Peter Molyneux Shows Off Fable: The Journey
Love him or hate him, Peter Molyneux is nothing if not passionate. “I’m sick of controllers,” he announced to a room full of game journalists, in the soft, dreamy voice that has elicited so much parody. The legendary British game designer is certainly entitled to his strong opinions, and controllers make him feel like a “rat in a maze.”
Instead, Molyneux wants gaming “to be about discovery,” and he sees the Kinect as the perfect tool. Despite being criticized for his wholehearted embrace of the technology, Molyneux is determined to prove its value: “We’ve got Kinect. The first thing we’ve got to do is love it.”
With this goal in mind, the Fable: The Journey demo at March 1st’s Microsoft Showcase in San Francisco took a unique form. Molyneux selected an audience volunteer and explained that he would have to figure out how to play the game, with no help from the designer. Molyneux presented problems, and the hapless journalist had to solve them using Kinect.
The first sequence was straightforward. From a first-person perspective in the driver’s seat of The Journey’s ubiquitous wagon, the volunteer quickly figured out how to get his horse to move by snapping the reins and pulling right or left to steer its head in a particular direction. The segment showed off the game’s gauzy, sunset lighting, as well as the primary importance of the horse as a character. The game, explained Molyneux, is partially about “how it feels to have something care for you and love you.”
The next bit of gameplay underscored this point, introduced as it was by a classic bit of Molyneux high-concept thinking: “We’re moving to a situation in which your horse can get hurt. I want you to ask yourself: ‘how does that feel?’” Bow-wielding Hobbes appeared, touching off a frantic pursuit and plugging the horse with a couple of arrows. When the game’s main character Gabriel (described by Molyneux as “androgynous”) finally managed to escape, he parked the wagon on a green sward on the side of the road. The camera then switched to a close-up view of the horse’s heaving flank, heavily abraded and pierced by arrows in two places. The volunteer at the controls set himself to the task of the pulling the arrows out and healing the horse’s wounds using the Kinect. “I can feel the pain of the horse when you do that,” purred Molyneux.
Molyneux estimated that Fable: The Journey will be a 12-hour experience, with all the usual RPG trappings except for one: a tutorial. Like he demonstrated during the demo, the designer is dedicated to “the joy of discovering features for ourselves.”
The next system Molyneux showed was spellcasting, which he described as “analog magic.” The volunteer was asked to use his right hand to cast spells at some non-threatening fireflies, which he did with a deft, forward flick of the hand. According to Molyneux, different motions will result in different spells — the game tracks hand velocity and uses it to determine magical power.
Whereas the right hand produces projectile, fireball-style attacks, the left hand combines the functions of a lasso, whip, and tentacle, and can be used to manipulate enemies and the environment. The two can even be combined to form special spells — experimentation and discovery, Molyneux reiterated, are always rewarded. The game even responds to vocal commands, using volume sensors to “track the emotion in your voice” and producing various effects.
Though Fable: The Journey looks to be an impressive, groundbreaking piece of game design, it was hard to judge from such a circumscribed demo exactly how it will play in practice. Stay tuned for more GameFront coverage as the game nears release.