Ex-Lionhead Employee Tells Wild Story About Threatening Teenage "Trolls"

Illustration for article titled Ex-Lionhead Employee Tells Wild Story About Threatening Teenage "Trolls"

Lionhead Studios, creators of the Fable series, are no more, meaning there’s nothing stopping crazy stories from their past getting out. Like this one, where an ex-employee claims the developers once had some stuff stolen by some teenagers, who Lionhead tracked down then threatened with...ratting them out to one of their mums.


As first reported by the BBC, ex-Lionhead community manager Sam van Tilburgh told the tale at a BAFTA function on Tuesday night, to the surprise of others appearing on his panel who seemed genuinely shocked at the “Sherlock-like” revelation.

The story goes like this: in 2003, as the team were preparing to release the first Fable title, a group of what van Tilburgh tells Kotaku were “trolls” known as Kibitz “managed to get their hands on some screenshots” from an earlier build of the game, along with “other material”. One of those screenshots showed the game’s hero “stabbing a little kid through the head”, and was “never meant to be released for obvious reasons”, Van Tilburgh says.

The teenagers—who threatened to release the stuff they’d obtained—must have thought they were pretty hot shit, if not for one oversight: Kibitz says they posted some of the stolen screenshots on Lionhead’s own forums, which allowed the studio’s community team to track the IP of one of the members who had uploaded them.

“We knew where the guy was living, and we managed to get hold of the guy’s high school record...through a mate, including the poem that he recited at his end of year event”, Van Tilburgh says.

“We wrote a public message as Lionhead Studios to the group, Kibitz, and we started the message with the opening lines of the poem that he recited in high school, and we included a picture of the landmark he could see from his house where he lived.”


“And I said, ‘You gotta stop this now, otherwise I pass all this information on to your mum.’”

“He was 16.”

As extreme as the measure was—the community team didn’t even tell Lionhead’s legal department until “after the fact”, which in 2016 sounds absolutely insane—it apparently did the trick, with the “other material” Kibitz got hold of never being released. Van Tilburgh says the threatened troll was “a very kind, polite boy after that”, and that he even met with him a few times over the years at Fable community events.


You can watch the story in the clip below from 34:12 onwards.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.



As someone in PR I’d love to pull something like this, however I’d lose my job nowadays - lol (got to love political correctness). What an awesome story.