After our hands-on preview of Fable: The Journey at Lionhead's Guildford HQ, we sat down with gameplay designer Ted Timmins to talk Kinect, Albion and winning over fans.
IBTimes UK: What do you here at Lionhead?
Ted Timmins: I've been here for almost a decade, working on everything Fable. The reason I'm still here is because I feel we still have so much to offer, and I think Fable: The Journey is a real part of the Fable series.
IBT: What's it been like trying to process the sandbox mechanics of Fable into this more linear kind of game?
TT: Whenever we get new hardware or a new toy, we can't wait to work on it - it's one of these things where, as soon as we got our hands on it we want to make something for it. I think that's where Fable: The Journey came from.
We weren't particularly asked to do it by anyone, it was just "there's this new hardware, let's make a game for it." We were experimenting for a long time with this horse and cart idea, and these magic spell mechanics so it was always going to be a Fable Kinect game.
We love making Fable games; Albion is one of these places that has so much to offer and we really wanted to tell a different story than we had done in the past.
In previous Fable games, the character is whoever you want to make them but as we were making a new Fable game on a new platform with Kinect, we thought it'd be cool to try something different with the story, and that's where the whole Gabriel and Theresa stories came from.
Obviously Theresa has been in Fable 1, 2 and 3 so she made a nice pillar in Fable: The Journey, but then Gabriel is a whole new character for people to learn about: What's his history? What's his present? What's his future? I think he's a really exciting character to play as.
IBT: Can you give us a few more details on where the plot is going?
TT: The game's about 12-15 hours long. With the journey [of the story] we really want to push buttons. Whenever you play a Fable game, we're always pulling on your emotional buttons or your opinions, your thoughts - every possible emotion that you have, we try and tap into that.
I think that Fable: The Journey is really an adventure. I think we've really tried to make it exciting, a real rollercoaster. That's something we haven't always been able to have in the other Fable games because it's always been a case of, you do a core story part, and then it's: "Go off and have children. Get married. Do silly stuff" and then it goes back to serious story.
Now we're really able to craft this story where it's a continuous thing from beginning to end. You can't go off and throw a ball with your dog, but you can experience this rollercoaster.
IBT: There are still some optional sections though, like the hitching posts where you can stop and look after your horse.
TT: Yeah, and there are places where you can pull up on the road and hop off the cart and follow the trail to optional side missions. We haven't got rid of all the optional content, but that we've tried to make it a lot more focused.
It never feels like you're not part of the story. It always feels like you have an objective, like you have something to do and achieve.
IBT: Does the game open up and become any broader than that?
TT: All throughout the game, you see these areas where you can hop off and solve puzzles and meet new characters. There are plenty of new creatures, new collectables; all these different things. I think the number one thing for me is that when people actually get their hands on it, they say they're really surprised.
We've had a lot of people say: "Well, Kinect's not really for me but I love what I'm playing." There was a guy at PAX [Penny Arcade Expo] last week - didn't own a Kinect, had no interest in it whatsoever - who was queuing up for Fable: The Journey.
And I said to him: "If you have no interest in Kinect, why are you here for our game?" He said he was a massive Fable fan. So he sat down and played the game, and when he left he said: "I'm buying a Kinect, just for this game." When people turn around to us and say stuff like that it's mission accomplished.
A lot of people have asked: "Why are they making a Kinect based Fable game?" Well, Fable can be anything, it's such a versatile franchise. It's not like a Mario game where there has to be a Bowser and a Princess, Fable just defines Albion and the story that we set within it.
Personally, I would be more than happy to put Fable on any device on the planet, I think we could make it work. It's just such an open box and I love delving into it and finding different things. We've had Fable Coin Golf for the Windows Phone 7, Fable Heroes for the Xbox Live Arcade game, and they've both worked in their individual ways.
We've got books that have come out recently as well - they also help expand the world. I hope that we can continue to do that because I love it.
IBT: Fable's not a game you would have thought would easily transfer to the Kinect, but it seems to be working.
TT: As I said, Fable can be whatever we want it to be. We wouldn't make a game if we didn't think we could do Fable justice, we wouldn't do it if we thought the fans wouldn't like it. That's always in the back of our minds - we read the forums, we read Facebook and we read Twitter.
The thing that I really hope we can do is change people's preconceptions, because over the course of the last eighteen months, we've gone from super negative feelings towards Fable: The Journey, to positive. I hope that when the game comes out, it will change that even further, and having people turn around and say "it's actually good" is helping too.
You can read our first impressions of Fable: The Journey here.