My interview with game industry luminary Peter Molyneux began with me being forced to admit that playing his new game was not my top priority.
As far as embarrassment goes, for a game journalist it doesn't get much worse.
I'd just joined a teleconference call with Mr. Molyneux, who was promoting the third entry in his popular role-playing game series Fable (an Xbox 360 exclusive developed by Lionhead Studios and set for release on Tuesday), when he asked if I had played the game. I responded that though Microsoft had provided me with a copy I had not yet cracked it open because I was on deadline for my review of Fallout: New Vegas.
I wished desperately that I could have answered otherwise. Still, I'd spoken with Mr. Molyneux a couple of times before. He's a kind soul and a every bit an English gentleman. I suspected he wouldn't hold it against me.
And I was right. It turns out the only reason he wanted to know whether I had started playing his game was because he was interested in discovering how much time journalists were planning on devoting to it. I said 20 or 25 hours, based on my experience with previous games in the series. He explained that 20 hours or so would be enough to get through it at a nice pace, though it can be shorter if you rush through or last longer if you explore everything it has to offer. Consequently, he said he expects to see a "very personal review" from each journalist who writes about it.
At least I won't be under any pressure while playing and writing about it this weekend.
Preamble ends there. The following is a transcription of the rest of our regrettably brief-he was on Redmond time and it was early evening in Toronto, where I had fatherly duties that required attention-conversation.
I remember earlier this year you mentioned how only a certain percentage of players did everything that one could do in Fable II, and that this stat weighed into design decisions in Fable III.
The stat was this: Only 60 percent of people who played understood or used 50 percent of the game's features. We've designed that into Fable III. You can visibly see which things you haven't used because you haven't unlocked those particular game chests...[stops abruptly] Do you mind if I ask you a cheeky question?
What did you think of Fallout: New Vegas?
Well, I love the idea of role-playing in a post-apocalypse world. I enjoyed Fallout 3 immensely, and I enjoyed the new game as well. But it really felt like a massive expansion pack rather than a true sequel. Except for some very superficial modifications-like being able to aim down your gun barrel-everything felt exactly the same. That's fine, since I liked the previous game so much, but I think there was virtually no innovation.
That's interesting. I was a real fan of Fallout 3. I'm only asking you because I wanted a thought on whether I should install that game, go back to my iPad, or play Civilization V.
It's tough making a sequel, you know? It really is. We were really passionate to inject some innovation into Fable III, and I hope you see some of that.
From what I've heard it sounds like Fable III has loads of innovation. Speaking of which, can you talk a little bit about the decision to remove some traditional role-playing elements, such as levelling up and experience points?
Do you mind if I just rant a little bit?
It's the easiest way to explain. Here's the thing: I adore role-playing games. I love them more than girlfriends and partners-well, I can't really include my wife, of course-but I love them in a really tangible way. I love that feeling of growth and power. I love collecting stuff. If you tell me there are five things in the world to find I'll go and find all five.