Fable The Journey team 'considered scrapping on-rails after E3'

Gary Carr confesses studio was ready to 'kill' the E3 demo; Team 'devastated' by E3 backlash

The Lionhead team developing Fable the Journey had previously explored whether it should remove the on-rails element of the game, in response to widespread criticisms of its first E3 demonstration.


The Kinect-focused Xbox 360 project was criticised specifically for its on-rails set-up, with the camera in command of how the player moves. Though former studio boss Peter Molyneux incorrectly insisted that the game was not on-rails, at Lionhead the development team was pondering whether to scrap the feature.

In a candid interview with CVG, Lionhead creative director Gary Carr said Molyneux's "on-rails rant, if we should call it that, was him trying to hit back at the criticisms saying that it wasn't on-rails".

"I think, if we had done this again, we would have just said, yeah, it's on rails. The truth is, at the time Peter was saying it wasn't on-rails, we at Lionhead were considering free body movement."

Carr claimed that the experimental 'off-rails' elements, where essentially players would lean in certain directions to move, had not worked our for the team.

"It was awful. It just wasn't fun," he said.

"The truth is, we were actually close to killing that E3 [2011] demo, but some of the team tried to revive it. We did come back from E3 with some people saying, we're doing something wrong here. We need to change course. Ultimately, the decision was, keep the faith. On-rails is actually necessary to make the game work really well."

Carr confessed that the E3 backlash had rocked the acclaimed studio's confidence.

"It destroyed them," he said.

"I think the presentation itself is partly to blame. It looked a bit like some spammy shooter, but actually we were building this big world around it. Y'know, you have about two minutes and 45 seconds to demonstrate what you're doing. I know that a main problem people have is they think we've taken the Fable series and trivialised it."

Vehement criticisms had internally cast doubts over the project, and yet a small team designing one of the game's dungeons had brought unity and focus to the group, Carr said.

"I think the turning-point was after the E3 showing, we finished up on developing our first dungeon. It's still the best one in the game. It just came together brilliantly. It has the Fable humour, it has the diversity, the combat, the puzzle-solving - it even has platform sections.

"We nailed it. I think that turned the team. People started realising that no, we were not making a shit game. We were making something that can be great. The team that put that dungeon together, which was about eight people, I think did more to lift the place than I ever could with some kind of speech on a Friday afternoon.

"The team rallied really quickly, it made us double-down on the project and worked really hard to make sure it was the best thing they could make."

Elsewhere in his interview with CVG, Carr explains how the studio wants to move on from its E3 moment, and recounts the moments of inspiration which restored Lionhead's faith in Fable The Journey.