Lionhead: Project Milo existed before "we'd even heard of Kinect"

Plus: tonnes of new information on Fable: The Journey.

Lionhead's Project Milo helped launch Microsoft's vision of Kinect to the world at E3 2009. Interact believably with a human AI using only gestures and voice!

Project Milo was the embodiment of Kinect's science fiction potential.

But Lionhead said today that Project Milo existed long before Kinect - then Project Natal - was doing the rounds.

"Project Milo was something in development before we'd even heard of Kinect," Lionhead's creative director Gary Carr revealed at the Brighton Develop conference today.

"It was a controller game.

"Nobody knows that."

What exactly Project Milo was - game or tech demo - was debated for months after that E3 reveal. That little idea had become a big headline.

"We played around with this for a while, and it suddenly got a lot of press coverage," Carr said of Project Milo. "It wasn't necessarily a game, it was an experiment. It kind of got a life of its own for a while.

"But we stopped work on it, because really we needed to start thinking about making some money as a studio.

"Project Milo was something in development before we'd even heard of Kinect. It was a controller game. Nobody knows that."

Gary Carr, creative director, Lionhead

"Microsoft is very kind to let us beaver away on cool ideas," Carr added, "but we cost a lot of money. So we decided to stop work on that and put it to something else, which was Fable: The Journey."

Work on Project Milo stopped in September 2010. In October, Molyneux, Carr and a few other people dreamt up Fable: The Journey, and started doing "quick, dirty" prototypes - a technique picked up from Kinectimals developer Frontier.

The progress made on Project Milo didn't go to waste, either. A water bomb mechanic went on to become the magic system of Fable: The Journey.

"We had these kind of wet balloon games in Milo & Kate where you fill balloons full of water and throw them into the world," revealed Carr. "And we just basically migrated that technology and made it look like magic."

Fable: The Journey had a rough start to life. Microsoft green-lit the project "with a big thumbs up" after 12 weeks work. But controversy began after the on-stage demo at E3 2011. Was Fable: The Journey on rails? Peter Molyneux and Lionhead spent the rest of the year fighting fires.

"The public perception out of E3 last year, if I'm honest - and I hate being brutally honest, but I'm going to be - wasn't even mixed. It was pretty negative. And that knocked us back a little bit," Carr admitted.

"We've built [a world] three-times the size of the last Fable game."

Gary Carr

But at Develop today, Fable: The Journey looked impressive. It was demonstrated live and the Kinect controls were simple and effective, and enhanced the experience rather than detracted from it. This wasn't the E3 2012 demo, by the way - that's three months old now. The build we saw today is 12 days away from certification.

And Fable: The Journey will last you a lot longer than you may think.

"We realised people didn't think we were building a long-form game," said Carr. "This is the biggest game we've ever made, by far.

"You travel around on horseback most of the time; they go pretty fast. You're racing 30 miles through a world - you've got to build a lot of world.

"We've built [a world] three-times the size of the last Fable game."

"What we call a rabbit-run is, you know what you're doing, you race through the game. It takes me 15 hours to complete," he shared, "so it's a very big experience."

Regarding the debate about whether Fable: The Journey is on-rails or not - the answer is both. "There are times in the game where we let the game take control of the movement because I'm busy casting spells, weaving magic. It doesn't make sense for me to move my body around to try and control it - then you want your thumbstick back," Carr said.

There's also a "very slight" auto-target mechanic when slinging spells.

"You ask people to do things that need coordination, and people aren't very good ... It's like watching your dad dance half the time."

Gary Carr

"People aren't very dexterous," Carr has observed. "People are very good at being digital, at pressing the button they're supposed to press. You ask people to do things that need coordination, and people aren't very good. And that's what we've struggled with over the two years-plus in development.

"You can't second-guess how people are going to throw, how people are going to consider their shielding - it's like watching your dad dance half the time. People can't dance, but they think they can, they think they're doing something that looks coordinated, and they're not.

"We spent a lot of time tuning it and calibrating for lots of people's different gesture types."

On the topic of spells - there are seven different types: five "aggressive", one healing, one shield.

Carr went on to reveal that there are more than two hours of "full performance" - cut-scenes - in the game. "That's more than a motion picture would have," he beamed. And these help tell Fable: The Journey's tale, which "finally" tells the story of Teresa and the Spire.

So, three-and-a-half years after Peter Molyneux unveiled Project Milo, Fable: The Journey will be released. But without Peter Molyneux - who left Lionhead this year to make his own indie company 22 Cans.

"Peter has no role anymore," Gary Carr confirmed.

"He basically went from being the head of the studio into a consultation role, which ended in June.

"I've worked with Peter on this project throughout the whole creative phase of it. Once we got into the bug phase [which is where Lionhead is now]," he added, with a pause, "he's busy making cubes now."

Carr closed by addressing the Kinect technology itself.

"Finally, what we want to do is stop talking about Kinect," he said.

"We're making a game. You don't talk about your control pad when you release Halo, you talk about the game you're making."

Fable: The Journey.

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