feature, when we don't know when the feature is going to be delivered from the platform. What do we do in the meantime? Is it going to align with our timeline? But this challenge occurs with all launch games, and we're treating this like it's a new platform--essentially Windows 10 is a new platform.

"Everything that you can do on Xbox One you can do in Windows 10, and not only that, but everything just works. You can play on Xbox One, and then if you switch over to your PC you can pick up where you left off with all your character XP, loot, and inventory and stuff, and it just carries over without having to think about it."

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There will be some differences between platforms, but Arifianto stressed that those will not give players an advantage or disadvantage (although, it should be noted that PC players will be able to make use of keyboard and mouse controls).

"The game may get prettier if you're running on a really beast machine, we will scale up," said Arifianto.

"On the other hand, we do want to make it fun and fair: just because you're playing on a powerful machine doesn't mean that you will have the advantage...a lot of those decisions affect how we build our multiplayer. We use Xbox Cloud Compute to run host processing, so you don't have a host advantage, for example. All the rendering happens on the client, but for the most part all the simulation, all the physics, all the achievements calculations, all the loot rewards, all the things like that happen on the cloud. We want to make sure that things like that are fair for everyone."

Unortunately, Arifianto wouldn't let slip the minimum spec for Fable Legends, although users can look to other Unreal Engine 4-based games for a rough indication of specs.

"So there will be work to scale [Fable Legends] down. We haven't announced our minimum spec yet, but it's coming. There's definitely going to be some scaling down, things like turning off the particles, things like that, to make sure that more people are enjoying our game...from the architecture perspective, the it looks more like an Xbox One game under the hood compared to a Win32 native game. That's why it can use all the live features. The goal is, from a platform perspective, is to make it easy for people to do what we're doing. Hopefully we're just the tip of the spear, and then people will think that it is doable, and maybe think about it in their next game."

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