This is a brown bear. Brown bears hibernate in winter. But not here.

This is (was) a brown bear. Brown bears hibernate in winter. But not here.

Fable 2 added a layer of semi-simulation to the RPG gameplay, and while it had its shortcomings, it was an interesting attempt to widen the gameplay in the single player RPG. MMOs require more than this in the next-generation of games, I believe. They need a realistic simulation model. That doesn’t mean they need to react just like the real world (we can have magic, etc), but like movie logic, the games need to obey their own “laws”.

Some MMOs have recently added the idea of nocturnal creatures. A good example would be the Trolls in Lord of the Rings Online, which can only appear at night, because according to Tolkien, they turn to stone during daylight. Aion will also have some mobs that only come out during the day or night. This is a step in the right direction, but the implementation in MMOs so far has been piecemeal. (more…)

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Remember when we had this amount of customisation when levelling up? What happened?

Remember when we had this amount of customisation when levelling up? What happened?

OK, here’s the next area that I think needs to be drastically overhauled in the next generation of MMOs: character customisation. Sorry to go on about it, but we would never accept the type of customisation we are offered in MMOs in a single player game. In MMOs, the customisation of your character is mostly limited to: armour/items and some form of the talent tree that we have in World of Warcraft. Bring back the stats, for goodness sake.

In good old RPGs, we used to be able to spend a few points every level on our character’s stats, deciding whether to improve Strength or Intelligence, and each decision had a consequence for the abilities of a character. (more…)

Is it right to pay for a game mode?

Is it right to pay for a game mode?

So today saw the release of the Versus Mode DLC for Resident Evil 5. I don’t think there has been such controversy on downloadable content since Bethesda charged for Horse Armour. It made me wonder exactly what the point was of DLC. Firstly, I don’t think it helps that we refer to it in such a broad way. Downloadable content could mean anything at all. Our magazines for the consoles are all free DLC in that case!

DLC #1: Game patches
This is the original DLC, for PC mainly. With this generation of consoles it has become possible for publishers to patch console games too, and we’ve seen plenty of “Day 1” patches. This raises the question of whether the games should have passed QA at all and gone to manufacture, and whether DLC allows them to release a game before it is finished, knowing they can patch it. (more…)

See the Future has you dress up in silly outfits.

See the Future has you dress up in silly outfits.

Jinkers, barely have I finished writing about what I thought was missing from Fable 2, when Lionhead goes and spills the beans about Fable 2: See the Future, the next DLC for Fable 2, due May for 560 MS points (£4.76 in real English monies). See the Future will feature Murgo the Trader (the one who sold you the globe at the start of Fable II) as a start point for 3 new quests.

Ghosts of the Snowglobe see you sent to rescue a village that has been trapped inside a snowglobe. The Cursed Knight quest requires you to rescue a Knight from his fate in the land beyond the dead by, er, dressing up as a Hobbe. The Colosseum is the third quest and is The Crucible on steroids basically. (more…)

What do we want to see in Fable 3?

What do we want to see in Fable 3?

When Fable 2 came out it scored 90+% and won gold awards (including in our own 360Zine), and it deserved to, but now enough time has passed since playing the game through, I can see some of what was wrong in Fable 2 and what I hope will be focussed on in Fable 3.

Firstly, the story in Fable 2 was much stronger than the original Fable, so I’d hope Fable 3 continues this. Peter Molyneux has already said that there’s more DLC on the way for Fable 2, which will continue the Spite and Teresa storyline, but I don’t think DLC will finish The Spire. I suspect that it will return in Fable 3. So, while the story was better, that ending really irked some people. While, I think that narratively it made sense, it seemed to forget that in RPGs, when gamers have built up their skills and powers, they like a big battle at the end where they can throw it all against some big bad. Basically, we like to use them and feel powerful, and Fable 2 didn’t allow us that.

Secondly, Fable 2 lost some of the charm of Fable 1 and I want to see that back in Fable 3. It just didn’t engage enough, possibly because it was trying out so many new ideas. The idea of emotional engagement is fine, but the problem was only a complete idiot gamer would sacrifice their dog because it’s such an important gameplay mechanic, so the decision to be “good” or “evil” really wasn’t open to you, unless you’re happy to spoil DLC and further adventuring.

Thirdly, Fable 3 has got to sort out the control system. The one button attack might seem like a way to open up gameplay, but it basically destroyed magic use, which is one of the strongest and most fun aspects of Fable. You could, realistically, only have 1 selected spell at maximum rank, which meant it was pointless ranking up the other spells. In the original Fable, you could Time Stop, increase Physique and attack, or use a fire spell. In Fable 2, you could really only use Time Stop, or Time Stop level 4 and Fire spell level 5. Very effective, but monotonous and it left you feeling cheated. If I choose to rank up my magic, I want to be able to use them! All it would take is tweaking the control system so that you could use a trigger in addition to the spell button, so you can have multiple spells slotted at once, accessed via button, right trigger + button, etc. Fable 3 has to bring back the magic.

Lastly, the non-RPG elements. It’s clearly a big thing for Peter Molyneux and he hinted recently in an interview that any further Fables would try and expand the non-RPG elements. I thought that the relationships and the money systems were fun, but ultimately superficial. There was no real downside to cheating on your wife, or indeed  seducing them off to be sacrificed (I did both to make sure). The money was easily earned, and by investing quickly in property, you could be a millionaire in days. As Peter is a master of simulations, he must have ideas on how to fix these problems in Fable 3. It could be that some of these ideas were added late in the game – indeed when I visited him only weeks before the game went gold, they were only just adding the gameplay mechanic that meant you earned gold while not in-game. One way to change it in Fable 3 would be to add economic simulation – basically, if you get rich, prices go up accordingly. The other way would be to add more things you might need to buy – in Fable 2, you just needed the best sword and best gun and that was pretty much it. Fable 3 should add armour, rather than just cosmetic clothes, so that you have more ability to improve your character and more to spend your money on.

There’s doubtless years (and maybe a new Xbox even) before we see Fable 3, but there are definitely areas for improvement in the world of Albion, don’t you agree?