GDC: Fable 2

Peter Molyneux shows us RPG co-op.

A Microsoft employee called Josh has shot Peter Molyneux's husband in the head. Molyneux confirms that this impossible to undo, and that his child will now be sent to a nearby orphanage. "You can get your kid to follow you," he points out, but you can't quickly get hitched again and dump the sprog on someone else. How about playing a sort of Pied Piper to other people's orphaned children? "You can go around and collect children," he says. "Whether or not that stays in to be honest depends on legal. What I worry about is children witnessing horrific things, like death of parents and stuff like that."

So then, it's business as usual for Lionhead, and Peter Molyneux - one of Britain's chattiest and most ambitious developers. Fable 2, another third-person action RPG, is due out later this year and for GDC he's got some new things to talk about. The biggest one being - as you might by now have guessed - co-operative play. "Everything in Fable 2 is fully co-operable," he says proudly. A second player with another Xbox controller can join at any stage of the adventure and stay for ten minutes, ten hours, or however long he or she wants.

"Co-op is quite good in other games," says Molyneux, "but for me it's not complete, because the thing I've really wanted is if I come into your world, I want you to pay me." When someone joins your game, you can negotiate the terms of their involvement, sliding bars left and right. Perhaps you get 50 percent of their earnings, or 30 percent of their experience. Which is great, providing of course they don't murder your husband.

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The reason this is relevant is that the other player gets to take their loot home with them. Stats and characters are now centralised online, so you can roam the worlds of other players and then go home and spend your cash. It's more expansive than that, too. As Microsoft reveals during its Game Developers Conference keynote two days after we play Fable 2, certain Xbox Live Arcade games will allow you to earn virtual money that you can then spend in the world of Albion.

"It's more than one game," he says of the XBLA interaction. One of them is called Keystone, although he's not sure which one is going to be announced and says he can't talk about it, although he does say it was his "seed of an idea". (He doesn't want to stop with Xbox Live Arcade, either. As he points out, Microsoft is "a really big corporation". He starts spitting out ideas: "the more words you type into Microsoft Word, the more you might earn Fable gold! You guys would be away!")

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Back in the real world, Keystone and its ilk won't be Lionhead-developed games - they are games from other Microsoft Game Studios developers. They aren't even anything to do with Fable. "You will be accruing Fable gold, and then if you buy Fable later on it will automatically recognise your gamertag has got this much Fable gold on it, and import it." You'll also be able to launch some of these XBLA games from in-game pubs. It's all gone a bit, dare we say it, PlayStation Home. But with husband-murder.

So let's talk about that gun. Last year Molyneux used GDC to espouse the game's drama, introducing your canine companion and emotional relationships, and then at E3 he talked about the one-button combat, which is meant to be ideal for casual and core gamers alike. But there are other buttons too: Y fires a gun, and B performs magic, which is another thing he can't talk about ("They knew that I was going to want to show all the stuff off, so they've crippled me," he says at one point, glumly).

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