Peter Molyneux Interview: Part One
With 3 days left to go on 22cans’ Project Godus Kickstarter, Peter Molyneux discusses life after Lionhead, reinventing the god game and the future of Curiosity.
When you wake up from a long hibernation sleep, whether you’re a big, old grizzly bear or a developer like me, what do you do? You tumble outside and take a rest or jump headlong into the stream; that is indie development – and that’s what I did and fortunately I got other people to do the same.
We are an indie developer, we think like an indie developer, act like an indie developer. Therefore we’ll take risks like an indie developer and some of those are deeply scarier as opposed to something a lot safer. That is to sign a deal with a publisher and get some funding, go away into our ivory tower and make some big games like we did before. We did Curiosity – that was a crazy thing to do, man! You couldn’t get more crazy than that, because we wanted to say, ‘look, this is what technology there is, this is how you can use it.’ You can make something that looks different and acts different… some people were insanely offended by Curiosity! Then some people found it amusing and delightful. We were utterly shocked by its popularity – there’s more than two million people who have played it, a quarter of a million people who still interact with Curiosity every day.
There have been some incredible experiences on it from marriage proposals to people using it for obituaries, to an enormous number of willies and genitalia, to political messages… all in the quest to find out what’s in the center of the cube. Two and a half weeks after that was launched, to go on the turbulent seas of Kickstarter because we wanted to reinvent a genre of games called god games that I helped create, which has been abused… the life has been squeezed out of it by free-to-play mechanisms and Facebook games. It almost broke my heart: there I was at the start, I thought god games were a delightful way of interacting with a simulation, to play a game at your pace. Now it’s being monetised to death.
I just want to go back and reinvent the god game genre from the ground-up to add all the innovation, which was disparately spread through the games I’ve done before like Dungeon Keeper and Black & White. Then use the fans that pledge on Kickstarter to help with that development, not in a way that a lot of key developers help by saying ‘we would like your feedback’, but in a real and tangible way.
We spoke to you back in March just two weeks before you announced your departure from Microsoft and Lionhead. What was going through your mind at the time?
It was a very bizarre time, I owed it to Lionhead to do a good job of Fable: The Journey, I felt very caring about them though I had my worries about it. But I did think, ‘oh god – what if there’s a question about what I’m going to be doing in the next month, I’m gonna have to lie’. That was difficult for me and it was difficult not to hint that in two weeks I would be talking to you again, but not as part of Microsoft.
What’s your thoughts on motion control at 22 Cans? Is Kinect something you will likely get on board with in the future?
Probably not. I’m not going to say definitely not. For Project Godus, certainly the mouse is still – there’s a lot to squeeze out of it. There’s a huge amount to do with touch, making you feel connected with the experience. We’ve sorted the server situation out so that we can reduce down to one server or scale up to a million servers depending on demand. I’ve consistently got my forecasts totally wrong for Curiosity. Initially I said it was an experiment and I had only done one piece with the press, so I only thought it would be downloaded 50,000 times in one month.
That sounded like a lot in my mind. Then we’ve got these issues with the gold and reliability, everyone’s going to feel betrayed and leave the Cube, so the popularity will shrink. But no! There are still 250,000 people a day who do something on the Cube, different people every day and that’s an incredible figure, that’s down from a high-point of 400k a day. Then I’m looking at the version 2 I’ve got and really there are some fantastic features in version 2. There’s the ability to see people tapping as they tap so you don’t feel lonely on the Cube any more.
There’s the ability to see important things happening on the Cube from far out, called sparkles, which we’re really excited about. Then we’ve got four new ways to interact with the Cube which I won’t spoil. They are exactly what we love doing as an indie – they are a result of understanding the way people interact with the Cube and learning what works and what doesn’t work from that experience. So you’re going to see some direct feedback from people being artistic, from people being playful and co-operative.
I don’t think that over 2 million people downloaded the Cube because of what was inside. I think people did it because other people did it and the mystery of what is in the Cube, to them, isn’t a big motivator. For some people, for sure it is, and what is in the centre of the Cube will not disappoint anyone. I know that’s a very bold thing – and I’m the worst person to talk about bold things because… you know. But you can rate me out of 10 about what’s inside. It is definitely unique, nothing inside it has ever been seen before and it’s definitely life-changing.
Will Curiosity have a life when it’s over?
Not with the original design. Part of the original experiment was that the Cube has a life and once that life is over, that’s the end of it. That very fact modifies people’s behaviour. Again – never say never – we have to ask ourselves, is there anything to be done with the Cube or should we stick to our original intent? So we’ve had some debates about this already, about what happens next.
So you think there may be life beyond what’s in the box?
Hmm… maybe. But what we’ve got written down is that Curiosity is Curiosity and that is it. There are so many unexpected things about Curiosity that are hugely inspirational and that may change our mind about our original plans – but there’s definitely no-one working on a big ball instead of a big Cube, triangle or anything like that.
If you’d like to back Project GODUS then head to the Kickstarter funding page here. To read more about Peter Molyneux’s past year, a look into 2013 and our review of the year, read games™ issue 130 on sale 20 December in both print and half-price digital formats.