The Art of Fable 2 • Page 2

Lionhead's artists down brushes for a pre-release chat.  

Eurogamer: When you talk about developing an engine, and spending two years building art without an engine to throw it into... Was there a day that came where you brought the two things together, and everyone just bit their nails and prayed it would work?

Ian Lovett: Yeah, it's really... It's a massive leap of faith. But we learned a lot from Fable 1. By and large, we're all pretty experienced developers. We have a very senior-heavy team - most of the guys are all Fable 1 people, or they come from years in the industry.

Yeah, there's an amount of nail-biting... But with that, there sort of comes the breadth of experience which says, "yes, you're going to be terrified, we're going to have crisis talks, but we're going to come through it."

Mike McCarthy: I think it's also a lot more gradual than you might think. What you do is, you go through iterations of what's wrong. Initially, everything is wrong! You put the art in there, and everything is wrong. So, okay, we fix everything. Then in the next iteration, it's sort-of everything, but not quite.

Ian Lovett: We're a real iteration-style company. We build that into our development. We do things the first time, not to a final standard, because we know that we're going to come back to it and re-polish it. Some of that is to build in some slack against design changes and stuff, other parts are so that early objects get to mature as the style comes together.

I think, well, we've tried to be tremendously clever - we've made a lot of mistakes, but we have tried our best to be as smart about developing this as possible. When you consider the size of the game, the time that we had, the platform shift, the new engine, the new tools... And Peter [laughs]... I think we did a straight-up job there!

I'm quite pleased how it came together. Although, of course, when you're that close to a game for that long - I can't look at it now without seeing all of the bugs, all of the problems, all of the things that went wrong.

"The last 500 bugs are the ones that stop it looking good. They're the last ones we fix, and you're sitting there going, 'please god let the lighting fall into place'."

Mike McCarthy: I think the coolest thing about it, actually, is when you get to this stage of the project - after it's mostly done. In your own way, you're almost as surprised by it as everyone else is. When I see footage of other people playing the game, I think, wow - it's a proper game! It's only at the last minute that everything comes together.

Ian Lovett: The last 500 bugs are the ones that stop it looking good. They're the last ones we fix, and you're sitting there going, "please god let the lighting fall into place", "please god stop the trees from being black" - or flat, or something. Every game is like that, but the level of expectation on a reasonably successful franchise means that there are a lot of critical eyes pointed in your direction.

I've forgotten what question we were answering, actually.

Eurogamer: I have no idea what I asked - it was a very long time ago.

Ian Lovett: It was a great question, though.

Eurogamer: Thanks. Okay - say I'm a consumer, I come along and buy Fable 2. What are the things that are really going to jump out at me in terms of the art? What are the really big changes, or really big features that make the game unique?

"By and large, consumers are visually illiterate," says Lovett. "They don't understand what they're looking at." We're sure he means it lovingly.

Mike McCarthy: By comparison with the first game, it's much more detailed.

Ian Lovett: Yeah - there's a layer of fidelity that you didn't see in the first one. For all that I felt that the first game was quite rich in a number of ways, it was very primitive. A lot of things were very roughly realised. We didn't have the texture space or the memory to do things the way that we wanted to. For a consumer... Well, that's a really difficult one, actually, because by and large - you're going to hate me for this - by and large, consumers are visually illiterate. They don't understand what they're looking at.

Mike McCarthy: Do you really want to say that?

Ian Lovett: Yeah! Yeah, I do actually.

Mike McCarthy: So what you're saying is, by and large, our audience are morons, and...

Ian Lovett: No, no! It's just... They're not necessarily going to notice. I want them to be drawn in, and that's more than the sum of the parts. Nobody's going to look at this and go, "what amazing normal mapping on that! I'm so glad they did that!"

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Rob Fahey

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