By Ron Dulin
Design by Lam Huynh
It all started with a spelling error. A legacy composed of acclaimed games like Populous, Magic Carpet, Syndicate, and Dungeon Keeper may not have ever come to pass had it not been for a fortuitous case of homonyms.
The series of errors which would eventually lead to the creation of Bullfrog Productions began with a phone call to Taurus Impact Systems, a small company devoted to programming business software for the Commodore 64. One of Taurus' founders, Peter Molyneux, had turned to creating business applications after an unsuccessful attempt at game publishing in his early 20s. Taurus created money management programs, but Molyneux was toying around with some database programming on the side. One day, a call came in from Commodore, which was about to launch its new Amiga system. Commodore wanted to see if Taurus' programs would be suitable for the system and arranged a meeting with Molyneux.
The meeting was part of Commodore's attempt to pitch the Amiga as a business machine. Molyneux met with a representative, who offered to provide Taurus with free machines in order to get "the product" up and running. "He kept talking about 'the product'," Molyneux explains, "and I thought they were talking about the database. At the end of the meeting, they say, 'We're really looking forward to getting your network running on the Amiga.' And it suddenly dawned on me that this guy didn't know who we were. Now, we were called Taurus, as in the star sign. He thought we were Torus, a company that produced networking systems. I suddenly had this crisis of conscience. I thought, 'If this guy finds out, there go my free computers down the drain.' So I just shook his hand and ran out of that office."
The free systems came, Molyneux got his database working with them, and, after the misunderstanding was cleared up, the program became a moderate success. With this money, Bullfrog was born, and Peter Molyneux went on to become one of the most respected designers in the industry. If Sid Meier is the D.W. Griffith of gaming, then Peter Molyneux is its Orson Welles, an outspoken innovator whose creative process has more than once put him at odds with the people who pay the bills.
Next: Humble Beginnings