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Inside Fable Legends: An Exclusive Interview With Stuart Whyte

Inside Fable Legends: An Exclusive Interview With Stuart Whyte

The director of Lionhead Studios talks about the upcoming Fable Legends, its Inspirations and why this is one of the “prettiest” games ever

By Saad Dada on Jan 29, 2016 at 10:01 am EST

The highly anticipated Fable Legends is expected to be a truly next-generation title that will revolutionize the world of multiplayer gaming, and also go down in history as one of the best experiences overall. The game will follow the highly successful and increasingly popular Free-to-Play model (F2P), and include micro-transactions for various in-game purchases.

The much-loved Fable series has given us an entire world of imagination and possibilities, and kept us mesmerized by the gripping tales and enchanting world. This is where the upcoming Fable Legends takes its core inspiration from. The amazing and unique designs, the stylized characters, and the beautifully vibrant graphics are simply unbelievable, and yet still familiar to Fable fans.

Bidness Etc spoke exclusively to Stuart Whyte, Studio Director for Microsoft’s Lionhead Studios, the team responsible for titles such as Black & White, and the Fable series. If you are not aware of the game, you must be wondering why and how it will “revolutionize” the genre, and why we think it is truly next-gen. Read on.

As the director, Whyte’s job at Lionhead Studios is to “look after the day to day operations of the studio ensuring that everything (hopefully) goes smoothly.” We asked him about his sources of inspiration when making Fable Legends. He said that the biggest influence in terms of games came from the original Fable series, for obvious reasons. He also cited three other masterpieces that the team took inspiration from during the concept stage.

The first game he spoke about was "Left 4 Dead," a multiplayer survival game featuring four player co-op play. This zombie shooter is indeed one of the most enjoyable games we have played, and was cited by Whyte for its “4 player high replay gameplay.” So what does this tell us? We know that Fable Legends will be a fast paced, action-oriented experience, with real time coordination and tactical group mechanics coming into play. Gamers will have to play to each other’s strengths and make up for their weaknesses.

"League of Legends" was cited as another inspiration because it is an example of “free to play done right,” which is also the model that Fable Legends will follow. This makes things a lot clearer regarding the rotation of heroes and tools for villains, and it is important to note that these can all be earned through gameplay, and also be unlocked with currency.

Finally, he mentioned "Dungeon Keeper," “for the Villain mode.” This game was easily one of the most influential games ever created, and it is obvious how it contributed to the entire design of Fable Legends. Dungeon Keeper lets players assume the role of a (villain) dungeon master, and defend a custom built dungeon from invading “heroes,” much like the villain role in Fable Legends.

The upcoming game promises to be one of the most visually stunning titles ever, so we were not surprised when Whyte also spoke about taking inspiration from Hollywood. “Film wise we’ve been inspired over the years by a number of movies,” he said, “including Tim Burton’s 'Sleepy Hollow,' Jim Henson’s 'The Storyteller Series' and 'Labyrinth,' 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' and Terry Gilliam’s 'Jabberwocky.'”

Still True to its Roots

Fable Legends brings a lot of changes and new game modes for players. “Gameplay wise,” Fable Legends is “quite different” from the previous games, as it is “more action oriented.” Another major difference is the “4v1 nature” of the game which makes the experience very “new and fresh” as opposed to any game the studio has previously worked on.

But while there are several changes Fable Legends is also similar to the original Fable games, and this is where it really shines out, and will get fans coming back. “Similarities come through with the world of Albion which is the one ‘character’ which links all the Fable games together” said Whyte.

He talked about the key features of Albion which make Fable Legends retain the identity of its predecessors, by stating that Albion’s “distinctive visual style, quirky British humour and weird and wacky characters (and chickens of course!) is what makes a Fable game.”

Coming to the heroes, we wanted to know about side quests, and additional gameplay activities besides the main 4v1 matches. Presently, the game is in closed beta, and according to Whyte, there are “over 10 different quests (some of which are side quests) but you can also go fishing or chicken kicking in Brightlodge (the home town where all adventures start)”

above: Brightlodge

Whyte stated that the team will be adding new content to the game, with a longer term vision (much like Destiny or Diablo 3), and aims to improve and add upon it based on community feedback. “We’re adding new stuff all the time,” he said. “Our vision with Fable Legends is to keep adding to the game over the years and use feedback from our fans as to what features/areas they’d like us to focus on next.”

Play as the Villain

We wanted to know more about one of the games most unique features, the ability to play as the villain, and wondered whether villain characters would also be rotated like the heroes. According to Whyte, “Villains have a whole separate toybox of things they can use to fulfil their evil fantasies!” which means that the villain’s main focus will be on the arsenal of traps and monsters that can be used (and controlled) to dispatch the pesky heroes venturing into your turf.

“Each quest has a default set of creatures and traps assigned to it but the villain can unlock additional traps, creatures and creature equipment to create new strategies against the heroes.”

Villains will also be able to purchase a particular creature or trap one they particularly enjoy. Creatures can also be upgraded by using them repeatedly. Whyte stated that “If you love Ogres you can unlock them to use on any of the Quests – and then, by using them lots, you can level them up to be more powerful!”

Player-created Content

Referring to player-created content, we asked Whyte whether gamers playing as villains would also be able to build a dungeon and challenge players to invade. “LoL! Not yet…” was his response, and he added by saying “if it’s a feature that players really would love then we’ll definitely entertain it.”

He further added that the team had discussed including player-created levels, but decided that for the initial release the game should have developer created levels only. The reason he stated was that “By doing this we can maximize the gameplay and prettiness of the game (Player generated content can be great… but can also create a lot of average me-to style levels).”

We agree with him, but would still love to see some flexibility and freedom when creating levels. Regarding freedom and flexibility, though, Whyte pointed out that villains will still be able to freely arrange assets within the level. He stated that “even within the pre-designed levels the Villains can control where to position their creatures and traps and effectively build up strategies that work for them on a level.”

DirectX 12

Fable Legends will use DirectX 12 (DX12) and we wondered why. Whyte said that by using DX12, the team was able to achieve “a significant amount of horsepower – resulting in increased visual fidelity, higher frame rates, and improved shadows and effects.” Whyte further said that, depending on the graphics card, the team saw “up to 40% faster performance on some operations on DX12 as compared to DX11." He believes anything that helps improve the graphical quality in games will definitely be loved by gamers and developers alike, and we couldn’t agree more.

The Xbox was based on Direct X technology, and that’s where the X comes from. Since Fable Legends is also being released on the Xbox One and allows cross-play, we were curious to know how Microsoft’s latest machine would benefit from DX12. And from the looks of it, apparently quite a bit.

“Fable Legends is using a number of features on Xbox One,” said Whyte, “including asynchronous compute and efficient multi-threaded rendering.” This has led to improvements in rendering efficiency, which means that the developer can “push the visual bar higher than would otherwise be possible.” This also means that the Xbox One now has better graphical and computing capabilities without actually increasing the hardware, all thanks to DirectX 12.

Our Take

We believe Fable Legends will mark an important turning point in the industry because it places the bar higher on several fronts. It will be among the first games to make use of Direct X12, and will also allow cross-platform play between the Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. This may not be the first game to integrate console and PC through cross-play, but it is definitely one of the best. Cross-play and gorgeous visuals are not the only redeeming qualities of Fable Legends.

Most importantly, the title is a ray of hope for those tired of the slow and painful compartmentalization of games into fixed genres, and actually brings a fresh feel by combining elements from several successful games. The game is a brilliant blend of role-playing (RPG), and real-time strategy (RTS) without seeming like a forced hybrid. Fable Legends is so much more than the sum of its parts.

What's Next

We wanted to know what’s next for Lionhead and what kind of games the team wants to make in the future. Whyte stated that the team has “got big plans” on the future of Fable Legends, and that they are “very cognizant of the fact that whichever direction we go needs to be one in which the fans will love – so we’ll be looking very closely at player feedback to help make our decisions here.”

In gaming, as well as so many other fields, the next big thing is VR and we asked Whyte whether Lionhead Studios intends to go in that direction for Fable Legends or future titles. “We’re really excited by VR” he said “both immersive and augmented.” He also spoke about the HoloLens and said it was a “truly magical experience.” However, he also stated that the studio was currently focused entirely on Fable Legends does not have “anything to announce here!”

Black & White was the first game from Lionhead studios and went on to become a very successful franchise. It was a really addictive and brilliant god game designed by none other than studio creator Peter Molyneux. Players rule over an island and try to gain the support of villagers and tribes. Villagers can be won over by doing favors and helping them, or can also be convinced through fear, by using lightning storms or other calamities.

The game’s world and the mood of the villagers changes according to the player’s actions. We felt it was a game that deserved to be revived. We thought the title deserved a reboot, or a sequel.

“We’re super proud of all our old released games” said Whyte. He continued by mentioning “both Black & White 1 & 2 and The Movies and also the games that didn’t make it – Survivors, Milo & Kate etc.” and further stated that while there is definitely a chance that some or one of these old favorites could be revived, currently Fable Legends is top priority. “I never want to say never but for the foreseeable future we’re very much focusing on launching Fable Legends and then growing and developing it.”

Conclusion

There you have it, folks. This wraps up our interview about Fable Legends, and we hope it was entertaining and informative. If you want more insight into the genius behind Lionhead Studios you can find Stuart Whyte's profile here, along with some quick-fire questions that reveal more about his personality.

If you are interested in learning more about Fable Legends, be sure to sign up for the beta on the game’s website, and stay tuned for more in-depth analysis and coverage. Since the developer is always open to community feedback, be sure to let us know your views, questions and suggestions in the comments below.

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