John Need­ham


Stu­dio head

Did you feel pres­sure com­ing into this job?

I don’t feel pres­sure. I’m hon­oured to be work­ing with the guys who’ve been here ten-odd years, and been in­volved with ev­ery Fa­ble prod­uct, be­cause it’s an IP I love. My stan­dards are high for the IP be­cause of my love for it, and the per­spec­tive I bring to the stu­dio is a fo­cus on com­mu­nity and on­line.

What does that fo­cus on com­mu­nity en­tail?

It’s been a lot of evan­ge­lis­ing the power of con­nected games. I think the real magic in the in­dus­try now is tak­ing great tra­di­tional game­play and IP, and this new con­nected world, and mash­ing them to­gether.

uses SmartGlass, and now you’re mov­ing on to which has a fo­cus on on­line play. Is that es­sen­tially your man­date, to push this con­nect­ed­ness?

Cor­rect. I am the per­son piv­ot­ing Lion­head into a games-as-ser­vice stu­dio. Leg­ends is quite dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous Fa­ble games. The trick with Leg­ends, and the ques­tion we’re con­stantly ask­ing, is: ‘Is it Fa­ble?’ Even with the con­nected as­pects. That’s why Fa­ble An­niver­sary launch­ing in Fe­bru­ary is per­fect, be­cause it grounds us – we want to make sure we’re main­tain­ing what makes Fa­ble great.

How is that go­ing to work?

Now we’re look­ing at all these great on­line fea­tures we’re build­ing into Leg­ends. We’re bring­ing both of them to­gether, tak­ing what’s great about An­niver­sary and [Fa­ble] II and III and bolt­ing on fea­tures that make it a great con­nected ex­pe­ri­ence.

Which on­line games have in­spired you?

My in­spi­ra­tion is shared with a lot of the de­sign guys – we play games like Dark Souls, which has a great on­line mode, and Jour­ney, where people are flow­ing in and out of your world or­gan­i­cally. They’re very nat­u­ral on­line modes.

Will there be other

The next big game is Fa­ble Leg­ends. We can do other styles of Fa­ble games, and keep them within Fa­ble Leg­ends. My plan is that Leg­ends is es­sen­tially a plat­form for al­most ev­ery­thing Fa­ble go­ing for­ward. It’s a long-range plan, of five to ten years, where we’re go­ing to build and keep build­ing onto Fa­ble Leg­ends. That’s the na­ture of games as a ser­vice – you keep adding sys­tems and fea­tures and con­tent.

re­lated projects?

How about mi­cro­trans­ac­tions?

How will you hold people’s in­ter­est that long?

There are lots of ex­am­ples in the MMOG world of keep­ing play­ers en­gaged for that length of time, with new con­tent con­stantly flow­ing into the game, and bolt­ing on new [modes] into your game to keep it fresh. It all comes down to lis­ten­ing to your com­mu­nity, build­ing con­tent into the game that they want, and then iter­at­ing upon that. We haven’t talked about the busi­ness model yet. We’re just try­ing to build a great game.

Jim Vale (art di­rec­tor), Craig Oman (pro­ducer) and Ted Tim­mins (lead de­signer) col­lab­o­rated on Fa­ble An­niver­sary, whose vis­ual mo­tifs in­flu­ence all sorts of spa­ces around Lion­head’s Guild­ford HQ

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