How An SSD Can Benefit Comedy Games Like Fable

Playground Games’ long-announced Fable sequel got its first proper trailer at the Xbox Game Show over the weekend, and it looks set to fill a humorous hole in Microsoft’s upcoming RPG slate. Starfield showed some levity in its presentation, and Obsidian’s games are often funny, so it’s safe to expect that Avowed will also have jokes. Still, Fable’s trailer had more in common with The Office mockumentary formula than a typical RPG trailer.

Seeing how Fable effortlessly pulls off cutscenes in the engine made me think about how difficult it would have been to pull off that style of comedy in games even four years ago. Current-gen consoles brought SSD drives into our living rooms in 2020, and we immediately started imagining the wildest things the technology could help developers achieve. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart featured portal hopping gameplay that took players from one dimension to another in the blink of an eye, and Sony touted this as an achievement that was only possible due to the introduction of the SSD. Loading screens are a thing of the past, and now you can instantly jump back into any of the multiple games on the console with Xbox Series X’s quick resume.


RELATED: Richard Ayoade was the perfect actor to convince me about Fable

There were tons of brilliant uses of the technology, but Fable got me thinking about the smaller things that new consoles allow for games. It’s been said that the easiest thing to capture well in movies—people talking in a room—is the hardest thing to capture well in games. You can go abstract and cheap, as in the case of a game like Kentucky Route Zero, or realistic and expensive, like The Last of Us Part 2, but whichever path you choose, it will require more work than slapping the camera on the tripod and pressing record.

Fable 4 Hero throws fireballs at enemies in the forest

This is a problem that comedy games have faced in the past. Telltale’s comedic offerings like Guardians of the Galaxy and Borderlands Tales were often let down by the creaking engine they ran in. You can’t do an effective counterpunch, even in a cinematic, if the game stutters the process of cutting to a character’s face.

The Fable trailer promised a fix. It’s hard to know how (if at all) her mockumentary-style shots and on-camera banter will show up in the final game, but the trailer made me realize that the Xbox Series X gives Playground Games the ability to pull off banter effectively. this would have been awkward and clunky on earlier hardware. When Richard Ayoade’s giant character, Dave, is referred to as “someone who plows a fallow with fruit, vegetables, on the agricultural side of things,” and the trailer cuts to a character showing off a giant pumpkin to onlookers and yelling, “Just look at them,” the game borrows the idiom film and animated comedies with greater accuracy than was possible until now.

Again, it’s hard to say how this will actually look in-game. The trailer is billed as “in-game footage,” but that doesn’t mean it represents the actual editing beats we’ll see in the final release. An editor that cuts footage from two parts of the game together and splices them together with voiceover is obviously not as impressive as a game that can actually jump back and forth between multiple fully rendered environments. But as a statement of intent, the trailer showcases the current console generation’s opportunity to create comedy by combining processing power and punch lines.

NEXT: Fable needs to be British the right way

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