The big story: Lion­head and Fa­ble leg­ends

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START -

Mak­ing videogames is a high-cost, high-risk in­dus­try, and sadly stu­dios go­ing out of busi­ness is a com­mon oc­cur­rence – both big and small. In the last decade, we’ve lost names such as Bizarre Cre­ations ( Project Gotham Rac­ing), Eden Games ( Test Drive Un­lim­ited), Nev­er­soft ( Tony Hawk), Rock­star Van­cou­ver ( Bully) and more be­sides. But as gut­ting as those clo­sures were, it’s been a long time since some­thing prop­erly winded us like the re­cently an­nounced demise of the sto­ried old stu­dio that brought us the Fa­ble se­ries, Lion­head.

It’s not 100% of­fi­cial of course; at time of go­ing to press, Mi­crosoft are merely ‘in dis­cus­sions’ about a pro­posed clo­sure, as part of a down­siz­ing of their Euro­pean op­er­a­tions that also sees Kal­imba de­vel­op­ers Press Play caught in the cross­fire. How­ever, this ap­pears to be lit­tle more than a le­gal tech­ni­cal­ity. With cur­rent project Fa­ble Leg­ends canned, and with em­ploy­ees in talks about re-de­ploy­ment across Mi­crosoft’s port­fo­lio, it seems time has run out for this corner­stone of the Bri­tish games devel­op­ment scene.

With the loss of Lion­head, it feels gam­ing has lost some­thing in­tan­gi­ble; a small sense of hope, of won­der. That might sound melo­dra­matic, and if you want to be cold and log­i­cal about it, per­haps it is. Lion­head’s out­put has never re­ally re­flected the high es­teem the in­dus­try holds it in, with 2008’s Fa­ble II be­ing the stu­dio’s only undis­puted crit­i­cal hit. In­deed, al­though Lion­head’s games were largely warmly re­ceived, they had a rep­u­ta­tion for over-promis­ing and un­der-de­liv­er­ing ( Black & White, Fa­ble I), or not be­ing de­liv­ered at all (the fa­mous Project Milo, un­veiled dur­ing the Kinect launch at E3 2009, which al­lowed play­ers to in­ter­act with an adap­tive AI that learned from you). But then, that was all part of the charm of this unique stu­dio, where dreams were al­lowed to take prece­dence over bot­tom lines. And what else could have we ex­pected from a stu­dio led by gam­ing’s ul­ti­mate dreamer, Peter Molyneux? Founded in 1996, Lion­head was seen as the spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to Bull­frog Pro­duc­tions, an in­flu­en­tial stu­dio formed in 1987 by Molyneux and Les Edgar (who is now the chair­man of TVR, mo­tor fans). Bull­frog’s crown­ing achieve­ment was ef­fec­tively in­vent­ing the ‘god game’ with Pop­u­lous and Pow­er­mon­ger, a genre that al­lowed you to con­trol the fates of lit­tle com­puter peo­ple and bend the world to your whims. It was the kind of game that could only have come from a mind like Molyneux’s; one that hoped for some­thing big­ger and bet­ter from videogames. One, you might say, that wanted to play god.

Fol­low­ing Bull­frog’s ac­qui­si­tion by Elec­tronic Arts in 1995 (the stu­dio would close just six years later), Molyneux founded Lion­head Stu­dios to carry on Bull­frog’s free-spir­ited

From out of the Frog In the wake of Fa­ble Leg­ends’ can­cel­la­tion and Lion­head Stu­dios’ pro­posed clo­sure, we cel­e­brate one of gam­ing’s most ec­cen­tric de­vel­op­ers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.