Peter Molyneux on next projects and 'democratizing game design'
When most other game designers were still in graduate school, Peter Molyneux was already creating worlds with Populous, inventing the "real time God game". He created two companies (and later sold them to EA and Microsoft), Bullfrog in 1987 and Lionhead in 1997. With Fable 2 approaching its release, presumably at the end of this summer, we were interested in what comes next. Molyneux told GamersGlobal about two unannounced projects, why publishers don't like VIP designers and what he thinks about 'democratizing game design', as Microsoft likes to put it. Are stars still needed in today's gaming scene?
GamersGlobal: Peter, why don’t we start with you telling me about your new, unannounced game?
Peter Molyneux:: I am not saying anything at all. I’ve been sat down in a room by the head of PR of Microsoft and absolutely been told to not say anything about it, or... But I will tell you what I can. Since Black & White we’ve been doing a lot of AI, Lionhead was founded with that thought of AI in mind. The core of the team and the theories of the AI development moved from Black&White onto a project called Dimitri, which I tentalized you about for a long time. And that team continued to research. Dimitri has always been experimental, that’s why I never showed you anything of it. And then it moved from that experiment to a moment in time that happened six months ago, when a discovery was made. This discovery is so exciting that it lead to Lionhead focussing on that discovery, and sculpting a game around that. And I think that this discovery is a so significant...
GamersGlobal: Is it a scientific discovery or a discovery by your AI team?
This game will be on the front covers of Science magazines
Peter Molyneux: I can’t quite answer that, but I can answer in a way: This discovery has lead to us starting a game, and this game will be on the front cover of nature magazines and scientific magazines. It’s that significant. I think it’s such an incredible thing that we’re doing, I think it is... important.
GamersGlobal: So the development on that new game has already started?
Peter Molyneux: It has. Basically, the team has been experimenting for a long time. Six years ago, the experiment was in full swing with about 10 to 15 people. And they’ve created some stuff, and than the team shrunk down, but we’ve always had experiments going on at Lionhead. And then over a course of a period of time, something happened which took the experiment into a slightly different direction – which I can’t tell you about because it would mean giving too much away. But that was the moment where we got the inspiration for the new game.
GamersGlobal: It doesn’t sound like a game at all, but more like a simulation.
Peter Molyneux: It’s gonna be an experiment. And it will be an experiment that fills you with a sense of wonder. I know, a lot of mystery there, but that’s all I can tell you about it right now.
GamersGlobal: You’ve honed your skills of talking without telling anything.
Peter Molyneux: Exactly. I’m talking a lot, saying nothing. The trouble is, I’m so excited about the game that I’m in constant danger of blurting it all out to somebody.
GamersGlobal: Isn’t that the problem for any designer worth his money: That, while you’re finishing your current game, your thoughts and your heart are already on the next idea?
Peter Molyneux: The interesting thing is, what I’ve become over the years, and what I’ve dropped. I dropped programming, for example. Firstly, I’m not particularly good at it and secondly, it takes me enormously amounts of time, and thirdly, the young blood are shooting past me. So I gave up programming. I’ve also more recently found a new way about working with design: I’ve now a team of designers under me. In Fable 2’s case, that’s Richard Ham, Dene Carter, Rob Stevens or Ben Huskins. We have daily meetings about Fable 2, and I guide them to decisions, but I don’t actually tune or tweak any variables any more. I am sitting down and playing through the game. And that gives me a little bit more free time to concentrate on other projects, and one of those projects is the game I just talked about.
Populous 2 (a remake for Nintendo DS is supposed to come out in 2008) already was an AI heavy game: The player had only indirect control over his people.