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Fable 2: Dev roundtable

A chat with the Lionhead team

Recently we got the rare privilege to visit Lionhead's Guildford HQ, where we were gifted a friendly -if slightly mental - tour of the veteran UK studio - and of course we saw lots and lots of Fable II.

Once our day was over and we'd eaten all of Molyneux's decent sandwiches, there pretty much wasn't anyone left in the building who we hadn't quizzed about Fable 2, its ambitious game systems and the pressing feeling that the game's going a bit casual this time around.

We got studio head Louise Copley, lead level designer Ian Wright (not THE Ian Wright) and lead concept artist Mike McCarthy in a room...

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After seeing the game in person, in feels like you've gone out to attract a more casual audience to Fable 2, as well as traditional gamers?

Louise Copley, head of studio: We've tried broadening out the game a lot. I think that's where my influence comes in a bit really. So things like the co-op is something I'm particularly keen on. The female hero was something I'm particularly keen on. I think my influence is felt on that sides of things, really.

Ian Wright, lead level designer: It came very early on from Peter that this is a game for everyone and something that the first game did brilliantly was introduce a lot of casual gamers, a lot of female gamers. It was open to everyone.

And it was something that was always strong in our minds. We want everyone to play the game, but we also want to add depth for hardcore players who played the first game. There's a lot of tips of the hat to the first game. There's a lot of regions that people will recognise.

Louise Copley, head of studio: Fable 1 was criticised for being too easy, but that was by design. And that's something we want to continue in Fable 2. We don't want it to be a punishing game. We want it to be accessible, and so branching out and using the carbonated games, the choice of the female and male hero, and having the drop-in / drop-out co-op I think are the three things which make it a bit different and are things which will persuade people to put another controller in their hands.

With casual games in mind then - especially the Wii which is selling like mad - how do you think a game like GTA IV can turn up today - which definitely isn't Wii Fit - and still sell in the millions?

Louise Copley, head of studio: GTA is a really interesting one. I think it's an amazing feat, but it's not a subject I'm particularly interested in. And I put myself very much in a casual gamer market. I think GTA has a massive amount of elements that work together and that's very much what we're trying to do with Fable 2 in a slightly different way.

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I think we're more accessible, we're more friendly, I think the subject matter of Fable is a little bit more low-key than GTA, which is great, but that puts some people off, I think.

How important is that Sandbox-style world to Fable?

Ian Wright, lead level designer: I definitely wanted make sure the world was open and free this time. Which we've done. That was my main thing. Take away the invisible walls and let the players experience it. Another thing was that the world would really change a lot depending on the choices you make in it.

So you can have a drastic effect on a lot of the regions in the game. In some cases, it's like building eight levels that the player will only see in one state.

It was something we were conscious of and something that Peter said from the word go, that while Fable 1 looked amazing and was a beautiful world I think that one of the criticisms was that it was kind of closed. You could see these beautiful views, but couldn't get to it. So it came very early on that we wanted a big open world. If you can see it you can get there.

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