Lionhead Studios Limited was a British video game developer founded in July 1997 by Peter Molyneux, Mark Webley, Tim Rance, and Steve Jackson. The company is best known for the Black & White and Fable series. Lionhead started as a breakaway from developer Bullfrog Productions, 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 Webley's hamster, which died not long after the naming of the studio, as a result of which the studio was very briefly renamed to Redeye Studios (it was reverted for various reasons).
Black & White was followed up with the release of an expansion pack named Black & White: Creature Isle. Lionhead released Fable, from satellite developer Big Blue Box. In 2005, Lionhead released The Movies and Black & White 2. Lionhead was acquired by Microsoft Studios in April 2006 due to encountering financial difficulties. Many Lionhead developers left around this time, including co-founder Jackson and several developers who left to found Media Molecule. Molyneux left Lionhead in early 2012 (shortly after the resignation of another group of developers who were dissatisfied with the company) to found 22Cans because he wanted to be more creative. After Molyneux's departure, Microsoft had Lionhead switch to developing games as a service games. As a result, there were many changes within the studio.
In March 2016, Microsoft announced that it had proposed closing Lionhead Studios and that the planned game Fable Legends would be cancelled. On 29 April 2016, Lionhead Studios closed down. A few months after Lionhead's closure, two key people (Webley and Gary Carr, who was Lionhead's creative director), founded Two Point Studios.
|Lionhead Studios Limited|
|Industry||Video game industry|
Two Point Studios
|Defunct||29 April 2016|
|Peter Molyneux (Managing Director) (1997–2012)|
Mark Webley (Chief operating officer)
Gary Carr (Chief creative officer) (2011–2015)
Tim Rance (Chief technology officer)
|Products||Black & White series|
|Parent||Microsoft Studios (2006–2016)|
|Website||Official website (archived version from 1 April 2016)|
Peter Molyneux founded Bullfrog Productions in 1987, which was later acquired by Electronic Arts (EA) in 1995. Around 1996, Molyneux had contemplated leaving Bullfrog, as he felt limited in his creative freedom under Electronic Arts. He along with Lionhead's eventual co-founders, Mark Webley, Tim Rance and Steve Jackson, started developing plans for a new studio. In 1997, due to a series of events and from issues arising between Molyneux and Electronic Arts, he ultimately left the company in July 1997, co-founding Lionhead shortly after that, along with Mark Webley, Tim Rance, and Steve Jackson (who co-founded Games Workshop and co-authored the Fighting Fantasy series). On his recruitment, Jackson said "It was an offer I couldn't refuse", as he wanted to get back to making games instead of writing about them (Jackson had interviewed Molyneux about Bullfrog and Dungeon Keeper, but for much of it, they discussed German board games instead. This led to them meeting frequently for an event called "Games Night"). Molyneux assured him that his lack of programming knowledge was an asset rather than a problem. Lionhead is the second Bullfrog break-off group, after Mucky Foot Productions (founded in February 1997). According to Glenn Corpes (who co-founded another: Lost Toys), Lionhead was Molyneux's "take on what Bullfrog used was".
The idea of the company was to develop quality games without growing too large. On the differences between Lionhead and Bullfrog, Molyneux said: "This time round we're a professionally run company. Gone are the days of shooting work experience people with guns". He also said that Lionhead would develop only one game at a time. Early Lionhead employees included Demis Hassabis, Mark Healey (Lionhead's first artist), and Alex Evans.
The name Lionhead came from Webley's pet hamster. The hamster soon died, which was taken as a bad sign, so other names, including Black Box, Red Rocket, Midnight, and Hurricane were considered but none had unanimous support. The name Red Eye was then suggested, and everyone liked it (the decision needed to be quick as Molyneux was to be interviewed by Edge). However, for reasons including the name being in use by many other companies, the domains redeye.com and redeye.co.uk being taken and lionhead.co.uk already having being registered by Rance, the company already having Lionhead business cards, and the possibility of the name Red Eye having drinking connotations, the name was reverted to Lionhead. By the time the name was reverted, it was too late for Edge to amend their interview, so it was published with the company being referred to as Redeye Studios. In the interview, Molyneux stated that his ambition for the company was to "make it a world-renowned software development house – known in Europe, Japan and America for top-quality games".
Word about Lionhead began spreading quickly. Within the first month, companies including Sega, Nintendo, Eidos, GTI, and Lego had arranged meetings. One day, "a major Japanese console manufacturer" had come to present plans for a "next generation console", but by then, Lionhead's first game had already been committed.
By the end of July, Lionhead had signed a one-game contract with Electronic Arts. The studio was initially run out of Molyneux's mansion in Elstead, before relocating to the University of Surrey Research Park in 1998. According to Jackson, it was "a mere stone's throw from Bullfrog's old lily pad on the very same estate". For the staff who had come from Bullfrog, it was "a little like coming home". Six companies were competing for a space, and Lionhead won due to Molyneux and Bullfrog's reputation.
Lionhead had originally intended to make their first public appearance at the E3 trade show in May 1997. This was cancelled at the last minute because there was not yet any deal with Electronic Arts, and there was the possibility of not being able to discuss Lionhead. The debut was made in September at the European Computer Trade Show instead. According to Jackson, "Everyone" was interested in Lionhead: journalists from many major European magazines frequently turned up at Lionhead's suite.
By August 1998, after a placing a job advertisement in Edge which received over 100 applications, Russell Shaw had been hired as Head of Music. Lionhead's first title was Black & White, which was published by Electronic Arts under terms of Molyneux's severance package from departing Bullfrog. It was released in 2001 to widespread critical acclaim. It won BAFTA awards for Interactivity and Moving Images in 2001, and AIAS awards for Computer Innovation and Computer Game of the Year the following year. An expansion pack Black & White: Creature Isle, was released the following year. In Lionhead's early years, Jackson wrote columns about the company and the development of Black & White for magazines such as PC Zone and Génération 4. The articles were also published on Lionhead's website.
According to Eurogamer, Lionhead "was a continuation of the culture and development ethic of Bullfrog", which included the playing of pranks. One such prank was one "that would go down in Lionhead history". It involved a visit from the Mayor of Guildford during the development of Black & White: Healey had inserted a couple of wires into a woollen glove with the other ends put into a floppy drive. Molyneux was forced to explain to the Mayor how the game's on-screen hand was controlled by the glove (which Healey was wearing), when it was actually being controlled by a mouse with Healey's other hand, which were hidden. The Mayor fell for the trick.
By June 2002, Lionhead had established satellite companies, including Big Blue Box Studios, Intrepid Computer Entertainment (also called Intrepid Developments), and Black & White Studios. Lionhead and its satellite studios had 107 employees and were developing six games: Fable, The Movies, a project called Creation (also called Dimitri), Black & White NG (Black & White Next Generation), Black & White 2, and BC, despite Molyneux's earlier statement that Lionhead would only work on one at a time. The idea to form these satellite studios came from Jackson during the development of Black & White. Big Blue Box Studios was founded in July 1998 by Ian Lovett and Simon and Dene Carter, because of a desire to leave Electronic Arts and "the sadly ravaged corpse of Bullfrog it had left behind". Intrepid Computer Entertainment was founded by Joe Rider and Matt Chilton, and Black & White Studios was headed by Jonty Barnes, who was a programmer on Dungeon Keeper and Black & White. According to Molyneux, The Movies came about because Lionhead listened to some financial advisers after the release of Black & White, who said that the company would die if it did not float on the stock market. The company then went for initial public offering, which Molyneux said was "The most stupid thing that ever happened" because it meant having to expand quickly and develop more games. In the early 2000s, Lionhead was "growing very fast". The company was nominated for the 2002 Golden Joystick Awards British Developer of the Year award.
Before Fable shipped, Lionhead purchased Big Blue Box and Intrepid. The decision to merge Big Blue Box with Lionhead was made to accelerate the completion of the game. Fable was released in 2004 for the Xbox, and won AIAS awards for Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Development and Outstanding Achievement in Original Musical Composition in 2005. Dimitri was cancelled. In 2003, Gary Carr joined Lionhead. Due to the stock market crash in the aftermath of 9/11, Lionhead sought investments from venture capitalists. Deals with various firms were signed in July 2004. This came at a time when the company needed money for the development of five games to be released by different publishers.
In 2005, Lionhead released two titles: Black & White 2 and The Movies. Around this time, Lionhead had roughly 220 employees. These titles did not achieve a massive impact in sales (Molyneux described The Movies as "a disaster" due to lack of playtesting. However, it won a BAFTA award for Simulation in 2006.), and Lionhead soon afterwards encountered financial difficulty. Due to this, on 6 April 2006, Lionhead Studios was acquired by Microsoft. Ubisoft was another contender for the acquisition of Lionhead, but Molyneux believed Microsoft to be "perfect", and said people wanted "the safety and security of being part of something bigger". Microsoft wanted the Fable series to be an Xbox exclusive, and knew that if Ubisoft had acquired Lionhead, it would have gone to the PlayStation 3 instead, a conclusion that Webley concurred with. Lionhead were concerned with securing the company's future and protecting jobs and spent "months" preparing for the acquisition. Some, such as Andy Robson (Head of Testing), were dissatisfied with the deal. He claimed Lionhead were trying to cheat him out of money he was owed. Molyneux believed that Microsoft were pleased with the deal, and said that they made their money back due to the release of the "fantastically successful" Fable II (it won a BAFTA award for Action and Adventure in 2009) for the Xbox 360 in 2008. In late 2005, Healey left Lionhead with Evans and a couple of other developers to found Media Molecule. Jackson also left in 2006 when Microsoft took over.
The general consensus amongst Lionhead was that the buyout "benefited Lionhead greatly". Microsoft purchased a lease that enabled Lionhead to expand to multiple floors, a canteen, and an office revamp. According to Fable franchise director Ted Timmins, the improvements felt like Lionhead was "a real developer". The pranks were also reduced. During the development of Fable II, Lionhead received death threats because the game featured a gay character and some of the leading characters were black. Microsoft, for the most part, left Lionhead alone during the development of Fable II, but did ask them to change the icon of a condom (the game featured a dog who was able to dig them up) to a modern one, despite the game being set in an earlier era. Lionhead and Microsoft conflicted over the game's marketing: Microsoft believed that role-playing games were about dragons and wanted to market the game as such, despite Lionhead's insistence that the game was "a Monty Python-esque comedy". According to Fable art director John McCormack, the marketing was "shit" and that dragons were Dungeons & Dragons fare and had nothing to do with Fable. Despite the row, most of the Fable II team thought highly of the relationship between Lionhead and Microsoft, and after the game's release, Lionhead won a BAFTA award for the best action adventure game. There was also a dispute over Fable III's box art. The game was developed and released in 18 months, but fell short of the expectations set by the previous instalment. Six months before its release, Lionhead attempted to integrate Kinect into the game, but failed. In June 2009, Molyneux became creative director of Microsoft Studios' European division, a position he held concurrently with the head of Lionhead.
Another Kinect-based project, Milo & Kate was in development but was cancelled. Molyneux blamed the cancellation on Kinect's technology and Microsoft's attitude towards their target market. Its development team moved to Fable: The Journey, another Kinect game that was released in 2012 and was "disastrous".
By early 2012, Lionhead were suffering what had been described as "Black Monday". Several Lionhead veterans, dissatisfied with the way the company was heading, resigned on the same day. According to McCormack, Molyneux "lost it" and ordered them to leave the premises immediately. Molyneux apologised for this outburst, and soon afterwards, in March, he too left Lionhead and founded 22Cans, along with Rance, who had ceased being Lionhead's chief technology officer sometime prior. He was also joined by Paul McLaughlin, who was Lionhead's head of art. Webley then temporarily took over as head of the studio, before being replaced by Scott Henson early the following year. Molyneux said he left Lionhead because he wanted to increase his creativity. He also said that after 12 years (the series began in 2000 by Big Blue Box Studios), everyone was "tired" of the Fable series. Craig Oman, producer of Fable Anniversary, said that Molyneux's departure gave Lionhead an opportunity to reidentify itself.
Molyneux's departure had a much greater impact than those of other veterans who had already left the company. Lionhead became more professional and organised according to some staff. One said that Molyneux had the power to keep Microsoft at bay, and his departure left the remaining staff vulnerable. Around this time, Microsoft insisted that Lionhead make a games as a service Fable game or face closure. Microsoft also said that nobody was to continue making boxed single-player games, and wanted to make more money from the Fable series. Due to the switch to service games, the idea of Fable IV was rejected, and experts in monetisation and competitive game design were hired to assist the transition. At some point, John Needham became head of Lionhead. Creative director Carr (who had played major roles in Milo & Kate, The Movies, and Fable: The Journey) left in September 2015, and a new one, David Eckelberry, was brought in. Lionhead encountered difficulty in this project, Fable Legends, because they had not done anything like it before.
On 7 March 2016, Microsoft announced the cancellation of Fable Legends and a proposed closure of Lionhead Studios. The closure came as a shock to some staff, who had suspected Microsoft were concerned but did not think Lionhead would be shut down: it was thought that the worst-case scenario would be that Fable Legends's assets would be used for Fable IV. Some staff put the closure down to "a string of bad decisions and mismanagement". The game was supposed to be released in summer 2015, after the release of Windows 10, and some said Lionhead had failed to meet their own targets. To comply with UK employment law, there was a consultation period, and the Fable Legends servers were not shut down until mid-April so that customers could get refunds. There was a small "live operations" team that conducted this process, but for others, work was optional. An attempt to save the project was made, under the name of Project Phoenix. This would have involved developing it with a new studio under licence from Microsoft, who supported the idea but it failed due to lack of time, and the fact that many Lionhead employees had found new jobs. On 29 April 2016, Lionhead closed down. One Lionhead developer, Charlton Edwards (the only one remaining who had worked on Black & White), said there was a giveaway, and he received some of the "trophies". Both current and former Lionhead developers gave the studio a send-off at a pub. On 26 July, Webley and Carr founded Two Point Studios, a studio that some Lionhead developers are working at.
22Cans Ltd is a British video game developer based in Guildford, England. The company was founded by Peter Molyneux, previously of Bullfrog Productions and Lionhead Studios, on 20 February 2012. The company's first game, Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube?, was released 6 November 2012.Alex Evans (video game developer)
Alex Evans is a UK-based video games developer. Evans previously worked at Guildford-based Lionhead Studios and developed the video game Rag Doll Kung Fu independently. He is the co-founder of Media Molecule, a video games studio based in Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom. The studio's first project was a cooperative platformer for the PlayStation 3 entitled LittleBigPlanet, which received worldwide acclaim and won several gaming awards. Evans contributed to LittleBigPlanet by creating a games engine for it. Evans has also been the figurehead for advertising the game to reviewers, and helping Sony showcase the game at various expos. For example, at E3 2008, Evans helped Sony showcase their quarterly sales via a specially created LittleBigPlanet level. Ever since appearing and discussing LittleBigPlanet for the first time at the game developers' conference 2007, Evans has been renowned in the gaming world.Evans was active in the Demoscene during the 1990s and was known by the handle "Statix". Most of his work was highly acclaimed – 303 is one of the first demos to include an entire vocal track (compressed into a standard module by a custom MPEG-packer) in the music, while Tomthumb and Staying Pictures are one of the first "generative" demos, the former being a winner of Most Original Concept at the 2002 Scene.org Awards.Fable (2004 video game)
Fable is an action role-playing video game, the first in the Fable series. It was developed for the Xbox, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS X platforms by Big Blue Box Studios, a satellite developer of Lionhead Studios, and was published by Microsoft Studios. The game shipped for the Xbox in September 2004. An extended version of the game, Fable: The Lost Chapters, was released for the Xbox and Windows in September 2005. A port of the game for Mac OS X, created by Robosoft Technologies and published by Feral Interactive, was released in March 2008 after a delay of more than two years due to licensing issues.
Originally developed under the name Project Ego, Fable's development involved more than 150 people. The game's music was composed by Russell Shaw, with the opening title theme written by Danny Elfman. The game's release was widely anticipated, due in part to Lionhead co-founder Peter Molyneux's enthusiastic hype of the game. The game was originally in development for the Dreamcast, but was moved to the Xbox due to the system's discontinuation.
Fable was well received by critics for the quality of its gameplay and execution, though the failure to include many promised features was noted. Fable was the top-selling game of September 2004 and sold more than two million units by 2007. The game was followed by two sequels, Fable II in 2008 and Fable III in 2010. Fable Anniversary, a high-definition remake of the game that includes The Lost Chapters, was released for the Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows in February 2014.Fable (video game series)
Fable is a series of action role-playing video games for Xbox, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox 360 and Xbox One platforms. The series was developed by Lionhead Studios until the studio was closed in 2016, and is published by Xbox Game Studios. Flaming Fowl Studios released a Free-to-play card game called Fable Fortune in July 2017.Fable Heroes
Fable Heroes is a beat 'em up video game in the Fable series, developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Studios for Xbox 360. It was announced at the 2012 Xbox Spring Showcase, with a debut trailer. It was released on 2 May 2012 as part of the 2012 Xbox Live Arcade Next Promotion. It is the first "family-friendly" game in the Fable series.
Lead designer Ted Timmins described how the team "brought a modern touch to the old and out dated side scroller". He also mentioned that Fable Heroes will connect with Fable: The Journey. By completing tasks in Fable Heroes the player will gain access to unique items in Fable: The Journey and vice versa. Additional avatar awards are also available in game.Fable II
Fable II is an action role-playing open world video game in the Fable game series developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox 360. It is the sequel to Fable and Fable: The Lost Chapters, it was originally announced in 2006 and released in October 2008. A compilation of the game, and its two downloadable content packs, was released on 24 October 2009, titled the "Game of the Year" edition.The game takes place in the fictional land of Albion, five hundred years after Fable's original setting, in a colonial era resembling the time of highwaymen or the Enlightenment. Guns are still primitive, and large castles and cities have developed in the place of towns. Unlike the original, the player may choose to be either male or female.Fable III
Fable III is an action role-playing open world video game, developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The third game in the Fable series, the story focuses on the player character's struggle to overthrow the King of Albion, the player character's brother, by forming alliances and building support for a revolution. After a successful revolt, the player becomes the monarch and is tasked with attempting to defend Albion from a great evil. The game includes voice acting by Ben Kingsley (Sabine), Stephen Fry (Reaver), Simon Pegg (Ben Finn), Naomie Harris (Page), Michael Fassbender (Logan), Zoë Wanamaker (Theresa), Bernard Hill (Sir Walter Beck), Nicholas Hoult (Elliot), John Cleese (Jasper), Johnathan Ross (Barry Hatch), Kellie Bright (Hero of Brightwall female), and Louis Tamone (Hero of Brightwall male).
The game was released on 29 October 2010 for Xbox 360 and on 20 May 2011 for PC via both Games for Windows and Steam. The PC version includes a Hardcore mode and 3D functionality not found in the Xbox 360 version.Fable Legends
Fable Legends is a cancelled cooperative action role-playing video game developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Studios for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. Microsoft announced the cancellation of the game on 7 March 2016. The servers shut down on 13 April 2016.Gary Carr (video game developer)
Gary Carr (born February 1966) is an English video game developer. His career began at Palace Software, where he worked on titles such as Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior and Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax. In 1989, he joined Bullfrog Productions and worked as lead artist on Powermonger and Populous 2. He also worked on Theme Park, but, after a disagreement with Peter Molyneux, he left the company to work for The Bitmap Brothers, where he worked on The Chaos Engine 2. He returned to Bullfrog in 1995 hoping to work on Dungeon Keeper, but worked on Theme Hospital instead. He left Bullfrog again in 1998 to join Mucky Foot Productions,
In 2003, he joined Lionhead Studios, and later became a Creative Director, as well as an Executive Producer at Microsoft Game Studios. He left Lionhead in 2015. The following year, he set up a new company, Two Point Studios. In 2017, the company signed a publishing deal with Sega for a new game.Lionhead
Lionhead may refer to
Lionhead (goldfish), a variety of goldfish
Lionhead cichlid (Steatocranus casuarius), a fish
Lionhead rabbit, a breed of domestic rabbit
Lionhead Studios, a computer game development company
Lionhead Unit, a campground at Priest Lake in Northern Idaho
The head of a lionList of Lionhead Studios games
Lionhead Studios Limited was a British video game developer founded in July 1997 by Peter Molyneux, Mark Webley, Tim Rance, and Steve Jackson. The company is best known for the Black & White and Fable series. Lionhead started as a breakaway from developer Bullfrog Productions, 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 Webley's hamster, which died not long after the naming of the studio, as a result of which the studio was very briefly renamed to Redeye Studios (it was reverted for various reasons).Mark Healey
Mark Healey (from Ipswich, Suffolk) is a British video game developer. Healey started his career making games for the Commodore 64 home computer - his first published game was KGB Super Spy for Codemasters, which led to developing the educational Fun School series of games for Europress Software. Healey joined Bullfrog Productions to work with Peter Molyneux on titles such as Theme Park, Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. When Molyneux left Bullfrog to form Lionhead Studios, Healey joined him, and worked as a senior artist/designer on Black & White. Whilst still at Lionhead, he developed Rag Doll Kung Fu independently in his spare time, which was the first third party game to be distributed over Steam - Valve Corporation's online distribution system. He is a co-founder and creative director of Media Molecule. LittleBigPlanet, its first video game, is a cooperative platformer for the PlayStation 3.Peter Molyneux
Peter Douglas Molyneux (; born 5 May 1959) is an English video game designer and programmer. He created the god games Populous, Dungeon Keeper, and Black & White, as well as Theme Park, the Fable series, Curiosity – What's Inside the Cube?, and Godus. He currently works at 22Cans as the founder.Project Milo
Project Milo (also referred to as Milo and Kate) was a project in development by Lionhead Studios for the Xbox 360 video game console. Formerly a secretive project under the early code name "Dimitri", Project Milo was unveiled at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in a demonstration for Kinect, as a "controller-free" entertainment initiative for the Xbox 360 based on depth-sensing and pattern recognition technologies. The project was a tech demo to showcase the capabilities of Kinect and has not been released, despite conflicting reports that the project was an actual game.Steve Jackson (British game designer)
Steve Jackson (born 20 May 1951) is a British game designer, writer, and game reviewer.The Movies
The Movies is a business simulation game created by Lionhead Studios for Microsoft Windows and subsequently ported to Mac OS X by Feral Interactive. It was released on 8 November 2005 in North America, and 11 November 2005 in Europe after reaching gold status on 8 October 2005. The game allows players to take the role of a Hollywood film mogul, running a studio and creating films. Much has been made about the film-making aspect of the game, as it allows players to easily create viewable works or machinima. It won Best Simulation Game at the BAFTA Video Games Awards and was nominated for best game at the Game Developers Choice Awards.
On 6 June 2006, an expansion pack was released, The Movies: Stunts & Effects. This expansion added a host of new features, among which were stunts (and stunt doubles), and special effects, as well as the ability to designate custom camera angles. This game is also available on the Mac. The Mac port of the game was published by Feral Interactive and developed by Robosoft Technologies.Unity (video game)
Unity was a video game being developed by Jeff Minter and Lionhead Studios for the Nintendo GameCube system. It was in development from the beginning of 2003 until its cancellation at the end of 2004. It was to feature Jeff Minter's trademark psychedelic graphical style, meshed with an interactive music component. The music was to be provided by someone who was well-known and appropriate for the game's style, but the participant was never revealed.
Unity was so highly anticipated that the UK games magazine Edge featured it on its February 2003 issue cover, with a full 8 page preview in the same issue. However, the project slipped off the release schedules soon after.
Unity's cancellation was officially announced on Lionhead's website on 10 December 2004. Minter and Lionhead both cited the "ambitious and experimental" nature of the project as reason for the mutual decision to cease development. Peter Molyneux was quoted as saying "...it was becoming increasingly apparent to us that we would not be able to finish Unity in an acceptable time frame."
|Black & White series|