Lionhead Studios is a British video game developer, formerly led by Peter Molyneux. It was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios in April 2006. Lionhead started as a breakaway from the developer Bullfrog, which was also founded by Molyneux. Lionhead's first game was Black & White, a god game with elements of artificial life and strategy games. Black & White was published by Electronic Arts in 2001. Lionhead Studios is named after Mark Webley's hamster, which died not long after the naming of the studio.
Black and White was followed up with the release of an expansion pack named Black & White: Creature Isle. Lionhead then released the popular Fable, from satellite developer Big Blue Box. In 2005, Lionhead released The Movies and Black & White 2. On 6 April 2006, it was announced that Lionhead Studios was to be purchased by Microsoft. Their most recent game to be released is Fable: The Journey which was released on the 9 October 2012.
Milo and Kate was being developed for Xbox 360's Kinect, though speculation arose concerning whether it was actually a game or a tech demo. Production has since been halted.
For a period of three years, Lionhead established satellite companies, including Big Blue Box Studios (developers of Fable), Intrepid Games (developers of B.C., since suspended due to a massive overrun) and Black & White Studios (who have taken responsibility for the continuation of the Black & White series, then the studio splited to Shanghai and Montréal studios). Lionhead proper was working on three games: Fable, B&W2 and The Movies; in addition, the studio may potentially have been working on Fable III and The Dimitri Project.
The "satellite" system has ceased to exist in any meaningful form since mid-2004, however, with Big Blue Box having been more or less integrated into the main company, and Intrepid essentially having been disbanded.
Later "satellitte" system was revived during the development of 2013 edition of Furryous game due to it being commercial success. Also Lionhead formed few subsidiaries, Lionhead Studios Montréal and Shanghai.
Lionhead was a privately held company until October 2004 (shortly before the suspension of BC) when a consortium of investors, including Ingenious Ventures, IDG Ventures Europe, and technology firm Add Partners, made a significant investment into the developer. This at a time when the company was in severe financial straits, as they had overrun development on two projects, Black & White 2 and Fable, and also canceled B.C. and a project with Jeff Minter named Unity (not to be confused to Unity 3D, a game engine).
Between September 2005 and April 2006, Lionhead successfully released two titles, Black & White 2 and The Movies, as well as an updated version of Fable (entitled Fable: The Lost Chapters). To date, these titles have not achieved a massive impact in sales, and this left the company vulnerable to a takeover bid. They have since finished the highly anticipated Fable 2 and an unknown game, for which only subtle hints have been dropped, which may have been a continuation of Dimitri.
In April 2006 Lionhead Studios was acquired by Microsoft, signalling the end of independent development, and a focus on Microsoft's proprietary gaming platforms. Lionhead will be a fairly independent part of Microsoft Game Studios, which has also acquired Rare Ltd. and Bungie Studios (Bungie Studios became an independent studio in late 2007, shortly after the release of Halo 3).
Big Blue Box StudiosEdit
|Big Blue Box Studios|
|Type||A satellite studio of Lionhead Studios|
Big Blue Box Studios was a Guilford, UK-based development studio founded by Simon Carter, Dene Carter and Ian Lovett in 1999, all former Bullfrog Productions employees. The company became a satellite studio of Lionhead Studios around 2000 (as an autonomous entity, but with full support) and went on to create Fable (2004) for Lionhead, working as a first-party Microsoft studio.
In the aftermath of Peter Molyneux’s departure from Bullfrog Productions and it’s seemingly inevitable demise, a number of new game development companies sprang up in Bullfrog’s Guildford, England locale. Big Blue Box was one such studio, founded by brothers Simon and Dene Carter (as co-lead programmers and designers) and Ian Lovett (as art lead). The group had extensive experience at Bullfrog working on titles including Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. From the beginning Big Blue Box retained strong ties with Peter Molyneux and his newly formed Lionhead Studios. So close, that for the initial incubation period of the studio it was run out of a room in Peter Molyneux’s mansion with some members of the team both living and working out of Peter’s residence.
Big Blue Box’s first project began as a fantasy RPG/Action game code-named WishWorld, which had combat elements including melee, archery and magic-like abilities called “Will” and a strong multiplayer component. During this development Big Blue Box would serve as the figure-head in Lionhead Studio’s ambitious “Satellite” program which was intended to allow independent game companies to leverage Lionhead’s marketing, administrative, and business departments freeing them from having to create such capabilities in-house and theoretically leaving the developers more time to focus on the development of their games and not on creating a fully outfitted start-up. Above and beyond aid with the business of games, the Satellite program was to give the studios access to Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux and Steve Jackson to aid with the development and refinement of game design, as well as testing and Q&A. The plan appeared to work and after a short period of prototyping the small Big Blue Box team secured a publishing deal with Activision.
For unknown reasons the deal with Activision was eventually terminated, but Big Blue Box’s debut title was quickly picked up by Microsoft to serve as a figurehead action-RPG for their upcoming Xbox game console. Big Blue Box had also finally moved into their new offices at the site that would eventually house all of Lionhead Studios and was rapidly staffing up.
Wishworld had progressed significantly. The game stuck true to its unique art style and “will” abilities while also shifting in gameplay focus. An innovative system to tailor the look and style of the games protagonist based on the moral choices made while questing began to become more prevalent while the multiplayer features of the game began to fade. The game was renamed project “Ego” to reflect the change in gameplay.
Merger to LionheadEdit
Eventually the other members of the Lionhead Satellite program began to fold, while Microsoft was taking more and more interest in Project Ego, eventually titled Fable, as major showcase title for the Xbox, the decision was made for Big Blue Box to merge together with Lionhead. Unlike other mergers where large studios absorb smaller studios for their staff or intellectual property, the Lionhead merger was merely a permanent sealing the bond between two closely tied companies. Many of the original Big Blue Box members remain in senior positions at Lionhead to this day, while the Fable franchise has become Lionhead's flagship product and remains a showcase title for Microsoft’s Xbox game brand. Lionhead itself was eventually acquired by Microsoft, likely to ensure that Fable remained an Xbox and Games for Windows Live exclusive title, as well as to tap into the hot bed of innovative talent at Lionhead Studios.
Intrepid Computer EntertainmentEditIntrepid Computer Entertainment Ltd. was a UK development studio founded in 1999 by the former Bullfrog employees Joe Rider, Matt Chilton, possibly along with Terry Cattrell. Intrepid became the second company to be accepted as a satellite studio of Lionhead. The studio was signed as a first-party developer by Microsoft and began working on the Xbox title BC until Lionhead cancelled it in October 2004. After that, Intrepid was disbanded and a part of the team moved over to Lionhead. The studio's site disappeared after April 2005.
Lionhead has received a lot of media attention for delays to their games, in part due to the large amount of publicity and hype generated for their games. Various reports on this indicate a company tendency to re-design games mid-development and a tendency toward over-ambition, though few reports are official. The company is always on the cutting edge of developing new technology, especially in the area of AI, which adds considerably to their development schedules. Peter Molyneux, who often refers to himself as either the lead designer or creative director of Lionhead, often promises specific release dates early on in the development of his titles. This causes particular problems and disappointment among fans as many release dates are pushed back, sometimes more than once. Black & White missed several deadlines until it was finally released in 2001. A similar problem occurred with the release of The Movies which was intended for a 2004 release date but was eventually delayed to 2005.
Criticism of Peter MolyneuxEdit
Leading up to several Lionhead Studio game releases, Peter Molyneux's enthusiasm for talking openly about the development and design process of his games caused outcry online when certain features did not make it or were changed during development. He made a rule that he would not talk about game mechanics unless he could show them in game or present certain ideas as prototypes and/or experiments
Several products such as Black and White 2 and Fable had features changed or lacking in the final product.
Peter Molyneux said the following on the issue:
- After Fable, there was a pretty dark time where people looked at the game and compared it with what I said in the press, and they felt cheated. I realised that we just couldn't keep on doing that. But that was very much a reflection of how we worked, because what I was talking about in the press was what we were experimenting with at that moment, and a lot of those experiments would sort of come out as you were making the game. So I'd be talking about trees growing, and then we'd cut trees growing, and people would, of course, feel cheated. So I made a rule: I will not talk about any concrete mechanics unless I can actually show you them in game. I'll talk about our ambitions to make the best role-playing game of all time, but if you see Fable 2 press you'll see that I talked about stuff as I demoed it. People understandably get enormously upset about it—it's like seeing a trailer for a film and seeing Batman die, but then he doesn't die in the film; it would just be wrong. So I think a lot of what we do is realise what we’ve done wrong and work to try and make that right. It's far better than thinking that we get things right all the time.