Ex-community director of Lionhead Studios, Sam van Tilburgh, recently revealed a rather amusing story of how the game studio, which would later be bought by Microsoft in 2006, dealt with an internet troll who had got their hands on pre-release game material back in 2003.
“There was this little group, and they were called Kibitz. They managed to get their hands on some screenshots,” Tilburgh explained in an event put on by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. “One of which was the hero of Fable stabbing a little kid through the head. It was never meant to be released for obvious reasons but they managed to get their hands on more material unannounced to this day... and they threatened us, the community team, with releasing them.”
Luckily for the Fable developers, the party involved had made their threats on the official Fable discussion forums which Lionhead Studios ran and it was only a matter of time before they used that to track their IP address, and eventually their home address and school.
“We knew where the guy was living and managed to get a hold of the guy's high school record through a mate, including the poem that he had recited at his end of year [class],” Tilburgh reveals. “We wrote a public message as Lionhead Studios to the group Kibitz and we started the message with the opening lines of the poem he had recited in high school, and we included the landmark he could see from his house where he lived. And I said, 'You have got to stop this now otherwise I pass all this information on to your mum.’”
Their efforts worked and all of the stolen media was never released to the public. Amusingly, Tilburgh admits that the kid behaved himself after the incident and continued to support the Fable video game franchise. “He kept quiet and he was a very kind polite boy after that. I met him many times after at community events,” he said.
Fable was a very popular video game franchise which saw three main entries released on the original Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles and a variety of spin-offs. A Fable game called, Fable Legends, was due to launch on the Xbox One and even made its way to beta testing but was completely cancelled in 2016 when Lionhead Studios was shut down by Microsoft.