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Fable The Journey interview: road trippin’

Wednesday, 19 September 2012 11:26 GMT By Dave Cook

Fable: The Journey is another chance for Microsoft to prove Kinect’s motion control chops. VG247′s Dave Cook speaks with Lionhead Studios to learn why this could be the game to do it.

Microsoft used to talk big game over Kinect before it launched. The promise of immersive worlds and intuitive, natural motions that translated flawlessly from mind, to limb, to screen filled the futurists among us with wonder and whimsy. The future was coming, and it looked good.

Once Kinect launched however, the actual experience of sitting down to play it left many of us feeling cold. The peripheral has sold well however, and certainly still has its fans, so it can hardly be called a failure from an economical standpoint. There’s one thing that many of us are still forgetting however.

Controllers as we know them today didn’t magically appear in their current state. Creating solid, dependable, and ergonomic control methods is an iterative process that has taken many years – and in the grand scheme of things – Kinect is still a young pup in a world dominated by seasoned control methods.

It’s still early days, but you can already see a stark leap forward in both responsiveness and creativity in Fable: The Journey, Lionhead Studio’s crack at the motion-controlled market.

VG247 had a chat with the Fable: The Journey’s lead designer Ted Timmins to find out more about the game’s development, and the role of motion control in the industry today.

VG247: Lionhead has been steeped in motion control tech long before Kinect was even revealed. Can you tell us a little more about where the concept for Fable: The Journey came from, and if it has always existed in its current form?

Ted Timmins: Yes to the last question, it is pretty much how it always has been, at least in the sense of the high level design of casting magic and riding around the world in a horse and cart.

Our creative director Gary and his team – prior to doing Fable the Journey – had been doing Milo & Kate, and they’d spent a good couple of years developing that and just getting a great understanding of what Kinect does really well.

When we switched to the idea of using Kienct for a Fable game, they had all of the experience that they had learned through development of Milo & Kate, and all of the technology – such as the ability to play while sitting on a chair.

They were able to take all of that and apply it to Fable: the Journey. Combined with things like the horse and cart, which feels very intuitive and natural – and is something you don’t get on a controller – it all came together very well on Kinect.

Plot-wise, this feels like a more personal story than previous Fable games. Was that an objective of the team early on?

Yeah, we wanted to tell a story that was slightly different to previous Fable games. Previous games had always been about a generic template hero, and you grow them to be whatever kind of hero you want to be at the time.

But with Fable: the Journey we thought it would be really interesting to tell the story of someone else, someone who you can relate to, someone who has a history, has a future, and have a present. It’s someone we want you to learn more about as you go along.

So the character Gabriel that you play as, he’s got a really interesting past. He’s not part of a heroic bloodline, he’s not any particular hero, and he comes across Theresa who has obviously had a really big presence throughout Fable in the past.

From there they go on this amazing journey, and in terms of the timing it’s actually set 50 years after the events of Fable 3. So if people wanted to look at it in a timeline sense, then that’s where it fits.

I think maybe two weeks ago we actually released a novel called ‘Edge of the World, and that novel along with the game helps describe some of the things that have happened to Albion in that 50 year period.

Within that narrative, will we see any returning characters besides Theresa?

We wanted to tell the story of Gabriel, and the reason we picked Theresa as our focus point was that – at the end of Fable 3 – it was funny when we were reading on forums, because our fans are so vocal and so great when it comes to giving us feedback.

They were like, ‘Theresa was more mystical than ever in Fable 3, why is she 500 years old? You never know if she’s being good, or if she’s being evil. Why is she making me make all these tough decisions?’ So we really wanted to focus in on her, as well as Gabriel, to tell her story.

Many of the scenes in the game really delve into her backstory, and there will be other returning characters, and there will be obviously the creatures as well – Balverines, Hobbes, Hollow Men and Trolls – they all make a comeback, but not to the same extent as Theresa and Gabriel. We really wanted to try and focus on this duo, and to tell each of their stories together.

One of the interesting sections – certainly story wise – we played today was when Gabriel enters an ancient cave and you get all of this backstory about the Hero bloodline that you never had before, and then you learn how to use magic, which actually works really well once you get used to it. How challenging was it to get combat to work properly?

That’s been the most challenging part, without question. Although I haven’t been one of the designers on that particular area, I have worked with the design team, and they have had a terrific job to do.

Many of the gestures are based on actual motions. So you may have already noticed that when a rock is thrown and it’s coming towards you, we get you to put your arm across your chest to deflect it. That’s because early indications were that if we base gestures on natural motions, then people would relate to them and understand them.

You’re not pressing the A button. If a rock is coming in you need to put your arm up, which is again a normal thing you’d do to shield yourself. Leaning left or right to strafe, casting spells by using a dart-throwing motion – these are are all very intuitive gestures.

We have been through and made a lot of different gesture-based systems, and I really feel that we’ve found the one that clicked and that worked the most. The magic system is really the key, and I think you ask many people around here what parts of the game they’re most proud of, it would be the story and the magic.

It’s interesting that you want to make the motions feel natural and intuitive because – certainly on the Wii – we’ve seen a glut of third-party games with motion tacked on.

Yeah and look {points to the Zelda t-shirt he’s wearing]. I’m a massive Zelda fan, but Skyward Sword just didn’t do it for me. I mean I loved the gameplay, but there were times where ugh…damn…I don’t know how to describe it [laughs].

There were times when the game asked me to do something in motion and it didn’t work. I think that’s when you break down the immersion, like, you’re really immersed in a game then all of a sudden it says, ‘do this!’ and it doesn’t work. Then you realise, ‘oh hang on, I’m not a hero, I’m playing a videogame.’

Very early on, when we were developing this, we realised that people are going to miss when firing a spell from time to time. So we made it that if people do miss, they can bring it back in using aftertouch, and that way you never lose that sense of immersion.

Because in your head you’re thinking, ‘no matter where my spell goes, I can bring it back’, so that was a really important feature for us to have.

The systems at play here are intricate and they do work very well. It’s impressive, but would you say there is still untapped potential in Kinect that we’re yet to see?

Oh without question. I mean, I also wouldn’t claim that we’ve achieved this without the assistance of anyone else. We’ve had Rare help us out – They’ve obviously got years of Kinect experience as well – and it’s not just that we’ve had other teams help us, but we also play a lot of Kinect games.

We’re fortunate that Fable: The Journey is ‘wave three’ I guess you could probably say? So we’ve played ‘wave one’ and ‘wave two’ games, and we’ve also had the opportunity to see games that perhaps had systems that didn’t work as well as they should.

So not only have we learned from internally developing our own systems, but also from working with other studios, playing other people’s games and I think that has really led to Kinect starting to become something that is…well like a control pad.

If you look at the first control pad on the NES: it’s just two buttons and a d-pad. But then over time it started to evolve, and I think with Kinect – even though the hardware hasn’t changed – in the background the software is really starting to evolve.

Games like Nike+ let you lie down and it will still detect you. That’s a first for Kinect. So we’re definitely at the tipping point now where Kinect is starting to break out into new areas.

What sort of key areas would you like to explore next to try and really push what Kinect games can do?

Jesus, that’s a really good question. Really, I think it’s just about continuing to break down barriers, such as Kinect always doing what you want it to do, and that’s always going to be a tough barrier with anything like, phones that have touch screens, games that have motion, or hardware that uses voice recognition.

These are all things that, unlike a button, sometimes don’t work all the time and I think that’s the thing that really needs to be improved. So whenever a user inputs a motion command or touch, it’s important that it has to work.

That’s the hardest part to do because you’ve got to make the hardware get into the head of the person who’s playing, and I think if we can break down that barrier – I think that might take a couple of years, or longer – you reach that point where it becomes a lot easier for us to keep the player immersed.

Part of that immersion is to also keep people interested in the game as it goes along. How long is Fable: the Journey and how do you dole out new motions and features as the plot progresses?

That’s a question that sort of ties in to why we chose to have players sitting down while playing. This isn’t ‘Fable: Minigames’. It’s a Fable game, it has a story, it has characters, it has creatures and really we wanted you to sit down because for 15 hours – we kind of think anywhere between 12-15 hours is the playthrough time.

You haven’t seen Arcade Mode yet, but that is an add-on at the end. So when you complete the game you can do like high scores and things like that. Really, that’s why we wanted you to sit down, because it’s a long game, especially if you’re asking someone to sit down for 15 hours. That would have been too much to ask.

That’s good to hear because a lot of people say Kinect games aren’t like full games. But when you take something like the previous Fable games – or any game set in a big world – you couldn’t really use Kinect to navigate in the same way as you would with a controller. But that’s perhaps the industry’s next challenge with motion isn’t it?

Yeah, and if you look on YouTube, I’ve seen many cool Kinect mods, particularly one for Skyrim. When Skyrim came out someone did a Kinect mod for it, and it was really cool. The Wii went through a similar phase when that came out, of people making up their own little software things for it.

There’s definitely potential there for sure. I think as soon as barriers begin to be broken down, it’s like – our creative director Gary has said this before – when the keyboard and mouse came out, people questioned it. But now it’s commonplace, and I’m sure Kinect will take the same route because motion technology is a part of the future, as much as it is part of the present.

Looking forward then, what would you like to see from next-gen hardware in general that could make motion control take another leap forward?

I think, for me, I guess the Wii and Kinect has proved that you don’t always have to go for more horsepower. You can go wider, you can improve on what you have and look at new input methods, and I think that – regardless of what new hardware in the future holds – I think it’s going to be about how developers like ourselves make software and control bond.

The Xbox 360 is a great platform to develop on, and that’s the key – to make a great platform that people can develop and work easily on. The two main things are, in summary, more horsepower and to refine what we have.

Don’t get me wrong, I like horsepower as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s about getting what you already have right first, then to give developers a platform they can use to push innovation forward. We shouldn’t fixate so much on polygons, pixel count or anything like that.

Xbox as a platform – much like Sony – does have an umbrella of developers who do collaborate, share tech and work to get the best out of the format. How valuable is that collaboration?

It’s incredible, it’s like taking our team of 150 at Lionhead, and basically multiplying it by two. It’s knowledge, it’s experience, it’s all these different things that – when you’re running up to completing a game, you can’t always hire another 150 for.

But if you reach out to another studio – obviously there’s people like Turn 10, 343, Rare,and I mean the list goes on – we don’t make a big song and dance about it, we just get it done. Maybe we should make a bigger deal out of it? [laughs].

But yeah the guys at Rare are great, getting Phil Harrison on board at Microsoft has been great, and so many others have done a brilliant job of just giving things a push.

Sometimes you need that, to just say, ‘hey guys, you’re making a Kinect game, we’ve made Kinect games. Let’s talk.’ So we go into a room and we talk. It’s a relationship that will continue to develop on future titles I’m sure.

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  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]

  • Payday 2 packs based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number coming

    Starbreeze has announced another collaboration with Dennaton Games which will see masks based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appear in Payday 2. The collaboration consists of two free updates when you acquire Hotline Miami 2 or its deluxe version on Steam from February 25. The two updates, called Hotline Miami Mask Pack and Jacket […]

  • Velocity 2X making its way onto Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One

    Velocity 2X will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One Futurlab has announced. The developer is in charge of the port, which will be published by Sierra. According to Futurlab, the deal with Sierra came about when self-publishing proved to be difficult due to spending “more time doing PR and marketing on Velocity […]

  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number finally has a release date

    A release date for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been announced, finally. The game will arrive on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita March 10. It is now available for pre-order on GOG, Humble and Steam for 10% off for $13.49/£10.99. There’s also a Digital Special Edition available which includes tracks from […]