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Fable 3 preview: A second date with co-op

We know Fable 2 didn't quite get co-op right. To hear Peter Molyneux talk about it, it was a "poorly implemented feature." And that's where Fable 3 comes in. The threequel promises to fix three specific shortcomings of Fable 2's co-op experience: bringing your hero into another player's game; returning to your game with the gold and items you earned; and (yes!) detaching the camera.

First, the henchman problem. Since the concept of co-op was introduced into Fable 2 later in development, the game's quests were never designed to accommodate two heroes with all of their possible abilities and characteristics. Instead, when joining another player's game, your carefully curated hero would be replaced with a generic henchman. Hardly the kind of experience that drew players to Fable in the first place. In Fable 3, you take your hero – weapons and all – with you into a friend's game.

Gallery: Fable 3 (TGS 2010) | 6 Photos

"You can join in from the first second of the game to the last second of the game," Lionhead's Peter Molyneux told Joystiq at TGS earlier today. In our demo, two screens were set up with Fable reps Dimitri and Louise steering. Their screens show the exact same location in the game, though their respective worlds look much different: Dimitri's is beautiful and green while Louise's is industrial and overdeveloped. Joining another player's game gives you the opportunity to see how much the world of Albion can change. However (and this is the new part!) your hero stays the same.

Marriage can be more than just a "gimmick."

"Louise comes in as her hero with her complete inventory and everything that she owns and uses," Molyneux explained. "That gun is still changing when she's in this world. When she goes back to her world, she takes those changes with here. Any followers, which is like experience, that she earns in Dimitri's world, she'll take back. And any gold, she'll take back. And then gold for co-oping as well." But it's not just your hero that teleports into another player's world; your dog comes along with you.

While you're in another player's game with your newly liberated co-op camera, you can venture off and perform your own quests, so long as you don't go too far. "The only thing is when they leave a level – and levels are pretty big – then they both have to agree to leave that level at that time. There's a mining camp, there's a village, there's a demon door, there's a lot of playability in the levels. Some of the levels are four times larger than the ones in Fable 2. It seems like a bit of a restriction but it doesn't really feel like that." Worried about someone coming into your game and causing havoc? They won't be able to kill innocent people unless you turn the safety off.

Since you can play together with actual heroes instead of henchman ciphers, you're also able to marry your co-op partners, but Molyneux is quick to suggest that this isn't a gimmick. "Marriage and business partnership is a real gaming mechanic," Molyneux said. With the ability to merge assets, gain wealth and real estate, marriage can be more than just a "gimmick."

There's also the option of a "business partnership" if you'd rather keep things professional instead of passionate. But if it's passion you want, you can have a "special hug" with your partner, and, if you go the unprotected route (the player who doesn't initiate the sexing will have to acknowledge it's unprotected sex), you could end up with a little rugrat. At that point, you two being important, busy hero-ing types, you can hire a nanny to watch the little one. (TV and video games weren't invented yet.)

From the looks of it, Fable 3's co-op experience represents one of the biggest qualitative deltas between what was delivered in the otherwise excellent Fable 2 and what's being delivered in Fable 3. That first date was pretty terrible, but the second date looks to be a winner. Now the only question is: business or pleasure?

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