In many respects it’s Black & White meets Nintendogs meets Fable.
Revealed in his GDC 2007 talk, Innovations in Fable 2, the development team initially thought his idea was madness, Molyneux said. But after prototyping the concept, it’s since become the game’s key concept.
Indeed, talking to Develop prior to his game design lecture, Molyneux explained in detail why he couldn’t now imagine making the game with the dog.
“The dog will stick with you through the entire game,” he said. “It will do some amazing things for you and the interesting thing is you have no control over it at all. There is no ‘Go and attack those enemies’ button, because we found that approach made it into some sort of robot dog. What we want to say to the player is ‘This is a real dog. This is your dog’.”
One challenge for the Fable 2 team has been building the artificial intelligence to make this work in a believeable fashion. “We are trying to bring this dog alive in a way no other creature has ever been bought alive,” Molyneux, himself a longtime dog owner, explained. “It has all the of the AI from Black & White and is super sensitive to what you are doing, but most of all, it’s your dog, and everyone’s dog will be different.”
As with Black & White, part of this process will see each player’s dog physically morphing, depending on whether the player’s actions are good or bad, kind or cruel. “There’s the saying ‘A dog looks like its owner, and your dog will end up looking and acting like you,” he said.
And no, you won’t be able to kill it or chain it up to a tree. “You can choose not to look after your dog and it can be hurt, so if you don’t heal it, it will slowly drag itself along. I want to give you that choice,” Molyneux pointed out.
This means however it will always try to follow you. “It will do everything it can possible to get back to you side, even if that means taking half a hour to travel across the landscape to find the pub you’re currently in,” he added. “You’ll hear scratching and whimpering at the door and then this bloodied mess will come in and everyone will look round and say ‘Is that your dog?’,” Molyneux mused. “It will love you unconditionally.”
And this is the deeper purpose in terms of gameplay. “The dog will be a tremendous emotional feature,” Molyneux ended. “The brilliant thing is I think you will end up caring about him, and the second you end up caring about him, you’re fucked.”
For more details about how Lionhead is approaching development of Fable 2, check out the April issue of Develop.