Every medium must have its eccentrics – from Tim Burton to Tarantino, Frank Zappa to Gaga and Van Gogh to Kahlo. Video gaming has Peter Molyneux. This softly spoken, endlessly excitable British dev has been responsible for some of the medium’s most ambitious ideas to date, including a massively multiplayer mystery clicker — aka Curiosity — and a large assortment of quirky, innovative ‘god games.’
It wasn’t until 2004’s Fable however, that Molyneux really began to achieve his secondary reputation – that of a well-meaning dreamer, overcome by gigantic, unfiltered ambition. Having promised the world and failed – epitomized in the figure of an acorn growing up alongside the player – Molyneux’s work has since gone on to become synonymous with the notion of unfulfilled potential.
Prior to returning to the indie scene in 2012, the designer capped off his lengthy tenure at Microsoft by completing work on two more Fable titles, the Kinect-powered Fable: The Journey and king-making trilogy topper Fable 3. This latter effort is one the developer has never seemed quite happy with, admitting in 2011 that the project had many unfortunate, crunch-related shortcomings. Now, in an interview with Develop-Online, Molyneux has taken that admission one step further, calling the game itself “a train wreck.”
“In my mind, as a designer, whenever I’m making a game I have this perfect jewel in mind. […] Fable for me was this beautiful, incredible, amusing, funny, artistic, wonderful gem of a game that anyone could play, that tugged on the heartstrings and that was instantly engaging [but] the gem that was in my mind has never come to be, it’s always flawed in some way.
“I think Fable 2 was a step in the right direction. I think Fable 3 was a train wreck. 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 2, I’d make the same advances from Fable 2 to Fable 3 and spend another entire year working on Fable 3. But would it be that perfect gem that’s in my mind? No.”
In response to his reputation as a PR-nightmare, Molyneux continued:
“The trouble with me is I do this stupid thing, and I always do it, where I start talking in an excited way about what I’m working on before I’m finished.” […] And what people are actually seeing is me as a designer being excited about what I am doing. You’re not seeing someone who’s a brilliant PR person who’s selling ice cubes to the arctic. […] I just shouldn’t get so excited in front of the press. 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.”
While it’s certainly refreshing to see a major player such as Molyneux admit to his mistakes, the designer’s level of openness has never really been in question. Despite his recent reliance on crowdfunding outlets, Molyneux’s forthright opinions could make any future approach to traditional publishers difficult. Would the likes of Sony, EA, Activision etc. be willing to take a chance on a notoriously ambitious developer, especially one who may or may not turn around to badmouth his finished product?
Thankfully, Molyneux is at least able to see the humor in his well-earned reputation, closing out the interview with a plug for his next game Godus: “the gem that was in my mind has never come to be, it’s always flawed in some way […] saying that – of course, Godus exceeds that gem.”
Is Peter Molyneux’s quirky brand of enthusiasm more infectious or unjustified? Is it fair to create a false impression of a game — even unintentionally, or should fans simply be savvier about their purchases? Will Molyneux’s eventual legacy be defined by success, or his many, well-meaning missteps? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check in with all of the latest Microsoft Studios news, right here on Game Rant.
Fable 3 is available on PC and Xbox 360 platforms.
Fable Anniversary, a HD upgrade of the original game, was released on February 4, 2014, for the Xbox 360.
Follow Sam on Twitter @GamingGoo.