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I Want To Give Peter Molyneux a Big Hug
news
industry
game: Fable 2
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
developer: Lionhead Studios
genre:
platform:
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date posted: 02:09 PM Wed Aug 8th, 2007
last revision: 03:51 PM Wed Aug 8th, 2007


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Click to read.Some incorporate, others innovate. Peter Molyneux is the kind of developer that makes you want to give him a big hug. He's the kind of developer that is not satisfied with the way games are and insists that he innovate. He is the kind of man who gets an idea and runs with it.

Regardless of what you thought of the much overhyped action role playing game "Fable," I felt it had its moments, despite buckling its grand promises. Fable brought some very interesting Good and Evil ideas to the RPG formula though it was essentially a great big sandbox with too short a storyline.

You may, also, have a point of view on the man behind the game, Peter Molyneux, whose brazen claims have caused a lot of backlash from the role playing game community. We know by now that the head of Lionhead Studios is very candid about his views of other games; he is looking to improve not only technique, but theory of game entertainment.

Recently, in an interview with Kikizo Peter Molyneux made a few interesting statements, of which he said of Fable 2:

"Stupidly, the ambition on {Fable 2} this thing is I want you to measure this against any fighting game," he told Kikizo. "It's amazing for a role playing game, because most role playing games are shit! Oblivion was a great game, but the combat was rubbish; we all talked about it being rubbish. So imagine you had a great role-playing game and really, really good combat system."


I believe the sentiment "combat was rubbish" is meant to mean combat in games on a scale of "joy to no joy". Oblivion played fairly cut and dry after a while: a little soulless in it's combat, although there were many options. I love RPGs and I love their combat, but they tend to drain me unless there is some fantastic strategy infused in it, or the "math" of the game is wonderfully tuned (Final Fantasy VI, Xenogears, Grandia II, and Final Fantasy Tactics are among my favorites).

Molyneux's "aim high" attitude is now being combined with Thoreau's cry "Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity!" Transcendentalism aside, perhaps he is taking a page from Nintendo, that simplicity begets casual gamers and hardcore gamers alike. Molyneux states:

"As a designer I want as many people to enjoy my game as possible. I'll put a number on that: the number is five million; that's pretty ambitious, and to do that I need to innovate."


But combine simplicity with a deep fighting system and Molyneux explains that that's innovation.

"I'm just going to make it so that in fights, button mashers will need to bang a lot longer, and get less of a score - which means less experience and power ups if you button mash. So I'm not punishing you for button mashing; I'm rewarding you for not button mashing, and that is a really big distinction."


Molyneux is attempting to reward those who learn the combat system, while simultaneously allowing casual "button mashers" to succeed as well, albeit more slowly. The aim of Molyneux seems to be tackling the theory behind the role playing game. Dissecting it. Taking out all it's parts. Putting it back together. He says,

"If I am using the attack button it means I want to do something aggressive to the nearest target!"


Molyneux seems to be putting the game more in the hands of the developers to create a seamless and dynamically interactive attack button. It's this technique that he is becoming known for, the dissecting. He seems to understand that at the heart of any game (perhaps ignoring some Wii games) are buttons - input; simplifying or complicating that input is the single most significant way of including or alienating a target audience.

The interview is a good read, as Molyneux, for all his eclecticism, seems to be on to some very innovative ideas. When he hands over the controller to Kikizo, he explains the soundtrack as a way to reward players in this single button combat:

"How can I reinforce that? With another new thing, which is using music, and effects, and camera cuts. I want you to think of the sword as a conductor's baton. As you're fighting, we'll be introducing different musical elements, the more successful you are. And we'll be upping the tempo of the music, the more abilities that you unlock. So you not only get more of a score, you get a cooler soundtrack. This is literally unlocking different musical instruments that are in there, which makes me feel more engaged with the combat."


--

On a personal note, I think he's right on the nose about combat (though I don't have a gripe with multiple buttons). Fable 1 was one of my wife's favorite games on the Xbox. One of my favorites as well. But the combat was strangely unnatural. From the way Lionhead is simplifying the game, it looks like she'll like the combat more; combat was the most complicated part of the game for her. Kudos Peter!

-Chris

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