Evolution. Innovation. Change. Peter Molyneux sees an industry-wide renaissance driven by a mixture of heightened creative impetus and better understanding of what players want and need from games.
Games can be both a product and an art form, argues the Lionhead co-founder and Microsoft Game Studios creative director (Populous, Black & White, Fable series), who sees creative evolution as driving audience engagement as much as research and marketing: "Why can't pieces of art be as successful as anything else? I think they should be; I think there's very good reason to be."
At this year's GDC, he explained that in quest of a larger audience he and the team at Lionhead have decided to simplify the much-awaited upcoming Xbox 360/PC title Fable III -- make the gameplay tie into the world more directly, and eschew statistics and menus in favor of instantly-accessible and comprehensible in-world reflections of game concepts.
Making Fable III's combat made the game simpler for new players, but also made it "more complex and sophisticated" for experienced players, argues Molyneux.
Not only is Fable evolving, but we're seeing the RPG genre as a whole changing.
Peter Molyneux: It is; it really is. We feel like the whole industry's kind of evolving, itself. There's a huge amount of innovation now. Only a few years ago, everyone was saying, "Oh, there's no innovation." Now, there's a lot of stuff happening.
There's a lot of social stuff happening; there's a lot of casual games happening; all the motion controllers are changing; there's new titles coming out that kind of change people's thoughts like Heavy Rain; [with] Fable -- we keep on trying to reinvent ourselves a little bit. A lot of this stuff is happening, and it's really fascinating.
You know, I think, to me, if you don't evolve, you die. This is true evolution in an industry that needs to push itself. Absolutely. I think that's going to be fascinating when we come out the other side in five years.
Do you think it's because production processes and technical capabilities have evolved to the point where it's more possible?
PM: I think there's a lot of forces all coming together at once. First of all, there's the hardware force: the fact that the hardware manufacturers -- Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft -- have really realized, "Look, if we really want to revolutionize things, it's not about faster processors and more memory. It is actually about things that are being held in the player's hands."
You've got that side of it, and then you've got the side where, at last, we're starting to get what online really means. At last, we're starting to realize it's so much more than just being able to download maps and play them. There's this new thing called the digital relationship: we have a digital relationship with players now where now, in Fable III, any of the shops in the world can be online-enabled.
PM: So this little village here [indicating screen] -- you may not realize it, but what's in a shop in this village may actually be downloaded from online. So we can populate those shops remotely. This is a new digital relationship; that, coupled with the fact that we can give things episodic content.
There's digital relationship; what people do online is far more about social spaces, and there's this shared creativity. If you think about co-op in something like Fable III, now the co-op is not only co-op; it's being able to come in and play Fable III in my world, not attached to me but separate from me. Allow players to marry each other; allow them to have children together. All this stuff is all new stuff, which just makes a big difference to the game.
So, firstly, you've got the hardware change; you have motion control. Secondly, you've got the online side; thirdly, you've got us as software engineers and designers and creators actually keep on saying, "Hey, we can make emotional experiences." Games like Heavy Rain giving you a true emotional roller coaster ride. All of that's happening in one year.
You put all of that stuff together, and you start to realize that, in two to three years' time, when we all get used to all of this new stuff, all this new colors and the paint palette of design -- it really is going to make new genres happen.