Fable 2 Hands-On & Molyneux Interview

Find out why Peter reckons "most role playing games are shit" in our new chat with him, and enjoy these rare hands-on impressions of a very early demo of Fable 2.

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By Adam Doree

One of the most popular of Xbox 1's many role-playing games was Fable, from Lionhead Studios and its famed design overlord Peter Molyneux. Based in Guildford, UK and part of Microsoft Game Studios for more than a year now, Molyneux recently caught up with us for a very early look at Fable 2 on Xbox 360, and to our surprise, even let me play it.

Molyneux had privately hinted to Kikizo recently that he thought all fighting games were flawed because hardly anyone knows how to play them, and told us he'd come up with something better. We wanted to know more. "Stupidly, the ambition on this thing is I want you to measure this against any fighting game," he told Kikizo in an exclusive chat. "It's amazing for a role playing game, because most role playing games are shit! Oblivion was a great game, but the combat was rubbish; we all talked about it being rubbish. So imagine you had a great role-playing game and really, really good combat system."

Molyneux explained that games today are mechanically too hard and too difficult, and that to reach his goal, some careful thinking will be needed. Lionhead's ambition, he said, is to make a "truly great RPG". And how will he quantify the success of this ambition? "As a designer I want as many people to enjoy my game as possible. I'll put a number on that: the number is five million; that's pretty ambitious, and to do that I need to innovate."

"Like it or not, combat is at least half of a role-playing experience, probably more like 70%. So if I want to get into that landmark status, I've got to innovate combat. And the problem is an enormous number of games you see are totally unplayable for the vast majority of the population. Give Halo 3 or Call of Duty to a casual gamer and they will just run away screaming, they wouldn't have the first chance. But, hardcore gamers are getting so demanding now, they're requiring ultimate balance, enormous depth, and love experimenting throughout the whole of the game. Those are polar opposites, on one side accessibility, and on the other, depth. How can I create a combat system that combines both together?"

Molyneux said that the controller, which he referred to as an "old jalopy" that looks "a bit dated these days", has often forced a lot of the action on games to focus on pressing the four buttons in the right combination. "This really does piss a lot of casual gamers off", he claimed, revealing that his combat-orientated demo of Fable 2 used just one button. "It's one-button combat. It has been tried before, but usually really sucked. I am going to try and make it not suck."

Initiating a fight in the game, Peter starts with some 'button mashing' - hitting the button without any coordination or rhythm, involving little skill. "You would think button mashing would be one thing I'd want to get rid of, but I don't. For some people, it's what they want to do." The idea, he explained, is that the depth comes from getting more out of doing cooler things. "I'm just going to make it so that in fights, button mashers will need to bang a lot longer, and get less of a score - which means less experience and power ups if you button mash. So I'm not punishing you for button mashing; I'm rewarding you for not button mashing, and that is a really big distinction."

Rhythm produces more attacks, holding down and 'charging' gives you a special move that gives double the experience points. "And another thing we've got is counter moves, for much more experienced players," says Molyneux. "If they're really good they can wait for an attack and counter it, flip him around, and do a killing blow. That is much more skill based, and again you'll get double the experience. Another advanced attack is to use the environment; you can actually break someone's neck on some railing during combat. It could be a spike on a fence or a solid brick wall, and you'll get increased experience for that as well." And all this, using the same button: "If I am using the attack button it means I want to do something aggressive to the nearest target!"

But Lionhead knows it is not enough of a reward, for players who do the combat 'right' to simply get a better score. "How can I reinforce that?" he ponders. "With another new thing, which is using music, and effects, and camera cuts. I want you to think of the sword as a conductor's baton. As you're fighting, we'll be introducing different musical elements, the more successful you are. And we'll be upping the tempo of the music, the more abilities that you unlock. So you not only get more of a score, you get a cooler soundtrack. This is literally unlocking different musical instruments that are in there, which makes me feel more engaged with the combat."

Molyneux, somewhat unexpectedly, then allowed us to play Fable 2, the first time media had ever been able to play it, so that we could really get a feel of this combat system ourselves. As seasoned players of traditional 2D and 3D fighting games, we were keen to see if his claims had any chance of becoming reality.

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Fable 2
Direct feed trailer   (X360 - Microsoft)
01:15 41MB DF, ED, 16:9

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