PrintE-mail Written by Gareth Evans

Since the closure of Lionhead studios (most famous for Black and White, and Fable) a studio of former employees have banded together to form Flaming Fowl Studios. Their first game will be Fable Fortune. Originally they tried to fund the game via Kickstarter but have since secured an outside investor. STARBURST spoke with Craig Oman, the Executive Producer of Fable Fortune and the CEO of Flaming Fowl Studios.

STARBURST: Your campaign has managed to secure an outside investor, how does that feel?
Craig Oman: It's great to be able to turn the attention back to developing the game and focusing on making that. Kickstarters are incredibly hard work. There is a constant feeling of being always on. It's great to be able to turn back and focus more on the development.

It is interesting to see that it is becoming the case with Kickstarter projects lately that someone might not raise their goal but will still find themselves able to get the project made from the publicity they gained from their campaign.
I think it is certainly a great marketing platform for some. Especially in the board game industry where a designer might already have the game designed and ready to go but they need the pre-order numbers to start the manufacturing. I think for us it has been really interesting. We've obviously had a lot of people playing the game because they backed it. We have also teamed up with a company called Keymailer so that people with Twitch or YouTube accounts can sign up for copies of the game. It is a great way to distribute the game to people who will stream and create YouTube videos which give you added visibility and marketing. It has been great going through that and watching all the twitch streams and jumping on and playing with those guys and being able to explain the game as they play. Everybody who has played the game and is chatting about it seems to be really enjoying it. This coverage has certainly made life a bit easier in terms of securing ongoing funding [for the game].

As fans of the series will know, this isn't Fable's first venture into spin-off territory. What is it about the world of Albion that gives it such potential for different types of game?
Within Fable games we've always had things like pub games. We’ve always been willing to look beyond just the core game. I think just, in general, the humour, and the approachability of Fable really tries over too many different genres, and I think although this isn't the standard Fable RPG title that most people would associate with the franchise hopefully you will see as you play through the game we have all the charm and humour that you would expect from a classic Fable title in there. I think ultimately what people like and enjoy about Fable is the whimsical nature of it and that classic British sense of humour.

While there is a tendency to associate fantasy with European history Fable as a series has always been uniquely British in its setting.
It's even little things when you run around the world a lot of the time the plants are weeds, you see things like dandelions dotted around the world. It is stuff like that which means as someone from Britain you can't help but think ‘that is definitely from here, it isn't from anywhere else’.

As you mentioned in the Kickstarter this project was something in development at Lionhead that had yet to be announced. What was it that first attracted you to making a collectible card game within the Fable universe?
Mike [West], our creative director is about as a big a CCG fan as you would come across. I think within Lionhead as a whole, we always had a huge community there of board game players and card game players. We would constantly have magic the gathering tournaments running. You would see people dotted around in meeting rooms having matches. It is a genre that we have always been passionate about. You will hear Mike saying that he has been trying to pitch this since around the time of Fable 2. It is we've been something we have been very keen to do for a while, so we were very glad that we finally had an opportunity to do it.

Having just secured your funding what is your immediate focus going forward?
Right now we are fully focused on getting to the point where we can have a proper closed beta so that we can bring on more users and expand the player base. There are a few things that we need to implement properly before we can open the game up to a very wide audience. Things like the tutorial. We've disabled that from the alpha build. Thankfully, a lot of people coming in are familiar with CCGs and they can get their heads around the mechanics quite quickly. But we do have to have a system in there for the Fable fans coming on who in who perhaps have never played a CCG. So the tutorial is something that we need to get focused on. We also have seventh and eighth champions that we are very keen to work on and get added to the game. There is a lot of balancing and improvements to the overall gameplay. The balancing is going to be a big one, working with the community as well. We've got a great user base already, really passionate gamers who are giving us some great feedback.

How have Microsoft been through all of this? Since granting you the license have they been supportive?
They were very supportive in getting us the license but from the point where we signed the license, they don't have anything to do with the game anymore. We've had a lot of kind words from Microsoft and we certainly know there were a number of Microsoft people backing us which is nice to see. We've also been trying to upload some of our new artwork to the Facebook Fable page. They've been great from that point of view but the arrangement we have with him is that this is our title. Obviously, as we go through development we will look to bring in the Windows 10 and Xbox One version, so they will start to get more involved with that side of things.

So on the plus side, you've definitely got the creative freedom that you need for something like this…
Yes, very much so. Our license will allow us to reuse any of the character or creatures from any of the previous Fable titles but also allows us to create new characters and new creatures. We have people like Mike [West] who has been on the franchise for twelve years. He has been on the series since very early on and there is great continuity in terms of character design. We are working with people like Mike [McCarthy] as well, who had been the lead concept artist at Lionhead for about 12 years. So we have enough authority that we can go around create new characters and creatures and we know that they are going to fit because we have part of the same team that has been doing that for the past decade or so.

Is there anything in particular that you think long-time Fable fans should look forward to?
I think the artwork on all the cards has been great to go and create, and to go back to some of these characters, that you've not seen anything new of in as much as ten years for some of the original characters. It has been great to add a lot of new content to the Fable universe. You will see from our Twitter page and such like we have been showing lots of new artwork. We have really gone to town on the detail of the cards. Typically, in-game they will appear quite small and we could have minimised the quality of the cards and saved ourselves a lot of time and effort. But we really wanted to make sure that if we were going to make these pieces of artwork that they stand up at full size as well. I'm personally excited to get to the point where we could maybe get some posters made of them [the characters] as well.

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