Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the closure of Lionhead Studios after some 20 years of working on titles like The Movies, Black & White and Fable. Now, former employee John McCormack has shared details of an intriguing project that never saw the light of day.
Following the release of Fable III, the team was under pressure to take the popular RPG franchise to new heights. The now-canceled Fable Legends was set to implement a free-to-play model in order to expand its audience, but a more conventional Fable 4 was at one point being discussed.
A rejected pitch for Fable 4 is detailed at length in an exhaustive exploration of Lionhead Studios that was published by Eurogamer on Thursday. According to McCormack, the game would have continued the franchise’s habit of enlarging the setting of Bowerstone with every new release.
The fourth instalment would see Bowerstone resemble a sprawling city like London, with more advanced technology like tram cars and flying machines. “We wanted to hit the late Victorian proper far-out Jules Verne shit,” said McCormack, who would have acted as the game’s art director.
McCormack also said Fable 4 was intended to be “darker and gritter” than its predecessors. One example of this shift would be some bawdy humor related to characters working as prostitutes, who would enter the narrative during a quest based on Jack the Ripper.
However, Microsoft wasn’t interested in the idea of making such broad changes to the tone of the series, and instead pushed Lionhead Studios in the direction of Fable Legends — much to the disappointment of those enthused to be taking Fable in a new direction.
Lionhead Studios may have been shuttered, but it remains to be seen whether or not Fable is dead. Given the success the series enjoyed at its peak, it seems unlikely that Microsoft won’t try to capitalize on its popularity in one form or another.