Fable Legends cancelled, Lionhead Studios "in discussions" to close | PCGamesN

Fable Legends cancelled, Lionhead Studios "in discussions" to close

Fable Legends cancelled

Legendary British developer Lionhead Studios' latest game, Fable Legends, has been officially cancelled, and owners Microsoft are currently discussing closing the studio with employees. The news comes out of the Xbox blog today, which also announced the closure of Press Play Studios of Denmark, along with the cancellation of their own game Project Knoxville.

"After much consideration" reads the message from Hanno Lemke, General Manager of Microsoft Studios Europe, "we have decided to cease development on Fable Legends, and are in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios in the UK." Fable Legends was initially announced more than a year ago, but went through various delays, including one to the beta late last year. Things have been quiet ever since, and now we know why.

The post continues, "These have been tough decisions and we have not made them lightly, nor are they a reflection on these development teams – we are incredibly fortunate to have the talent, creativity and commitment of the people at these studios" and goes on to say that "These changes are taking effect as Microsoft Studios continues to focus its investment and development on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play."

To read between the lines a bit, basically both studios weren't creating products enough people were interested in, and Microsoft don't believe they will be able to in the near future. I would guess that the "in discussions about the proposed closure" line means that Microsoft are considering selling or otherwise moving the studio on, depending on those talks, but I'm no business expert. As for those left behind, Lemke says that Microsoft will help them to secure jobs elsewhere:

"We have nothing but heart-felt thanks for the members of Lionhead and Press Play for their contributions to Xbox and gaming. We are committed to working closely with those affected by today’s news to find them new opportunities at Xbox, or partnering with the broader development community to help place them in jobs elsewhere in the games industry should they desire."

Good luck to those affected, and sorry if you were looking forward to Fable Legends - or any new Fable games, at least in the near-term.

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QDP2 avatarBelimawr avatarRock1m1 avatarEsivo avatarAnAuldWolf avatar
QDP2 Avatar
2 Years ago

If Lionhead studios doesn't sell I'm certain the Fable franchise will still make a return. I assume that the closed alpha/beta is no longer under NDA since there is no more game, but tbh I doubted the game would make it far at all in the current games industry. A couple of years ago it could have gained some attention but now it feels too much like an online grind, constant repetition and little to no personality behind the levels. The idea of setting a mastermind to control the layout of the enemies was cool, but in practice I found that you quickly forget there is a person controlling it, but instead just the feeling of a random AI placement. No choice of what the next level floor would be, only what enemies in 4 pre-decided locations. Playing as the game-master didn't feel rewarding either, just a rush to place the next 4 monsters, and no clear way to view the other players struggling (or not) through your placements.

Shame because I loved Fable 2, I'd love to see a new dev team (or even Lionhead if they got permission through MS) return to these roots and develop a new game off of it.

Esivo Avatar
AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

Lionhead was always too niche. I'm surprised it took Microsoft this long to realise. And dismayed, since it's a niche I particularly enjoyed. I didn't have any particular problems with Fable or any other game they put out. They all had such a childlike sense of wonder, coupled with the eccentricity of a crazy old British coot (and there's a growing absence of them writing fantasy now what with Sir Terry having passed through the veil).

I revelled at how I could be a science-fantasy Iron Man pisstake in Fable 3. I recall how my partner would roll her eyes at my obsession with the steampunk suit. I'd never get out of it. "I'm never bathing again!" I'd proudly proclaim from within.

Since, you know, that would involve getting out of the suit. Not happening.

I was a madman flinging fireballs around as though they were energy blasts harnessed by bizarre, magical clockpunk technology. It was what I wanted from the charr, a race whose potential wasn't realised thanks to politicking, underhanded manipulations, power-munchkinery, and some very shameless whining amidst the creative ranks at ArenaNet. (I'm looking at you, Grubb.)

I couldn't have my charr in clockpunk power armour, then. I did, however, have that in Fable. It was grand. I don't know, it's my niche. I know people aren't very taken with the genuinely fantastic because of their fetish for familiarity and their need to constantly flatter themselves and anything that looks enough like their "us" crowd. That's human nature. I get that. It's also bloody disappointing. Humanity disappoints me regularly.

I'm like Freud, me. I won't flatter humanity. I have a mind actually able to comprehend that there might be other forms of worthwhile existence out there that could be equally or even more satisfying. Would've been a robot in Fable, given the option. Instead, crazy ex-prince hobo who refuses to get out of power armour had to suffice.

And so many colour schemes! I was amused that I could even colour it up like the classic Iron Man red and yellow. I didn't stick with that, but I was oh so tempted by it.

And then there was the Fallout vault in the DLC! That was such a beautiful parody. Beautiful.

But, again, I understand why something like Fable doesn't do well. Too familiar. Nothing there for hardcorites to brag about (even though all you're really bragging about with video games is that you don't have a life and you've spent months honing muscle memory in a way that any other person could).

Oh, I don't know. I guess I sound bitter again. It's just that after having lost Darkspore, too. All I can think of is humanity fapping off to a mirror at the expense of everything else. So we have thousands of games these days which are contemporary, modern, and feature familiar concerns, familiar faces, and familiar locales. It's hardly the '90s when we had that infusion of wild and wacky Japan, is it? Not that I enjoyed their view of women, but still, at least they had imagination. That's rare.

But Fable? I wouldn't be surprised if it was unpopular purely because it was storybook, caricatured, and pastel. If they were to release the same game, with realistic humans, a slightly darker theme, gore, and a hardcore difficulty mode? (Minor changes, basically.) It would have sold like hotcakes.

But designers make mistakes like not doing that because they're like me. And I appreciate that. It's like Mass Effect 3 and the Synthesis ending. The problem wasn't Synthesis or anything that it implied. The problem is is that most people aren't very clever, what they are is very vain. So they took the green glowing lines in a literal sense rather than realising that they were symbolic and weren't actually there.

"Ew. Everything has green glowing lines! Now I need to make up reasons why Synthesis sucks to justify my shallowness!"

And they did. Not very logical, either, mind you. And the point was made many a time that if BioWare had released exactly the same Synthesis ending with the only change being the removal of the green glowing lines? Then 99 per cent of the detractors would have been supporters.

It's the same reason why Twilight Princess is considered 'underrated' really despite being a critical darling that actually scored more highly on average than Wind Waker. It's storybook, it involves werewolf transformations, and... that's enough.

I admit that Wind Waker's popularity confused me, until I realised that it's actually just as controversial as Twilight Princess (I'd just been reading in the wrong circles) and that the kawaii desu ne niche is big enough to support it. It seems the niche for storybook aesthetics like those in Twilight Princess and Fable are much smaller.

Most people want true-to-life realism. Then the next biggest niche seems to be cartoony humans. And following that? Well, everything else is so tiny as to be inconsequential.

I loved Fable III. I liked II as well, also the first, even. But III was special to me because they drove the fantastic nature of it through the roof with the magical clockpunk elements. And Stephen Fry (Reaver) as the head of a secret cabal of balverines? Marvellous. Simply marvellous. I couldn't have asked for more.

I dunno. I'm sorry. I guess I'll miss them. I feel bad for them, I felt bad for Molyneux. I still remember the sociopathic roasting he got from Rock, Paper, Shotgun that I felt was completely undeserved. At least they were trying to do something a bit different, a bit new.

But hey, we live in a world of neo-luddites, traditionalists, and boring people that fetishise the familiar and their own species. So all what they did? A niche. It was always a niche. I'm sad to see them go, but at the same time, I'm amazed they lasted as long as they did. They gave me a storybook world with a werewolf cabal and steampunk armour, and then so much more. It was fun.

I'll miss you, Lionhead. I'll miss you and your refusal to be as boring as everything else, but ultimately that's what lead to your untimely demise, isn't it?

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

Bit of an addendum. I like storybook aesthetics because they're caricatures and parodies. They don't necessarily make people look pretty and I appreciate that, there's a charm to it. And what I've noticed is that they've gone out of style because of that. As a species we're becoming ever more shallow with each new generation. And many new games seem to be an attempt in a way to flatter us and make us feel good about ourselves with examples of human perfection as close as 3D can currently achieve.

It's the same with television. You don't really see overweight, disabled, or old people very often. I'm amazed that Moffat actually got away with Capaldi for as long as he has considering the Internet views Capaldi as the most hated Doctor of all time (he's an angry old Scottish man, who wants that when they could have sex appeal and bad romance?).

There's a vanity to it. A flattering. A sort of fetish for the perfection of our species. It's a very Aryan thing, if you're at all familiar with that ideology. And I find it deeply unsettling. I like storybook aesthetics and caricatures because they don't bother with any of that. It's okay for a character to be overweight, or old, or not conventionally beautiful because it's a storybook world. And storybook worlds are more reviled now than they ever have been. Pretty much every game with that aesthetic (even ones that would be considered 'big' and should be successful) has failed. This is because the average person doesn't want to see a caricature any more outside of Spitting Image-esque political caricatures. And only then because they think that the puppets are exaggerated to make fun of people they don't like, rather than just being an exaggerated truth (which is the point of caricature).

Twilight Princess, like Fable, had that kind of aesthetic. Twilight Princess was a critical darling at launch but is now considered to be the 'worst' Zelda game by many, and 'underrated.' Fable III, the 'worst of the series' (or perhaps the 'worst of a bad franchise' to some) pushed the storybook aesthetic harder than any Fable game which came before it.

I just think that you can't make a successful storybook aesthetic in anything any more. It has to be flattering if humans are involved. It has to be young, sexy, and familiar.

And I just... don't like my species very much for that.

You may think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, here, but it's absolutely true that the most popular games are the ones that feature attractive, realistic people. That's undeniable. And if you dare to even consider showing someone that isn't, then that's lost sales that is. Compare Skyrim and The Witcher with Fable III, it's pretty obvious.

We just can't flatter ourselves hard enough.

Belimawr Avatar
2 Years ago

shame to see another of the old school developers going this way, but Lionhead went down a road it could never come back from a long time ago, as it was a company basically founded on Peter Molyneux over promising then making excuses when he couldn't deliver.

it's a shame because like Bullfrog they had some good games, it's just a shame they were mostly overshadowed by not living up to their promises, ultimately making people look down on what should have been more highly praised games if not for the fact they over promised right up until release on the likes of Fable and to a lesser extent black and white, stopping the games living up to their promise.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

See, that's the thing. Depending on what promises you were listening to (along with whether they were actually made or fabricated by magazines/your own mind), I actually think he did deliver on all counts. Every game Lionhead ever released was so far from the norm, so delightfully odd, bizarre, and strange that it was an effort in and of itself.

I think the only promise people ever believed Molyneux to make was that his next game would be 'normal,' and as boring as all those other games they like. Something that Molyneux never would, as he's too much the soulful, wanderlust-stricken kid inside for that.

That's always what bothered me about the reactions to Lionhead. People claimed that Molyneux refused to deliver, but when you get down to brass tracks about what EXACTLY wasn't delivered in at least some form? Well, all you get then is a lot of uncomfortable mumbling.

The whole thing with Molyneux seems to be a bitter resentment that he successfully fashioned games which existed far outside the norm, yet were interesting enough to tempt people who're fixated on their fetish for the familiar. It lead to a cognitive dissonance.

It's funny, really. I remember hearing that Fable III was bad because it courted casual players. What, and the first two didn't? Really? Were we playing a different franchise?

I don't think Molyneux ever overpromised. I think that people just overpromised to themselves in his stead.

"The next one's going to be an epic adventure of the sort that I like! Nice and boring. None of that weird crap."

Belimawr Avatar
2 Years ago

he didn't over promise if you ignore the likes of times for the original fable where he said you could do things like carve your name in a tree and go back and see the tree had grown up, he threw around a lot of these types of promise, just like he massively overplayed the learning potential of the creatures in black and white.

if you followed these games through production what was claimed and what was released were two very different things.

I also find it funny you jump to defend fable 3 the game that was designed so no one could ever fail or see a game over screen. for the fact that you couldn't fail you may as well just read one of those make your own adventure books and flip back to the page you were on when you failed as that is all the game basically was.

Rock1m1 Avatar
2 Years ago

So Microsoft closed Lionhead studios, which is not a surprise and i think its a good move. Now they can open up another worthwhile studio or make a new IP from the freed resource. Of course, I hope those affected by this will get a new job soon.