Fable developer Lionhead Studios, once a bastion of solid, offline single-player experiences, is transitioning to a games-as-services development and business model.
In an interview with Edge, Lionhead boss and Microsoft European publishing head John Needham said he’ll leverage his experience in former roles at Gazillion and Sony Online Entertainment to transform the developer.
“I think the real magic in the industry now is taking great traditional gameplay and IP, and this new connected world, and mashing them together,” he said.
“I am the person pivoting Lionhead into a games-as-service studio. Legends is quite different from previous Fable games.”
This is likely to raise fans’ hackles, but Needham said one of his watchwords is staying true to the franchise.
“The trick with Legends, and the question we’re constantly asking, is: ‘Is it Fable?’ Even with the connected aspects,” he said.
“That’s why Fable Anniversary’s launch in February was perfect, because it grounds us – we want to make sure we’re maintaining what makes Fable great. Now we’re looking at all these great online features we’re building into Legends. We’re bringing both of them together, taking what’s great about Anniversary and [Fable] 2 and 3 and bolting on features that make it a great connected experience.”
This Frankensteinian act will result in a game with a similar feel to Dark Souls or Journey, with other players “flowing in and out of your world organically” in “very natural online modes”.
Citing examples in the MMO space, Needham said Fable Legends is designed to last a long time; Lionhead can develop new kinds of Fable gmes within Fable Legends itself, so players have a reason so stay on board long-term.
Microsoft has not announced whether Fable Legends will be a premium, free-to-play or subscription package, and the Xbox One title is currently without a release window. Although details are thing, we know it has players banding together co-operatively to tackle dungeons and enemies, and that individual players can take a villain role to oppose them.