Remember when Microsoft showed off Fable: The Journey and you wrote a scathing comment about it? Lionhead read that, and it made the team very sad.
Lionhead creative director Gary Carr told CVG that negative reception to Fable: The Journey’s brief E3 2011 demo was hard for the development team to take.
“It destroyed them,” he said. “I think the studio took the criticisms to heart.”
“You get very excited when something is very embryonic, and when you’re building something at its very early stages. For some reason, it wasn’t resonating with people. I think the presentation itself is partly to blame,” he added.
“It looked a bit like some spammy shooter, but actually we were building this big world around it. Y’know, you have about two minutes and 45 seconds to demonstrate what you’re doing.”
Carr said onlookers didn’t understand the scope and may have felt The Journey “trivialised” the world of Fable, and that he regretted the shallow introduction provided by an E3 demo.
“I think we should have shown Fable The Journey further down the line. I think we should have had some press cover it beforehand, just so they could get a better feel of it,” he said.
“Back in the studio we are building something more ambitious than we’ve ever done before.”
Lionhead responded by knuckling down to work, and by going silent on the game for a whole year ahead of extensive hand-on previews at E3 2012.
“I can’t really recall a time when we gave a game to the press and just left them to it. But we had to do it. By that stage, Fable The Journey wasn’t something we could have PRed, it wasn’t something that we could have promoted on its own, we just had to show it to people and let them decide for themselves,” Carr explained..
“Fortunately the response was really positive. I struggled to find people who said ‘no this is still shit’. I understand that people won’t love this game just by watching other people play it. You have to see it for yourself. That’s part of the challenge.”
One of the most frequently aired responses to The Journey’s 2011 debut was that it seemed to be on rails; interestingly, Carr said former studio head Peter Molyneux’s insistent denial may not have been the right response.
“Every single game is on-rails. I can score a fantastic goal on FIFA if I press certain buttons in the right order at the right time, that’s the rails bit,” he said.
“Peter’s on-rails rant, if we should call it that, was him trying to hit back at the criticisms saying that it wasn’t on-rails. I think, if we had done this again, we would have just said, yeah, it’s on rails.”
Lionhead had been toying with free body movement for The Journey and considered pursuing this path more vigorously in the wake of negative press.
“Ultimately, the decision was, keep the faith. On-rails is actually necessary to make the game work really well,” Carr said.
Fable: The Journey releases exclusive for Kinect in October.