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Incubation

In the aftermath of Peter Molyneux’s departure from Bullfrog Productions and it’s seemingly inevitable demise, a number of new game development companies sprang up in Bullfrog’s Guildford, England locale.  Big Blue Box was one such studio, founded by brothers Simon and Dene Carter (as co-lead programmers and designers) and Ian Lovett (as art lead).  The group had extensive experience at Bullfrog working on titles including Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. From the beginning Big Blue Box retained strong ties with Peter Molyneux and his newly formed Lionhead Studios.  So close, that for the initial incubation period of the studio it was run out of a room in Peter Molyneux’s mansion with some members of the team both living and working out of Peter’s residence.

Big Blue Box’s first project began as a fantasy RPG/Action game code-named WishWorld, which had combat elements including melee, archery and magic-like abilities called “Will” and a strong multiplayer component.  
 
During this development Big Blue Box would serve as the figure-head in Lionhead Studio’s ambitious “Satellite” program which was intended to allow independent game companies to leverage Lionhead’s marketing, administrative, and business departments freeing them from having to create such capabilities in-house and theoretically leaving the developers more time to focus on the development of their games and not on creating a fully outfitted start-up.  Above and beyond aid with the business of games, the Satellite program was to give the studios access to Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux and Steve Jackson to aid with the development and refinement of game design, as well as testing and Q&A.  The plan appeared to work and after a short period of prototyping the small Big Blue Box team secured a publishing deal with Activision.

Project Ego 

For unknown reasons the deal with Activision was eventually terminated, but Big Blue Box’s debut title was quickly picked up by Microsoft to serve as a figurehead action-RPG for their upcoming Xbox game console.  Big Blue Box had also finally moved into their new offices at the site that would eventually house all of Lionhead Studios and was rapidly staffing up.

Wishworld had progressed significantly. The game stuck true to its unique art style and “will” abilities while also shifting in gameplay focus. An innovative system to tailor the look and style of the games protagonist based on the moral choices made while questing began to become more prevalent while the multiplayer features of the game began to fade.  The game was renamed project “Ego” to reflect the change in gameplay.

Merger with Lionhead 

Eventually the other members of the Lionhead Satellite program began to fold, while Microsoft was taking more and more interest in Project Ego, eventually titled Fable, as major showcase title for the Xbox, the decision was made for Big Blue Box to merge together with Lionhead.  Unlike other mergers where large studios absorb smaller studios for their staff or intellectual property, the Lionhead merger was merely a permanent sealing the bond between two closely tied companies. Many of the original Big Blue Box members remain in senior positions at Lionhead to this day, while the Fable franchise has become Lionhead's flagship product and remains a showcase title for Microsoft’s Xbox game brand.  Lionhead itself was eventually acquired by Microsoft, likely to ensure that Fable remained an Xbox and Games for Windows Live exclusive title, as well as to tap into the hot bed of innovative talent at Lionhead Studios.     
 

Trivia

 
  • At the time of the company founding a popular brand of condoms were sold in a big blue box, but this could be mere coincidence
  • Despite having the world "Blue" in their company title, Big Blue Box's first proper office was filled with firetruck red cubicles

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