Ten Years Ago: Lionhead's Peter Molyneux, Demis Hassabis

molybis.jpgf Firstly in the 'Ten Years Ago' series looking at old game interviews, we checked Valve's Marc Laidlaw, and after that we tried 3D Realms' Scott Miller.

Thus, our third instalment of "how did their predictions turn out, ten years later" picks out Lionhead's Peter Molyneux and Demis Hassabis, from an interview originally conducted by me in 1998 for Videogamedesign.com. What did they say? Does it still make sense, almost a decade later? Time to find out...

[Thanks to Way Of The Rodent's 'Peter Molyneux Presents...' article for the very useful picture of the duo!] Give us a vague, vague hint about your new game, "Black and White"?

Peter Molyneux: I can honestly only say that it is the most important game of my whole career, and that it is the most ambitious concept that I have ever worked on - for these reasons it is scaring the shit out of me.

(When eventually released three years later, Black & White, despite being hyped to a possibly excessive degree, was pretty darn well-received as a fun god game/virtual pet melange - and is certainly one of the best games (alongside Fable) that Lionhead produced.)

You gave the impression that Lionhead was pretty much happy with being a small team, but you're also taking out full-page ads in "Edge" magazine (in the UK) looking for staff. Are you still intending to concentrate on just the one product, and if so, how many people are you figuring you need to get it done?

Peter Molyneux: Lionhead will only work on one title at a time, and it will never get bigger that 20 people ( We are currently 8 people). As we have developed the new game, we have come to the shaky realisation that it is very ambitious and far beyond anything any of us have attempted before. So we need to attract, as the ad says, 'the best of the best of the best' (that's a quote from "Men in Black".) In fact, we have received over 100 CVs so far, and I should say that only two are of the calibre that we need.

(Ah, this is a bit off, to say the least. In a GDC London 2006 talk, Molyneux and Mark Webley explored what eventually let Lionhead spiral slightly out of control - and overexpansion towards 200 people and multiple teams in the early years of this century was one of those very things.)

Hypothetically, you can make a James Bond game or an "Alien"-based game. Which do you choose, and why?

Demis Hassabis: I'd do a James Bond game, although this conjures up images of "Goldeneye". I think there is scope to do a totally different game based around secret agents. "Goldeneye" was a good game - a cross between "Quake" and "Virtual Cop" - but I think James Bond has a lot more to offer which no one has touched upon yet.

(This answer is particularly interesting since Hassabis left Lionhead to form the now defunct Elixir Studios, who created, among other things, a title called Evil Genius. Released in 2004, the PC title is "...a tongue-in-cheek take on the 1960s spy thriller genre", albeit with the player portraying the villain. Still, foreshadowing here?)

Do you think the games industry should be trying to increase its appeal to those who don't normally play games? And if so, how?

Peter Molyneux: 90% of all computer games are written by gamers for gamers, which means that our industry is very insular. But there are games that are written for a wider market - e.g. puzzle games. Admittedly, it may not be as interesting designing a mass market appeal game. We have to try to broaden the games that we develop so that they can be played by more and more people. The key to this is simplicity, without sacrificing depth. The perfect game, in my mind, is one that you can play within fifteen seconds but enjoy playing for ten minute or ten hours.

(You know, he's right - see the success of casual games, the DS, Wii, etc. Reasonably prescient, if reasonably obvious even then. Thumbs up, Mr. Molyneux!)

Interview: Peter Molyneux + Demis Hassabis [GameGeekPeeks]


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