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Legolas_Katarn

Lionhead: The inside story

3 posts in this topic

Lionhead: The inside story

 

Normally I just post these in my news thread for the week but this is such a good, detailed, and long article that I thought I'd make a thread of it, with a few of the more interesting quotes I saw from it.

 

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The inside story of how Lionhead rose and fell is difficult but also important. Those who worked there describe a studio high on the fumes of furious creativity, a place where mind-numbing failure would often accompany agenda-setting success. They describe a fiercely British culture that benefited - and suffered - from an American overlord hell bent on winning the console war. And they describe a studio created in the image of a man who inspires as much as he frustrates. It's a complicated story. But it's one worth telling.

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If Lionhead was a family, Molyneux was its father, sat at the head of the table. In his care: 20-or so unruly boys who would often get into trouble. Lionhead, really, was a continuation of the culture and development ethic of Bullfrog. In fact, the idea for Black & White came in part from an event that happened at Bullfrog, the infamous Tamagotchi incident.

At one point while working at Bullfrog, Peter Molyneux wore a Tamagotchi around his neck. He was head over heels in love with it. "He was a grown man," Robson says. "I was like, what the fuck's that about?"

I tell you what, if I ever see that thing lying on your desk, I'll fucking kill it. That's what I said to him. I'll fucking kill it."

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For the development of Fable 2, Peter asked the team to double down on the more progressive elements of Fable 1, spurred on by some of the negative reaction from those upset with the kinds of things you could do in the game.

Lionhead received death threats because it had a gay character and two of the leading heroes were black. One message read: "I can't believe you would put a faggot in the game." A German magazine wrote a damning preview of Fable in which it accused Peter Molyneux of being "the man who thinks he's god", and called McCormack and other artists satanists. Mums from the Bible belt would write to the studio complaining that their eight-year-old had been exposed to homosexuality."

We were like, the game's not for eight-year-olds," John McCormack says. "It's a mature-rated game. So it's not really our problem. It's yours. And, I hope you rot in hell."

With Fable 2 we were like, right, gay marriage, lesbianism, fuck you. We revelled in it."

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Molyneux's other directive: Fable 2 must have a dog. And that dog must die.

"We had a meeting," McCormack recalls. "We'd not seen him in weeks because he had other things on. He opened the door, walked in and goes, the hero has a dog, and it dies. And then he left and we didn't see him again for another month. We were like, what the fuck? That was it. That was the direction."

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Redmond wanted to up the quality, so flew out a film crew to the UK to make the magic happen. An actress was hired to play a person who would pretend to play the game. Two weeks before E3, Lionhead was all set up to hit the record button, then disaster struck: a powercut in Guildford.

According to one person involved, Molyneux ordered his PA have an emergency power generator delivered within the hour, and handed over his credit card.

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There was a person there. I didn't know who he was. He said, okay, I want this change, this change, this change and this change. Peter had given me a little napkin with three or four items on there, which contradicted what this guy was saying. So I stood up and I said, no no no no no no. I said, that's not how we're going to do this. I'm from Lionhead. This is how we're going to do this."

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear: 'That's Mike Delman.' I said, 'I don't know who Mike Delman is!' It turned out, Mike Delman was the head of all marketing for Microsoft. If anyone could have sacked me on the spot, it was Mike Delman. But Mike and I had a back and forth. We met in the middle and made a compromise.

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In early 2012 Lionhead suffered what was dubbed "Black Monday". John McCormack, Stuart Whyte and a handful of other Lionhead veterans all quit on the same day. Molyneux did not react well.

"He fucking lost it," John McCormack says. "And we get asked to leave the building immediately. It was like, I've been here 12 years. Let me pack my stuff. No, we'll send it to you. Get the fuck out. He was raging."

McCormack, as was Lionhead tradition, went to the pub. At 5pm he was called back to the studio for a meeting."Peter went, we're going to call this Black Monday. John McCormack, stand up. And he's like, slow clap. It was really horrible.

"He took things personally. I can't blame him. All the leads had essentially gone, fuck you. When I was packing away my stuff at the end, he sat us down and went, sorry about that earlier. I kind of lost it there. I felt you were all personally attacking me at the same time. Like Ceaser, we were all stabbing him at the same time."

Then, McCormack says, Molyneux tried to make things right in the only way he knew how.

"He just gave me this really proper emotional inspirational fucking talk about entrepreneurship and what I've got to do, and I was like, fuck man. He was genuinely amazing. He was genuinely apologetic.

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Then there was Microsoft. Throughout its development, Fable Legends was used as a poster child for various Microsoft initiatives. In January 2015, Fable Legends became a Windows 10 game as well as an Xbox One game after Microsoft decided to switch focus to cross-platform play ("We didn't know about Windows 10 when we started developing Fable Legends," reveals a source. "In fact we were going to be on Steam.") This caused Lionhead a massive headache. Cross-platform play with a PC version opened the game up to cheating.

"We had to make sure everything was carefully architected to make sure people couldn't cheat, otherwise we would have ended up like The Division," says one person who worked on the Fable Legends.

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To celebrate Steve Jackson's 50th birthday, a prankster told him a woman was coming to the studio to see him for an interview. Actually, she was a stripper.

"She stripped off and starting singing to him," Andy Robson says. "She was an old bird with massive tits hanging out. We were all round the other side of the building, all like little kids peering through the window so you could just see her. Oh my god mate that was hilarious. That was funny. He was like, why have you got a camera and that in here? We said it was for mo cap for something to do with Black & White. He was a bit naive then, Steve, with games. Obviously writing and that it was different. But yeah, he was proper naive."

Lionhead Christmas parties are the stuff of UK game development legend. Staff remember turning up at some tent in a field at seven o'clock in the evening, and seeing some of their colleagues lying on the floor passed out. One artist is remembered for spotting his reflection in the mirror and shouting, "who are you looking at?!", before punching himself in the face.

 

This is a really long, entertaining, sad, fucked up, and detailed article that also sheds some light on where some of their ideas came from, events in the company, how the company was run, successes, failures, the rejection of Fable 4, and industry and marketing practices.

Ranisel and xKaros like this

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1 hour ago, Legolas_Katarn said:

One artist is remembered for spotting his reflection in the mirror and shouting, "who are you looking at?!", before punching himself in the face.

That guy tho :D:D:D

Velocirapter likes this

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 Molyneux's other directive: Fable 2 must have a dog. And that dog must die.

"We had a meeting," McCormack recalls. "We'd not seen him in weeks because he had other things on. He opened the door, walked in and goes, the hero has a dog, and it dies. And then he left and we didn't see him again for another month. We were like, what the fuck? That was it. That was the direction."

Oh Peter... nothing that I wouldn't aspect coming from you!

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