Creating a new look for Fable: The Journey

Creating a new look for Fable: The Journey

Demonstrated at E3 last month, Fable: The Journey sees the series embrace Kinect while for the first time straying from the familiar 'bloodline' theme that characterises the previous three games. Despite branching into brave new territory, however, its lineage remains instantly recognisable. After his Develop confernce talk, Fable: The Journey -The Evolution and Preservation of a Distinctive Visual Style, we caught up with Lionhead lead artist Tak Saito to find out how the studio approached the challenge creating a fresh look that also rings true for series stalwarts.

You mentioned the ideas of evolution and preservation during your session. Could you expand on that?
We decided to make a Kinect game for the Fable franchise, and obviously we need to respect and understand what the franchise has been developing into by studying and learning from it. That's what I meant by preservation. But we also want the game to appeal to core gamers as well as family audiences. Therefore we wanted to go for a lighter feel – less black humour – and achieve something that has a signature feel to it.  Hopefully when we finish the game and people see it they'll think, "Oh yeah, this is part of the Fable franchise, yet it's something a little bit fresh and new." We want it to be recognisable, but fresh.

When you think of Fable, what are the elements that define it for you?
For me, Fable is about Britishness and dark humour. But if you go into visual style, the games also have a chunkiness and curviness to the components designed to make up the world. Colour palettes are deliberately really vibrant, and less desaturated. too.

The Fable series strikes a delicate balance between realism and fantasy caricature, but four games in, is there any danger of the game beginning to caricature itself?
That's true, it's always a risk. We have a different art director on The Journey to the one that's been working on the Fable franchise. John Mccormack and Mike McCarthy worked on the previous games, but Paul Mclaughlin, is our head of art, and we haven't really worked on the Fable franchise before. So we're new to the franchise, and while we're making sure we sit within it, we're also bringing something new to it.

How do you make sure your work fits in with the previous games?
We really like the colour palette to be vibrant, and we're keeping that chunkiness, but we have a slightly different take on it. It breaks down to three elements: One is the characterful lines, so we'll play with the lines in a brick wall, for instance, and try to achieve objects that look like they've been crafted. The second is form: that all the objects are readable [to the player]. And the third is surface: often, games try to make things realistic, by applying lots of textures and it can look a little bit noisy. That's something we want to avoid.