Molyneux "pretty ashamed" at Fable III review scores

Game was "not the dream" as industry veteran laments short development cycle

Peter Molyneux has spoken in detail about his experiences working on Fable III, admitting disappointment at the end result and implying that the development process at Lionhead Studios will change significantly as a result.

Speaking to Gamasutra, Molyneux was asked how he felt about Fable III failing to reach the critical and commercial goals (of 5 million units sold) he had originally set out for it. The veteran designer began by lamenting the short development period, which at less than two years was the shortest ever for the company.

"The game came together very late. That is one of the things that we're changing; that is just such an old school way of working," he said.

"That being said, I still think it was a good game! I just don't think it was a great game that took us to 5 million units. I know I probably should say it's a great game just respective of whatever it was, but the Metacritic score was sort of low-'80s. I think I'm pretty ashamed of that, to be honest, and I take that on my own shoulders, not the team's shoulders.

"That being said, it still sold millions and millions of units, and it's probably going to net out, with the PC version, closer to the 5 million than perhaps you would think; but it's not the dream. It didn't end up being the game that I dreamed it would be, because I thought the mechanic of the ruling section were really good ideas. I thought they were good ideas, but we just didn't have time to exploit those ideas fully."

Molyneux also appeared to express frustration at the general concept of creating sequels and the stagnation which this encourages.

"I hate the fact that people know what to expect from something like Lionhead," he said. "'We know what Fable's going to be; we know what's coming next from Lionhead.' I hate that idea. We should, again, double down on freshness and originality without sacrificing - because often originality can sacrifice quality - without sacrificing quality."

Although he was not specific about future changes to the development process at Lionhead, Molyneux did imply that significant changes had already taken place at the studio.

"It's because of those things that, now, when we approach development, it's very different, because we want to know precisely how long the experience we're crafting is up front, rather than waiting to the end, so that we have a clear idea how each of these mechanics is used, how they're meted out, how they're exploited, and how they're really used to amplify the whole drama of what that is.

"We've spent a long time thinking about that and doing our research on how you can have a creatively-led production process and how you can take the complete randomness out of the way that a lot of ideas are developed and evolved."

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Latest comments (18)

Probably time to branch out beyond Fable.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship10 years ago
I love Peter Molyneux. Wish there were more like him in similiar positions of influence. The bile spewed forth on forums whenever he makes (what seem to me to be) entirely honest reflections on his various games makes me a sad panda.

That said, Fable 3 was a lesser game than 2, I think. I understand the aim; the attempt to make the player feel emotions and face choices they've not experienced before. It's incredibly difficult to translate such lofty design ideas into everyday game mechanics that work, make sense and are consistent.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 28th June 2011 12:37pm

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Ben Hewett Studying MA Philosophy, University of Birmingham10 years ago

I'd rather he promise the moon on a stick than coal in my stocking. I admire the man's ambition for games, and wouldn't change him at all.
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Show all comments (18)
Chris Gilroy10 years ago
You've got to admire his passion and ambition, not to mention his willingness to admit when he's wrong.
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Ryszard Adam Heller Student, Qantm College10 years ago
He handled the critical outcome better than Warren Spector , regarding Epic Mickey, I love the Fable series, the 3rd game had a short production time, too short, ideally a sequel to a critically successful game should provide a better experiance, at least one on par with the original , unfortunately when it comes to profit margins (not a dig at Fable), it becomes a different story
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Fable could always explore the casual aspect on IOS or a fremium experience, to explore new genres, and platforms for that new user experience
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Ben Hewett Studying MA Philosophy, University of Birmingham10 years ago

As a gamer, I almost don't want him to realise every one of the ambitions he assigns to a game - the failures of realisation are as exciting as what he actually produces. The industry needs people like Peter Molyenux: full of ambition and creativity. The day he makes a game which matches his ambitions is the day he probably goes off to do something else.
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Lawrence Makin Audio 10 years ago
What also didn't help was neglecting to release F2 on PC. With one fell swoop he lost virtually the entire PC market when it came to F3 for that reason alone. Doesn't affect review scores, sure, but must've really affected sales.
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Diarmuid Murphy Developer Marketing, Microsoft10 years ago
@Ben I agree that people like Peter Molyenux keep the industry exciting. Do you want trained monkeys following the coporate message or someone who wears his ideas on his sleeve.
I really enjoyed Fable 3 as did my girlfriend, as he states there are good ideas and there good ideas that meet their potential, the ruling as a King aspect was a good idea which did not meet its potential. I would like to see Fable have another crack at it.
I though the home hub was a great idea that was very well executed. Your gold count was a mountain not a number, you spells, clothes and weapon could be inspected and felt real rather than a 2d image in a menu.
Multiplayer co-op was another idea that was not realised with Fable 2 or 3 and they must go back to the drawing board with.

I would worry that Fable the journey could succumb to the same faults that Peter speaks about above short dev cycle and over promised and under delivered.
I eagerly look forward to the next Fable installment.

All views are my own not my employer's
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos10 years ago
He's always been one of the bravest designs in the industry. And I give him props for that. Not every experiment works out, but if you dont experiment you stagnate, which is what 90% of the industry is doing right now.
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Tom collins10 years ago
Lionhead and Bullfrog were always good at creating new and creative ideas with a distinctness about the games they created. A man in his position should be able to push the boundaries.
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jim ellis 2D/3D artist, design, illustration, concept artist, video editor 10 years ago
"The veteran designer began by lamenting the short development period, which at less than two years was the shortest ever for the company."

2 years - is a luxury many dev teams would kill for these days. I dont disagree that 2 years is rather truncated, but still - he's building on previous incarnations, has an engine and previous designs to call on. Ive worked on games with equal ambition but certainly none of those resources. The game got pummelled and budgets slashed and dev time ended up 9 months. He's a great force is Mr. M - but lamenting his privilage isn't fair on those who have never been granted that in the first place.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology10 years ago
the industry needs more developers like peter, people who a willingness and a vision to go about what they believe in no matter what people say.

As for time frames yes developers need more time to put out my polished games (lets be honest the current crop of games been released arnt as good as they could of been due to short and restricted timelines etc)
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I think from Fable 2 and 3 onwards, there were really some great ideas but these were not maximised or followed through for its utmost potential. And in finality, the game needed polishing to iron out any imbalances (to prevent any flaws from being jarring in counterbalance to the great ideas) for a overall continuous fable experience.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 10 years ago
I agree, Fable 3 had a lot of good ideas and improvements but to me it just didn't improve the overall experience becaus a lot of other aspects let it down too much for me.
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Sometimes, when you add too many changes in one go, it just becomes one big noise.
The harder thing was probably to remove every new idea to its bare essentials, that on its own, would it be considered a fable experience. story. gameplay. sound package + 2 max new changes (apple strategy ftw - just add enough new features that compell the folks to buy it)
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Saadat Ali Games Developer 10 years ago
I kind of disliked Fable2 but still played it through. But I simply hated Fable3 and couldn't stand it more than 10 mins. Haven't tried it again since. It just feels so outdated and fable2.1
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 10 years ago
I do like his passion, but it does feel like after every release Peter Molyneux apologises for this or that feature or aspect which weren't up to scratch, and then goes on to say how things will change and lessons will be learned (before the process repeats itself).

Isn't he head of MGS Europe? Perhaps it should have been communicated to the top management that 2 years on a project as broad and ambitious as Fable III wasn't enough time; it might have made no difference, but if anyone could have negotiated a longer development cycle, Peter could have.

Anyway, would love to see Lionhead move on to a new franchise - perhaps either B.C. or something altogether new.
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