It Came From the Molyjam: Peter Molyneux

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Posted by patrickklepek (3500 posts) -

This is the third and final of my stories about the Molyjam. I could have written many more. Wednesday, you read about the one man army behind Bowl or Die! Yesterday, a couple faced incredible adversity. Peter Molyneux, take it away.

--

It's unconfirmed whether Peter Molyneux has or has not kissed a green cube in real-life.

It wasn't until Peter Molyneux left his Microsoft-owned Lionhead Studios to start yet another company, 22 Cans, that he finally, publicly acknowledged the existence of Peter Molydeux.

Peter Molydeux, if you aren't aware, is a parody account of the designer, constantly spitting out 140 character updates that sound suspiciously like real-life design ideas of Molyneux.

That nod would have happened earlier, if Microsoft was a company more encouraging of Twitter, the way Molyneux puts it.

When the Molyjam was coming together, I reached out to Molyneux. Mostly, I wondered if he was offended. It wouldn't be hard to imagine. This character is both complimentary to Molyneux's grand aspirations and a critique of his daydreaming.

The first line of his response email? "Dear heroes." The rest of the email confirmed he was taking everything in stride, and I sighed with relief. All Molyneux wanted to know was what he could do to help, which amounted to having him show up at the London arm of the game jam and giving everyone a pep talk. We ended up showing that same speech to everyone here in San Francisco, a perfectly meta way to kick off a weekend of total weirdness.

I spoke with Molyneux over Skype this week, a few days after we had originally arranged to talk, because I'd convinced myself London was eight hours behind San Francisco, not ahead. These days, he has more free time.

It's been a little over a month since Molyneux left Lionhead, and 22 Cans is just coming together.

--

Giant Bomb: How is the transition going?

Peter Molyneux: Ah, you know, it’s very, very exciting. I don’t know if you know, but I did some press last Wednesday.

Giant Bomb: I read the Develop interview, which was really well done.

Molyneux: Yeah, and since then, we’ve had just over 1,000 people apply for jobs at 22 Cans. That’s pretty damn exciting. I’m working 16 hours-a-day just answering those emails. I’ve said to myself “Look, I’ve put this thing out there. I’ve got to answer all these emails, I’ve also got to look at all the Molyjam entries, and I’ve got to [use] Twitter.” That’s taking up a huge amount of time. It’s a fantasticly, amazingly, incredibly exciting, though.

Giant Bomb: The way you talk about 22 Cans, there is this sense that you feel the need to get more hands-on.

Molyneux: Absolutely. There was this amazing thing that happened when I left Lionhead. The office of 22 Cans is only 275 steps away from Lionhead. It’s literally just walking up the hill.

Giant Bomb: Oh, wow.

Molyneux: It’s not far. When I sat down, which was five weeks ago almost to the day, the first thing I did was clear out my diary of all reoccuring meetings that just happen as part of running a company of 200 people, and being part of Microsoft. I realized that 75% of my day was just doing nothing, basically. It was just doing meetings, and now, doing everything from answering emails to doing press stuff, to going and talking at universities and designing the games, it just feels fantastic to be that hands-on, it really does.

Giant Bomb: In hindsight, do you regret it getting that way, or do you feel it was a valuable experience? Was it all leading to this point, and all of that just informed the next step with 22 Cans?

Molyneux: Here’s the thing about it all. I’m not just saying this because I have to but because it’s really true: it was an amazing experience being part of Microsoft and seeing how a big company like that works, and being on a team of people that was incredibly high up at Microsoft and seeing some of those decisions. It was amazing for a little old game designer like me, who’s got this quirky English accent. It’s just an incredible experience. I think there were some amazing things that happened there, but is it the good job that I’m best at, or is it the job that I’m really good at? I don’t think it is. I think I’m better at getting my hands dirty and experimenting with crazy ideas--just thinking, “Look, can we do this ultra ambitious thing really, really well?” and that’s, hopefully, what I’m better at. I’ve got myself into a place where I was okay at the job I did, I still found it quite fascinating, but it just wasn’t what I was good at. There was this very, I think it’s [an] American saying or maybe a Microsoft saying, and that’s “What’s your superpower?”

Giant Bomb: I’ve heard that before.

Molyneux: All the time, you meet people and they say, “What’s your superpower?” And I just felt like my cape and my mask was hidden in a box somewhere and I’ve just opened it up again and I’ve now got my superpower back, for what it’s worth.

Giant Bomb: In terms of what you’re going to be doing at 22 Cans, are you actually in the nitty gritty of programming? Do any of the skills you used to have still apply in today’s development environments?

Molyneux: Here’s the trick. The absolute truth of the matter is that I was born a programmer. That’s how a game called Populous came about--I programmed it. I did the majority of the programming, almost all of the programming, in Populous, and a game called Powermonger, some of the programming on Syndicate, some of the programming on Magic Carpet, quite a lot of the programming on Theme Park, not much programming on Dungeon Keeper, not much programming on Black & White. Ever since then, I haven’t done any programming.

Americans always find these analogies very uncomfortable, but this is an analogy that really works. When you reach my age, 53, there’s something you should never do, and that’s stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself. It’s never gonna [have] a happy end to the story. [laughs]

If you look at my coding style, it’s just horrible. It’s old school, it’s horrible. There’s all this stuff that goes on with professional coding and coding standards--I haven’t got any of that stuff. It’s just terrible style, but I still love to have an idea at 10 o’clock at night, and walk up to the computer and play around with that idea for a couple of hours. That is just such a wonderful, incredible feeling, and, for me, it’s a little bit part of the design process. But I haven’t done it for such a long time that my style is terribly ugly, as ugly as my body is in front of a mirror.

Populous, which Molyneux largely programmed himself, is one of the first "God" games.

Giant Bomb: There’s something that Braid designer Jonathan Blow talks about quite a bit. He’s a game designer that also mostly programs his own games. He speaks to how he finds it impossible to be a designer that isn’t a programmer. When you have to take the additional step of articulating an idea that’s in your head to someone else, then they have to create it, you’ve already created one layer of miscommunication.

Molyneux: You’re absolutely, right, Patrick. You can only begin to imagine what that’s like when you’re working with a team of 150 people, where you’re so abstracted from the actual code phase of implementation that you’d literally explain an idea to someone, who explains it to a team of people, who then explains it to a team of people, and by the end, you think, “Who thought of that idea? It certainly wasn’t me.”

That’s one of the things. At the moment, I’m sitting in an office now, and there’s a few of us here, and if I have an idea, I either program it or I stick my head up and say, “Hey, what do you think of this?” And that’s the shortest line that you can have, I guess.

Giant Bomb: When you first heard about the Peter Molydeux Twitter account, what was your first impression?

Molyneux: I can tell you I first heard about it was when someone at Microsoft or an associated company said, “Oh, dear, there’s this parody of you, maybe we should try and see if we can close it down.” That’s the first time I ever heard about it. When I was at Microsoft, it was frowned upon for me to use Twitter, let’s put it that way. It certainly wasn’t encouraged.

And then I started reading this guy’s comments, and some of those comments were quite shocking to me. They were...crikey, I’m obviously saying things that’s upsetting people! And then I realized that, firstly, he was being critically eloquent. Secondly, he was amazingly funny. Thirdly, he was very, very creative. Despite myself, I suppose, I became a fan of his. I actually quite looked forward to his twitters, so much so I thought all his game ideas--it was frustrating I couldn’t respond to them--were really, really exciting and engaging. I found it lovely. I kind of almost forgot that he was a parody of me. [laughs] I was one of those people watching him do some stuff.

In my fantasy world, I kept thinking, “I wonder if I said this in the press, if he’d pick up on this angle, and say something even funnier.” When I left Lionhead, one of the first things I did was to engage him on Twitter and then we started talking via email, as well. He was even more inspirational and funny than I dared hoped. That’s the complete story.

Giant Bomb: When the Molyjam started coming together and snowballing, the reason I wanted to reach out to you to get a sense about how you felt about all this was because, in a sense, the Twitter account is this backhanded compliment. It encapsulates a larger critique of your games over the years, but at the same time, is also a testament to people really wanting to believe in the very grand ideas you talk about.

Molyneux: First thing, the whole thing about Molyjam is amazing, man. It’s incredible. That someone at Double Fine can have an idea and that idea can turn into a truly global event. I mean, what an amazing, incredible world that we live in, and I think there were so many smart, clever, amusing, funny, inspirational ideas that Peter Molydeux had had, whether seeded by me or as a seed of frustration or not, there were so many ideas, it was a very viable theme to have for something in the world.

Putting all those things together is just an amazing event that happened, and me turning up! I did feel very nervous turning up there because I felt, well, one, it was the first time I’d been out in public since I’d left Lionhead and, two, I felt this huge pressure to be inspirational myself.

Giant Bomb: I’m surprised things can still make you nervous after all this time.

Molyneux: Oh, for god’s sake, yeah, absolutely. If you don’t get nervous, you don’t really care, so I do get very nervous. When I was waiting to go into the London Molyjam, I was sitting outside having a cup of coffee thinking “What on Earth am I gonna say?” And people are going in and I though “Oh god, they look so smart and clever and brilliant” and I was winding myself up as usual.

Giant Bomb: Yeah, at that point, nothing you say can live up to what they’ve built up in their own minds.

Molyneux: Well, absolutely. People’s expectations are always far, far more than, in reality, whatever’s there. But I walked in, and the room was full of these people that were all huddled together, obviously just kicking off. I thought to myself, “God, I’d love to be one of these people,” and then I stood up and did a crappy little speech. They kicked off, and I really regretted not being one of those people, actually.

Giant Bomb: Does that speak to the reason you decided to create 22 Cans? Missing that garage atmosphere, the ability to react quickly, to be agile as a designer? The nature of game development these days, esepcially at the scale Lionhead was working at, requires years of preparation, and it’s hard to turn the ship, even if halfway through you realize this isn’t going to work anymore.

Molyneux: Exactly. The advice I gave the teams that I did speak to is “Just don’t throw yourself in there and expect everything to just come together. You’ve got to do a little bit of planning.” And of course you have to do a little bit of planning, but it was the idea, “Oh, well, let’s just do it.” And I love that feeling. “Let’s just do this, and let’s do this now.”

You’re right in saying that when you’ve got to--and not just talking about Microsoft actually, it’s talking about the gaming industry--is when you’re making a title that is going to end up costing millions and millions, tens of millions of dollars, Patrick, you just cannot have that attitude of, “Well, let’s just do it.” It’s all got to be meticulously and carefully planned and structured and thought through and discussed and that does take the creative energy out of it. It must, whether it be a triple-A computer game or a film.

I would point at films especially, something which creatively they’ve lost their way a little bit. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that I thought, “Well, that’s really fresh and different.” When anything creative requires vast amounts of money and huge amounts of people, it makes that excitement and edginess very, very difficult.

Fable: The Journey was the last game Molyneux touched at Lionhead. That's announced, anyway.

Giant Bomb: I wonder what your impression was of some of the young designers that you talked to at the event. When you got started, there was no framework for game development and genres were only starting to come about and you could create whole genres yourself. That’s very much less so these days.

Molyneux: I’m actually not going to agree with that point, Patrick. I think if we’d been talking about this just a couple of years ago, I’d have agreed with you, absolutely, categorically. It felt like the wild west frontier of game development when I started, where there were no books, there was barely compilers and assemblers, let alone books. A lot of the cornerstones of the industry hadn’t been laid down. For a long time, those cornerstones have been laid down, and [there were] very defined genres, whether they be role-playing, first-person-shooters, whatever.

But you know what? I look at the world today, and I look at a world where we’re starting to make experiences which are connecting people together, where we’re starting to make experiences that use [the] cloud, where we’re using different input devices, whether it be smart glass or Kinect, having multi-device play, where we’ve got customers that have never played games before starting to play games for the first time, and it feels like that wild west frontier.

You can’t go out to a book shop and buy a book on how to program a Facebook game yet. Those books are coming about just about now after two years of Facebook games. You can’t go to a shop and find out how cloud computing will be important in computer gaming in three years time. It feels familiar.

All of the designers that I met in Molyjam definitely weren’t those people who were thinking, “Oh, we’re going to make a first-person-shooters.” They felt like they were exploring, as opposed to treading the paths of existing territories. Does that make sense, Patrick?

Giant Bomb: It’s this feeling, this undercurrent, that it doesn’t have to be this way. People look at a lot of the triple-A games and think, “Okay, that’s where that path has gone because it makes sense for risk averse projects to go in that direction,” but the whole industry doesn’t have to be that way. And it requires designers to actually say it doesn’t have to be that way, and then to go out and do it. The Molyjam gave people this structure to come together, to feel inspired together.

Molyneux: Yeah, I agree. That’s the whole feeling of jams and the limitation of 48 hours and that pressure cooker is all of that together, so there’s also this feeling of wanting to complete something, which is great. The only risk about when you put a lot of creative people together in a room normally, in my experience, quite often things don’t happen without there being some goal to head for. That’s the great thing about having a 48 hour jam. Everyone has to solve all of those problems and make all of those decisions, which ends up being something tangible at the end of it.

Giant Bomb: The most inspiring story in the San Francisco one was this husband and wife couple who had connected with these two programmers. The two programmers had to drop out. They were really stressed out and close to giving up, but they downloaded some middleware called GameSalad, which is aimed at people that don’t know how to program. They spent the next 36 hours actually making this rudimentary implementation of this idea that they had, and they were one of the last to present, and they got this really wonderful standing ovation.

Molyneux: I love stories like that. They make your heart sing, don’t they? God, it’s just fantastic. To have two people like that, willing to download and learn something in 36 hours just because they’re so enthusiastic to get their idea out, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear stories like that, and it’s just brilliant. I could feel that enthusiasm and that energy in the room in London, and it was just a fantastic feeling.

I’ll be honest with you, Patrick, I definitely want, if we had a few people with that enthusiasm here at 22 Cans, then our chances of success would go up exponentially, I think. If you really want to make something great, then you’ve got to have that sort of enthusiasm, that diehard dedication to getting something in. It’s fantastic.

Secret Dad was a Molyjam game created by a husband and wife who'd never made a game in their life.

Giant Bomb: Have you had a chance to check out many of the games?

Molyneux: Here’s the thing, Patrick. I’ve gone through and played, I suppose, about 20 of the games, and I’ve got to do it. If this press hadn’t come out just four days after the games came out, then I would have done an awful lot more, but I’ve been deluged with all that stuff. I’ve felt insanely guilty that I haven’t played [more].

Giant Bomb: I’ve only played a few more than you, and I helped put the thing together. [laughs]

Molyneux: That’s a relief! I’ll quote that every time. There’s some very interesting ideas and interesting adaptations of Adam’s inspirational one-liners. There’s some surprisingly well executed ones, and I thought, “Wow, that’s incredible in 48 hours.” A lot of the time, I think, what a shame that these people can’t be given more time to spend on these ideas. Some of them are really, really interesting ideas that you’d think, “God, it’s so good, imagine if they have 96 hours or imagine they had two weeks.” That’s the whole process of game jams that’s always frustrated me a bit.

Giant Bomb: It’s an interesting dilemma. I’ve talked to different jam organizers about that, but the rationale I always here is that if you gave people two weeks, you start increasing the chance that people just won’t finish anything.

Molyneux: Maybe somebody gets together and form a little group of people, thinking about another Molyjam or something like Molyjam, maybe it shouldn’t be called Molyjam, maybe it should be called something else. Maybe there’s some way that someone could play around with the process of that jam. I love the 48 hours, I absolutely love that focus and concentration, but is there a way of saying to people, “Okay, there’s this idea or these three ideas or five ideas or 10 ideas, I don’t know how many” and maybe there’s an elongated period of time that they continue experimenting with those ideas. That’s what gets me--I just want everything. [laughs] I just love to see, time and again, I thought, “God, I wish there was just a bit more.” I’m just being greedy.

You have to give 22Cans credit for having a pretty clever website, as it begins to staff up.

Giant Bomb: I was in the room for most of the 48 hours here in San Francisco. It was interesting to watch because it seemed people were really liberated by how audacious the ideas were. When tweets didn’t fit within a certain genre box, that was the most exciting part.

Molyneux: When you try to do something very, very fast, a lot of this completely unnecessary spinning and iteration is removed, and that very often leads to much, much better things.

Giant Bomb: As you look back on all of this, what’s your biggest takeaway from the experience?

Molyneux: For me, it was amazingly cathartic, it was amazingly inspirational. It was like being bathed in fountain of youth for five minutes. I found it incredibly energizing, and amazingly exciting. After the event, I was skipping around the streets of London saying, “This is incredible.” All that creativity and energy, which I hadn’t seen for so long, exists in the world. For me, it was the perfect time, and as an event, a global event, it was utterly amazing. The way, Patrick, it used everything the digital world had to offer, whether it was webcasting certain sites, uploading the demos--it’s amazing that it all kind of works. I just hope it’s the start of something bigger.

You know what? I think the indie game community--or the experimental game community, maybe indie it the wrong word--needs things like this. This is a crazy thought, [but] maybe this is the start of something much, much bigger. The film industry has film festivals. Why can’t we have experimental game festivals? And maybe stuff like this is the start of that. I think it does inspire the world and will continue to inspire the world. As long as those people that worked incredibly hard and unbelievably dedicated don’t mind pushing forward, I’m really bullish about it.

(Thanks to Velocity Gamer for snapping the featured photo of Molyneux at the London event.)

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3500 posts) -

This is the third and final of my stories about the Molyjam. I could have written many more. Wednesday, you read about the one man army behind Bowl or Die! Yesterday, a couple faced incredible adversity. Peter Molyneux, take it away.

--

It's unconfirmed whether Peter Molyneux has or has not kissed a green cube in real-life.

It wasn't until Peter Molyneux left his Microsoft-owned Lionhead Studios to start yet another company, 22 Cans, that he finally, publicly acknowledged the existence of Peter Molydeux.

Peter Molydeux, if you aren't aware, is a parody account of the designer, constantly spitting out 140 character updates that sound suspiciously like real-life design ideas of Molyneux.

That nod would have happened earlier, if Microsoft was a company more encouraging of Twitter, the way Molyneux puts it.

When the Molyjam was coming together, I reached out to Molyneux. Mostly, I wondered if he was offended. It wouldn't be hard to imagine. This character is both complimentary to Molyneux's grand aspirations and a critique of his daydreaming.

The first line of his response email? "Dear heroes." The rest of the email confirmed he was taking everything in stride, and I sighed with relief. All Molyneux wanted to know was what he could do to help, which amounted to having him show up at the London arm of the game jam and giving everyone a pep talk. We ended up showing that same speech to everyone here in San Francisco, a perfectly meta way to kick off a weekend of total weirdness.

I spoke with Molyneux over Skype this week, a few days after we had originally arranged to talk, because I'd convinced myself London was eight hours behind San Francisco, not ahead. These days, he has more free time.

It's been a little over a month since Molyneux left Lionhead, and 22 Cans is just coming together.

--

Giant Bomb: How is the transition going?

Peter Molyneux: Ah, you know, it’s very, very exciting. I don’t know if you know, but I did some press last Wednesday.

Giant Bomb: I read the Develop interview, which was really well done.

Molyneux: Yeah, and since then, we’ve had just over 1,000 people apply for jobs at 22 Cans. That’s pretty damn exciting. I’m working 16 hours-a-day just answering those emails. I’ve said to myself “Look, I’ve put this thing out there. I’ve got to answer all these emails, I’ve also got to look at all the Molyjam entries, and I’ve got to [use] Twitter.” That’s taking up a huge amount of time. It’s a fantasticly, amazingly, incredibly exciting, though.

Giant Bomb: The way you talk about 22 Cans, there is this sense that you feel the need to get more hands-on.

Molyneux: Absolutely. There was this amazing thing that happened when I left Lionhead. The office of 22 Cans is only 275 steps away from Lionhead. It’s literally just walking up the hill.

Giant Bomb: Oh, wow.

Molyneux: It’s not far. When I sat down, which was five weeks ago almost to the day, the first thing I did was clear out my diary of all reoccuring meetings that just happen as part of running a company of 200 people, and being part of Microsoft. I realized that 75% of my day was just doing nothing, basically. It was just doing meetings, and now, doing everything from answering emails to doing press stuff, to going and talking at universities and designing the games, it just feels fantastic to be that hands-on, it really does.

Giant Bomb: In hindsight, do you regret it getting that way, or do you feel it was a valuable experience? Was it all leading to this point, and all of that just informed the next step with 22 Cans?

Molyneux: Here’s the thing about it all. I’m not just saying this because I have to but because it’s really true: it was an amazing experience being part of Microsoft and seeing how a big company like that works, and being on a team of people that was incredibly high up at Microsoft and seeing some of those decisions. It was amazing for a little old game designer like me, who’s got this quirky English accent. It’s just an incredible experience. I think there were some amazing things that happened there, but is it the good job that I’m best at, or is it the job that I’m really good at? I don’t think it is. I think I’m better at getting my hands dirty and experimenting with crazy ideas--just thinking, “Look, can we do this ultra ambitious thing really, really well?” and that’s, hopefully, what I’m better at. I’ve got myself into a place where I was okay at the job I did, I still found it quite fascinating, but it just wasn’t what I was good at. There was this very, I think it’s [an] American saying or maybe a Microsoft saying, and that’s “What’s your superpower?”

Giant Bomb: I’ve heard that before.

Molyneux: All the time, you meet people and they say, “What’s your superpower?” And I just felt like my cape and my mask was hidden in a box somewhere and I’ve just opened it up again and I’ve now got my superpower back, for what it’s worth.

Giant Bomb: In terms of what you’re going to be doing at 22 Cans, are you actually in the nitty gritty of programming? Do any of the skills you used to have still apply in today’s development environments?

Molyneux: Here’s the trick. The absolute truth of the matter is that I was born a programmer. That’s how a game called Populous came about--I programmed it. I did the majority of the programming, almost all of the programming, in Populous, and a game called Powermonger, some of the programming on Syndicate, some of the programming on Magic Carpet, quite a lot of the programming on Theme Park, not much programming on Dungeon Keeper, not much programming on Black & White. Ever since then, I haven’t done any programming.

Americans always find these analogies very uncomfortable, but this is an analogy that really works. When you reach my age, 53, there’s something you should never do, and that’s stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself. It’s never gonna [have] a happy end to the story. [laughs]

If you look at my coding style, it’s just horrible. It’s old school, it’s horrible. There’s all this stuff that goes on with professional coding and coding standards--I haven’t got any of that stuff. It’s just terrible style, but I still love to have an idea at 10 o’clock at night, and walk up to the computer and play around with that idea for a couple of hours. That is just such a wonderful, incredible feeling, and, for me, it’s a little bit part of the design process. But I haven’t done it for such a long time that my style is terribly ugly, as ugly as my body is in front of a mirror.

Populous, which Molyneux largely programmed himself, is one of the first "God" games.

Giant Bomb: There’s something that Braid designer Jonathan Blow talks about quite a bit. He’s a game designer that also mostly programs his own games. He speaks to how he finds it impossible to be a designer that isn’t a programmer. When you have to take the additional step of articulating an idea that’s in your head to someone else, then they have to create it, you’ve already created one layer of miscommunication.

Molyneux: You’re absolutely, right, Patrick. You can only begin to imagine what that’s like when you’re working with a team of 150 people, where you’re so abstracted from the actual code phase of implementation that you’d literally explain an idea to someone, who explains it to a team of people, who then explains it to a team of people, and by the end, you think, “Who thought of that idea? It certainly wasn’t me.”

That’s one of the things. At the moment, I’m sitting in an office now, and there’s a few of us here, and if I have an idea, I either program it or I stick my head up and say, “Hey, what do you think of this?” And that’s the shortest line that you can have, I guess.

Giant Bomb: When you first heard about the Peter Molydeux Twitter account, what was your first impression?

Molyneux: I can tell you I first heard about it was when someone at Microsoft or an associated company said, “Oh, dear, there’s this parody of you, maybe we should try and see if we can close it down.” That’s the first time I ever heard about it. When I was at Microsoft, it was frowned upon for me to use Twitter, let’s put it that way. It certainly wasn’t encouraged.

And then I started reading this guy’s comments, and some of those comments were quite shocking to me. They were...crikey, I’m obviously saying things that’s upsetting people! And then I realized that, firstly, he was being critically eloquent. Secondly, he was amazingly funny. Thirdly, he was very, very creative. Despite myself, I suppose, I became a fan of his. I actually quite looked forward to his twitters, so much so I thought all his game ideas--it was frustrating I couldn’t respond to them--were really, really exciting and engaging. I found it lovely. I kind of almost forgot that he was a parody of me. [laughs] I was one of those people watching him do some stuff.

In my fantasy world, I kept thinking, “I wonder if I said this in the press, if he’d pick up on this angle, and say something even funnier.” When I left Lionhead, one of the first things I did was to engage him on Twitter and then we started talking via email, as well. He was even more inspirational and funny than I dared hoped. That’s the complete story.

Giant Bomb: When the Molyjam started coming together and snowballing, the reason I wanted to reach out to you to get a sense about how you felt about all this was because, in a sense, the Twitter account is this backhanded compliment. It encapsulates a larger critique of your games over the years, but at the same time, is also a testament to people really wanting to believe in the very grand ideas you talk about.

Molyneux: First thing, the whole thing about Molyjam is amazing, man. It’s incredible. That someone at Double Fine can have an idea and that idea can turn into a truly global event. I mean, what an amazing, incredible world that we live in, and I think there were so many smart, clever, amusing, funny, inspirational ideas that Peter Molydeux had had, whether seeded by me or as a seed of frustration or not, there were so many ideas, it was a very viable theme to have for something in the world.

Putting all those things together is just an amazing event that happened, and me turning up! I did feel very nervous turning up there because I felt, well, one, it was the first time I’d been out in public since I’d left Lionhead and, two, I felt this huge pressure to be inspirational myself.

Giant Bomb: I’m surprised things can still make you nervous after all this time.

Molyneux: Oh, for god’s sake, yeah, absolutely. If you don’t get nervous, you don’t really care, so I do get very nervous. When I was waiting to go into the London Molyjam, I was sitting outside having a cup of coffee thinking “What on Earth am I gonna say?” And people are going in and I though “Oh god, they look so smart and clever and brilliant” and I was winding myself up as usual.

Giant Bomb: Yeah, at that point, nothing you say can live up to what they’ve built up in their own minds.

Molyneux: Well, absolutely. People’s expectations are always far, far more than, in reality, whatever’s there. But I walked in, and the room was full of these people that were all huddled together, obviously just kicking off. I thought to myself, “God, I’d love to be one of these people,” and then I stood up and did a crappy little speech. They kicked off, and I really regretted not being one of those people, actually.

Giant Bomb: Does that speak to the reason you decided to create 22 Cans? Missing that garage atmosphere, the ability to react quickly, to be agile as a designer? The nature of game development these days, esepcially at the scale Lionhead was working at, requires years of preparation, and it’s hard to turn the ship, even if halfway through you realize this isn’t going to work anymore.

Molyneux: Exactly. The advice I gave the teams that I did speak to is “Just don’t throw yourself in there and expect everything to just come together. You’ve got to do a little bit of planning.” And of course you have to do a little bit of planning, but it was the idea, “Oh, well, let’s just do it.” And I love that feeling. “Let’s just do this, and let’s do this now.”

You’re right in saying that when you’ve got to--and not just talking about Microsoft actually, it’s talking about the gaming industry--is when you’re making a title that is going to end up costing millions and millions, tens of millions of dollars, Patrick, you just cannot have that attitude of, “Well, let’s just do it.” It’s all got to be meticulously and carefully planned and structured and thought through and discussed and that does take the creative energy out of it. It must, whether it be a triple-A computer game or a film.

I would point at films especially, something which creatively they’ve lost their way a little bit. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that I thought, “Well, that’s really fresh and different.” When anything creative requires vast amounts of money and huge amounts of people, it makes that excitement and edginess very, very difficult.

Fable: The Journey was the last game Molyneux touched at Lionhead. That's announced, anyway.

Giant Bomb: I wonder what your impression was of some of the young designers that you talked to at the event. When you got started, there was no framework for game development and genres were only starting to come about and you could create whole genres yourself. That’s very much less so these days.

Molyneux: I’m actually not going to agree with that point, Patrick. I think if we’d been talking about this just a couple of years ago, I’d have agreed with you, absolutely, categorically. It felt like the wild west frontier of game development when I started, where there were no books, there was barely compilers and assemblers, let alone books. A lot of the cornerstones of the industry hadn’t been laid down. For a long time, those cornerstones have been laid down, and [there were] very defined genres, whether they be role-playing, first-person-shooters, whatever.

But you know what? I look at the world today, and I look at a world where we’re starting to make experiences which are connecting people together, where we’re starting to make experiences that use [the] cloud, where we’re using different input devices, whether it be smart glass or Kinect, having multi-device play, where we’ve got customers that have never played games before starting to play games for the first time, and it feels like that wild west frontier.

You can’t go out to a book shop and buy a book on how to program a Facebook game yet. Those books are coming about just about now after two years of Facebook games. You can’t go to a shop and find out how cloud computing will be important in computer gaming in three years time. It feels familiar.

All of the designers that I met in Molyjam definitely weren’t those people who were thinking, “Oh, we’re going to make a first-person-shooters.” They felt like they were exploring, as opposed to treading the paths of existing territories. Does that make sense, Patrick?

Giant Bomb: It’s this feeling, this undercurrent, that it doesn’t have to be this way. People look at a lot of the triple-A games and think, “Okay, that’s where that path has gone because it makes sense for risk averse projects to go in that direction,” but the whole industry doesn’t have to be that way. And it requires designers to actually say it doesn’t have to be that way, and then to go out and do it. The Molyjam gave people this structure to come together, to feel inspired together.

Molyneux: Yeah, I agree. That’s the whole feeling of jams and the limitation of 48 hours and that pressure cooker is all of that together, so there’s also this feeling of wanting to complete something, which is great. The only risk about when you put a lot of creative people together in a room normally, in my experience, quite often things don’t happen without there being some goal to head for. That’s the great thing about having a 48 hour jam. Everyone has to solve all of those problems and make all of those decisions, which ends up being something tangible at the end of it.

Giant Bomb: The most inspiring story in the San Francisco one was this husband and wife couple who had connected with these two programmers. The two programmers had to drop out. They were really stressed out and close to giving up, but they downloaded some middleware called GameSalad, which is aimed at people that don’t know how to program. They spent the next 36 hours actually making this rudimentary implementation of this idea that they had, and they were one of the last to present, and they got this really wonderful standing ovation.

Molyneux: I love stories like that. They make your heart sing, don’t they? God, it’s just fantastic. To have two people like that, willing to download and learn something in 36 hours just because they’re so enthusiastic to get their idea out, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear stories like that, and it’s just brilliant. I could feel that enthusiasm and that energy in the room in London, and it was just a fantastic feeling.

I’ll be honest with you, Patrick, I definitely want, if we had a few people with that enthusiasm here at 22 Cans, then our chances of success would go up exponentially, I think. If you really want to make something great, then you’ve got to have that sort of enthusiasm, that diehard dedication to getting something in. It’s fantastic.

Secret Dad was a Molyjam game created by a husband and wife who'd never made a game in their life.

Giant Bomb: Have you had a chance to check out many of the games?

Molyneux: Here’s the thing, Patrick. I’ve gone through and played, I suppose, about 20 of the games, and I’ve got to do it. If this press hadn’t come out just four days after the games came out, then I would have done an awful lot more, but I’ve been deluged with all that stuff. I’ve felt insanely guilty that I haven’t played [more].

Giant Bomb: I’ve only played a few more than you, and I helped put the thing together. [laughs]

Molyneux: That’s a relief! I’ll quote that every time. There’s some very interesting ideas and interesting adaptations of Adam’s inspirational one-liners. There’s some surprisingly well executed ones, and I thought, “Wow, that’s incredible in 48 hours.” A lot of the time, I think, what a shame that these people can’t be given more time to spend on these ideas. Some of them are really, really interesting ideas that you’d think, “God, it’s so good, imagine if they have 96 hours or imagine they had two weeks.” That’s the whole process of game jams that’s always frustrated me a bit.

Giant Bomb: It’s an interesting dilemma. I’ve talked to different jam organizers about that, but the rationale I always here is that if you gave people two weeks, you start increasing the chance that people just won’t finish anything.

Molyneux: Maybe somebody gets together and form a little group of people, thinking about another Molyjam or something like Molyjam, maybe it shouldn’t be called Molyjam, maybe it should be called something else. Maybe there’s some way that someone could play around with the process of that jam. I love the 48 hours, I absolutely love that focus and concentration, but is there a way of saying to people, “Okay, there’s this idea or these three ideas or five ideas or 10 ideas, I don’t know how many” and maybe there’s an elongated period of time that they continue experimenting with those ideas. That’s what gets me--I just want everything. [laughs] I just love to see, time and again, I thought, “God, I wish there was just a bit more.” I’m just being greedy.

You have to give 22Cans credit for having a pretty clever website, as it begins to staff up.

Giant Bomb: I was in the room for most of the 48 hours here in San Francisco. It was interesting to watch because it seemed people were really liberated by how audacious the ideas were. When tweets didn’t fit within a certain genre box, that was the most exciting part.

Molyneux: When you try to do something very, very fast, a lot of this completely unnecessary spinning and iteration is removed, and that very often leads to much, much better things.

Giant Bomb: As you look back on all of this, what’s your biggest takeaway from the experience?

Molyneux: For me, it was amazingly cathartic, it was amazingly inspirational. It was like being bathed in fountain of youth for five minutes. I found it incredibly energizing, and amazingly exciting. After the event, I was skipping around the streets of London saying, “This is incredible.” All that creativity and energy, which I hadn’t seen for so long, exists in the world. For me, it was the perfect time, and as an event, a global event, it was utterly amazing. The way, Patrick, it used everything the digital world had to offer, whether it was webcasting certain sites, uploading the demos--it’s amazing that it all kind of works. I just hope it’s the start of something bigger.

You know what? I think the indie game community--or the experimental game community, maybe indie it the wrong word--needs things like this. This is a crazy thought, [but] maybe this is the start of something much, much bigger. The film industry has film festivals. Why can’t we have experimental game festivals? And maybe stuff like this is the start of that. I think it does inspire the world and will continue to inspire the world. As long as those people that worked incredibly hard and unbelievably dedicated don’t mind pushing forward, I’m really bullish about it.

(Thanks to Velocity Gamer for snapping the featured photo of Molyneux at the London event.)

Staff
#2 Posted by SurferZ (92 posts) -

Excited

#3 Posted by Morningstar (2143 posts) -

All hail Peter.

#4 Posted by MattBodega (1903 posts) -

What a great interview.

#5 Posted by RobotHamster (4171 posts) -

Muh balls

#6 Posted by Baconbot (113 posts) -

Great interview!

#7 Posted by SgtGrumbles (1024 posts) -

I love Peter Molyneux and always have, there need to be more creative and enthusiastic people in the world.

#8 Posted by DorianOtten (52 posts) -

in spite of some failures and let-downs i still really like molyneux. He's a dreamer in an industry full of fps clones etc...

#9 Posted by chocolaterhinovampire (1288 posts) -

Great article/interview Patrick. Really good stuff...keep it up. I am excited to see what Sir Peter does with this new studio.

#10 Posted by Krakn3Dfx (2485 posts) -

Good stuff, here's hoping that getting from under the boot of a big corporation like MS can only mean great things from Molyneux in the future.

#11 Posted by mbr2 (561 posts) -

I love this guy.

#12 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1237 posts) -

Excellent talk. There really is an outstanding amount of fascinating insight in here - it was delightful to read it. I'm not even a huge fan of the games past Dungeon Keeper but conceptually even Fable and Black & White had interesting stuff in them and not just on paper. Peter Molyneux still is a very cool creative dude, I must say!

#13 Posted by Tebbit (4449 posts) -

What a guy.

#14 Posted by LoktarOgar (355 posts) -

Wedesday...

#15 Posted by sungahymn (987 posts) -

Ooh.

#16 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

This was a fascinating read, thanks Trick and Pete!

#17 Posted by Tamaster92 (271 posts) -

As much he overhypes stuff he is a great designer and very very clever.

#18 Posted by Harkat (1100 posts) -

This why Patrick is a great idea.

#19 Posted by Veektarius (4630 posts) -

Good interview, great that you landed him.

#20 Posted by Aristides (89 posts) -

His enthusiasm for games is infectious! Fantastic interview Patrick

#21 Posted by Mr_Skeleton (5138 posts) -

Oh god I read that in his voice!

#22 Posted by ztiworoh (731 posts) -

Seriously, now that he's independent, I want a Peter Molyneaux podcast - I could listen to this guy just go on about the potential that lies in technology all day.

Even if he's a charlatan-at-worst and a wild-dreamer-at-best, he's a damn inspirational one.

I look forward to seeing what 22Cans has to offer.

#23 Posted by Silver-Streak (1339 posts) -

Molyneux seems to be a really awesome guy. I love his ideas, and realize that they can't always pan out, but am always hopeful they do.

I'm really happy he enjoyed the Molyjam, and hope to see whatever 22 cans makes in the future.

#24 Posted by Dots (114 posts) -

That was a nice read, makes me want to be a game developer even more!

#25 Posted by Junpei (726 posts) -

Awesome job Patrick. Molyneux is one of those figures in the industry that can be inspirational to everyone even in spite of some of the punchlines. End of the day, the man is an eternal optimist looking to make some very creative and unique games that push the boundaries of player interaction and feel. Awesome to see he hasn't lost that about him and that it may even be stronger than ever.

#26 Posted by Ventilaator (1501 posts) -

Okay, I'm curious.

*CTRL+F* "Amazing"

The word "amazing" is featured 14 times in this interview.

#27 Posted by heatDrive88 (2270 posts) -

I like Peter Molyneux so much more, now that he is off doing his own thing. I love the fact that the very end of this article ends with him being a dreamer about something. Quite fitting.

#28 Posted by RVonE (4607 posts) -

How can you not love this guy?

#29 Posted by MacEG (253 posts) -

This is pretty incredible. Well done Trick.

#30 Posted by Pop (2609 posts) -

A really amazing interview!

#31 Posted by Draugen (630 posts) -

Man, Molyneux is a really interesting character. Great interview.

#32 Posted by Reijin (1 posts) -

I found this very uplifting and encouraging to read. It's wonderful to know that there's such deep passion from games. It is too easy to get caught up in the business side of the industry. I am glad to be reminded of the wide spread passion for our hobby of choice.

#33 Posted by RetroVirus (1461 posts) -

Great interview.

#34 Posted by MattyFTM (14348 posts) -

Peter Molyneux always comes across so enthusiastic about video games. He's got a genuine passion for crafting unique and interesting video games. The game industry needs more Peter Molyneux's.

Moderator
#35 Posted by skrutop (3615 posts) -

This is one of the best interviews that I've seen on this site. Top notch work as always, Patrick.

#36 Posted by Dan_CiTi (3186 posts) -

He should rename the compnay to 22 Chains, much better name than 22 Cans.

#37 Posted by Vorbis (2749 posts) -

So glad he has left Microsoft now, I want to see what he can really do. No pressure.

#38 Posted by essi2 (141 posts) -

Great interview.

#39 Posted by hermes (1383 posts) -

Great interview, Patrick.

I am with a lot of people here. Despite the games were often hit or miss on its grandiose aspirations, we still need people that aim to the moon and gets a chance to make the shoot.

#40 Edited by I_smell (3925 posts) -

DEAR HEROES

What a great guy. This is the first article I've read all the way through in a big long time.

#41 Posted by isbecome (82 posts) -

Great interview, Patrick!

Molyneux is a pretty rad fellow.

#42 Posted by Medrex (30 posts) -

Great interview Patrick.

Say what you want about his games but it's just impossible to dislike Peter.

#43 Posted by SSully (4129 posts) -

I have had a pretty negative view of Peter over the course of this gen because of his tendancy to over hype games and over sell his ideas. But I have read a lot of interviews in the last few weeks about him and damn it, he is an admirable person. He truly loves his job and loves this industry, and that is what will lead to great games. I can't wait to see what him and his new studio comes up with.

#44 Posted by Coiledstring (8 posts) -

If you haven't heard it yet "Joypod podcast" has Peter Molydeux ( the parady twitter writer,) as a guest and editor for this weeks show and talks about Molyjam. Covering how Molyneux came to get involved, just though I'd mention it as it might add more layers to this particular union.

#45 Posted by Bats (87 posts) -

Man, how can you not love Peter Molyneux? He's got his heart in the right place, and he speaks from it, sometimes he gets a bit too excited, but I largely think it's because he was constrained by the limitations of the companies he had to answer to. I'm very excited that he's out of that now and is looking to do something more personal, it'll be amazing to see regardless of how it pans out.

Really well done Interview Patrick, loved the flow and the insights. I could listen to Molyneux forever. I want to see a collaboration between him and Molydeux.

#46 Posted by Jimbo (9775 posts) -

The man's track record speaks for itself and he's already done more than enough to be considered a legend of the industry, but it's great to have him back from the Fable wilderness (or 'lack of wilderness' I guess) after so long. Let's hope he does something amazing with it, because a Bullfrog-esque studio could be exactly the shot in the arm the industry needs right now.

I remember when I was about 14 or 15, Lionhead was just starting and I used to read all the dev diaries they put up, and I was all the way in love with the idea of working there when I was older. As it turned out, I'm kinda glad that never happened, because the decade of Fable that followed pretty much epitomises everything I don't like about how the industry has developed, but whatevs. If they can recapture that kind of excitement and trailblazing ambition they had when they were working on Black & White then it'll be ace. It barely even matters to me if the game turns out to be any good or not, just make something unapologetically ambitious and I'll be happy - Molyneux is wasted on making games where the blueprint already exists.

#47 Posted by beard_of_zeus (1672 posts) -

Great interview, Patrick.
 
For all the shit Molyneux gets, he actually seems like a cool guy that's quite passionate about the industry. I guess aiming too high and missing your mark is looked down upon by some people, but I think you need people like that if you're going to succeed. It'll be interesting to see how 22 Cans works out for him. 
 

When I was at Microsoft, it was frowned upon for me to use Twitter, let’s put it that way. It certainly wasn’t encouraged.

I thought that quote from Molyneux was pretty funny :)
#48 Posted by Jimbo (9775 posts) -

@Dan_CiTi said:

He should rename the compnay to 22 Chains, much better name than 22 Cans.

22 Catches? Twenty Toucans?

#49 Posted by GuardianKnux (249 posts) -

You know I often just skim a lot of these longer posts and interviews. It's much easier to be working and doing collage work on one screen and have a video up on the other than it is to stop and read a whole article. That being said I read this whole thing top to bottom. Such a great interview Tricky!

#50 Posted by Tidel (360 posts) -

Fantastic interview and series, Patrick. It's really heartening to see games through this lens -- ambition, inspiration, and genuine community as opposed to the sometimes vile and frequently petty mainstream core stuff. Great work.

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