Fabled Lands creators Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson have explained to bit-tech why their MMO adaptation of the series never came to fruition at Eidos and how it may get new life on iPad and iPhone.
During the early parts of the millennium, the only competition in the MMO sphere was Ultima Online, EverQuest and Asheron’s Call, but due to some legal issues surrounding Fabled Lands, the duo started work on an Abraxas MMO instead.
However, due to problems with the project manager trying to turn it into “giant battling robots” instead of the fantasy title it was suppose to be, the two just stopped work on it.
“Everquest and Asheron’s Call had been released, or were about to be,” Thomson recalled. “Eidos set us up as a kind of MMO kernel, researching some tech and working out what it would cost to do.”
“I don’t think anybody at Eidos had even heard of MMOs.” added Morris. “We realized that the competition among major MMOs would not be just for the players’ monthly dollars but for their time too. Once you’re level 20 in WoW, you have to have a good reason to switch games. So, our reasoning was that [we] should get in early with a game of sufficient ambition to scare off the competition.
“But it was a leap in the dark for Eidos. One of the publishing guys, I think it was Jon Kavanagh, said to me, ‘We just don’t know if MMOs will make any money.’ I bet they wish they’d done it now”.
Soon, as is well documented, Eidos started falling on hard times and things took a turn for the worse with the development.
“Well, it was all pretty convoluted,” said Morris. “To start with, we had a project manager we’d hired who led a sort of coup. We turned up one day and he told us, ‘The team has decided not to do a fantasy role-playing game. It’s going to be about giant battling robots now.’
“[The development process was] utterly broken. Many games in the late 90s were being developed without a design. There was no real software process, and rarely much of a plan beyond, ‘The game will be ready when it’s ready.’ It wasn’t solely the teams’ fault, the milestones they were being given were often dictated by people who wanted to see eye candy rather than real under-the-hood progress”.
“Eidos just ran out of money and their internal development model just wasn’t working,” added Thomson. “They got one game out – Deathtrap Dungeon – and then we left to start Black Cactus, taking Warrior King and some troops with us, but then went bust in the end. The French publisher went down owing us a lot of gold pieces.”
However, despite all this, they really want Fable Lands and Abraxas to come out, and thanks to some fund-raising and the iPad and iPhone, hopefully they can.
“We’ll be reviving Fabled Lands and Abraxas, hopefully,” said Thompson. “We’ve just raised a six-figure sum and we’re actively looking for the right partner. Frankly, most publishers have been slow to recognize the potential of e-books; that they can be much more than an old-fashioned book on a glowing screen. We understand both.”
“I wish we’d got into computer games a lot earlier and that we’d done the Fabled Lands books at the apogee of the gamebook craze. We’d be some kind of Final Fantasy franchise by now if we had.”
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