Dev studios 'no longer have the luxury' of building in blocks

Lionhead’s new design approach: ‘The Golden Line’

Fable studio Lionhead has ‘radically changed’ the way it approaches game design, according to co-founder Peter Molyneux.

The Guildford studio will step away from the ‘block’ approach to game creation – where individual elements are built in isolation – and embrace a new linear outlook that resembles film storyboarding.

Molyneux, a respected industry veteran who has contributed to video games for 27 years, says the drastic measures will ensure Lionhead remains fresh and relevant as ever.

He said the games industry “no longer has the luxury” to stick with the old ‘block’ approach.

“I’ve just gone through a very big refresh about the way that games at Lionhead, or games that I’m involved with, are designed,” Molyneux told Develop.

“We’ve got this tool that allows us to lay out every minute of the gameplay so that we can talk about every minute from the start to the end.

“Every minute is storyboarded, and if there are [narrative] branches in there we have branches in the tool”.

And, perhaps as an admission of his famously prohibitive levels of ambition, Molyneux said the new approach will better test the mettle of his high-concept ideas.

“The idea alone is not enough,” the Milo designer said.

“You can’t walk into a team or a group of people and say ‘I’ve had a great idea, why don’t we do this?’

“It’s much, much more detailed than that. The devil is in the detail, so now the design approach at Lionhead is all about laying the experience out in this golden thread.”

In the full interview with Develop – available online now – Molyneux goes into illuminating detail on the Guildford studio’s new approach.

“Before we start work we talk through the whole of the experience, designing each minute of the experience, as opposed to the way we used to do it,” he said.

“Classically we think of pillars. For example, lets say we decided Fable 3 was going to be about ruling, going to be co-op and going to be about fighting. Then we’d think about some ideas for pillar one and pillar two, and the team would go away and make some prototypes and that would take a few months and we’d pull it all together and then get to see what of game we’d got.

“We have not got that luxury anymore,” he added.

Molyneux said that laying down an idea across a storyboard will force the dev team to think about how it plays out at each turn, each hour, and each minute.

“It sounds like the way we should have always made games but we didn’t,” he said.

“This hopefully will allow for you to get to more of what I call the ‘golden line’. If you think of a game as an experience, while it’s nice to have distractions, if the golden line is great then the game will be great.”

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