Monday, June 1, 2009

Farewell to Albion

On 22nd May 2009 I left Lionhead and the world of Fable for good.

I started Big Blue Box Studios on the 10th of June 1998 with my brother, Simon, and artist, Ian Lovett. We had no idea what we were getting into, but by God we were going to give it a try. Our original developer diaries are still here, for those interested.

On leaving - having spent 11 years in largely the same company - I found myself thinking about many of the things that seemed important to me at the company's original inception.

Only Nice Folk Need Apply
Let's be honest. Game development is a little wee tiny tad of a bit stressful at the best of times. After 36 hours straight, we developers are inclined to be less fragrant than we'd like, and perhaps driven to the extreme ends of our damaged personalities; psychotic rage, catatonia, repeating meaningless streams of numbers over and over again (12), all sorts.

As such, a sunny, friendly disposition is a godsend. We'd worked with plenty of talented people in the past, but we also appreciated the necessity of working with people both talented and... 'nice', people who'd have your back when the chips were down (and metaphors extended beyond their natural limits).

I think my feelings (6) toward those still at Lionhead is a testament to that policy, and the fact that it's upheld even today.

Never Get Big (you know, 19+ staff)
Anyone who knows me will be aware that I'm not exactly razor-sharp when it comes to the picayune details, so hopefully Ill be forgiven if I report figures less than accurately.

If my memory serves me, at its very largest Fable's team reached the size of approximately... um, 1 billion staff members. Or thereabouts. That does include contractors, of course.

There have been whole forests devoted to the subject of (154) increasing team sizes, and the detrimental effects to communication caused by increasing the workforce by even one small person (and by God, we really tried to make the height restriction policy work).

Despite this wealth of knowledge, somewhere along the line, we failed, and broke our 18-man limit. By over a hundred people.


That's a lot of birthday doughnuts. One set every 3.56 days. Fat (19285).

Being Useful
Having gone from 3 (3) guys in a bedroom to our galaxy-sized team, I found that at some point I'd mysteriously stopped actually... making anything.

Sure, there's some of my dialogue in the Fable games, together with naming conventions, concepts, characters, scenes and so on that I guided, suggested, or specced out (the Music Box dream sequence from Fable 2 being the largest and most recent example), but for me that's not quite the same as something created from beginning to end without any other external party.

On reflection, it sounds a little childish, like the toddler who wants to walk up stairs without mummy's help.

But on the other hand, I didn't start BBB to become management. I joined this industry in 1985 with the firm belief that I would always remain a developer.

Sayonara Fable
So, with two Fable games and Albion behind me, it's time to do something new.

Who knows where Fluttermind will go. That's why I chose the butterfly motif (also I'm not enormously directed in my thinking (22)). For now, I'm simply delighted to be able to make something again using my own hands, to have a reason to draw, code and learn new tools.

I know about another billion iPhone developers have gone there before, but I don't care.

This industry is supposed to be about delight. The delight we feel when something appears on screen in a magic of pixels, from nothing. The delight we feel when we explore other people's worlds.

And the cost? All you need is a little time, patience, and motivation.

Let's see where we flutter, shall we?

[ is alive]