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.
3rd June 2013
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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.
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.
It's been two and a half years since Fable 3 and in that time we've had a couple of series spin-offs, like the Kinect-based Fable: The Journey and the co-op beat-'em-up Fable: Heroes, but the next numbered entry in the prime series has remained elusive. While a formal announcement is yet to be made, it's suggested that it won't be long now as series developer Lionhead has launched a new forum dedicated to the franchise.
One does not typically do this just for older titles, leading one to believe a Fable 4 announcement is imminent. This would corroborate earlier reports that Fable 4 would be due in 2013, and it could very well be one of the 15 first-year exclusives Microsoft hinted at during its Xbox One reveal.
While series co-creator Peter Molyneux left Lionhead to start up 22 Cans, his Fable co-creators Dene and Simon Carter spoke highly of his Lionhead underlings, stating that the series was "in safe hands."
Watching Microsoft's E3 conference back in 2009, it felt as if video games were about to take over the world. Some of Los Angeles' biggest names assembled to pay lip service to a medium on a giddy ascent, and it all built to an electric climax with the unveiling of the nascent Project Natal.
Layoffs have hit Fable: The Journey developer Lionhead.
Dishonored has entered the chart in second place, as FIFA 13 defended its spot atop the UK charts from a barrage of new releases.
Motion control cannot be recalled. It cannot be uninvented. But, like the fake plastic guitars of the past, the stereoscopic 3D of the future and all those other tech gimmicks that sizzle in and fizzle out, it will in time be removed from our video games. In that sense Fable: The Journey feels like a line drawn under this chapter in the medium, a chapter that's involved an awful lot of rearranging furniture and messing with curtains - a chapter of hand-waving followed by hand-wringing as we've calibrated and recalibrated the blink-less eye of the Kinect sensor.
That much is true of Lionhead's latest excursion to Albion, too - the green, pleasant, accent-rich hinterland into which we now dive via a lens rather than plastic controller, hoping our sorcerer's arm sweeps will translate somehow to the screen. It is, as with all Kinect games, at times stubborn and petulant, pretending to misunderstand your bodily instructions, as if its eyesight is beginning to fail as the Xbox enters its dotage. But goodness, the only thing more tiresome than wrestling with an insubordinate Kinect is reading about how a game's motion controls don't quite work. In truth, Fable: The Journey's controls mostly work the way that they should, provided the sun is at the right point in the sky, the children are put to bed and the wind is still.
Nevertheless, if journey is story - and video game players understand more than anyone that journey is story - then you must accept that a Kinect-driven journey will feature the odd paragraph in which a disgruntled human gesticulates madly at a television set while swearing a lot. It's not much fun to read, but it goes with this chapter in the medium.
Right. Can't remember if we've mentioned this, but we're doing a show at Earls Court in London next week. It's called the Eurogamer Expo. (Bit pretentious?) Anyway, we hope some of you will come. To help make it more interesting, we've asked Microsoft to bring everything they have in development for Xbox 360 for you to play. They said yes.
So, if you come along you'll be able to sample Halo 4 Infinity Multiplayer, Forza Horizon, Fable: The Journey for Kinect, Gears of War: Judgment's OverRun multiplayer mode, and Dance Central 3, plus various Xbox Live games.
We're also told that "the Mountain Dew crew" will be distributing drinks to people throughout the show. Presumably they'll be distributing Mountain Dew, unless that label is just a massive coincidence.
Lionhead's Project Milo helped launch Microsoft's vision of Kinect to the world at E3 2009. Interact believably with a human AI using only gestures and voice!
Kinect-exclusive adventure Fable: The Journey will launch on 12th October in the UK, Microsoft has announced.
That's a few days after the game's North America date on 9th October.
Fable: The Journey takes players back to the world of Albion, and allow you to cast spells with your own hands.
Fable: The Journey is, without a doubt, the biggest and most ambitious game yet for Kinect. It's no aerobic festival of mini-games but a full-length action-adventure with epic narrative aspirations, played from the comfort of your couch. It has lavish production values: beautiful graphics, superb animation, fine voice-acting and a musical score that tracks the action from moment to moment, like a movie's.
Microsoft will make the seated gameplay technology Lionhead has worked on for Fable: The Journey available to all Kinect developers, the studio has revealed.
UPDATE: Lionhead has issued Eurogamer the following statement:
Freshly liberated indie developer Peter Molyneux has signed up to do a Boot Cycle at this year's GameCity festival in Nottingham.
GameCity7, which runs from 20th to 27th October, will see the former Lionhead Studios boss take over proceedings for an entire day, scheduling events to "celebrate and explore" his time in the industry. He'll discuss past and future projects and his inspirations.
Elsewhere, there's an event to celebrate 30 years of the Commodore 64. The original team behind much-loved UK mag Zzap!64 will create a one-off commemorative issue.
Fable Heroes lead designer Ted Timmins has described departed Lionhead figurehead Peter Molyneux as "irreplaceable" and a "total legend", and said "there's no one who can fill those shoes".
Xbox Live Arcade beat-'em-up Fable Heroes "doesn't in any way shape the future direction of Lionhead", the game's lead designer has told Eurogamer.
"How long have you got to talk?" I ask Peter Molyneux at the beginning of our Skype interview.
Lionhead has announced a bucketload of 'brand extensions' for its Fable franchise, including a series of digital short stories and three tie-in novels.
The shorts are up first, launching around Fable: Heroes' arrival next month. Written by Peter David, they each focus on one key character from the Fable universe: Reaver and Jack of Blades stories will be available in May, with a Theresa tale following in June. They'll be available via all major e-reader platforms.
The first full novel, titled At the Edge of the World and authored by New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden, then arrives in August. The book will fill in the gaps between the end of Fable 3 and forthcoming Kinect spin-off Fable: The Journey.
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.
Fable's creators have called on gamers to give Kinect exclusive Fable: The Journey a chance.
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.
This weekend there will be a 48-hour game jam exploring the works of parody Twitter account @PeterMolydeux.
It all started with an acorn. Project Ego, the game that would eventually grow into Fable and then further flourish into one of the enduring series of the last decade, was built upon a promise of choice, of being able to craft your own journey in the fantasy land of Albion across your hero's entire lifespan. That acorn was an embodiment of that promise: something you'd be able to plant and then return to, after digital decades had passed, to see an oak in bloom.
That acorn was also an embodiment of the whimsy of Peter Molyneux, founder of Lionhead Studios and, throughout the entirety of the Fable series to date, its figurehead. When that acorn failed to materialize in the very first Fable, to a vocal bunch it came to symbolize what they felt about Molyneux - that he was a snake oil salesman, a purveyor of empty promises and hollow rhetoric.
If you're ever lucky enough to witness the Molyneux show in person, it's hard not to come away thinking he's one of the industry's finest showmen, the kind of character you'd expect to find down one of Albion's alleyways, enchanting a small gathered crowd with his sleight of hand and abundance of charisma.
Fans need not worry about the Fable series following Peter Molyneux's shock exit from Microsoft - so say the creators of the franchise.
Peter Molyneux, creator of Populous, Black & White and Magic Carpet, has left Microsoft and the studio he co-founded, Lionhead.
Lionhead's Peter Molyneux has spoken out about the need for a core Kinect game - and how it's the core that needs Kinect more than anyone else.
Xbox.com accidentally announced a 4th September release date for Fable: The Journey this morning.
That's a US date - a Tuesday.
CVG spotted and recorded the spillage before Microsoft altered the Xbox.com web page. The date there now reads 31st December 2799.
A number of high-ranking Lionhead staff responsible for the Fable franchise have left the developer to form their own studio, Another Place Productions.
UPDATE: Lionhead has issued Eurogamer the following statement:
"Thanks for checking in with us! We're happy to tell you all about what we're working on. Just apply, get hired, and we promise to spill our guts!"
ORIGINAL STORY: Fable developer Lionhead wants a programmer with MMO skills to help make an unannounced game.
Rare is prototyping ideas for a new 'mature' game to launch on the next Xbox, fresh speculation suggests.
Fable developer Lionhead is apparently working on a fourth incarnation of the role-playing series.
That's according to US Official Xbox Magazine, which published the news in its rumours section (spotted by CVG).
"Look for the Fable cycle to continue with a proper, controller-based Fable 4 in 2013," the publication promised.
Kinect game Fable: The Journey will not have melee attacks and will not have ranged attacks from guns, Lionhead boss Peter Molyneux has revealed.
Kinect game Fable: The Journey will lose some of Fable's trademark black adult humour, lead artist Tak Saito has revealed.
Microsoft isn't forcing developers to incorporate ten million selling motion sensing add-on Kinect into their games, it's insisted.
Fable developer Lionhead has a "super secret second project" in development alongside recently announced Kinect title Fable: The Journey, studio boss Peter Molyneux has disclosed.
Kinect game Fable: The Journey had only been in development for four months when it was shown at E3, Peter Molyneux has revealed. That's why there were "huge faults" with the demo.
Peter Molyneux was "pretty ashamed" with the low-80s average review score Fable III received from critics.
Lionhead boss Peter Molyneux has admitted that Xbox 360 motion-sensing add-on Kinect "has got some problems".
Fable creator Peter Molyneux has apologised for the misleading announcement of Kinect game Fable: The Journey.
Reveal trailer with conference commentary.
Lionhead reveal Kinect-enabled Fable.