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Molyneux explores Fable 3's episodic potential (with the aid of Charles Dickens)

During a one-on-one conversation with writer Frank Rose at South by Southwest titled "The Emotion Engine: Can a Video Game Speak to the Heart?," Lionhead's Peter Molyneux offered some early details on the episodic potential of Fable 3, citing the serial nature of Charles Dickens' novels.

He began by comparing Fable 3's industrial setting to the mid-19th century setting of Charles Dickens' London, calling it a "brilliant time to set a game." "You look at the characters and the world that someone like Charles Dickens developed and you think, 'Well, it would be brilliant to feel like you're walking through that Dickensian version of London with a little bit of darkness.' Those novels, if you don't know them, are very, very dark," Molyneux explained. "They're written in a way that breaks the story up into these episodes. So why don't we do a similar sort of thing?"

Though Molyneux told Joystiq just last week that Fable 2's episodic experiment had been "massively successful," he stopped short of promising similar functionality for Fable 3; however, yesterday, he seemed to suggest they would be doing just that. "So what we're thinking with Fable 2 to start off with, and with Fable 3, we're going to give you the first big episode and then allow you to continue to download new episodes," Molyneux said. "And that's analogous to the way Charles Dickens wrote his books."

Asked if he would be developing these episodes "as you go along," Molyneux responded, "This is the new world of computer games where in fact, a lot of us are now saying, is, 'If we can have a really strong digital relationship with people then that means you don't have to entirely finish your game or your universe or your experience on release.'" Now, before you get upset, appreciate that Molyneux knows how "strange and bizarre" that sounds, so he's got two examples to help you better understand.

"So we've got these things – these couple of simple things we've got in Fable 3 – which are really, really nice. The first is that some of the shops in the world of Albion are actually linked to the internet and are populated by the staff of Lionhead every so often. So they don't have to be fixed things, we can put new stuff in the world all the time. And you don't have to go out to some horrible Dashboard and download The Armageddon Pack version 5, or drive down to a retailer and wait for some big pack to come out.

"The sort of thing we're thinking of – I suppose I shouldn't tell you this but I'll tell you anyway – after you've been playing the game for awhile you'll see this ferry," Molyneux reveals. "This ferry keeps coming into Bowerstone and going away. It goes off to these islands that we've been talking about but there's no way you can buy a ticket. So one of the things that we enable online is this ticket to this ferry and actually in this ticket is the islands, so we make it feel like you've downloaded this ticket when, in matter-of-fact, you've downloaded the islands."

While this provides some glimpse into what Molyneux has planned for Fable 3, it's hard to determine how extensively these ideas will be woven into the experience.

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