The original Fable could have looked very different if it weren’t for Devil May Cry. Yes, that The devil may cry. It’s an incredibly unlikely pairing, but one that co-creator Dene Carter recently cited as a driving force behind Albion’s world, changing the trajectory of Fable’s universe.
Carter took to Twitter to talk about hack-and-slash’s influence on Lionhead’s RPG, and offered some sage advice for today’s developers. “I’m sure everyone knows this hack already, but I’m going to talk about it anyway, on the off chance that it saves someone from going completely off track during development,” he wrote. “It’s a hint of scope, when you feel lost: steal it. 100% rip it off another game.”
This is where Devil May Cry comes in. Despite being so juxtaposed from Carter’s own, the way Hideki Kamiya’s game outlined its world helped shape Albion. “I had played Devil May Cry, and noticed that the world was something like 82 zones. It didn’t seem excessive. It reused and recontextualized areas. It worked for a relatively short but high quality game.”
I’m sure everyone knows this hack already, but I’m going to talk about it anyway, on the off chance that it saves someone from going completely off track during development. It’s a hint of scope, when you feel lost: steal it. 100% rip it off from another game.14 November 2022
Carter said he documented each zone. He counted each one, logged their size and average time spent there, and used that information to “block out the entire world of Albion.” He said he went through the game “with a guide, a stopwatch and a notepad,” adding that he “felt like a charlatan” while doing so. But studying Devil May Cry’s world helped refocus Fables, one that Carter says was “at the time out of control,” believing the team “had to make something ‘big.’
Devil May Cry wasn’t the only game Carter’s team drew inspiration from. “Literally copying the scale of DMC, the interaction density of Silent Hill, and the encounter style of the first Way of the Samurai changed Fable from a floppy, undefined, never-ending death march to something we could actually finish without ever having worked on a 3D game. ” As Carter clarifies, it wasn’t about taking “themes, ideas or creativity, just their scope,” likening it to studying the optimal length for films.
The Fable series has long been one of my favorites, and it’s incredibly neat to see how a completely different game helped it become the classic it is today. Creative work is tough at the best of times, especially when it’s your first attempt at a particular medium, and studying those who came before us is how art is constantly evolving and improving. As Carter himself says, “not everything in your game is going to be original. In fact, very little will be. Manga, anime, Star Wars, etc. almost all rest on some kind of framework or structure set up by people long before you. ” He concludes with some more advice for budding developers: “Focus on the bits that make your game yours, don’t ‘avoid using L3 for run’.”