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Black & White (2001)
Fable III Continues to Colour in Black & White

Following a series of six teasers on Lionhead.com, Peter Molyneux announced Fable III to the world at GamesCom on Wednesday morning. Speaking for an hour before his Game Developers Conference lecture later that day, Molyneux kept the session short on news.  Beyond the announcement of an episodic re-release of Fable II to complement Microsoft’s recent digital distribution experiments and a vague release date of December 2010, the rest of the event was devoted exclusively to the high level direction Molyneux wants to take the story in Fable III. Clearly not prepared to play if safe with the sequel he described as “the difficult third child” one thing did appear to be consistent to this observer, the continuing influence of ideas from the first Lionhead game, Black & White.

Black & White (2001)

Released in 2001, Lionhead’s first game generated an in-ordinate amount of hype and was also the first game I had bought in a couple of years. At one stage, “Black & White” was the sixth most requested piece of information on the Internet. Much of this can be attributed to the Lionhead co-founder himself. Molyneux has certainly wound it back in these days but his past form for over-hyping his games will likely always stick with him despite his best efforts. Ultimately the end product could not possibly live up to the lofty expectation but it’s ambition and legacy is undeniable. Fusing elements of real-time strategy with the “God” genre he helped create, Black & White had virtually no HUD and could be controlled completely by gestures. Trends that companies are falling over themselves to implement even today. Its engine was capable of everything from zooming in onto an individual villager to pulling the camera way back to display a beautifully rendered vista complete with changeable weather and a day/night cycle. The game could import online real time weather data, villager names from your address book and enabled messages to be exchanged directly from the game world to and from the web. Ground breaking, at the time.

That some of the bigger features found themselves incorporated into 2004’s Fable should then be no surprise. Black & White at it’s core was a game about good and evil. Nearly every action affected the player’s image in the people’s eyes just like every action does in the world of Albion. For Black & White’s evil God’s dark citadel and charred hand read the Fable Hero’s horns, blue skin & red eyes. In both games, the world is as much a character in the game as your avatar. The villagers have hopes, needs, desires and an opinion formed of you based on your renown & deeds in the world.

An 'evil' ape Creature

The evolution of Black & White’s most notable feature however, was saved until Fable II. Whilst the Hero’s dog from the latter is based upon it, in many ways the Creatures in Black & White were more visibly advanced to the player. It was possible to teach anything you could do to your creature (albeit often with varying degrees of success) and like your dog you could choose to punish or praise it for it’s actions. That your dog in Fable II doesn’t typically cast lightening spells & throw villagers to their deaths is probably a design choice though it would make for a rather amusing patch.

Fast-forwarding to 2009, what we now know about Fable III is much more limited but none the less subtle hints are given as to how ideas from both of these games will become further entwined. Molyneux’s first comment though, was slightly baffling. In his eyes, there is something fundamentally wrong with all RPG’s and he’ll fix this by removing a “foundation stone” from the game. Without even the tiniest hint as to what this may be, he moved on without hesitation leaving everyone slightly bewildered. We might be here to talk about story and drama but the old dog hadn’t completely given up on his old tricks. With the audience still reeling, the first teaser trailer for the game was shown.

Fable III is a game about power and feeling powerful. His mandate for this is clear. In the original Fable, you were one of many heroes. In Fable II the last of them. Now in Fable III you will eventually become the ruler of Albion. The decisions you make will not just affect your own experience and the world immediately around you, they will now effect the entire kingdom. Shades of Black & White are not only implied by the greater sense of power but also by what type of ruler you might be. As King or Queen, you will have the opportunity to right all sorts of injustices in the world of Albion or equally, ignore them. Resources such as gold and taxes will be under your control and free to do with as you wish. Like any ruler, you’ll have plenty of counsel at your disposal keen to give you their opinion on what you should do, much like the Good/Evil advisers from Black & White.

Molyneux is keen to eschew that Fable III will still be an RPG, despite the introduction of elements akin to a real-time strategy or even a “God” game. Indeed, you won’t be given ultimate power straight away. “A journey to rule” awaits the player first whereby a revolution to overthrow an incumbent ruler must be affected (and therefore making sense of Lionhead teasing us with figures such as Joan of Arc & Che Guevara as well as famous leaders like Churchill & Lincoln). Still keen to press the point, Molyneux goes on to tell us about the “Judgments” mechanic, described partly as a new way of getting quests and implying your character will be going out into the world to pass these judgments. The emphasis on the power and the ability to influence the kingdom however, is key, regardless of the as for now secret implementation.

Before closing Molyneux had one more mechanic to tell us about, that of touch. Hinting at a more natural way of performing expressions, players will be able to hold hands, cuddle, embrace kiss and yes, to the logical conclusions based on what you can do in Fable II. Whilst clearly not a direct reference, the tactile relationship you had with your creature in Black & White when praising or punishing it was something missing from the same relationship you had in Fable II with your dog. It will be interesting to see if that can be reappraised.

fable3art2

Whilst that was more or less it for the session, Eurogamer also managed to bag a visit to Lionhead to talk about the game. Making no mention of the player being a ruler, it strikes me that the author might have been unaware of the that fact whilst interviewing. There are some nice details about the art direction for Albion & how 50 years from the end of Fable II, industrialization will affect the world. For what it’s worth, the author’s first thought was not Black & White but a Wii RPG titled Little King’s Story. Having not come across it, I couldn’t comment either way but based on our first taste and the two previous entries in the Fable franchise, the Black & White’s legacy is subtle but also clear.

3 comments
deftangel
deftangel

A Wii remake of Black & White did cross my mind writing that actually but a Natal one would rock too!