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Molyneux: "Fable III was a trainwreck"

Molyneux: "Fable III was a trainwreck"

Wed 26 Feb 2014 8:18am GMT / 3:18am EST / 12:18am PST
GamesDevelopment

Series creator on the difference between his ideas and finished products

Peter Molyneux, creator of the Fable series and now head of experimental studio 22 Cans, had discussed the conflict between his ideas for a game and the final product. He had some particularly harsh words for his final Fable title.

"I think Fable III was a trainwreck," the Lionhead founder told Develop.

"It was built to be much bigger than what it was constrained to be and eventually ended up as. If I had my time again, I'd take the advances we made from Fable 1 to Fable II, I'd make the same advances from Fable II to Fable III and spend another entire year working on Fable III. But would it be that perfect gem that's in my mind? No."

The outspoken developer announced he was leaving Lionhead in March 2012 and has since created cube oddity Curiosity. His new studio is currently at work on Godus.

"I just shouldn't get so excited in front of the press," he continued.

"There's an empirical decay between what the idea is in your mind and what you end up with, no matter what creative field you're working in. I talk to a lot of creative people and they're often disappointed in their own work."

Lionhead is currently working on the new Fable Legends for Xbox One.

28 Comments

Adam Jordan
Community Management/Moderation

94 47 0.5
I'm sorry, this is the same guy that over hyped both Fable I and Fable II, up to the point of lying about 50-75% of the features within Fable II in order to sell more copies than it should of...AND then be smug and arrogant enough about it to blatantly admit it to gamers years later.

Regarding Fable III, it's a decent game when played in co-op. I probably wouldn't have bought it if 1) it wasn't super cheap within a Steam sale and 2) If it wasn't co-op that a friend already bought but I wouldn't call it a train wreck.

In fact ironically enough, I would state that most of Fable's downfall has been more due to Mr Molyneux over-hyping the games and lying about them. If that didn't occur, then the games would have essentially stood up on their own, after all I loved Fable I except that it was too short...which insinuates I wanted more Fable...Fable: Lost Chapters popped up to deal with that but overall it only added 6 hours, whilst games like Morrowind back then was getting expansions adding 40 hours each. Fable II arrived and that's when things went downhill with Mr Molyneux spouting so many features that didn't make it within the game, getting people's hopes up for a revolutionary RPG

If anything, Lionhead need to start a fresh IP and show the world that their games can stand their own ground, I fear the Fable franchise has been tarnished too much.

Posted:A month ago

#1

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

542 528 1.0
Popular Comment
Here is a blog I found interesting with regards to this:
http://notplayed.com/2014/02/22/irrational-games-development/

Posted:A month ago

#2

Christian Keichel
Journalist

420 568 1.4
Peter Molyneux on games development and creativity in general, February 2014:
I talk to a lot of creative people and they're often disappointed in their own work.
Jeff Minter on his latest game TxK, February 2014:
This is the first time in bloody years that after a game launch I actually don't feel crushed and disappointed. I actually feel gruntled :)
;-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Keichel on 26th February 2014 1:05pm

Posted:A month ago

#3

Aleksi Ranta
Product Manager - Hardware

247 96 0.4
Thrashing your own Legacy is piss poor jugdement again from Mr M and not something that most people embark upon.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Aleksi Ranta on 26th February 2014 2:42pm

Posted:A month ago

#4

John Pickford
Owner

46 137 3.0
"It isn't Jesus...it's just a fella."

Posted:A month ago

#5

Barrie Tingle
Live Producer

337 103 0.3
Weird, I enjoyed Fable II and Fable III more than the original.
It is good that he doesn't feel his titles are as good as they could be because that pushes you to do better and better things but to call it a train wreck seems a little harsh.

Posted:A month ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,374 1,024 0.7
"I just shouldn't get so excited in front of the press," he continued.
ohmygodyes! This!

*cough*

If you hype something up like it's the best thing since sliced bread, then obviously people are going to be disappointed (both in the person, and the game) when it isn't all-that. It isn't humility to reign yourself in occasionally, or to just say to the interviewer that "I got carried away a bit earlier," it's honesty.

Posted:A month ago

#7

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,120 889 0.8
It seems like an unfortunate thing to say, given the hard-work that would have gone into trying to deliver on huge promises.

Whether by taking the wrong direction or setting the bar too high for the time and resource, I've found every Fable to be a huge disappointment. Is a shame, because even up to Fable 3 I still had the hope that it could one day deliver on the vision originally communicated to the world but that changed.

Fable Legends looks interesting, but as suggested above the reputation of the series has been lowered considerably. That said, its under new direction and a great choice has been made in licensing Unreal Technology for all future projects.

Posted:A month ago

#8

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

423 362 0.9
Reminds me of Tim Kring insulting the plot and the finale battle in the first season of Heroes.

Posted:A month ago

#9

John Pickford
Owner

46 137 3.0
I think there's a huge difference between a noble artist shooting for the sky and cynical bullshit. It's not that Fable (and others) turned out to be not quite perfect; they were just nothing like what he promised. It's obvious he makes promises without checking with the dev team or even thinking the ideas through.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Pickford on 26th February 2014 7:21pm

Posted:A month ago

#10

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,374 1,024 0.7
Reminds me of Tim Kring insulting the plot and the finale battle in the first season of Heroes.
But weren't we all insulted by that? :p

Posted:A month ago

#11

Ramon Aranda
Sr. Editor

1 0 0.0
100% agree.

Posted:A month ago

#12

Benjamin Hoyt
Founder & CEO

5 9 1.8
Peter Molyneux burned his credibility with me a LONG time before Fable III.

Posted:A month ago

#13

Benjamin Crause
Supervisor Central Support

74 33 0.4
I enjoyed Fable 3. As long as I can enjoy something its fine. It was not as good as Fable 2 but I am happy with it.
However, he sounds a little bit like burning bridges calling it a trainwreck. That gives quite some feedback to the people he worked with.

Posted:A month ago

#14

John Pickford
Owner

46 137 3.0
Funny that he's talking about a historical trainwreck when he's got one happening now.

http://steamcommunity.com/app/232810/discussions/

That's thats what the Godus community is like at the moment. These are people who've backed his game and are not happy with the quality of the project or the almost total silence from 22 Cans.

Posted:A month ago

#15

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

770 1,005 1.3
I'm sorry, this is the same guy that over hyped both Fable I and Fable II, up to the point of lying about 50-75% of the features within Fable II in order to sell more copies than it should of...AND then be smug and arrogant enough about it to blatantly admit it to gamers years later.
Well he didn't take as long as Pete Rose did before coming clean. And thats gotta count for something....I guess.

Posted:A month ago

#16

Eric Leisy
Production Designer

93 72 0.8
@ John Pickford : Wow, that is one unhappy community. Clearly, Peter has quite the PR problem on hands with that game.

Posted:A month ago

#17

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

564 278 0.5
Andreas, that blog entry's arguments seem to be: 1) though the blogger has never worked with Levine, he's quite sure that Levine's a primma donna who doesn't understand modern game design, 2) the game and its story was poor, 3) it failed to sell well due to the lack of multiplayer, 4) the studio managed to do what it did in spite of Levine, but could have done a better job without him, and 5) Levine's kept on by the publisher strictly because he provides extremely valuable PR.

The whole thing is, on its face, clearly a preposterous rant. Point 1 needs no further elaboration; the author himself admits he's got not evidence for his proposition. For point 2, he game scored 94 on Metacritic, with not one of the 68 critic reviews being less than an eight. Presumably not only is Levine an idiot, but all of those critics are too. Point 3 can be dismissed with one word, "Skyrim," though there's a lot more evidence than that to indicate that just slapping on multiplayer is not the panacea that the author (and many publishers) think it is. Point 4 might be plausible (if falling in to the "we'll never know" category) if the game had not been quite good, but is demolished for the same reason as point 2.

Point 5 might make sense if the publisher had kept just Levine, and fired all the rest of the studio around him.
For a hundred thousand dollars a year or whatever, they'd get their mysteriously valuable "PR." But instead the publisher's kept 15 of the most senior developers from that studio, at a cost of probably around a million dollars a year, and ostensibly with no specific project. As a research group this makes sense; as a PR function it doesn't. How do those other 14 guys who are not well known to the public help out here?

Reading thiat blog entry makes it even more clear that the most plausible explanation here is that Levine did indeed want to go off and do research that is not helped (and is even hindered) by having a large staff of developers, the publisher wanted to keep him working for them, and the publisher did what it would have done with any large studio that had lost all its leads and for which it had no project.

They would no doubt have dissolved the studio even if Levine had gone off on his own, so some of this can be laid at Levine's door. But is it really fair to tell Levine that's he's got so much responsibility toward his studio staff that he can no longer work on what he wants to do, but instead much spend the rest of his life churning out Bioshock sequels or whatever keeps a couple of hundred people continuously employed? How much of the studio would even stick around for the long term if he focused on steady income (say, by churning out games for film licences and the like) rather than making great games?

(Edit: fixed a ton of typos.)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 27th February 2014 10:02am

Posted:A month ago

#18

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

542 528 1.0
@Curt: I think I read that differently.

Your points 1 and 4: while the author admits not having worked with Levine, it does appear that he talked with people who did work at IG (if that is true or not cannot be determined). The author does draw parallels from person experience with other high profile creative though.

Your point 2: actually the author acknowledges the story was decent, at least for a game.

Your point 3: I think this is more about replay value in general, not just MP. Skyrim has huge replay value and is a much longer game on the face of it. Skyrim to this day is hard to find in the used game section. Infinite, as a shooter with a much shorter main campaign, IMO, would have benefitted from player choice or MP - I think that is what the author is trying to convey.

Your point 5: i'd have to speculate, but my guess is that Levine is not just a PR face, he will work on "something" and of course for that something he will need a team. so he got to pick the people he wanted and keep them on.

At the end of the day it's a blog. I liked it because it does highlight the fact that most of the media is concerned with Levine, same as most of the media is concerned with Molyneux, rather than the people who actually make the games.

Posted:A month ago

#19

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

564 278 0.5
I don't see any evidence in the article that he ever talked to anybody who's ever worked with Levine. He certainly has a strong opinion about other unnamed "big names" he claims to have worked with, but there's no indication that others agree with him, and plenty of evidence that his opinions about games are substantially different and worse than those of most people. (E.g., he belives that Levine is not an outstanding creative based on "playing all his games," games that have time and time again attracted a lot of praise from both critics and consumers.)

The various other issues could be argued at length (and I find your arguments unconvincing), but in the end one key point is that the article's mainly a big attack on Levine. I don't mind seeing people pilloried for their actual behaviour, but this appears to be a frustrated developer taking out his issues on someone he doesn't know but who is more successful than him. There's no indication here that we have an L.A. Noir situation or anything like that.

The plight of the studio employees who were let go is sad. But it's a well known one that is happening time and time again. Why should we expect the press to give more coverage to this one than others? And what makes the employees of Irrational more deserving of press coverage or sympathy than those let go from Turbine, Ghost Games, or EA Salt Lake, to name just three other studios where layoffs have been announced in the last month or two?

Posted:A month ago

#20
According to interview in Pocket Gamer, Molyneux declares he has now "cracked free-to-play.".

"He compares the current library of free-to-play mobile games to "taking a huge hammer and smashing our customers with it. We're saying: 'Be patient or pay money.' That's not a delightful mechanic. That's not going to get people to invest their money.""

Again, big words, we shall see about the rest...

Posted:A month ago

#21

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

542 528 1.0
@Curt: I think that's fair enough to be honest. It does appear to be a personal opinion piece, and one should always take them with a grain of salt.

I agree that press should not cover one studio letting people go more than any other, however, and this is where I agree with the blog, the focus always seems to be on the "big names" rather than the "grunts". I think all employees of all studio closures deserve attention - I would love to see them interviewed and their opinions made public. But a lot of people are afraid to discuss it openly for fear of not getting future employment, or because contractually they are not allowed to.

(sorry I did not mean to hijack a Molyneux article to talk about Levine - I just felt the blog was relevant to both in a way)

Posted:A month ago

#22

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

953 804 0.8
Think of it this way:
if there hadn't been a struggle between what Peter Molyneu wanted to do and what he was pressured to release, then why would he have left the company?

Posted:A month ago

#23

John Pickford
Owner

46 137 3.0
Maybe what he wanted to do wasn't actually very good or even possible? It's not all about evil suits. Godus is his own thing and seems to be a bit of mess without any interesting ideas,

Posted:A month ago

#24

Christian Keichel
Journalist

420 568 1.4
@Klaus
if there hadn't been a struggle between what Peter Molyneu wanted to do and what he was pressured to release, then why would he have left the company?
The conflict was about Milo & Kate, for years Molyneux announced it as an upcoming 360 title and one day Microsoft decided to halt the project. It's anyone's guess, if this was due to a lack of anything substantial to release or due to different views Molyneux and Microsoft had on what a game can be in general. I don't think any of the struggle between Molyneux and Microsoft was about Fable.

Posted:A month ago

#25

Jed Ashforth
Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group

90 140 1.6
"There's an empirical decay between what the idea is in your mind and what you end up with"
.

Every seasoned creative in the world recognizes that this is how the creative process has always worked, and knows not to make Mitty-esque claims for this very reason. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride and all that.

After all these years, painting this now to be some kind of personal revelation just sounds like another PR excuse. Peter, might I suggest, with the greatest possible respect, that if you genuinely do believe in your projects, let your team's work speak for itself when they've finished building it.

Posted:A month ago

#26

Roland Austinat
roland austinat media productions|consulting

113 57 0.5
Let's not forget the "life changing" center of the box in Curiosity, which happened to be opened not even a year ago.

Posted:A month ago

#27

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