At this year's Game Developers Conference, Gamasutra once again had the chance to speak to Bullfrog and Lionhead co-founder, Populous, Black & White and Fable series designer, and iconoclast Peter Molyneux -- on the eve of his presentation at the show.
During his GDC presentation, he displayed the company's prototypes for many game systems and elucidated on its processes of developing these "experiments". The company has a long history of these experiments, recounted by both current staffers and those who have moved on to other projects at other developers.
With Fable II having been released via Lionhead parent company Microsoft late last year for Xbox 360 [NOTE: this interview contains some plot spoilers for the game], and no new project yet announced for his studio, Molyneux was chomping at the bit to discuss his next project -- as the below text reveals.
He did, however, manage to keep mum on the details, but not the philosophy of the project, which he described as an evolution beyond what the studio has been trying so far -- "You could possibly see where it came from in terms of our history. But if you look at it, there's nothing like it."
The studio has long known to be working on projects beyond the scope of the Fable series -- most publicly a prototype for a game called "Dimitri", which Molyneux again speaks about here. To learn more about the company's processes and Molyneux's hopes and expectations for the company's next project, read on:
Christian Nutt: You guys are famous for prototyping. And when I talk to people who either still work at Lionhead or are veterans, they talk a lot about the extensive prototyping -- bits and pieces of it show up in your games later. One thing that Iwata said is that he'll see something in a prototype that they're working on, then it might get yanked out of the game and never ship in that final game, and then he'll see it two years later in another game.
Peter Molyneux: Yeah, well it's very interesting how it works. Prototypes, a lot of them are inspired by designers and some of them by me, but some of them are inspired by anybody that's got a bit of free time, like at the end of a project. Anybody can kick of one of these experiments.
And we call them "experiments" and not prototypes because "prototypes" makes it sound like it's being built just for a product. But they are experiments. Some of the experiments are just completely out there. You would think, "How could that ever fit in anything?" I feel really happy with that because you never know when you're going to see some little glimpse.
There's one particular experiment I'm going to show, which has got a fantastic feel to it. It has this amazing feel. It kind of feels like it's a room. And in this room, it kind of feels like there should be an old person in this room.
I'm spoiling it a little bit. I instinctively know that we're going to use something from that, but I don't know what in. This is going to be my first real [GDC] talk, you know. I'm not PR-ing a product. This is a real reveal of how Lionhead works and how the experimental process works.
CN: It's quite exciting, too, I think. I was happy to talk to you just because again there's no product in the room, so it really opens up the possibilities.
PM: If it were up to me, I would be talking about what Lionhead is doing today. I think we're doing some pretty astounding stuff, and some of that is a result of the experiments. Certainly, the thing that I hope that we're going to be in a position to announce soon is very, very different from what you expect.
We're a little bit of, "Lionhead is Fable, Fable Lionhead." I don't think Lionhead should just be that. We should be able to try very challenging things. So, this big thing that we're working on is very, very different. You could possibly see where it came from in terms of our history. But if you look at it, there's nothing like it.
CN: And is that because of an inspiration that you or someone on the team had, or is it because of these experiments? Is that a natural evolutionary process when you come up with projects?
PM: Well, without going into any details... I have to be very careful because two interviews ago, my mouth just started talking, and my brain wasn't processing what was coming out of my mouth, so I almost let something out which was crucially secret.
But there's this idea, an idea or an ambition that I have had, and that people at Lionhead have shared for many, many years... A long time ago, I was talking about a project -- it was actually an experiment called "Dimitri", which was a project that we were kind of working on for a long time. That kind of evolved and changed as these experiments do.
The core of this idea, the thing that it lacked, was the way to describe it to you, what that kind of wrapper was. And then, this moment, this evangelical moment came to me while I was sitting in a meeting.
I was sitting in a meeting looking at someone else's game from another studio, and I saw this one picture. It was just this single image of a picture. And when I actually show the game finally to you, I'll show you the picture.
I thought, "That's it. That's exactly what it needs." And so I rushed back and said, "Right, we should do this." It was one of those, so rarely happens in your life when you see something and you know so strongly that it's the right thing.
This is horribly teasing you, isn't it?
CN: It's alright.
PM: It's just tantalizingly placed...