Remastering Fable Anniversary

Written by Lauran

Posted on December 16, 2013

Hi! My name is James Vale and I’ve spent the majority of the last 12 months overseeing the in-game art direction for Fable Anniversary.

I have worked in the games industry since 1996, where I went straight from a Degree in Graphic Design to working as a texture artist at Acclaim Studios London. I have since worked for various companies in a variety of art related roles until joining Lionhead in early 2010 where I was hired to work with the Art Team on Fable 3.

In this blog entry I aim to briefly explain some of the visual improvements we have made on the original Xbox version. Obviously, it’s 10 years ago since the original box version was released and technology has moved on an awful lot in those years, so you’ll see many improvements. We have used Unreal 3 for the rendering side which has much improved Lighting, Materials and Effects than the original Fable engine, some of which I will go into when looking at the images below.

Let’s start with this image of the boy hero standing in his home in Oakvale…

Boy Oakvale 01 Comparison
 

  • The first really obvious difference is the screen size. The original fable was created in 4:3 format (which is why the black bars are visible at either side of the screenshot) whereas Anniversary is in glorious widescreen!  
  • We upped the polygon count quite significantly for all the in-game models, which means the model edges and silhouettes look much smoother. You can see this clearly in both the boy and the chair models
  • We were able to use much larger textures for all the assets in Anniversary, meaning the definition in the textures is far greater. Look closely at the detail in the boys clothing and the wood grain in the chair model to see the difference
  • The way materials work and look in games has been significantly improved since 2004. By including Specular Maps (for determining how shiny a material appears), and setting specific values within a material we can now visually distinguish much better between material types. It’s clear in the image that the glass in the windows and the boys belt buckles have a strong specular value set which give them a much shinier appearance, making them look and feel much lore like the materials they are supposed to be
  • We also use Normal Maps in games today. These are special textures used as part of a models material to add extra bump detail. These can be seen working clearly in the weave of the rug and the creases in the bed at the back of the room
  • We added extra light sources where required to interior levels to create a better lit and more visually appealing environment.  Notice the candle creating a pool of light at the back of the room above the bed.   
  • We added dynamic shadow casting to several key light sources, including the interior fireplaces. You can see the long shadows of the Boy and the chair being cast across the floor


Now let’s take a look at an Exterior level. This is a shot from Greatwood Lake…

 

Greatwood Lake 02 P

  • Again, more polygon to create smoother models and larger textures can be seen throughout this image
  • The shine on the Hero’s chainmail armour and the duller shine on the Leather Arrow Quiver on the Hero’s back really help distinguish the difference between the metal and leather material types
  • Many more polygons and much larger texture detail were added to the trees, especially the Oak trees, to give them a much more lush, fuller feel/look. When close up the bark details are much more detailed than in the original
  • The water in Anniversary has been improved and is now more realistic visually
  • We added lots more extra detail to the rock/cliffs around the levels. Again were able to do this on the 360 as compared to Xbox original we could have many more models and polygons in a scene/level
  • We have a longer draw distance on assets in Anniversary. The draw distance is the distance at which objects will appear in a scene. The reason for having draw distance is that if everything in a scene were visible ALL the time, the frame rate would be terrible.  You can see that the bridge on the left in the distance is not visible in the original and there are also trees not visible on the horizon. All these assets are visible in Anniversary at this distance
  • The shadows in the original game also had a much smaller draw distance. As you can see in the image of the original version, the Oak tree on the island appears not to be casting any shadow from the distance the shot was taken. As you got closer to the Oak tree the shadow would fade in.  As you can see from the Anniversary version, the tree can be seen to be casting shadow onto the ground and the chest underneath the tree from this distance, which improves the overall visual quality
  • We also re-worked and added extra detail to many of the particle effects to give them a more dramatic and/or HD look. This can be seen in the blue weapon augmentation effect seen in the image

As you can see there have been loads of changes to improve the visual quality of the game, and we really can't wait for you to get hands on. Fable Anniversary will be launching on the 4th February in the US, 6th February in Asia and 7th February 2014 in the UK! Find out more about launch including the bonus content available here.

Thanks for reading!

Jim

 

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