We had a little glimpse of what happened during Lionhead's death earlier this morning, but our cousins at Eurogamer have just published a mammoth article about the company's life. I'll pick out some choice excerpts below, but you should go have a read.
Normally I'd feel bad quoting large chunks of another site's article, but these all come from the feature's first half. The full thing is 20,000-odd words and worth at least a bit of your time.
For example, on the seat-of-your-pants boys' club culture of the studio:
But because it was the next game from Peter Molyneux, the founder of Bullfrog and the creator of Populous, people came in their droves. Cathy Campos, who worked as Peter's publicist for many years, remembers Molyneux spinning these screenshots, the wireframe test bed and his notebook out into a 20 minute presentation. At the end Peter would say, "and there's so much more I've got to tell you". "And I would say," Campos recalls, " 'but you're not going to do it today. Thank you very much and goodbye.' And I'd see the journalists out. But of course, basically, we had nothing more to say. That was the script, but we came away with a whole load of press coverage, and that set us up with Black & White."
On working with Microsoft on the original Fable:
"When they walked into the Godalming office they were going, this game looks amazing. Where's Peter? Peter didn't work there. They thought it was Peter's game, but it wasn't. They got a bit nervous at that point because they were going, this game doesn't come with the calibre of Peter. I thought this was Peter's game. We were like, no. Peter's working on another game in Guildford."
On the eventual merger with Microsoft and the changes introduced by the new owner:
Then there were the "commitments". Lionhead staff were asked to write down five measurable goals for the upcoming six months, to be approved by a line manager. One person says he was asked to write down that Fable 2 must get a Metacritic review score average of 85 per cent, in order to achieve a bonus. "And you're like, I have no control over that," the person said. "Who has control over Metacritic?"
On the development of Fable 2:
"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."
On the failure of Mile & Kate:
The game's demo at E3 2009 suggested Milo behaved like some complex AI who would respond to the user's voice and actions, and so the inevitable questions followed: what if the user drew a picture of a penis on a piece of paper and showed it to Milo? What if the user exposed himself in front of the camera?
Nothing, it turns out. But this is the disconnect: the game Lionhead was building was a series of mini-games that involved the player moving their hand around to direct Milo's attention to stones and snails in his back garden while his parents argued in the background. He was not some complex artificial intelligence who might blush at the sight of the player's private parts. It was all a clever illusion.
And much, much more - including plenty on where Fable Legends and perhaps the studio lost its way. Take a look.