When Gamasutra had a chance to chat with Lionhead co-founder and Populous/Black & White creator Peter Molyneux at GDC London earlier this month, he’d just completed two major lectures – a lecture on experiments for Fable 2, and an extremely honest history of the company, presented alongside Lionhead’s Mark Webley.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise to find Molyneux in free-wheeling, typically charismatic form as he approached a multitude of topics in an extremely honest fashion. We present here a selection of the most interesting answers from our interview with him, from his next-gen technology choices through his troubles with the press and his overwhelming drive to succeed.
Gamasutra: Some companies seem to take a very technology-oriented approach to next generation – for example, LucasArts’ use of tools such as Euphoria for its next-gen Indiana Jones title. What do you think of a technically led approach to next-gen development?
Peter Molyneux: As a designer, there are some things that I absolutely want. For one, and this is what LucasArts are talking about, I want to have a character that will truly react with its environment. What this kind of technology actually means is that when I design a character, I don’t have to design the 100,000 animations that make it up.
So if I could have a piece of technology that will do the simple stuff, then I can concentrate on the unique parts. Without technology, we can’t have the realism that people will naturally expect. Surprisingly, the next generation is going to be all about that technology. It’s going to be all about the technology behind faces, and behind animation, and blending. And that’s blending everything – blending the graphics, blending the music, blending the gameplay.
GS: Is Lionhead using middleware to help it make next-generation titles, then?
PM: Absolutely – I’m absolutely passionate about that. We’re using quite a lot of stuff – we’re using Havok for physics, we’re using Kynapse for navigation. It’s such a mundane task, but we as a developer have been constrained by navigation for decades. ‘You can’t have the character go up there because we don’t have a navigation map for it.’
We’re also using things like Anark for our user interface. Being able to be dynamic with these things is vital. You would think that moving a health bar from the left hand side of the screen to the right hand should be a 10-minute piece of work. And it normally takes about a week to do [laughs]. It helps to use a third-party tool that allows me as a designer to move things dynamically. We’ll use as much of this stuff as we possibly can.