GCA 2008: Q&A: Peter Molyneux on finishing Fable 2

Lionhead Studios head on his latest game's flaws, the Pub Games glitch, why he can't play the original Fable anymore, and whether he really thinks the sequel should be scoring 9 out of 10.

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SINGAPORE: At Games Conference Asia 2008, Lionhead Studios head and famed developer Peter Molyneux delivered a keynote speech outlining the creative process behind the soon-to-be-released Xbox 360 exclusive Fable 2. GameSpot AU caught up with Molyneux to ask him how it feels to finally complete Fable 2, whether the Pub Games glitch was indeed intentional, and whether he really thinks Fable 2 should be getting 9 out of 10 scores from game reviewers. Plus, he also gives hints on what he’s working on next.

GameSpot AU: Fable 2 is complete. Is that right?

Peter Molyneux: It went into something called certification on Monday, but as far as I'm concerned as a designer, I was kind of locked out about a month ago.

Fable 2 will be better received by critics and gamers, Molyneux says.
Fable 2 will be better received by critics and gamers, Molyneux says.

GS AU: So after working on the game for so long, how does it feel?

PM: It's very odd. Of course, I feel fantastic. It's incredible to actually see the ideas that were in your head on the screen--I'm sure every designer would agree. But the crazy thing about it is that when you've obsessed about something for so long, and it's filled your mind, and you're thinking about every little aspect of it, there is that sense of missing it. There's this hole that's there. It's like you have an itch, and when the itch goes away, you want to scratch it anyway. So there's this huge sense of relief. There's this huge sense of wanting people to play it--see what they make of the game--especially because [Fable 2] is a game that depends so much on what you're like. I've only seen 500 people play the game, and now hopefully, thousands and thousands will play.

GS AU: Are you happy to let it go? Or was it a case of there's a deadline and you had to let it go?

PM: There has to be a deadline. For creative people, there has to be a deadline, otherwise it will go on for centuries. I'd say, I look at it, and I can see some flaws--anybody can see those flaws--and you wish you had more time to polish it. But other than those little niggles, I think it's an amazing achievement. I really think that it's a unique experience. I've never played a game quite like Fable 2.

GS AU: So, what are those flaws?

PM: They're more like mechanical flaws. For me, I wish the faces moved with the thousands of muscles a human face moves with. I wish that the blink rate of a non-player character was tied to the AI so I could get more emotion to the face. I wish the animation was slightly more fluid. I wish that we had more time to add 10 more variations for leaves on trees. It's those types of things that you as a player probably never ever notice--to be honest with you. I mean, it's the transparency of the water when the sun hits a place like Bower Lake; it doesn't sparkle quite enough. I think as a designer, if you're not hungry for that sort of quality, then I think there's something wrong.

GS AU: But in terms of gameplay, did you manage to fit all the ideas you wanted to at the start of the process?

PM: Yeah. I think this is the interesting thing about Fable 2. What’s different about Fable 2 is that we experimented with all those ideas right at the start...where in all my previous games, we experimented as we made it; put things in, tried them, took them out again. But in the early days, we did these experiments, and we played with them, tuned them, got them right, and then said, yes, we're going to use that one or throw it away. I mourned the loss of those features two years ago; I've got them out of my system. Back then, I fought very hard for some ideas that didn't actually get in. But the important thing is I think that we had a great set of gameplay features to work with.

GS AU: Recently, there were reports about a glitch in Pub Games, which allowed players to rack up money, followed by some reports stating that you said it was deliberate. Was that glitch something you planned?

PM: I'm not going to say anything about that. All I'm going to say is that Fable is all about looking at what you're like as a player. Cheating is a reflection of what you're like as a player. Fascinatingly, I spoke to a few people who found out about the cheat but decided not to use it because they were worried about the possible consequences. Maybe they're wise people. Don't expect there not to be consequences; after all, let's remind ourselves that Fable says every choice has a consequence. And cheating is a choice.

GS AU: Did you also really say this game should be rated 9 out of 10 by reviewers?

PM: I claimed I didn't. As you can see there are PR police people in every interview that I'm in, and they claim I didn't as well. It doesn't sound like a Peter Molyneux kind of statement--I probably would have said 11 out of 10.

GS AU: But generally, do you think Fable 2 will be better received than the first game?

PM: I'm almost positive it will for two reasons. One is it's a much better game. I mean, I can't bring myself to play Fable 1 now; it's too fractured an experience. The second thing is I really learned a lesson about Fable 1. I told the whole world about every single feature in Fable 1 and got everybody excited about features in Fable 1 that weren't in the final game because we removed them. And this time, with Fable 2, I only talked about things that I could actually show you and not talked about the world, and what the world is really like, and what you can do. I haven't talked about the story at all. I talked a little tiny bit about the start of the story. So when reviewers get their hands on it and when gamers get their hands on it, I'm hoping that they'll turn around and say, "Wow, I was excited about it because of these features. But I didn't know it would have this, and this, and this."

GS AU: What's next on your plate?

PM: I would love to tell you what's next. The huge amount of brain space that Fable takes up has been utterly replaced by the other thing that is being developed at Lionhead at the moment and has been developed for quite some time. But unfortunately, I can't tell you. I can be intriguing about it, but I can't tell you exactly what it is. It's very different from what I've done before. It's based on an experiment that I think is very significant, and it's certainly got a lot of people scratching their heads that know about it.

GS AU: So when can you tell us?

PM: I have to get permissions for these things. If I was a betting man, I hope it'll be sometime next year.

GS AU: Peter Molyneux, thanks for your time.

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