In the first part of the GamesIndustry.biz interview with Peter Molyneux the Lionhead boss talked about the development of the Asian region, his hopes for Fable 2 in Japan, and the progress of Media Molecule.
Here he unpacks his thoughts on his latest title, Fable 2, as well as discussing the subject of ambition in games, and what the Linohead team is working on next.
Q: What's your evaluation on Fable 2 overall?
Peter Molyneux: This is going to sound a strange thing, but I think I've learned more as a designer on Fable 2 than on any other game I've worked on before.
I think if I had to criticise myself in the past, I've mistaken features for entertainment, and I believed as a designer that you should get it full of features, and keep putting them in until the last minute. It's something I'm famous for.
But with Fable 2 we've got this palette of features, and we're looking at ways to use them that haven't been done before - and wrap it up in this incredible story, incredible narrative. So it feels more like a piece of entertainment than any game I've created before.
It certainly feels more like something which you'll walk away from and say "We'll, I've never played anything like that, even though it seems like an RPG, and I fight, and quest, and make money, but I'm doing it in such a way that it doesn't quite feel like anything before."
So I'm immensely proud of it, and I'm sure that when it's released and millions of people play it, there will be criticisms. There always are criticisms, but I'm really proud of it today, and I can hardly wait for people to get their hands on it.
Q: You've never lacked ambition when approaching titles in the past - when we spoke last year you said then that the ambition has been a bit of an Achilles Heel. From what you're saying, this is a different kind of ambition, and you sound as if you know better how to fulfil that?
Peter Molyneux: It's very strange - it does feel that my main direction as designer is to take a smaller number of things and blend them in a way that is much more interesting. I was talking to somebody the other day who likened it to being a chef, who has a pot of ingredients and keeps adding them to the soup, hoping it will taste good in the end.
But actually the best soups are the ones with fewer ingredients, and that's what it feels like. The only thing is - I'm still as ambitious, and with Fable 2 we wrote on the wall that we want to tell one of the greatest stories ever. It's not that I'm any less ambitious, and I've always believed that if you put a flag out in the distance and you only get halfway, it's better than saying you'll just try your best.
I don't think that trying your best is good enough - you've got to really push yourself. Because at the end of the day, what we think of as computer entertainment, has changed radically over twenty years, and it's going to change even more radically. It's only those people I think that really start pushing themselves and being ambitious that are going to make those changes.
Whether that will be just making unbelievably polished games that are similar to other games, or having new things in there - I think it's fascinating to look at the industry, there's almost this Golden Age of invention.
You've got Spore, LittleBigPlanet, smaller games like Braid. You've got Fable - I think there's a lot of stuff there, new ways of thinking about games and entertaining, which is turning all the genres on their head.
Q: We've come through a phase in the industry where new technology has created a whirlwind of rising development costs, and for a while there was some concern about where creativity would sit in the whole equation, because it looked like it was being crowded out. But lots of smaller developers are capping their teams at 30 staff, there's XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, even the iPhone and N-Gage platforms. Is there a realignment of priorities going on?
Peter Molyneux: It's interesting - I think a lot of these things are cyclical. I think now that we know that games are going to cost a lot of money, that's where we are - we just know. We're not doubling our costs any more, which was a phase we went through, so that's settled down a little bit.
Also you've got a new hardware generation coming into play, and obviously us as creators are playing around with this stuff. And you've got new inventions, like the Wii controller, like the fact that all consoles can be connected to each other through the internet - these are all great feats of creativity.
Q: I wonder how much credit Nintendo can take for not taking part in the technology arms race and demonstrating that there was another way to do things?
Peter Molyneux: I think they can take a lot of credit. I think Nintendo is fantastic at following one idea so strongly that they act as a sort of beacon. I think they have, I think they've approached the next generation in such a way that we can all turn around and say that it's not all about a bigger processor and more memory all the time - it's about giving people things that they haven't seen before.
I think they deserve a massive amount of credit for that.
Q: Something else you said last year is that Fable 2 was the game you wanted to ultimately be judged on. Is that still true, now that it's complete?
Peter Molyneux: Absolutely it is. At the end of the day you can stand up in front of people and wave your arms, but unless you actually create a product, you don't deserve that attention. I still stand by that - I think it should define my position in the industry, and if it's not good, that says something about me. And if it is good, that also says something about me.
Obviously with any creation you always want a bit more time, to play around with it some more, but ultimately I'm incredibly proud of Fable and with what the team has managed to do with it.
Q: You mention time - you have to draw a line in the sand at some point?
Peter Molyneux: It is a bit like a recipe. Sometimes you have to say that it's cooked. There are a number of reasons to decide when you've finished a game - the principal one is that you said you were going to finish it on a certain date - but I don't think the team could do much more. I think they've done a fantastic job, and the game is ready to launch.
I think of all the games I've made, I think I'm probably more excited about the launch of Fable 2 than I've been about any game really. Because everybody who's played it - the majority of which are the team members themselves, so this is going to sound strange, but they're always the toughest audience to please - has said it's fantastic. That's a wonderful feeling.
Q: Do you have your eye on the next project? Do you know what Lionhead will be working on after Christmas?
Peter Molyneux: Yes - we've actually been working on another project now for a while, and obviously it's ridiculously ambitious, but it's ridiculously ambitious in a very simple way. It's a simple and pure idea, and very, very different to anything I've done before.
I haven't said anything about the game to anyone, and neither should I until next year, but I think it'll surprise people. It's certainly different to what you might think Lionhead would do. Or maybe not, actually, thinking about it, but I think we need look at this industry, and think about who our audience is, and that applies to this new game.
Peter Molyneux is the boss of Lionhead Studios. Interview by Phil Elliott.