Interviews

Fable III

Lionhead's Josh Atkins talks combat and levelling up...

When it comes to risk-taking in games design, Lionhead is at the front of the pack.

The firm's first two Fable games both took a mallet to RPG genre conventions, and to great effect - with the second instalment in particular held up as one of Xbox's finest ever achievements.

However, there was still plenty to tweak and improve on for the third in the series, which is released in October - not least the simplistic combat mechanic.

Here, Lionhead senior design director Josh Atkins gives CVG an exclusive insight into what we have to look forward to from Fable III...

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What did you learn from the first game's combat successes and shortcomings?
Looking across the franchise,the combat in both Fable 1 and Fable 2 was designed to be accessible and fun experiences that anyone could play and enjoy.

However, over the last two games Fable has gotten a reputation for being too easy and too simple. We've always been fairly proud of the accessibility of Fable combat, but for Fable 3 it was important to us to create new combat experiences for players.

Therefore we spent quite a bit of time working to increase the dramatic impact of our combat encounters. We worked harder on staging our fights, our music and our overall combat experience to ensure the encounters all felt different and memorable - and in the end, more action-packed than before.

What were fans telling you they wanted from the third game in this area?
When we started Fable III we did a couple of interesting online polls at Lionhead.com. The players that answered these questionnaires discussed their favourite quests to play and their favourite creatures to fight. This kind of interaction with our community is extremely valuable and we used the information to make decisions which creatures we would bring back in Fable 3.

We also used our community to influence some of our decisions about how to update the spell system and get general information on what didn't work in Fable 1 and Fable 2. Probably the most interesting thing we learned is that Fable 2 was a game that more 'core' players could play with more 'casual' players and still have a lot of fun. We believe this is a huge positive for our game and certainly something we wanted to ensure for Fable 3.

Have you taken influence from any other action RPGs, such as Demon's Souls or Mass Effect?
This is an amazing industry and we take inspiration from all sorts of games. Demon's Souls and Mass Effect 2 were both great titles and we definitely think what decisions they made and why we think they made them.

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However beyond RPGs, we also take inspiration from games like Drake's Fortune and Peggle or an iPhone game like We Rule. Drake's was a brilliant game that was an amazing combination of cinema and gameplay, Peggle is still one of the most satisfying and fun games to play while We Rule has a lot of good ideas on how two players can share experiences between two different 'kingdoms.'

Have you toned down the RPG elements in Fable III's combat? Is it even an RPG anymore?
As a franchise Fable has always been an action RPG and while we may have moved further toward Action in Fable 3 we still have kept some of the core fun found in an RPG. For example, the character levelling and open world aspects seen in an RPG is still in Fable 3 which provides a nice balanced experience for players.

Character progression and levelling is a fun aspect of the game and it wasn't something we would completely remove but it is an area of the game we wanted to innovate in order to give players a new experience and a new way to think about Fable. As we continue to evolve our industry I do think strict genre guidelines will continue to blur further. You see RPG mechanics in a racing game like Forza, while Fable 3 has more traditional action game elements blended with strong character progression and customization mechanics.

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