FORMAT Xbox

ESRB RATING M for Mature

AVAILABILITY Sept 2004

PRICE TBA

Developer Diary #5: Demo Days

by Dene and Simon Carter

September 27, 2002 - Before we begin, we'd like to note that this game was called Project Ego up until just a few days ago. As such, you will still see it referred to as Project Ego instead of it's true, final name, Fable.

Developing a computer game is a tricky business. On the one hand, it's a fantastically liberating art form, in many senses devoid of physical limitations, and the only form of creative expression that can truly interact with the viewer. Then again, it's a mammoth engineering effort, with hundreds of thousands of lines of code, tens of thousands of pieces of art work, sounds, etc that not only need to be implemented, but also all need organising and testing. If just one of these 'resources' is put into the game wrongly, it may well cause problems with the entire game.

In the perfect world of our brotherly collective-consciousness, organising all of this is marvellously simple. We're from a programming background, of course, and hence we pride ourselves on our ability to break things down to their logical components and come up with perfect, theoretical solutions to problems. When thinking in this way, Big Blue Box is a hive of Borg drones, each one working in perfect harmony with the next.

Art Drone 1 creates a piece of artwork, or a 'game resource' as the Carter Borg prefers to call it. Art Drone 1 tests the resources in game to make sure they work, before handing them over to Lead Artist Drone 1, who checks them to make sure they fit in with the style of the game. He then passes them over to the Resource Integrator Drone. He's in charge of turning these meshes, textures, etc into an object which can actually do stuff in game. Once he has done his bit, he adds everything to the central game database, from which a dedicated computer continually churns out new versions of the game.

This is an elegant, foolproof system, a conveyor belt process where artistic talent goes in at one end, and creatures, landscapes, buildings, etc pop in to the game the other. It's a serene, beautiful picture of efficiency.



Still wanna make video games?

However, if you'd popped your head into our office yesterday you'd have found Simon chain-smoking menthol cigarettes, Matt's body convulsing with a thousand simultaneous nervous twitches, Julian and Adam shrieking at each other about how the other one shouldn't bother looking the next time he crossed the road, while our lead artist, Ian, was falling on his knees screaming 'Why the rubbery &%*# isn't the &*#%ing Balverine still not working you useless bunch of monkeys', in front of a whiteboard listing the odds on which member of the team was going to 'crack' next.


He's a longshot, but my money's on Ian.

We're currently working on the E3 demo of our game which, this year (2002), not only involves a working, playable version of the software, but also a presentation video which quite a few people are going to see. Being your typical overly proud and protective developers, we get insanely precious about what people see from our game, and we want everything to look absolutely perfect. What this generally means is that we try and cram in several months worth of stuff into the game in about a week, right up until (and frequently beyond) the last minute. 21 separate people putting new stuff into the game simultaneously has an interesting effect on our lovely, foolproof processes.

But we wouldn't have it any other way. There's nothing in the world like the sense of achievement you get when you've come through an intense, ulcerating experience like this, and you've delivered something you're happy with. In addition, sickening though it sounds, it's also a great way for a team to pull together, and do the whole bonding thing. We now know more about Gianni's sex life than we ever wanted to.

So far we've had no casualties to stress. Although Kaspar's unwavering, piercing stare is beginning to scare me. No, put the angle-poise lamp down Kaspar. Put it down, I don't want a halogen bulb stuck there...

Next month: Fanatics.