Fable Heroes - From Side Project to the XBLA
Written Friday, March 30, 2012 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
“Fable Heroes started off as me and some mates at work going, 'Let’s make a Fable game!'"
Ted Timmins knows the Fable franchise better than most. Beginning his career on the original game back in 2004, he has since worked on every title in the series. So when offered the opportunity to come up with ideas for his own project, he leapt at the chance to dream up a spin-off.
Here Timmins tells us the story of how Fable Heroes grew from just an idea to a full XBLA title, a central part of this spring’s Arcade NEXT promotion.
“Every year at Lionhead we have a Creative Day where everyone gets together and can make whatever they like,” explains Timmins. “It can be a game, a new piece of tech, it can be a tool, it can be a PowerPoint presentation of the greatest thing ever made... We decided to make a game.”
“It started off with me and my friend Jon chatting over a coffee,” he says of the project's inspiration. “We said, 'Wouldn’t it be cool to have a 4-player Fable?' - and it was like ‘Ding!’ So we went away and grabbed 4 other guys and we said, “We’ve got this crazy idea of doing a retro feel Fable game.”
The idea was enough to convince them. Together, the six friends crafted the first level, before taking it to the boss himself, Peter Molyneux.
“We showed it to Peter,” says Timmins, “and we showed it to Louise Murray, who’s the head of the franchise and they were like, ‘This is awesome… and unexpected.’”
Then came the wait. “We waited a few days and then got an email from Louise saying, ‘Peter and I have decided to green light this for production… and you get your own offices.’ We were like ‘Oh my God!”
It would be the last game that Molyneux would green light, before the legendary developer left Lionhead.
“They said they weren’t going to get too involved,” says Timmins. “So we immediately moved offices, across the road from the main studio. We had three months to start with, to go away and see what we could do.”
As confidence in the project grew, three months turned into eight, while the team of six grew into fifteen. But it didn’t stop there.
“Peter asked us to do a company presentation,” says Timmins, “so we did it and then loads of people just came to us and said ‘I don’t care what I do, I want to work on this.’
When Timmins explained that the team was already formed, the contributors weren’t discouraged. “They were like, ‘Well, I’ll do it in my spare time, I’ll do it at weekends,’” says Timmins.
“So we’ve got levels that a friend of mine from work has made in his spare time, we’ve got animations that people have done just to get them in. Even though we’ve got our small little team, we’ve got support from everyone at Lionhead. It’s been amazing.”
More than anything, however, Fable Heroes is a game of firsts, for both Timmins and Lionhead. “Lionhead’s never had a 4-player game,” he says. “It’s never made an XBLA game. And I’ve never been a Lead Designer before, so it’s a new role for me.
“I’ve tried to create this open forum design feel,” he continues, “where if people think the game needs balloons, or slippery ice, or exploding heads, we’re like, ‘Yeah, just do it.’”
It’s this personality and passion that Timmins hopes will shine through in the game itself. “This isn’t Lionhead or Microsoft moving the franchise,” he says. “This is a few people who love Fable making a Fable game.”
“It’s been great that everyone has got so involved and everyone feels like they have a personal investment. Hopefully when players play Fable Heroes later this year, they’ll feel all of the love that’s gone into it.”
Fable Heroes is out on May 2nd for 800 MSP. You can read our preview of the game here.