INTERVIEW: Flaming Fowl Studios, Developers of Fable Fortune
We spoke to the mind behind Fable Fortune, which may be the last Fable game we will ever see.
The last few years in the Fable franchise have been turbulent. From Fable Legends being cancelled to Lionhead Studios being entirely shut down, neither the fans nor the developers of the series have had it easy. Even the third entry already had some fans worried about the future of the series.
A new entry to the series is probably not going to happen in the near future, if at all, but at least we have Fable Fortune to keep us sated until we get something new. Being an avid fan of card games, the news of a Fable card game had me stoked. I’ve had time to try it, but that’s a story for another day.
We were given the chance to interview Mike West, Creative Director at Flaming Fowl Studios, which is composed of ex-Lionhead Studios developers, and he told us all about Fable Fortune, how it came to be, as well as what makes it a Fable game.
What inspired you most to make a card game spinoff of the Fable series?
I first pitched a CCG for the Fable games back on Fable 2 as a pub game. It got some traction, but in the end switched to the Fable Pub Games. Fortunately with the growth of digital CCGs in recent years, I pitched it again initially as a companion app for Fable Legends. Since it switched into full development however it was clear the game would be a great standalone product and it’s something we are all very proud of.
What sets Fable Fortune apart from the other card game spinoffs like Hearthstone or Elder Scrolls Legends?
We had a number of core design philosophies when initially designing Fable Fortune. Firstly, it had to meet the expectations of Fable fans. This meant core mechanics such as Good/Evil morality decisions, adventurers going on epic Quests and of course the British Fable humour. Secondly, the game had to have depth. We’ve incorporated elements such as an innovative Guard system, morphing cards and the Quest system itself leads to a lot of varied gameplay decisions within the course of each match. Thirdly, Fable 2 and onwards have been playable co-op and we wanted to introduce a CCG that people could play together, so Fortune has been designed from the ground up as a co-op experience with lots of cool enemy Bosses to fight. Finally we have been conscious at every element of development to reward skilful players over lucky players. Every Card game will have an inherent element of luck of course, but with Fable Fortune we’ve tried to ensure that when you lose a match, you can look back and see how to win next game, rather than hope for a different flip of a coin.
Do you see yourselves developing another epic like the Fable games in the near future?
I personally worked on the Fable franchise for 12 years and have always loved epic RPG games. Obviously starting out on our studio of our own won’t mean our next game will be the size and scale of Fable, but we will certainly take what we have learned from our years in Albion and in the future, who knows?
For you, what makes a game a good game?
I think in this day age, great games fit into two categories. There are those games that can fit into a lunchtime or a short session. Many people are quite time precious, and want instant gratification or something to fill a gap in their day and this is where Fortune fits nicely. The other type of game is a huge single player epic adventure with a rich storyline, well written characters and a deep and involving storyline. Escaping your everyday life and getting lost in a world of adventure is what makes those types of games resonate with me.
If you could remake the Fable games from scratch and had full creative freedom, what would you change?
I think the single biggest improvement that could be made to the Fable games would be to make them truly open world. The implementation of the region changes caused the development team a lot of problems with tracking quests and loading and unloading scripts which meant we often implement some of the more exciting story twists and turns we wanted to. Fable was a hugely wide game with a great sim, combat system, story, economy, pub games etc, it’d be unlikely you’d really want to add anything else to the game, but certainly I’d like to go back and add depth to the sim and combat systems.
What were some of your favourite moments in the Fable series?
For me, the humour has always been the highlight while working on Fable. I remember my first week on the project when I played the first iteration of the ‘Beardy-Baldy’ quest in the original Fable. The chap asks you to go back and forth wearing increasingly ridiculous outfits so you can woo his daughter only to find out he just wanted you to look an idiot. In Fable 3 was a quest where the Hero gets shrunk down and ends up inside a tabletop RPG game, the scripters did a great job of making that whole experience fun – I ended up wanting a snarky narrator for the whole game!
Have you found a way to implement some of those into Fable Fortune?
Fortune is also full of the Fable humour. We’ve been conscious to not only choose existing well-known Fable characters to the game, but also add new ones that fit well in the universe. Mediatonic got a grasp of Fable straight away and it’s been a pleasure to work with them on it, a special highlight has been our champion design. Where most games have a brave Knight, we have a Farmer riding a Pig, instead of a great necromancer, we have the animated head of a necromancer held by his granddaughter. These characters would have been completely at home in Oakvale or Brightwood as the Hero travelled around the world of Albion.
Do you have a favourite game/movie/book that has inspired you and influenced you in developing video games?
One of the first books I got out of my school’s library at the age of 9 was ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’ by Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone. That was the first time I realised games could also be stories and it got me interested in D&D and later about the possibility of a career in computer games. These days I still read a lot of fantasy and my favourite authors are Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson & Brent Weeks. All of them are great at creating magic systems, realistic worlds, and heroic but fallible characters, the balance is very fine. On a separate note, I’d also recommend reading the Charlie Parker books by John Connolly, someone should really make a game of those!
Fable Fortune is set to enter early access on 25th July for PC and Xbox One.