Peter Molyneux has told Develop that the production of Fable 2 has taught him "how terribly I had approached game design" in previous games.
With the game in shops today, our latest Developmag.com interview looks back on the games’ development.
In the piece, Molyneux offers a frank assessment of his studio Lionhead’s creative limitations and how they were improved for the sequel to his best selling Xbox game.
He also fesses up to how the experience of making a sequel has humbled and re-educated him as a game designer.
"We’ve spent a lot of time asking ourselves: why is Lionhead doing this? We worked out that Lionhead should stand for invention, that we should accept our limitations and then try and better ourselves," he told us.
"At the start of Fable 2 we admitted we didn’t know how to do the dramatic element. So we split the process in a totally different way," he added, explaining that much of the dialogue, story and plot of Fable 2 was hammered out during acting and improv sessions at Shepperton Studios before any coding was done.
Molyneux also reigned in his own ‘creative whirlwind’ attitude to team morale, he said.
"We took away the madman that is Peter Molyneux, who would walk into the studio and say the craziest things, like ‘I had a dream last night so why don’t we add in a feature or this new mechanic’. He has been tamed. I now understand that you cannot have that creative whirlwind. When games cost so much – millions of dollars to make a game – you can’t have that creative whirlwind blowing in like that, otherwise you end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a game."
This meant that Fable 2 – which has already received a number of positive reviews from the specialist press – had a more focused feature-set.
"I realised how terribly I had approached game design at that point. I realised that a fundamental error I made was mistakenly believing that if you added more and more features into a game it would make a game great."
That said, Molyneux admitted he couldn’t help himself when it came to encouraging the team to think big.
"We were ambitious, and I couldn’t help myself. One afternoon I walked out into the studio, and on a whiteboard wrote a sentence I wanted to sum up and drive the game development. The line was ‘I want to make a game that the player will never forget.’"
He explained: "So my thinking is that if you only have space in your mind for five great cultural things – one of them being Lord of the Rings, another being Pulp Fiction – then Fable 2 has to stand alongside them or even replace one of them, thanks to the gameplay and the story.
"This is totally my style, I like thinking big and trying to inspire people – because if you can generate that kind of excitement and get people thinking, if they only get half way to the goal you’ve been successful. Otherwise you get nothing at all."