WTF MS10 Mar 2016
I wanted to post up a rant about the whole UWP saga, but that can wait. Instead I’m facepalming over the whole Lionhead saga.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I still know loads of people there or anything, all the people I got to know during my short stint have long since gone. It’s more to do with the direction set at the executive level and, as usual, gamedev grunts paying the price by being tossed out on their ear as reward for hardwork.
Like it or not, Lionhead’s been around long enough, and nurtured enough superstars that it’s rightly become a bit of a British institution. Ok, not all of its games were good, but they were British and that’s something that’s poorly represented in the AAA industry. Despite Brit developers popping up in every corner of every studio in the world, the norm is to chase the American market, drive on the wrong side of the road and leave the British accent to Lara Croft. Lionhead’s games were quirky and funny and replete with every home counties accent you could want. They oozed something that we used to have in abundance during the 80s and 90s, that was slowly lost in the transition to consoles as Japanese and American imports took over. That was worth something, so we’re much the poorer for losing it. It’s just incredibly unfortunate that, on reflection, the writing had probably been on the wall for a long time.
Anyone with a gnat’s fart of common sense could see that Kinect was going to be shit. MS’s blind insistence to push us all down the rabbit hole of Kinect ‘gaming’ has fucked quite a few studios over the years, and arguably, damaged its 1st party portfolio significantly. Or at least, its ability to have an exclusive IP roster that will compete with Sony today. Wasted fucking years of execs high on Kool Aid…
To be fair, it wasn’t exactly brilliant before that, when every game MS made had to sell 5 million copies, else you couldn’t sign shit and it wasn’t worth doing. (Did anything sell 5 million copies that year, that wasn’t Halo, Fifa or COD?) Taking Fable free to play was probably a relief after that shit-storm. But did anyone outside of LH actually stop to think about how this was ever going to get to market and skewer the whale? People don’t spend millions of dollars on assets and game before soft launch. They try and fail as fast as possible, to validate the economy early. To stick some numbers on CPI and LTV. Supercell killed 14 games in that time FFS. Sticking a Fable sticker onto a MOBA-spin and only just hitting beta? Gah.
But I salute you anyway Lionhead, and all who sailed in you. Even as the crazy ass home of planted acorns, random promises, and cancelled concepts, you were the continuation of the Bullfrog spirit and many, many, many great devs have worked in your halls. God damn, you had some fine artists and coders ply their trade for you. I used to love walking up those stairs looking at all the concept paintings. Its just a shame that you lost your champion internally.
Anyway, I kept this from my stint on Fable 2. I know most of the people here are long gone, and that it doesn’t cover many of the fine souls that have been on contract or passed through since, but here’s a little snapshot of Lionhead. At least as I knew it during a particularly sweaty summer.