Lionhead intends to broaden the Fable franchise further if audiences respond well to Fable Heroes, the downloadable action spin-off it announced at Microsoft's Spring Showcase last month.
The project emerged from an internal "Creative Day" (comparable to Bethesda's Game Jam sessions and Double Fine's famous Amnesia Fortnight), and caught the eye of soon-to-retire bossman Peter Molyneux. It has a team of just 20 - a sixth the size of the average Fable team, according to designer Ted Timmins.
"They really loved it and put us into development for three months. It's great! It's a first for Lionhead and we've never and opportunity where people have said go away for three months and make a game.
"We came back three months later and said 'this is what we've got' and they said 'great - have another five months'. The whole of Lionhead's been really supportive, and it's not very often you get to be lead designer on a Fable game. To go from a creative day project to a 4-player XBLA game... it's been quite a turnaround.
As you'll know if you've (hint hint) read our preview, Fable Heroes puts you in charge of whimsical doll versions of classic Fable characters. "When we started development on this it was called Fable Four Play, and the weakness of it was that you were just playing as generic heroes," Timmins elaborated.
"One day we tried dressing up as some characters from Fable games and the penny just dropped, so we just decided on Fable puppets. If you play as Reaver you have his gun. It's something we haven't done before because in previous Fables, where you play as everything. There's a bit of choice this time around."
Among other new ideas, Heroes adds in a dark world, a Monopoly-style board game and smashable scenery. According to Timmins, Lionhead's old practice was to fold such novelties into traditional "main" Fable experiences. Future Creative Days may give rise to more spin-offs, however.
"There has been stuff that's come out of Creative Day before, ideas that went into Fable games, but never something like a full game. Hopefully if this is a success then Lionhead will do this more often.
"We're all massive Fable fans, everyone that works at Lionhead, we've lived and breathed it for the last 10 years. To keep expanding it is something that everyone there wants to do."
What's your take on Fable Heroes?