Lionhead Studios

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Lionhead Studios Ltd.
Subsidiary
Industry Video game industry
Founded 1 August 1996; 21 years ago (1996-08-01)
Founders Peter Molyneux
Mark Webley
Tim Rance
Steve Jackson
Defunct 29 April 2016
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people
Keith Ranger Dolliver
Benjamin Owen Orndorff
Products Black & White series
Fable series
The Movies
Owner Microsoft
Number of employees
~100
Parent Microsoft Studios
Website lionhead.com

Lionhead Studios Ltd. was a British video game developer, formerly led by Peter Molyneux. It was acquired by Microsoft Studios in April 2006. Lionhead started as a breakaway from developer Bullfrog Productions, which was also founded by Molyneux. Lionhead's first game was Black & White, a god game with elements of artificial life and strategy games. Black & White was published by Electronic Arts in 2001. Lionhead Studios is named after Mark Webley's hamster, which died not long after the naming of the studio.

Black & White was followed up with the release of an expansion pack named Black & White: Creature Isle. Lionhead released Fable, from satellite developer Big Blue Box. In 2005, Lionhead released The Movies and Black & White 2. On 6 April 2006, it was announced that Lionhead Studios was to be purchased by Microsoft.

Milo and Kate was being developed for Kinect, though speculation arose concerning whether it was actually a game or a tech demo. Production has since been halted.

On 7 March 2016, Microsoft announced that it had proposed closing Lionhead Studios and that the planned game Fable Legends would be cancelled.[1][2] On 29 April 2016, Lionhead Studios closed down.[3]

History

Peter Molyneux founded Bullfrog Productions in 1987, which was later acquired by Electronic Arts (EA) in 1995. Around 1996, Molyneux had contemplated leaving Bullfrog, as he felt limited in his creative freedom under EA. He along with Lionhead's eventual co-founders, Mark Webley, Tim Rance and Steve Jackson, started developing plans for a new studio, with the intent of making the same types of games that Bullfrog was known for without becoming too large. This new studio was originally going to be called "Red Eye", inspired by the amount of traveling that Molyneux and Rance had been doing to support EA. However, the name was in use by many other companies. Webley suggested the name of his pet hamster, Lionhead, which they took.[4] In 1997, due to a series of events and from issues arising between Molyneux and EA, he ultimately left the company in August 1997, co-founding Lionhead shortly after that.[5]

The studio was initially run out of Molyneux's mansion in Elstead, before relocating to an office space in Guildford in 1998. Their first title was Black & White, which was published by EA under terms of Molyneux's severance package from departing Bullfrog.[4]

For a period of three years, Lionhead established satellite companies, including Big Blue Box Studios (developers of Fable), Intrepid Games (developers of B.C., long since suspended due to a massive overrun) and Black & White Studios (who have taken responsibility for the continuation of the Black & White series). Lionhead proper was working on three games: Fable, Black & White 2 and The Movies.

The "satellite" system has ceased to exist in any meaningful form since mid-2004, however, with Big Blue Box having been more or less integrated into the main company, and Intrepid essentially having been disbanded.

Lionhead was a privately held company until October 2004 (shortly before the suspension of B.C.) when a consortium of investors, including Ingenious Ventures, IDG Ventures Europe, and technology firm Add Partners, made a significant investment into the game developer. This came at a time when the company was in severe financial straits, as they had overrun development on two projects, Black & White 2 and Fable, and also cancelled B.C. and a project with Jeff Minter named Unity.

Between September 2005 and April 2006, Lionhead successfully released two titles, Black & White 2 and The Movies, as well as an updated version of Fable (entitled Fable: The Lost Chapters). These titles did not achieve a massive impact in sales, and this left the company vulnerable to a takeover bid.

In April 2006, Lionhead Studios was acquired by Microsoft, signalling the end of independent development, and a focus on Microsoft's proprietary gaming platforms. Lionhead remained a fairly independent part of Microsoft Studios, which has also acquired Rare and Bungie (Bungie became an independent studio in late 2007, shortly after the release of Halo 3).

On 7 March 2016, Microsoft announced the cancellation of Fable Legends and a proposed closure of Lionhead Studios.[6] On 29 April 2016, Lionhead closed down.[3]

Criticism of pre-release changes

Leading up to several Lionhead Studio game releases, Peter Molyneux's enthusiasm for talking openly about the development and design process of his games caused outcry online when certain features did not make it or were changed during development. He made a rule that he would not talk about game mechanics unless he could show them in game[7] or present certain ideas as prototypes and/or experiments.[8]

Several products such as Black and White 2 and Fable had features changed or lacking in the final product.

Peter Molyneux said the following on the issue:

After Fable, there was a pretty dark time where people looked at the game and compared it with what I said in the press, and they felt cheated. I realised that we just couldn't keep on doing that. But that was very much a reflection of how we worked, because what I was talking about in the press was what we were experimenting with at that moment, and a lot of those experiments would sort of come out as you were making the game. So I'd be talking about trees growing, and then we'd cut trees growing, and people would, of course, feel cheated. So I made a rule: I will not talk about any concrete mechanics unless I can actually show you them in game. I'll talk about our ambitions to make the best role-playing game of all time, but if you see Fable 2 press you'll see that I talked about stuff as I demoed it. People understandably get enormously upset about it—it's like seeing a trailer for a film and seeing Batman die, but then he doesn't die in the film; it would just be wrong. So I think a lot of what we do is realise what we’ve done wrong and work to try and make that right. It's far better than thinking that we get things right all the time.[7]

Games

Title Year Genre(s) Platform(s)
Black & White 2001 Real-time strategy, God game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Black & White: Creature Isle 2002 Real-time strategy, God game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Fable 2004 Action role-playing game Xbox
Fable: The Lost Chapters 2005 Action role-playing game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Xbox
Black & White 2 2005 Real-time strategy, God game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
The Movies 2005 Business simulation game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Black & White 2: Battle of the Gods 2006 Real-time strategy, God game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
The Movies: Stunts & Effects 2006 Business simulation game Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Fable II 2008 Action role-playing game Xbox 360
Fable III 2010 Action role-playing game Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
Fable Heroes 2012 Action-adventure game Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade)
Fable: The Journey[9] 2012 Action-adventure game Xbox 360
Fable: Anniversary 2014 Action role-playing game Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360

Cancelled

  • Unity (GameCube)
  • BC (Xbox)
  • Black & White: Titan (Xbox, PlayStation 2)
  • Black & White (PlayStation, Dreamcast)
  • InkQuest[10]
  • Black & White 3 (PC)
  • The Movies (GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2)
  • Milo & Kate (Xbox 360 Kinect)
  • Fable II (PC)[11]
  • Fable Legends (Xbox One, PC)

Peter Molyneux also discussed Justice and Survivor during an IGN interview. These projects never made it out of the concept stage.[12]

Awards

  • BAFTA Awards
    • (2001) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Games Networked" / Black & White
    • (2001) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Best Original Score" / Black & White
    • (2001) Winner—British Academy Awards for "Interactivity" / Black & White
    • (2001) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Technical Innovation" / Black & White
    • (2001) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Games PC" / Black & White
    • (2001) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Music" / Black & White
    • (2001) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Moving Images" / Black & White
    • (2004) Nominated —British Academy Awards for "Best Original Score" / Fable
    • (2005) Winner—British Academy Awards for "Simulation" / The Movies
    • (2006) Nominated —British Academy Awards for "Best Original Score" / The Movies
    • (2009) Winner—British Academy Awards for "Action and Adventure" / Fable II
    • (2009) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Best Game" / Fable II
    • (2009) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Best Original Score" / Fable II
    • (2009) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Story and Character" / Fable II
    • (2009) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Technical Achievement" / Fable II
    • (2011) Nominated—British Academy Awards for "Best Original Score" / Fable III
  • Interactive Achievement Awards
    • (2004) Peter Molyneux inducted into AIAS "Hall of Fame”
    • (2004) Winner for "Best Original Score" / Fable
    • (2005) Finalist—Outstanding Achievement in "Character / Story Development" / Fable
    • (2005) Finalist—Outstanding Achievement in "Original Music Composition" / Fable
    • (2005) Winner—Play Magazine Overall Game of the Year / Fable
    • (2009) Finalist—Outstanding Achievement in "Art Direction" / Fable II
    • (2009) Finalist—Outstanding Achievement in "Original Story" / Fable II
    • (2009) Finalist—Outstanding Achievement in "Game Design" / Fable II
    • (2009) Nominee for "Best Original Score" / Fable II
    • (2009) Finalist—Outstanding Achievement in "Game Play Engineering" / Fable II
    • (2009) Finalist—Role Playing Game of the Year / Fable II
  • Others
    • (2004) Winner—1UP Awards Best of 2004 "Best RPG" / Fable
    • (2004) Winner—IGN.com "Best Original Score" / Fable
    • (2008) Winner—PETA's Annual Proggy Awards "Most Animal-Friendly Video Game" / Fable II
    • (2009) Winner—IGN.com "Best Original Score" / Fable II

References

  1. ^ McWhertor, Michael (7 March 2016). "Microsoft cancels Fable Legends, plans to shut down Lionhead Studios". Polygon. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Fable Legends is cancelled, Lionhead Studios to close". PC Gamer. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Fable developer Lionhead closes down today". Eurogamer.net. 29 April 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Yin-Poole, Wesley (12 May 2016). "Lionhead: The inside story". Eurogamer. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Osborn, Alex (4 April 2017). "How a Drunken Email Led to Molyneux's Parting With EA". IGN. Retrieved 4 April 2017. 
  6. ^ "Microsoft Studios Changes". Microsoft. 7 March 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Interview of Peter Molyneux". Develop. 20 March 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "GDC 09: Peter Molyneux Reveals Lionhead Design Experiments". Primotech. 27 March 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "E3 2011: Fable: The Journey Revealed". IGN. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (24 September 2014). "Fable developer Lionhead reveals cancelled game InkQuest". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "Fable II on PC: Not Gonna Happen". The Escapist. Retrieved 2017-07-06. 
  12. ^ "Peter Molyneux Interview – Lionhead's Canceled Projects". IGN. 31 March 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 

External links

  • Official website
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