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Games Entertainment

Peter Molyneux On Developmental Experimentation 55

Gamasutra reports on a talk given at GDC by Peter Molyneux, founder of Lionhead Studios and designer of games such as Black & White and Fable. Molyneux discussed some of the experimentation that went into the development of their various games. Quoting: "After his overview of the process, Molyneux demonstrated a number of actual experiments. He began by showing an early version of Fable II's dog, which he himself designed and which ended up factoring heavily into the full game. 'This is probably one of the most valuable experiments we ever did,' he said. Using the original Fable engine, the team asked itself, 'Why don't we think how the dog can actually move and be a companion to the player?' They decided to focus on exploring what a dog would do, rather than try to slot a canine into existing typical video game companion tasks. This led to the mechanic of the dog running out in front of the player, rather than beside or behind the player as most game AI companions are positioned, which had a huge impact on the dog's role."
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Peter Molyneux On Developmental Experimentation

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    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @10:20AM (#27387867)

      Yes, they like the dog because it's probably the cruelest twist in the game. They think hey we'll hype the dog up so everyone wants to see what the dog does and play around with it THEN WE'LL FUCKING KILL IT.

      At the end you get the choice between saving your dog who gets shot dead, everyone else in the world who died or getting 1 million gold.

      So what they did was made the dog pretty fucking integral into the game, but made you feel like a selfish dick for reviving him rather than all the other innocents that died.

      Molyneux is a dog killing bastard and he uses it against you and that's what he meant when he talks about bringing emotion to games! Me being a good guy thought hey, I'll choose sacrifice and sacrifice the god damn dog for everyone else and all I got was a letter of thanks from everyone. If I'd known that I'd have got my dog back or taken the £1million and let the damn peasants stay dead.

      Seriously though, the dog was quite fun to play around with. The game itself was far, far too short though but that seems to be par for the course with these sorts of games now, Fallout 3 was the same - the main storyline last about 5 seconds and the rest of the gameplay time is filled with boring side quests that are as repetitive as the crap in MMOs. Ironically I got bored of MMOs because the content in single player or coop games was much more rich and interesting, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Frankly I'd quite happily say goodbye to the side quests altogether and have them work on the main storyline more for these sorts of games. Games like Deadspace show how awesome games can be if you just focus on the storyline.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ultranova ( 717540 )

        Frankly I'd quite happily say goodbye to the side quests altogether and have them work on the main storyline more for these sorts of games. Games like Deadspace show how awesome games can be if you just focus on the storyline.

        "These sorts of games?" Fallout (and presumably Fable, but I haven't played it) is an RPG, where side quests are the game. The main plot is simply an excuse to get the player wandering. Side quests are where you can "play the role".

        These games try to be "sandbox games", but the curren

        • Re:Spoiler alert (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Xest ( 935314 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @02:08PM (#27391257)

          Is that the only way we can play the role though? with side quests? I think developers often use it as a lazy way out.

          Why not just have the main quest line be a lot more strongly related to your actions earlier in the main storyline and have a proper branching storyline.

          I think what gets me really is the rigidity of the side questions - as you say, better AI could make a big difference. I find it somewhat inexcusable in this day and age that we have quests as mindless and dull as "Hi I'm Jim. Will you go to location X and kill monsters Y for you?" and you go and do it and come back and he says "Oh wow well done you killed it, here's 10 gold". It's that kind of side questing we need to get away from. I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't think you should even realise you're doing a side quest similar to what you were getting at I think. You should walk through the world and hear a scream for help and go and help. Not see a guy stood there like a gormless twit who when you walk up to he says unconvincingly "Oh no. My girlfriend has been kidnapped. Please head North West and kill the evil turd monster to rescue her. Oh, reward is 10 gold again by the way".

          What about if you walk into a firefight on Fallout between two factions, and you end up having to fight for what side you wandered in on and simply the side you wandered in on defines who you end up having to fight for else they shoot you? How about that faction when you fight with them if only to save your life becomes friendly to you and helpful after like current faction systems but without the "Go to A to fight for faction a or go to B to fight for faction b". Don't like the faction you stumbled upon to help and wanted to work with the other guys? No problem! Go to the other faction camp and offer to betray those guys.

          It needs to be a lot more free flowing, it needs to happen without you specifically going to questgiver X to get quest Y. It needs to be part of the world as you say.

          FWIW, I do some AI development at work (for business not games though) and modern AI is certainly a lot more capable than the crap we have in games today. Even without any advanced AI implementations better decisions trees are more than enough to create far more convincing AI in most AAA RPGs today.

          I think Mass Effect is the best attempt I've seen in recent years, whilst it still had the side quest setup, the main storyline did at least force you to make decisions on the fly that would change the outcome of the rest of the storyline somewhat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        So what they did was made the dog pretty fucking integral into the game, but made you feel like a selfish dick for reviving him rather than all the other innocents that died.

        Huh. I revived the dog and didn't feel selfish at all seeing as it was, you know, just a game. Now if any of those endless dead people owed me money, I might have gone a different direction. :-) Honestly, I'm baffled my Molyneux's drive to bring emotion to games like this. Is there really a demand for it? I have a totally empty and pathetic life and I'm not looking for games to give me a real one.

        • Honestly, I'm baffled my Molyneux's drive to bring emotion to games like this. Is there really a demand for it?

          I think there is a definite place for emotional connection in computer games. I do think, though, that there's not much space for Buffy-season-5-style character abuse. That was some of the most depressing shit I've ever watched, and if it had been a game rather than a movie I'd probably have stopped playing at that point. Nothing pisses me off me more in games than 'unwinnable' scripted losses.

        • Wait. You mean that this talk about choosing between the dog, dead people and cash wasn't a joke?

          Damn. I feel like I did when I realized that the cheesy phrase "Kiss me again like you did..." that I read on Slashdot *really* was in that Star Wars movie.

          At least stuff like that makes me feel OK with the fact I haven't been gaming for, like, 15 years. Doesn't seem as if I'm missing much.

      • Frankly I'd quite happily say goodbye to the side quests altogether and have them work on the main storyline more for these sorts of games. Games like Deadspace show how awesome games can be if you just focus on the storyline.

        And Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time! Short, only a single story, but very awesome and fun to play!

  • by Toreo asesino ( 951231 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:46AM (#27385535) Journal

    I've always enjoyed Molyneux games for the new ideas he tries to pack in. Black & White for example; a great game in that it provided some genuinely different game-play to anything else ever. A few of us played that game for an entire weekend once; it's slow enough to leave running while eating/drinking/sleeping, but involving enough to play when and if you want.
    It was quite funny to wake up to find your creature had randomly taught itself to fling faeces at non-friendly villages and promptly eat all the villagers once this bizarre spectacle had converted the hearts and minds of an opposition village to your cause.

    Anyway, the point is, the guy's trying to inject some originality into gameplay at least; some times it works, other times not.

  • Dungeon Keeper 3? Or any game like DK1 and DK2? If such a game exists, someone please enlighten me.
    • You may like to have a look at Defense Grid : The Awakening ( [] ) which though a slightly different style of game ( with many less Dark Mistresses ), has a similar mechanic, defend defend defend.

      No affiliation, just plenty of hours lost to it, and it *feels* similar to me.
      • Ive played Defense Grid and to me it doesn't feel too similar. Defense Grid is basicly nothing but a "towers defense" game. For me DK2 was more about the training and then slow offensive push of workers breaking into new passages and rooms taking territory backed up by multiple varieties of my monsters (and the humans/elves/dwarves I had impisoned and tortured into joining my side), throwing spells where possible, and having traps to back me up. Still haven't played a game quite like it. Slapping the worker
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 )

      You might like Dwarf Fortress. []

      Once you see past the total lack of pretty graphics, it's the kind of game DK might have evolved into. Multi-level dungeons, with their own geology, geography, local wildlife, economy, and neighboring civilizations.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by chrisG23 ( 812077 )
        Thank you for the suggestion. I will check this one out again. I tried it once, but didn't have the time to learn how to play.

        Wow, that brings back memories, having to learn how to play a game instead of the game either a) being really simple and intuitive (possible because of how simple it is) or b) being a copy of a popular type of game.
    • by EWAdams ( 953502 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @03:15PM (#27392181) Homepage

      Peter had already gone to Lionhead by that time. EA killed DK3 about three months into prototyping, at the same time as they killed the entire Bullfrog brand. They moved the Bullfrog people onto Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter instead. It's hard to argue with that as a business decision.

      Still, I was bummed it never saw the light of day.

      More details here: []

    • You could always try Evil Genius [].
  • Credit where credit is due: Peter Molyneux has made some nice games, but that's not his greatest achievement. Molyneux has been, and still is, one of the few game developers who doesn't see himself as too good for answering press inquiries and doing dozens of interviews. I've seen some TV programmes about games and the gaming industry and in every single one of them, Molyneux gave an interview. He might talk overhyped trash from time to time (i.e. almost always), but at least he talks. If Molyneux wouldn't

  • Mr Molyneux reads like a Microsoft press release: full of much hype and innovation, but by the time release comes around everything is hacked to pieces.

    For example, he bragged about letting players directly factor in growing a town from a small collection of buildings to a giant metropolis. In the finished product? You are given a binary yes/no question and when you come back later the town is bigger.

    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

      From what I heard he makes game ideas up on the spot when interviewed and then acts as if they are already implemented. Usually the interview is the first time his dev team even hears the idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canajin56 ( 660655 )
      Yeah, always like that. In interviews he talked about how your Creature in B&W would observe you, and learn behavior. It actually "learns" like a Furby learns. It has a preprogrammed progression. It sees you cast a spell, now it knows it and uses it in a pre-programmed way. If you cast rain just to make it rain on some dude for fun, your creature will NEVER do that, it will ONLY use it to put out fires. Just a couple of binary flags turning on pre-programmed behaviors, and he acted like it was rev
  • Who came up with the idea you can't save when you want in Fable II?

    Oh, decisions must have consequences? Uh huh, that's why I play video games, so I can be *discouraged* from experimenting and trying different things. You know, Peter, experimenting- that thing you just lauded. Yeah, I really need my game worlds to be as unyielding and irreversible as real life. Especially when there is a stark good/evil morality system imposed by someone with whom I might have some real differences of opinion on that front.

  • The terrain modification code in that game was incredible. You could create a volcano from the ground then tunnel through it and hide inside. I'm making an online fighter now, and someday I hope that I can modify my terrain like that.
  • all up molyneux's... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nnnich ( 1454535 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:05PM (#27392751)
    I don't see why everyone is all up molyneux's ass about games. his ideas really aren't all that innovative. there are SO MANY great game ideas that I've heard of over the years, but they all get shot/watered down by the time the project managers or whoever gets through with them. the only reason molyshit gets recognition is because he can apparently brown nose with the best of them to keep his "cool hip features" in the final cut of the games.

    thumbs down molyneux, all of us gamers seeking quality and originality frown upon you and are tired of hearing your "genius" schemes.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak