When it came time for Lionhead to develop the third installment in the Fable series, the team looked back at previous editions with an eye on streamlining. The results were somewhat controversial. Some players delved into the slimmed-down Albion with no regrets, while others saw changes to magic, combat, and NPC interactions as a clumsy hatchet job. We got in touch with the game’s lead designer, Josh Atkins, to get his take on the changes.

Having a main character who speaks seems to be a big stride forward. What was it about Fable III that made you feel as though it was time to have a talking protagonist?

Giving the main hero a voice was not an easy decision and it was not something that was actually planned at the start of the game. However, one of our central goals for Fable III was to create a strong narrative, and we soon realized we would fail at that goal unless we gave the hero both a voice and a defined place in the world. It would be hard to imagine a mute hero in the first judgment of the game where the player must make a substantial life and death decision.

If you had to narrow Fable III’s optimal audience down to a single hypothetical player, what would he or she be like? A veteran RPG player? Someone new to the genre? Someone new to video games in general?

Every Fable game has been made with the intention that anyone can pick up a controller and be successful, and Fable III was no different. Our goal was to create an accessible and easy to understand game that very casual players could experience and, most importantly, finish. We have heard many great stories about Fable III that led us to believe we were reasonably successful in that goal. My favorite story was the day I randomly discovered my wife's hairdresser who generally watches her boyfriend play games actually played Fable III, enjoyed it, and finished it.

Now that the game is out, is the team satisfied with some of the streamlining decisions made in Fable III? In particular, the interactions were restructured in both how many NPCs could be engaged at once and the overall depth of such encounters. Are you happy with the end result?

We had a real dilemma with both the Fable II interaction method and magic systems. As Peter Molyneux has mentioned in the past, we had statistics that indicated many of our users were not using a substantial amount of the features we created in Fable II. Therefore, after many tricky discussions we came to the conclusion we should simplify a set of our features in an effort to ensure they would be clear and usable by players at every level. Clearly we were a bit surprised by some of the responses we got to these changes, and our goal was never to make our users feel something had been removed unfairly. One thing I like about Lionhead is that we look at each Fable as a standalone product, and while we are influenced by what we have done in the past, we do not let the past be a barrier toward trying to innovate.

Managing property was a tremendous improvement over the last game – particularly with how players can buy and sell real estate from the map menu. At the same time, there’s a fair amount of babysitting when it comes to maintaining the condition of rental properties. Was that deterioration added for the sake of balancing, or were there other reasons?

The decision to have houses require 'upkeep' came from an intention to make property ownership feel like a job and something the player had to care about and think about.