During his presentation on intuitive design at GDC 2010, Peter Molyneux talked a lot about what he learned from making Fable 1 and 2 and what he was going to change for Fable 3. In our interview later that day, I was able to follow up on some of the things he mentioned and get him to elaborate. I also asked him to demonstrate how to give a proper "British Manhug," and he was happy to oblige.
"Our passion was roleplaying games," he said during his panel, and then showed a series of screenshots from great old RPGs like Wizardry and Ultima. "Look at those nice numbers there, and stats. We love those numbers. Lots of leveling up in there as well."
"I was there. I lost my girlfriend because she was down at the pub and I was still playing Ultima," he said to laughs in the crowd. It was that passion for RPGs that pushed him to make Fable
But ultimately, the sales of Fable were not that impressive. "We sold about 3 million of Fable 1 and about three and a half million on Fable 2," Molyneux said. Molyneux said that while he loves RPGs, the truth is that action and/or adventure games sell much better. So he decided to embrace that and veer Fable 3 more towards that side of the Action RPG spectrum.
Games are different than a lot of other media in that sequels often do better than the original, citing Modern Warfare and Mass Effect as examples. So by shifting the focus of Fable 3 and growing as a sequel, "We're obviously hoping for a lot more [sales] on Fable 3."
When we sat down at the St. Regis hotel later that day, Molyneux wondered if he should be more technical in panels like that. "The point that I was trying to make was that Fable 3 needed to be more than just a Fable 2.5. It needed to make a big leap forward," he told me.
The big leap in Fable 3 for him boils down to addressing how the game makes you feel. "It was all about the feeling of power. You know I come from a school of designing God games," he said, referring to titles like Populous and Black & White. "I quite like that feeling, this feeling of power."
Molyneux uses that feeling by letting your character become king about halfway through the game and rule Albion as you wish. "The story is not just, you start the game as nobody, you get a little bit of power, there's a big baddie, you have a big fight, you do the fight, win and the credits roll. That's what a lot of games do, including Fable 1 and 2," he said. In Fable 3, all of that hero's journey stuff is there but it's the part afterwards that really interests Molyneux. "What happens after you defeat the bad guy, when you yourself become king, I think is really interesting. I haven't seen many other games, if any other games, that have done that."