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Lionhead: "Consumers are visually illiterate"

Art director hopes audience will be drawn to Fable 2 without getting hung up on technology behind RPG

Fable 2's technical art director Ian Lovett has said that consumers don't notice the technical improvements behind the art style of a game, as they are "visually illiterate".

Speaking to our sister site , Lovett explained that he hopes consumers will be drawn into the visuals of the Fable sequel without noticing the mechanics behind the style.

"By and large, consumers are visually illiterate. They don't understand what they're looking at," commented Lovett on the improvements to the game compared to its Xbox sequel.

"They're not necessarily going to notice. I want them to be drawn in, and that's more than the sum of the parts. Nobody's going to look at this and go, 'what amazing normal mapping on that. I'm so glad they did that'.

"I mean, that's all great technology - but hopefully that's invisible to the consumer. He'll just look at that and feel like he's in a forest. You'll feel more part of the game, more wrapped up in the experience.

Fable 2 is one of Microsoft's big hopes for Christmas, and is released at the end of next month. The original title for Xbox suffered a number of delays, but Lionhead became more efficient for the sequel – even if it did have to adopt business practises that didn't sit well with a creative team.

"Once we had our pillars, our visual pillars, then we sat down and talked about how we wanted to re-imagine it," detailed Lovett. "We did a horribly wanky thing, actually, which is that we came up with a visual mission statement. Although it's awful, nasty business, yuck, what it helped us do was to concentrate our thinking into how we'd really describe it."

This new structure helped convince Microsoft Game Studios of a sequel to the successful RPG, said Lovett.

"It helped us to sell it up the chain. You know, Microsoft weren't just going to rock up with a fat chequebook of X million, or whatever, and say 'hey guys, go ahead, we're going to take a punt on you despite the fact that you were years late with Fable - do another one for us'".

Microsoft's faith in the Fable franchise extended further to trusting Lionhead to create not only its own distinctive visual style, but also to build its own in-house technology, rather than buying middleware off the shelf.

"The scariest thing was, though, that it's a tremendous amount of faith on Microsoft's behalf," continued Lovett. "We decided that we weren't going to use a middleware engine. We looked at Unreal - and it's an amazing engine, don't get me wrong. We've got nothing against it. But it wasn't what we needed for Fable, so we said, let's go and develop another engine."

"Of course, that means that for the first two years of development, you're not going to see anything. All you're going to see is concepts, a couple of tests... The amount of faith which that takes when you've got a franchise which, in Microsoft's eyes, is number two only to Halo, and the money that goes with that. That's a tremendous punt to take on a bunch of people."

Fable 2 is released in the UK on October 24.

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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