Fable 2's freshly-unveiled cooperative mode might seem like an attempt to ride the zeitgeist but, as we found out when we spoke to Lionhead chief Peter Molyneux earlier this week, it actually serves to unite the warring factions of casual and hardcore...

GDC08 Q&A: Peter Molyneux

What inspired the decision to include a co-operative mode?

It was easy, actually. We want to make a game that the hardest of hardcore gamers can play and end up with the most amazing looking hero that’s powered up to the maximum, but the most casual gamer of all can also play this story – okay, their hero won’t look nearly as cool by the end of the story, but they’ll still get there. It’s our dream that those two people should be able to play together on the same couch.

It’s to break down the barriers between ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ gamers. A lot of us gamers have partners now, but they don’t play the games that we play. Wouldn’t it be cool if Fable was one of those games that we could play together? I love the idea with Fable that my wife will love decorating the house – I know she would, she may try and deny it, but she would love the idea. I think this is my dream of a role-playing game – after all, that’s what we’re making, a role playing game – I think this is the idea game for it.

Plus, I think there’s definitely a corrolation between great co-op and great sales, because if I can play with someone it makes a big difference. Especially in Fable 2 as, if the other person isn’t around, there’s still so much to do. For example, completing quests only gets you experience points – so someone in the co-op partnership is still going to have to be earning money, because you need it for your family, for new equipment, etc.

Have you looked at and analysed other games that are famous for their co-op, such as Halo or Lego Star Wars?

Yeah. I mean, I think you can see Lego Star Wars in this. We tried doing it in split-screen, but I think it ruined it – you’ll go off in different directions, which means you’re not really sharing the experience. Here, what we’re really finding is that there are hilarious things to do simultaneously such as competing for a girls love in one of the towns. It’s just a fantastic thing to do, it’s completely unique. I say a lot in the press that when you’re playing Fable 2, it’s something different, it’s just a different way of playing a game. It’s not just swords and guns and magic, it’s a world, and it is playing ith that world, and that’s what is going to make Fable so cool.

If you give players a lot of choice, how does that impact the story?

Well, it’s not fixed. I’ve got to be very careful not to spoil this, but I’ll give you an example. Let’s say someone in the world has died. It’s all very sad. You’re there in the funeral, and you’ve got full control – we only take control away from you for about three minutes in total for the whole game – and because you’ve got this control, you’ve still got all the emoting capabilties. So you start laughing. What’s going to happen? When you first laugh, everyone turns around and looks at you. And then you keep on doing it, and a few other people start laughing too. By the end, you’ve got everyone laughing except for the family of the deceased. That is an interactive cutscene. That changes your relationship with the family, which changes something later on. That’s what I mean by ‘every choice a consequence’.

You’ve mentioned before that emotion is a big part of Fable 2. Do you see the emotion you’re enabling as different to the ‘forced’ emotion that non-interactive cutscenes can provide? Is it different when you’re not able to use cinematic conventions and tools such as camera angles?

Well, a philosophical point of what we’re doing is that it turns out that when you give people the power to mess around with this world – and there’s no other entertainment medium where you can do this – something very interesting happens.

I know that, in the start, everyone is going to mess things up and screw with the system. I know that. But there comes a point, and I can almost tell where that point is now, and we’re testing to see exactly where it is, where you get so involved that you’re not going to laugh at a funeral moment. You’ve got the power to do that, and when that icon flashes there in the corner, and you know that you could make a difference here, the very fact you can makes it more emotional.

This is what I’ve always said – the first and foremost thing of telling a story is getting people to care. If you can get people to care, then you can tell the most wonderful story. It doesn’t even have to be the most original or unique story. If you look at ET for example, which is probably up there with the most emotional films of all time, the whole of that film is orchestrated around that one single point where Elliot is hugging this dead alien thing. It all pings around there, and everyone in the cinema cries with joy when you see ET wake up again. That’s what we want.

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