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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 Rockstar Energy Car Pack for Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One is available now, alongside the free car for March. The free car is the Acura Integra Type-R, and the Rockstar pack included the following vehicles: 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GRC 2015 Subaru WRX STI 1996 BMW 850CSi 2015 Jaguar XFR-S 1970 Volkswagen #1107 Desert […]

  • 3DS firmware update kills web browser exploit

    Nintendo has issued a 3DS firmware update which fixes a web browser exploit that was being used to run pirated Game Boy Color ROMs since January as well as inject code within downloadable games. Another piece of code, per Eurogamer, changed the setting on the handheld to make it region-free. The exploit was only available […]

  • Unreal Tournament video shows updated textures on Outpost 23

    The latest footage from Epic’s new Unreal Tournament has surfaced, and it shows off the game’s first high-textured map which is called Outpost 23. As you can see from Zaccubus’ video, its the same are which Epic showed in the flythrough video from last year, only with updated textures and some new areas outside. The […]

  • Final add-on for Sunset Overdrive arrives in April

    The final add-on for Sunset Overdrive, Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines, will be released in April. On April 1 to be exact. No, that’s not an April Fool’s joke from Insomniac Games either. Below, you can watch a fist-look at the new story, area, and traversal mechanic.

  • Heroes of the Storm playable at EGX Rezzed

    Heroes of the Storm will be playable at EGX Rezzed. This will be the first UK public hands-on with the online team brawler. Blizzard will also host giveaways and friendly tournaments at its stand. Tickets for all three days of Rezzed are still available, and you can purchase a pass through the official website. EGX […]

  • PES 2015 Data Pack 4 coming next week with Winter Transfers, new faces

    Data Pack 4 for Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 has been dated, and it updates the game with Winter Transfers, new player faces, and additional stadiums. The latest free update contains real-time player transfers made within the January window, and player ratings have also been updated. Additionally, a number of improved likenesses to key players will […]

  • Here’s the changelog for Dragon Age: Inquisition Patch 5

    Notes for upcoming Patch 5 for Dragon Age: Inquisition have been posted, noting improvements to gameplay and stability, and the new features outlined back in early February. Along with the new party storage system added to the Undercroft at Skyhold, players also have the ability to adjust the size of subtitles. Below you will find […]

  • Game of Thrones, Mortal Kombat X, Batman mobile games on the way

    Warner Bros. has announced free-to-play mobile titles spanning its DC Comics, Mortal Kombat and Game of Thrones properties. The following five new games under development are: Mortal Kombat X from NetherRealm Studios: The game blends fighting and card collection with cinematic gameplay and Fatalities. Play as both classic and fighters, and if you own the […]

  • Win! Beta access to new MMORPG Skyforge and DLC worth $70

    We have ten Wrath of the Gods Founders Packs to giveaway for new RPG Skyforge, worth over $70. All you need to do to win a Wrath of the Gods pack is enter your details in the form below and we’ll pick 10 winners at random on Thursday, March 5, after 3pm GMT. Skyforge is […]

  • PC gaming expected to be worth $35 billion by 2018

    PC gaming is alive and well. In fact, it’s expected to be worth $35 billion by 2018. According to game-business group Open Gaming Alliance, the PC gaming industry is expected to grow beyond its current $26 billion worth and to a massive $35 billion by the year 2018. The information is based on data collected […]

  • Advanced Warfare: new patch adds new weapon, Master Prestige ranks, more

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has received a new patch that gives season pass holders early access to a new weapon and everyone else a myriad of fixes and additions. The patch went live today on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, without any official notes. CharlieIntel reports that among the new additions is the new […]

  • Destiny’s end game and raids explained

    Destiny’s end game can be a bit obtuse to those not used to MMO games. Fear not, we’ve got a few quick tips on how to crack it. Arekkz Gaming has a video for new players of Destiny or those who are looking to brush up on their knowledge of the game. Today’s theme is […]

  • Capcom adds local co-op to Resident Evil: Revelations 2 on PC

    Following fan outrage over lack of local co-op support for the PC version of Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Capcom has now added it. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 now officially supports split-screen local co-op in both campaign and raid mode. The update is currently in beta on Steam, but anyone can opt-in to try it. Capcom […]

  • New Destiny glitch spawns infinite Thralls on Earth

    Destiny’s latest glitch spawns infinite Thralls to help fuel your bounty hunting and loot lust. The glitch is simple to replicate. You’ll need to start The Dark Within mission on Earth, on any difficulty. Then follow the steps in the video below (Via DualShockers) to get to an area out of the map. You’ll then […]

  • Battlefield 4 Winter Patch is here with new game mode, netcode improvements and more

    DICE has released the Winter Patch for Battlefield 4. The patch brings an eSports focus with new game mode Squad Obliteration and plenty more. Battlefield 4 Winter Patch is now live on all platforms. It’s just over 400MB on PC and 1.34GB on consoles. The patch adds new game mode Squad Obliteration and more customisation […]

  • HTC hopes to see Half-Life on VR headset Vive

    Vive manufacturer HTC said that it hopes to see Valve games, including Half-Life, on the virtual reality headset. Speaking to the BBC, HTC chairwoman Cher Wang said that Valve is keen on having its games available on the VR headset. “I think Valve’s best game is Dota, right, and Portal and [Team Fortress] and I […]

  • Make money easily in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

    If you’re looking to buy a fell set of armour for your character in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate but keep falling short on Zenny, this video will show you an easy way to make lots of it. Arekkz Gaming has a very handy tip for all Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate players: how to make Zenny […]

  • This is how you claim free Xbox One games from your Xbox 360

    Microsoft is giving everyone the ability to claim their free Xbox One Games with Gold titles from their Xbox 360 console, even without owning an Xbox One. If you don’t yet own an Xbox One and want to make sure you don’t miss out on all those free Games with Gold games, you’ll be pleased […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for March 3: Heroic and Nightfall detailed

    Bungie has reset the weekly cap of Crucible and Vanguard marks and added new Heroic and Nightfall strikes, now with burn. From now until next Tuesday, the weekly Heroic strike will be The Devil’s Lair with Heroic and Lightswitch modifiers. As for the Nightfall, you’ll be fighting Sepiks Prime with the help of Arc burn. […]

  • Few Mass Effect FemShep cosplays are as elaborate as this one

    The internet is full of Female Commander Shepard cosplay from Mass Effect, but very few are as terrific as this one. Visual artist Freya Willia has spent over two years painstakingly creating the perfect suit of armour and the best weapons to make her cosplay of Female Shepard as authentic as possible, Omni tool and […]

  • Deals with Gold: Assassin’s Creed Unity, Red Dead Redemption and more discounted

    This week’s Deals with Gold titles for Xbox Live subscribers is a good mix of modern games and old favourites. The list of discounted games through this week’s Deals with Gold is live with discounts on Assassin’s Creed Unity, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and more. The deals are live now […]

  • Destiny guide: how to maximise your Grimoire Points

    Destiny players regularly compare the size of their Grimoire Points. Learn how to make yours the biggest. Destiny guide: how to earn Grimoire Points In Destiny, earning most Grimoire cards is just a matter of playing the game, maybe a little more attentively than usual. You’ll either need to complete a certain number of actions […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows will let you play as a baddie

    Shovel Knight owners will benefit from the generosity of Kickstarter backers quite soon. Because Shovel Knight was overfunded during its Kickstarter campaign, developer Yacht Club Games committed to releasing free content updates. The first of these, Plague of Shadows, has now been detailed. The expansion stars baddy Plague Knight, who turns on his former allies, […]

  • GTA controversies, from Hot Coffee to PR manipulation

    GTA has a long history of controversy. The latest Did You Know Gaming tells the full stories behind the sensational headlines. Grand Theft Auto is such a byword for controversy that it’s easy to forget the full context of what actually happened to bring mainstream press, politicians and interest group awareness to the Rockstar series. […]

  • Infamous 2 one of five new PlayStation Now additions for March

    PlayStation Now will expand to the tune of five new games this month. The March PS Now additions are Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, R-Type Dimensions, Alone in the Dark: Inferno and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. PS Now will set you back $20 per month or $45 for a three month subscription. It offers all you […]

  • Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster gets PS4 release date

    Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster hits PS4 in May. The PS4 release date for Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is May 12 in North America and May 15 in Europe. Gematsu reports a special pre-order bonus calendar with art by Yoshitaka Amano is available through the Square Enix Store and participating retailers. In Europe, pre-ordering […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting 15 new Prestige levels

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can now aspire to the ranks of Grand Master Prestige. Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games will add 15 more Prestige levels to the latest Call of Duty, giving players at max XP a chance to grow even further. According to the Sledgehammer Games blog, when you enter Master level […]

  • Destiny: Crota’s End recreated in Minecraft

    Destiny’s toughest challenge gets even nastier if you throw Creepers into the mix. The ultimate Destiny challenge – for now – is the Crota’s End raid. Taking place in an alternate dimension accessed through the Hellmouth on the Moon, the Raid takes Guardians through a pit of darkness to the resting place of Crota himself. […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer introduces the Heir to the Monado

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3D protagonist Shulk is the Heir to the Monado, his distinctive red sword. Let this trailer fill you in on what that means. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D releases for New 3DS on April 2 in Europe and April 10 in North America. As well as all the content of the Wii original, it has […]

  • The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod covers Morrowind, Oblivion and more

    The Elder Scrolls: Total War is a terrific mod allowing you get get intimately involved with the history of Bethesda’s detailed fantasy universe. The first release of The Elder Scrolls: Total War dropped on the weekend, giving players their first chance to try out LoRdNazgu1‘s creation. This version runs from 3E 427 to 4E 45, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 out now on Steam

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is out now. Yes, we’re surprised too. You can grab Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Steam for $8. Developer Scott Cawthon really doesn’t mess about; the game was only announced in early January. Here’s the blurb: Thirty years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza closed it’s doors, the events that took […]

  • EVE Online heister makes off with $13,000 worth of goods

    EVE Online is a hotbed of villainy, espionage and backstabbing, but one intrepid corporate thief has made waves even in this setting. The thing about EVE Online is that it’s a true sandbox: the game’s rules are very loose, and allow players to make careers out of theft, piracy, assassination and espionage in addition to […]

  • Marth Amiibo getting a stock refresh in North America

    Nintendo of America has announced a fresh supply of the difficult to find Marth Amiibo. The Marth Amiibo will be back in stock in the US in late April, the platform holder said on Twitter today. Planning to pick up Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. and don’t have a Marth amiibo? More are headed to stores in […]

  • Skyrim beta update upgrades creation kit file size

    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]