By Alex McLain
Fable® and B.C. The mere mention of either title is enough to make nearly any gamer perk up and take notice. News of either game is gobbled up greedily by the masses; you're sure to find them chewing the fat over whatever new bit of information there is on the message boards, the juicy bits of knowledge still dripping from their lips. Part of the palpable fascination with each game comes from the driving force behind them both: Peter Molyneux. He's one of the few name-famous game designers in our industry, and Xbox.com was able to garner enough of his time for a little Q&A session. Enjoy!
Xbox.com: It's no secret that the PC and console game markets are decidedly different. How does your perspective change when designing a game on a console, as opposed to the PC?
Molyneux: There is a very long list of differences between designing for the consoles and designing for the PC, and that list seems to grow longer every day. The differences range from the fact that console players might only play for 15 minutes at a time, but expect immediate engagement and entertainment. Console games have much more polish, and the level of detail expected is much greater—I could go on and on, but it's been like learning to design a game all over again.
Xbox.com: Most of your prior work has been done on the PC. Was there any specific reason why you decided to work on the Xbox?
Molyneux: The reason was partially that the architecture of the Xbox is similar to that of the PC and partly because consoles have finally become powerful enough to handle the kinds of game concepts we want to create.
Xbox.com: Can you tell us how you broke into the industry? What was the path from your first job in the gaming industry to where you are now?
Molyneux: Well, I've been involved in the industry since around 1985, and if I gave you the whole story, we'd be here a long time. My first game, The Entrepreneur (a text-based business simulation in the days of 8-bit computers), was not a resounding success, with only two copies ever sold (at least one of those was to my mother).
Then, I set up a company called Taurus, with my then-partner Les Edgar, designing office databases. Commodore confused us with another more established company called TORUS and gave us eight Amigas, so we decided to do what we really wanted to do and make a game, which turned out to be Populous, so we founded Bullfrog. I was really happy there for almost 10 years and saw the company grow from a handful of people to well over a 100. Les and I chose to sell Bullfrog to EA [Electronic Arts] because we were worried about our chance of surviving in the industry as it was at that time. This was my lack; I found I missed the feeling of being in small family-style environments.
So, I took the very difficult decision to leave Bullfrog and set up Lionhead, which has also grown massively, but this time around, we started the satellite scheme, so that each company still has that family-style feeling.
Xbox.com: If we took a look at your game collection right now, what would we find?
Molyneux: Zelda: The Wind Waker, which I played as far as I could before I got fed up with trying to find the eight maps; Metroid Prime; Vice City; andAge of Mythology.
Xbox.com: Do you keep your finger on the pulse of the gaming community, or are you content to just do your own thing?
Molyneux: I definitely hope that I am keeping my finger on the pulse of the gaming community. I talk to fan sites to make sure I'm on bulletin boards (usually anomously), and I play a lot of online games.
Xbox.com: Are you seeing any trends that have you concerned about the state of the industry? In the same light, are you seeing anything that makes you particularly confident about the industry as a whole?
Molyneux: A both-in-one answer here is the fact that the professionalism and polish of games has got to match up to standards set by TV and film. This means great games, but also means that the amount of money and size of teams needed to create them is huge, so that the smaller (but usually more creative) development houses are suffering.
Xbox.com: Is there any genre of game that you haven't designed yet, but are especially eager to tackle?
Molyneux: Well, actually, Fable being an roleplaying game represents a new genre for me, and it is a very exciting project. After that, perhaps I'd be interested in doing a fighting game—but not until I've cracked the roleplaying game genre.
Xbox.com: Regarding Fable, what one thing do you hope gamers will take away with them after playing?
Molyneux: A rather standard answer here I'm afraid: I'd like the player to have an amazing and exciting experience and feel that they have played something they have never played before.
Xbox.com: Also regarding Fable, prior to releasing the official name of the game, Fable was known as "Project Ego." Is there a story behind that?
Molyneux: We were always very keen on calling the game Fable, but thought that the name belonged to another software company, which left us in the position, just prior toFable's first E3, where we didn't have a name. A lengthy name brainstorming session turned up such gems as Electric Hero and Ego Warrior—Project Ego was just the best of a very bad bunch. Sometime later, it emerged that we could acquire the rights to Fable, and that is what we did.
Xbox.com: Regarding B.C., very few details have been released. Can you give us a brief rundown on the primary focus and theme of the game?
Molyneux: It will be the most vicious, bloodthirsty, and savage game ever—you take charge of a tribe of humans and help them to survive in a very detailed simulated world.
Xbox.com: Can you briefly describe what role you're playing in the development of both Fable andB.C.?
Molyneux: I get up at 6.30 A.M., and the first thought I have is about Fable. I get into the office at 8.30 A.M. and start meetings about Fable, design maps forFable, and test the combat in Fable. I talk aboutFable over lunch and argue about game design features when I'm in the kitchen making a coffee. I play Fable while I eat my pizza in the evening. My last thought before I go to sleep is about Fable, and I sometimes dream of Fable—in short it's taken over my life. As B.C. is further down the line, I'm taking more of back seat consultant type of role with the game at the moment.
Xbox.com: There are legions of gaming fans who want to create their own games. If you could talk with the folks that are actually serious about it, what core pieces of advice would you give to them?
Molyneux: I think my first piece of advice would be not to get too hung up on the story, but focus almost entirely on what the player will feel and see. These days, it is extremely rare for anyone to commission an external idea or game design, so the only way to see your idea become a reality is to join a development team and try to convince them from within that your idea is worth spending years of their lives on.
Xbox.com: Thanks, Peter!