Fable hasn’t exactly had the best fortune over the past few years…which segues into Fable Fortune quite nicely when you think about it. After Fable Legends was cancelled and Lionhead Studios shut down, Flaming Fowl Studios and Mediatonic took to keeping Albion alive with Fable Fortune. As a collectible card game that’s in Early Access and the Xbox Game Preview program, Fable Fortune offers some intriguing new features for CCG fans to get behind. How did the development team get here though and what can be expected? GamingBolt spoke to lead designer Tom Wimbush about the same. You can also check out our early access impressions of the game here .
"Classic Fable mechanics like Quests and Morality were also a natural fit, as they really played into the dynamic of choices and consequences that drives any good CCG or RPG."
What was it like working on the Fable brand after Lionhead Studios shut down? What is the current situation with regards to licensing the brand from Microsoft?
We were all devastated by the closure of Lionhead, but in the aftermath we’ve tried to ensure that we treat the Fable brand with the care and respect that it deserves. We’re big fans of Fable and we know that there are a lot of enthusiastic Fable fans out there, so we want to do right by them by making Fable Fortune a rich and authentic adventure in Albion. Microsoft have been kind enough to let us use the license to continue developing Fable Fortune but they still hold the keys to the Fable franchise as a whole, so I couldn’t say what else is happening with the Fable brand.
What motivated the idea of a collectible card game, especially since Fable has been so deeply rooted in RPG mechanics till now?
Fable Fortune was originally pitched out during the development of Fable II by Mike West, the Creative Director of Flaming Fowl Studios. Mike’s original idea ended up morphing into what became the Fable II Pub Games on Xbox Live Arcade. He later pitched the idea of a standalone collectible card game out again, but this time as a companion game for Fable Legends. This picked up traction pretty quickly and myself and the rest of the team at Mediatonic were brought in to help design and develop it.
Mike saw a collectible card game as a great opportunity for players to engage with the Fable universe in a very different way. Having said that, if you were to map out CCGs and RPGs on a Venn diagram I think you’d find that they have a lot of crossover. Agonizing over important decisions, powering up your character and creating the perfect loadout are all important elements of both genres. Classic Fable mechanics like Quests and Morality were also a natural fit, as they really played into the dynamic of choices and consequences that drives any good CCG or RPG.
Which heroes and villains can players look forward to playing as? Will there be any surprises, like characters from Fable Legends?
We dug pretty deep into the annals of Albion when we were designing our cards, so I’m happy to say that Fortune features characters from all across the Fable franchise. From major players like Jack of Blades, Reaver, Logan, and the Guildmaster to lesser known characters like Kalin and the Spire Commandant. Not to mention that we’re packed to the rafters with hobbes, chickens, balverine, hollow men, gnomes and other assorted creatures. We even have some fan favourite characters from Legends which pack a pretty serious punch like the Inga, Leech and Shroud.
The Heroes that you can actually play as are all original creations that are still deeply rooted in the lore of the Fable universe. For example, Temple, our Gravedigger Hero, actually gets her power to summon hollow men from the animated skull of her great great great grandfather Norman, which she carries around with her. Norman himself was a powerful necromancer rumored to have penned the Normanomicon – the Book of the Extremely Dead from Fable II.
"We’re committed to making Fable Fortune the best card game that it can be. We have a pretty extensive list of features and content that we want to add to the game in the future."
Tell us how the alignment system works and how either path can influence a player’s hero and deck.
During each battle you will embark on a series of Quests of your choosing. These Quests are mini-objectives which will influence your deck-building choices or in-game strategy. With every Quest that you complete, you are given the opportunity to make a Good or Evil narrative decision. Doing so will alter your character’s appearance and demeanor in a classically Fable ‘horns or halos’ fashion. For example, the Good version of Temple has mastered herself and silencing the nefarious Norman by bandaging his mouth shut. If she goes Evil, she succumbs to Norman’s influence and becomes a vessel for his dark necromantic powers.
What this means mechanically is that your Hero’s unique Hero Power will change depending on your choice, allowing you to tailor your play-style to be more aggressive or defensive mid-battle. We also have a bunch of Morality cards in the game, which are special cards that transform and gain unique abilities based on whether you are Good or Evil. Both of these mechanics add an extra layer of depth to each battle as you seek to complete your Quests and pick the optimal Morality the situation that you’re in.
Games like Hearthstone have been criticized for relying too heavily on RNG when it comes to cards. How does Fable Fortune circumvent this to provide more skill-based games?
This is something that we really took to heart during the design process. We made efforts to remove as much unnecessary randomness from the game as possible so that players felt like they were winning games by making the best decisions rather than just by rolling the right number on an invisible dice.
The Guard mechanic is a good example of this. In Fable Fortune, you can spend some resources each turn to place one of your units in Guard. This forces your opponent to destroy that unit before they can attack your Hero or other units. Having access to Guard each turn means that you’re able to rely on your wits to defend yourself, rather than just hoping that a defensive card is already in your hand or waiting on top of your deck.
How have you dealt with PvP mode, specifically with regard to issues like matchmaking, connection quality and so on? What updates can players look forward to in the future?
A solid PvP experience was a big priority for us. We put a lot of effort into developing our matchmaking systems, which we are now being refining as we head through Early Access to ensure that we strike a good balance between match quality and matchmaking time. Similarly, match stability and connection speed is something that we have a keen eye on to ensure a smooth experience for our players.
We’re committed to making Fable Fortune the best card game that it can be. We have a pretty extensive list of features and content that we want to add to the game in the future. You can check out our dev roadmap to see what we’re currently working on and what’ll be added further down the line.
"The team all spend time reading the various forums, reviews, and support tickets to make sure we hear everything that players are saying about the game. It’s addictive!"
What can you tell us about the co-op mode and its contents? Are you planning other unique modes and experiences for players (like perhaps a solo campaign)?
In co-op mode, you and a friend (or a helpful stranger!) team up and take it in turns to fight against a villainous boss from the darker corners of Albion, like the Lady of Rosewood or Nostro from Fable I. You share a single board of units, so if you play a Feral Squirrel on your turn then I can use it to maul the boss’ face when my turn comes around. It’s a great way to introduce new players to the game as you can teach them the ropes using our in-built suggestion systems while you work together towards a common goal.
The response to co-op so far has been fantastic and our players are always asking for new bosses to take on. Something else that has come up often is that players want a single player story mode so they can learn more about our Heroes and their role in the Fable universe. This is something that we’re really excited about as well, so we’ve shifted it up our list of priorities based on the feedback that we’ve received. Watch this space!
Can you tell us about some of the special events and PvP leagues that players can partake in? What are the challenges of hosting these while the game is in early access?
Each month heralds the start of a brand new PvP season. You can compete against other players in PvP battles to climb through a series of PvP leagues. Ascending through the leagues earns you card packs or high rarity cards which you can use to expand your collection.
We also have a regular rotation of events that you can participate in to win cards. These events all have mutators which mess with the rules of the game. For example, giving all characters with mustaches bonus stats, or making cats explode and deal damage to your opponent when they are destroyed. These events are a great way to let off some steam between hardcore PvP or co-op sessions. When you’re in Early Access, it can be a challenge to run multiple events while ensuring both good match quality and speedy matchmaking times. This is where those matchmaking controls that I mentioned earlier come into effect, which so far have eased these problems significantly.
With all the complexities that a CCG presents, how will early access help the development team to iron out bugs? What kind of timetable have you set for those who enter early access with the game?
The team all spend time reading the various forums, reviews, and support tickets to make sure we hear everything that players are saying about the game. It’s addictive! Being in Early Access is hugely important to us because it gives us a chance to gather important feedback from our most dedicated players. This lets us realign our priorities to make sure that we’re putting the most effort into what the community is asking us for. We’re looking at remaining in Early Access/Game Preview for 3-6 months while we gather feedback and make improvements before we transition into a free-to-play Open Beta.
Though we’re still a ways off from a full launch, are you currently planning additional cards and heroes in the future?
Absolutely. New content is the lifeblood of any good card game, so we already have 100 new cards and two brand new Heroes lined up to join our existing roster of six. Pretty soon in the live game we’re going to start adding roughly one new card every week that will be up for grabs as prizes from upcoming PvP seasons and co-op challenges. They’ll also be available from card packs if you don’t manage to pick them up just by playing. We think this constant flow of new content will be vital in ensuring that the meta-game is always evolving and you always have new cards that you want to add to your collection.
"It’s always hard to predict the console market. The Xbox One X is certainly a serious piece of hardware."
The game will be receiving Xbox One X support. Is native 4K and 60 frames per second on the cards?
That’s definitely what we’ll be shooting for. This work is pretty early in the planning stages, but we’ve done some initial testing and will be digging deeper once the dust settles on our Early Access/Game Preview launch to see what we can do there.
Xbox One X features a high end GPU. What kind of benefits does it give to developers compared to the Xbox One?
Ultimately, the added oomph of the GPU included with the Xbox One X will be pivotal in providing a smooth 4K experience. The greatly increased number of pixels in an Ultra HD display means that a lot more lighting and effects calculations need to be performed before presenting the final image to the player. The fact that the new GPU is nearly 4 times as fast makes this a possibility.
The Xbox One X features plenty of RAM too. 9 out 12GB is available to developers…which is undoubtedly more than the average found in gaming PCs. How has this helped you?
Unlike in a desktop PC the Xbox One and Xbox One X enjoy a shared memory architecture. This means the memory can be divided between the CPU and GPU as the developers need. When bringing the title to Ultra HD resolutions we’ll need the increased memory on the GPU in order to make room for higher resolution textures for crystal clear images.
Given that the Xbox One X is powerful in its specs, do you see a longer life cycle for it?
It’s always hard to predict the console market. The Xbox One X is certainly a serious piece of hardware. If I had to guess, I would say that this will be the last ‘update’ that we’ll see to the current generation of consoles as efforts shift towards planning for the next generation, but I could be wrong!