The team on the original Fable trilogy experienced “really bad” crunch under Lionhead Studios’ management, and a former assistant producer said he was “disappointed” with what happened there.
In an interview with Elite Game Developers, co-founder and CEO of Hutch, Shaun Rutland, discussed his motivations for starting his own studio. “I got into Lionhead Studios as an assistant producer. And that was like my dream job working to Peter Molyneux working on Fable so it was like, ‘Wow, this is very exciting,’” said Rutland. “There I was quite blown away by the sheer size of the productions. I think it was, like 110 people, something crazy. Well, and how hard that was.”
He continued to explain that seeing the team struggle under crunch conditions while working on Fable was very tough. “I joined when they had a really bad period of crunch. And I’d already had a bad few years of crunch. So I experienced that kind of firsthand,” he said. “And I was quite disappointed by it and a lot of challenges with people’s health around working such long hours, and then realising people weren’t actually that productive when they work 14 hour days.”
Lionhead Studios had a turbulent time of it, especially after the difficult development of Fable 2 and acquisition by Microsoft. “I know a lot of people would say, this is crunch. But this was a real work of passion. It wasn't a work where you told people to come in. We really felt we were making something that never existed before. Everybody was totally up for it,” said co-founder Peter Molyneux in an interview in 2016. “I don't think many of the team who were there would look back and regret the amount of hours they spent on it. It just felt like we were making something that never existed before, and that was a fantastic thing.”
A new Fable game from Playground Games is on its way to the Xbox Series X, though it’s not clear whether it is a new story or a reboot of the original 2004 title. “It’s like the challenge of making a new Star Wars movie – there’s stuff that everyone wants you to bring along, but then you’ve got a responsibility to that, to new places and I trust Playground has a good vision for that,” said Microsoft’s Matt Booty to The Guardian. In any event, it is hoped that it’s smooth sailing for the new team on the new Fable.
Fable is in development for Xbox Series X.