Good and evil is barely the start of it, frankly. Fable is one of those rare, fascinating game series upon which nobody can really seem to agree about anything for very long. It's a shallow RPG, or maybe it's a canny and satirical examination of RPGs in general. It's hilarious - oh, the burping! Or maybe it's just juvenile. Let's face it: Fable's easy to the point of being obsequious, isn't it? Or maybe it's choosing to measure itself in ways that go beyond mere difficulty? It's no surprise, then, that with all this discussion churning around it, the world of Albion is so often defined by a mechanic that it doesn't even contain.
In October 2008, Microsoft released Lionhead's Fable 2 to critical and commercial acclaim. At a launch party an emotional Peter Molyneux held aloft glowing reviews and praised the exhausted team of developers who had spent the previous four years pouring everything they had into the game. Fable 2 would go on to win a BAFTA and become the best-selling role-playing game for the Xbox 360. Lionhead was on top of the world.
The best games create stories as well as telling them, and when you ask people about a Lionhead game there's usually a good one. A friend told me how, when playing Black & White, he'd found his inscrutable cow-god familiar taking a dump in the village's food supply. He went to punish it, mis-clicked, and instead petted the beast. From then on the cow went out of its way to poo on food, and no amount of beatings would dissuade it. My friend persevered with his save for days before, finally, admitting defeat and starting over - left only with the memory of handing out monotonous beatings to a bewildered, unhappy, constantly-befouled creature.
It's a grey January morning and the rain batters the windows of the taxi taking me from Guildford train station to Surrey Research Park. Typical English weather, then, as I head to the home of a developer which has been making typically English video games for a decade.
Games used to be such hostile places. Dropped behind enemy lines or sneaking through monster-infested caverns, everyone you'd meet on your journey seemed to want to kill you. Over the last ten years or so, there's been a gentle rebalancing, however. From Pey'j to Yorda to Alyx Vance, designers have started giving you friends as well as enemies.
"How long have you got to talk?" I ask Peter Molyneux at the beginning of our Skype interview.
For the past day and a half, Kerry Turner has been thinking about swans. She's been making a game using Flixel - this is an open-source Actionscript library put together by Canabalt creator Adam 'Atomic' Saltsman - that's loosely based, she tells me, on the fairy tale about the swans and the princes. I have never heard of this fairy tale, but, as she's worked on the game for many hours without taking much of a break, Kerry has the look of a person who isn't to be argued with.
Peter Molyneux's departure from Microsoft and Lionhead sent shockwaves throughout the game industry. Not only had one of the most influential developers of all time ditched the company he founded in 1997, but Fable, a series guided by Molyneux's leadership over eight long years and across two generations of home console, was left without its poster boy.
We all know the drill. New game gets announced, studio bigwig witters on about the big vision, there's a bunch of stats for the trainspotters and then months later - bang! - a finished game. But what happens in the meantime is still vague, mysterious and messy. Rarely does anyone think of the men and women on the game development frontline who quietly toil away to produce the magic that eventually emerges on a diet of little more than Pepsi and pizza.
Fable II scored 10/10 on Eurogamer and Fable III scored 8/10. But wasn't the third a better game? Wasn't co-op was better, combat deeper and the map more intuitive? Why didn't Fable IIII receive the plaudits of Fable II?
Every year at the Eurogamer Expo we invite you to tell us what you thought of the games you played, and without fail every year (so far anyway) you exhibit amazing taste in huge numbers. This year's Expo line-up was our strongest and most diverse yet, so we were excited to see what would follow in the footsteps of last year's winner, God of War III, or 2008's Mirror's Edge...
We love Peter Molyneux - so much so that sometimes it must seem like we interview him every week. In actual fact the last time we spoke to him was gamescom in August. Today he's speaking to YOU at our beloved Eurogamer Expo in London, revealing new details about Fable III and, knowing him, putting on an interesting show in the process.
Yes, he's back once again, with the ill behaviour, power to the Peter. When it comes to revealing secrets, dropping hints and giving opinions about proprietary technology, the Lionhead Studios boss is a renegade master. Seems like you just can't keep a good Molyneux down.
You've got to admire Microsoft's determination. Millions of dollars spent on marketing, years of work spent on promotion, and still only 12 people in Japan own an Xbox.
A few weeks before the launch of Fable II, I had a chance to speak to two of the key artists on the team about their vision for the project and how they'd gone about creating the game's unique look. With the launch of Fable III looming, Lionhead invited Eurogamer back to talk to the art team once again.
As heroes go, I don't feel much cop at the moment. In fact I feel absolutely ridiculous. This is because I am dressed as a giant chicken. It's hard to feel heroic when you have a bloated feathery stomach, a floppy red comb and knobbly yellow knees. The fact that I have a flintlock strapped to my back and a giant hammer in my hands doesn't help.
After arriving 10 minutes late for his Develop Conference keynote, Peter Molyneux took another 10 minutes to plug an Xbox 360 running the latest build of upcoming role-playing game Fable III into a projector set deep within the bowels of the Brighton Metropole hotel.
It was hardly Milo & Kate. When Peter Molyneux trotted out onto the stage at Microsoft's E3 press conference two weeks ago, it was to slap a 26th October release date on Fable III, introduce a new trailer - and then get out of the way of the bullet train of ultra-marketable Kinect software steaming onto the stage, sharpish.
How time flies. It's been a whole year since we interviewed Peter Molyneux at the Game Developers Conference, and now here we are again, interviewing Peter Molyneux at the Game Developers Conference.
"Our job at Lionhead is to surprise and shock you," says Peter Molyneux, kicking off his presentation of Fable III at Microsoft's X10 event in San Francisco. Does he shock us? Not quite. Does he surprise us? Absolutely.
Picture it: the land of Albion in the age of steam. Through the cobbled streets of its towns, crooked houses with slated roofs compete for the afternoon sun with angry eruptions of unlikely machinery, valves match steeples for control of the skyline, and oily goop drips into babbling brooks that run beside fields of already queasy sunflowers.
Peter Molyneux is a familiar face at the Game Developers Conference. He often uses it as a platform to unveil new features in Lionhead games - remember 2007's infamous dog revelation?