Peter Molyneux has made it clear that Fable 3 is ditching as much of the 2D interface from Fable 2 as possible. Speaking at GDC, he finally showed us exactly how Lionhead will achieve this. According to Molyneux, Microsoft user research revealed that a majority of Fable 2 players understood fewer than half of the features in the game. "We're creating content that people literally don't care about," said Molyneux.
To help rectify this, Fable 3's menu system is managed entirely from within the game world. When players pause the game, their character is instantly warped to a chamber with different rooms that serve different functions. Molyneux specifically demonstrated the dressing room, where players will change clothes. Molyneux contrasted the process with that of Fable 2, in which changing outfits was like "going in the morning and choosing index cards to choose what you wear."
In the dressing room, the player's butler -- played by the inimitable John Cleese -- will have several outfits arranged on different mannequins. According to Molyneux, the outfits should be appropriate to what the character is doing in the game. For example, if your character is going to meet with dignitaries -- you are the king, remember -- you can expect to see some appropriately frilly outfits. Fable fashionistas need not fear, as Molyneux explained that players can still mix and match elements from different outfits -- the interface for this resembles the one used in Grand Theft Auto IV.
We were then shown how the game's map system will work and, honestly, it's pretty slick. A pedestal in the middle of the "pause room" acts as the map. When selected, players can move a magnifying glass over the land of Albion, as well as the new continent of Aurora, and then zoom in on different regions. When zoomed in, players are presented with a fully 3D, interactive version of the town. According to Molyneux, the world simulation is "fully turned on" in the map, which he demonstrated by zooming all the way to the front of the player's house, where his wife and daughter could be clearly seen.
Finally, Molyneux discussed the combat and Fable 3's new weapon morphing system. The enemies you kill, the number of kills, whether you kill innocents or evil people, even your Gamerscore affects the look of the game's weapons. Molyneux stated that one of the goals of Fable 3 is for all players to have truly unique weapons. Said weapons, incidentally, can actually be sold online as well. The combat itself looks essentially the same as it was in Fable 2, although the bullet time effect produced by weapon flourishes seems a bit more pronounced this time around.
Molyneux also explained earlier in the panel that weapons directly affect a character's appearance as well. He noted that many players, particularly women, didn't like the way that character morphing was handled in Fable 2. Specifically, he stated that women didn't like that leveling up their strength resulted in characters that looked like "1970s Russian shot-putters." In Fable 3, character morphing is based entirely on a player's actions. Use heavy weapons like hammers and you'll get big and beefy. Use more guns and you'll become taller and lither. Eat food and you'll gain weight.
Based on what we saw during the demonstration, Fable 3 improves upon the more tedious aspects of Fable 2. We'll just have to wait to see whether they help a majority of players understand more than half the game this time around. Maybe we'll find out at GDC 2011.