With Lionhead Studios being shutdown at the hands of Microsoft and Fable Legends getting cancelled so far into development, some of the former employees are revealing some other neat things that went on at the studio, including an industrialized Fable 4.
IGN picked out some choice quotes from an extremely lengthy editorial by Eurogamer that covers the span of Lionhead's operation, which included the Fable 4 game that never was.
According to former art director at Lionhead, John McCormack, they were planning on make a Jules Verne-inspired industrial Victorian setting for Fable 4. The idea was that it would have some “far out” themes, likely fusing dieselpunk and steampunk themes together within the Victorian environment. However, McCormack states that Microsoft pulled the plug on the idea and eventually Lionhead began working on the now cancelled Fable Legends.
The idea was that it would have featured tram cars, flying machines and other contraptions formed from the industrial revolution. The article also notes that the team would have taken some liberties with characters from that era, such as Jack The Ripper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
They also mention that the game would have been “dark” and “gritty” and would have maintained its mature themes, including lots of adult humor and the series' typical inclusion of prostitutes.
The pitch for the darker and grittier Fable fell on uninterested ears at Microsoft. The publisher was not interested in taking the property down that route. Instead, they re-purposed the team on Fable Legends for PC and Xbox One. Unfortunately the game just did not gain the marketing traction it needed to lure in audiences or maintain any kind of effectual hype and was canned in result.
What's interesting is that if Microsoft had gone with the industrial idea for Fable, it would have set it apart from a lot of the other typical games on the market. The only game that has dabbled in the industrial age recently was Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Technically they would have had the genre mostly all to themselves, with little worry about cannibalization or a saturated market.
Thinking about it even more, this idea for the new Fable would have fit in nicely with a diverse range of other titles on the Xbox One such as Sunset Overdrive, the impending Crackdown 3, along with Halo 5: Guardians and the upcoming Gears of War 4. There would have been at least a game that deviated from the rest of the group and also stood apart from the other medieval fantasy titles on the market like Shadows of Mordor, Lords of the Fallen and Dark Souls 3.
Nevertheless, Microsoft seemed averse to the idea of taking Fable down that route, and instead of ended up with an idea that cost Lionhead Studios their jobs. The IGN article notes that Peter Molyneux, the original mastermind behind Fable, is still open to the idea of returning to the franchise... so maybe sometime down the line Microsoft will reopen negotiations with Molyneux and let him and the former leads at Lionhead make that industrial-themed Fable 4?