Hello everyone this is Scotty Jim for G2G:Evolved and today we are joined by a very special guest, game director on Lionheads Fable Legends, David Eckelberry.
Thanks, Scotty. Great to have a chance to chat finally.
First let me start by saying thank you very much for joining us here David, we know you must be very busy putting the finishing touches to Fable Legends so lets get started,
Scotty- So David, first of all what was the first computer or console you owned and some of the first games you played?
The first computer I owned (thanks Mom!) was a Commodore 64. Most of the games I played on it were actually little programs and games I built myself, or games that I literally keyed in by hand, where the code came from a magazine and you’d type it all out longhand. Then have to debug your typos. But it taught me a bit about coding, and let me start doing what I’d guess we’d call mods. I remember most playing a little wolf-life sim game that I built on and tweaked for months, where all of the wolf pack members were my friends at school. I guess there’s an easy allegory there.
As far as consoles go, my first was an Atari 2600. Loved it, still have it. I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark and Berzerk, but my favourite game on the console remains Yars’ Revenge, a game by Howard Scott Warshaw. It was a game that was weird, and rather exposed its design mechanics to the player. It made me start to ask why the game was designed as it was, and sort of got me started into making games at all.
Scotty- How did you get into making games, what are some of the titles you have worked on and how did you find yourself here at Lionhead?
The story of my work life, short version: I got into games as an amateur designer of board games and paper RPG games during my high school and college years. From there, I met people working in the games industry at shows and conventions (this is pre-internet, crazily enough). From there, I got encouraged to do some semi-professional writing and game design for Dungeons & Dragons, and then found myself with a job after university – instead of going to law school as I once planned.
So that got me started, and I had a great place to learn better game design practices from some amazingly talented people. I worked on D&D, Magic, Pokémon, and other games before transitioning to video games around thirteen years ago. After that I worked on PC and console video games for Turbine, LucasArts, and EA before finally being recruited to join Lionhead here in England.
Scotty- What are the day to day duties of a game director on a game like Fable Legends?
I love my job and my team here at Lionhead. I have many, diverse responsibilities, and there is no truly “typical” day for me here. Every day can be different and full of surprises. Usually these shocks are the good kind; the team amazes me with the creativity and ingenuity as they bring new things into the game we’ve come to love.
Some days I’m focused on distinct game elements – like this afternoon I will be spending a couple hours reviewing some of the newer VFX from our heroes. Last month was a lot of E3 preparation: playing our show floor demo, doing final edits and writing a narrator script for a villain reveal video for the Xbox keynote, and getting ready to be leave country for a week. Since then, I’ve be more focused on playing and finalizing some of the levels that will soon be released to our closed beta.
Scotty- After Fable the Journey, was there lots of pressure to make something a bit safer like Fable 4.
No. Microsoft has always encouraged Lionhead’s history and practice of innovation, and when we came to the Xbox leadership with the core of the idea for Fable Legends, they were almost as enthusiastic as we were.
Scotty- Up till now we have seen the 4 on 1 heroes and villains combat in Fable Legends, will there be more traditional Fable elements in the game, the humour, exploring towns and markets in Albion?
Yes. We’re pretty confident in our ability to make funny sim villagers, silly mini-games, and ridiculous merchants in our home city of Brightlodge. It’s work that the studio has done before and feels comfortable with.
You’ve seen more of our focus on the core gameplay loop – quests of four heroes against a Villain and his creatures – because it is so new and challenging to us. We have to get that right, iterate on it and make it great to play every day.
SolaceConquest- How does the economy work, can u buy player progression boosts like in modern MMOS?
A big question! The simplest way to summarize is that Hero player and Villain players earn silver, loot, and XP by playing quests in Fable Legends. They can use what they find to improve their Heroes, creatures, and traps in a variety of ways. And to customize their characters visually, whether to show off or just to look funny.
Everything that makes your character more powerful can be earned in the game, either directly by finding items out of the game’s treasure chests in each quest, or by spending the silver you earn from them with in the city of Brightlodge.
For most players, I think the first thing you’ll be looking to unlock will be a new Hero to play. Fable Legends uses a hero rotation so that you’ll always have four Heroes to choose to play for free. After, if there’s a different Hero you want to play, you can unlock that Hero permanently with the silver you earn. Finally, if you find a Hero you love, and you have to have him or her to play right now, you can purchase the Hero outright.
Kingwhybrow- Will there be lots of new content like new heroes or villains, facial expressions or tattoos added over time?
Yes. We’ll be continuing to release new Heroes, quests, and creatures at a very regular and dare I say aggressive cadence after the game’s release.
Scotty- What kind of involvement does Microsoft have on a game like Fable Legends, do they need weekly updates, offer suggestions or do they generally let you just get on with it?
Generally they let us get on with it. We have people pop in for a play or review once every few months, and some of our Microsoft partners have had great things to contribute in making our game and its presentation better, whether through user research, UI support, or even some help writing some of our game scripts or hero ideas. And we rely on Microsoft for a number of technological features for Xbox and Windows 10 features.
Scotty- And finally David, where do you see yourself and Lionhead in 10 years time?
Oh, for a crystal ball. Ten years is so far away! I couldn’t have predicted where I would be a decade ago, but I certainly hope to still be making games that I love, and that fans will enjoy immersing themselves in for hours and hours, days and days. Of course by then there should be several more games to come out of this talented pool of developers at Lionhead, perhaps some visiting Albion and some taking us to someplace new.