Peter Molyneux Interview - Talking about games and future at Gamelab Barcelona 2023
"Alright, we are at Gamelab 2023 in Barcelona and it's really nice to meet up with you once again, Peter.I think the first time we met was in Barcelona for Gamelab in 2010.So that's amazing, 13 years after."
"And we also met in Tenerife, so it's always nice to catch up with you.And your talk was just finished?Yes, I've just finished a talk.The presenter of the talk was my really good friend, C. Ian Livingstone."
"And he always got a few barbed questions to ask me, so I enjoyed that moment.Did he cheat? Same as he cheats when you play?No, he didn't cheat, although he did try a few tricky questions to try and catch me out.I don't think I have that type of questions myself."
"But what makes a game great?That was the name of the panel.Of course we can talk about many things, about game design.As you were saying, we could be talking for hours."
"But in general terms, which would you say are the main aspects that make a game great?I think the number one thing, if there was a formula, we'd write it down and we'd all apply to it.There is no formula for greatness.Whether it be a book, a television program or a film, there is no formula for greatness."
"But I can define what greatness means for me.It means that you've created something that people remember.Just think of that, creating something that stays with people who have played it for years and years.And that is all about, again I'm speaking personally, it's all about creating an experience."
"Games are experiences.An experience which either introduces the player to something they've never seen before, to a feature they've never seen before.And that feature is so beautifully polished and so wonderfully exploited within the game mechanic that it just brings joy to people's hearts."
"I'm thinking about simple things like in Minecraft, just how it feels to chip away at a block.It's a combination of the sound effect, the motivation, why you're clicking the block, why you want to look for those diamonds down deep.And that makes that mechanic great, which makes the game great."
"So I think it's this weird secret source which goes into the core of what a game mechanic is.And then wrapped around that core mechanic, there's a great narrative.There's a narrative that pulls you through, that makes you curious, that makes a player think, oh, what's going to happen next?And sometimes you get that in films, you get that in TV, you definitely need to have it in computer games."
"And then lastly, there is some mechanic which maybe does things which you find joyful, like being able to play together.A lot of great games that I've played are great because I'm able to play Street Fighter against a friend and beat him senseless, and that makes that experience great."
"And if I recall correctly, when we were in Tenerife, we were talking about Fable and how you felt like perhaps that defining aspect would be the freedom for the player.For players to feel free in what they choose, what they do.So in terms of adventure games and freedom, which examples have you seen that perhaps are really nailing that sort of sense?This year we have many great games releasing, for example, Zelda."
"How would you try and express that freedom in an open-world adventure game nowadays?I think we mentioned this in Tenerife, but freedom without direction can be very, very boring.If I just give you a forest and say, you can go anywhere, the first thing you're going to do is go, why?So freedom, or you always have to give the players direction."
"Now, in Zelda's case, which is Tears of a Kingdom, is a fabulous game.A fabulous game, and it's the perfect example of freedom.What they have enabled to do, and it's a fascinating mechanic, is they allow you to explore anywhere in the world from the first instance."
"But around every corner, there's always something fascinating.There's always some sparkly little thing.Just at the point where you're going, why am I doing this? I'm going to teleport back somewhere else.But I'll just have a look at that rock, because that rock is tilting that way, and all other rocks are tilting that way."
"So you've got to think, when you have ultimate freedom in the game, there's got to be direction.You've got to be still pulling players along.Whether they ignore that and go off and do something else is beside the point.There's got to be that pull that keeps people exploring."
"It also feels good to mine the rocks, as you said, with Minecraft.So that's the same with Zelda.Another thing on Fable, of course I have to ask you, the new entry to the series was just revealed.We couldn't see any gameplay, so we cannot talk about how much freedom the player is going to feel."
"But how did you feel about it? How did you feel about the tone?It's got this sort of British humour to it. So how do you feel about that?I mean, I thought the casting of Richard, I can't say his name, the Alawati, the giant Richard Alawati.If Richard sees this, I'm sorry, I forgot your name."
"I thought the casting of him was perfect.Making him obsessed about vegetables was very Fable.You know, the thing about Fable is you've got to remember, I can remember sitting when we were designing Fable originally and saying, I think we all agreed that Fable would be funny because of what the player does."
"It's not funny because it's got lots of jokes.It actually didn't have any jokes really, but it was funny because we allowed the player to react in ridiculous ways.And that ridiculousness still seemed to be there in the trailer.Like you, I would have loved to see more gameplay, but I really loved when the fireball was thrown from the heroine."
"I loved the feeling of impact it gave. I thought that showed real promise.So, you know, my hopes are high.We were looking forward to learning more, of course, but we only got like the tone of it, right?So what can you tell us about what you guys want to explore next at 22cans?What sort of systems are you trying to explore now?And we've talked about many different aspects, you know, got games and NFTs before."
"So what's sort of the thing now?So in days gone by, I would just start telling you about the whole game and the whole game design and why it was going to be the most brilliant game in the world.And people looking at this would then get very annoyed and angry.So I'm not going to I'm not going to do that."
"I do think, though, we have stumbled and it feels like stumbling on a mechanic that has never been seen in the game before.I feel like we are exploiting that mechanic in a world and an environment which may be familiar to people.And because it is in a familiar environment, it'll be a lot fresher.And a lot of this is very mystical because I'm trying to avoid to tell you what it's like."
"But there is it is it's going to be it's going to be it's going to be a lot more like a kind of fable black and white Dungeon Keeper kind of experience.So I think we're we're we've almost we may pretty much made the decision to make it a PC console title rather than it being a mobile.I'm not saying that we're not never going to do it on mobile, but we're definitely leading on PC and console, mainly because we need the power."
"Anything else you can share on the status of the project when we can expect to learn more about it or too early?Yeah. I mean, I'm so tempted just to tell you about or show you that the pitch video we've been to that behind.Off the record, that would be that would be the start of the slippery slope of telling everyone.The only thing I can say is that firstly, this game is the first game really that I've coded been a coder on since since black and white."
"So it makes it very special for me.And secondly, it has been evolving and we've been exploring ideas about it for almost five years now.So, you know, it's very, very close to my heart.That's really sounds really, really tempting."
"So looking forward to learning more about it.I won't try to anymore.Every part of me wants to tell you everything about it.But, you know, that would be silly."
"We'll meet in several months, I guess.Back to when we were talking like six months ago, you said that Europe had to be the home of games in terms of development.Now we are in Barcelona.Then we were in Tenerife."
"And here we are seeing many studios that are sort of structured around Europe in several countries.So how do you feel about that now?What have you seen in terms of of more talent being hired in Europe and more studios like growing up and showing what they do nowadays?Yeah, I mean, I still fervently believe that Europe should be the home of gaming."
"You know, America's got they've got they've got TV and film.You know, it's our it's our turn to have computer games.And, you know, we are especially the Europeans are a lot more.They are a lot more willing to take risks with games."
"And if we want new and fresh and original games, then risks is what you have to take.And I'm all for the continually amazing improvement that you see in games like Call of Duty.Definitely. We want to keep those.We want new and fresh and original ideas."
"And why shouldn't Europe be the home of that?We've got the talent.We just need to as an industry, we need to come together and not just wait for politicians to bring us together.So things like Game Lab are really important for us all to engage together and realize that we have an opportunity to make something significant."
"What is the role you think big companies such as Sony and Microsoft are playing into into this sort of distributed talent and indie studios with the acquisition spree that we've seen for two, three years now?It seems like the moment they show their head, they're going to be acquired or even bigger studios.And how this this whole strategy is transforming the industry."
"Yeah, I mean, if something becomes super successful, it's going to be, you know, the studio that made that super successful thing is going to get calls from bigger corporations.In fact, there was a company called ID Software and they did Doom, the original Doom.And if you phone them up, this is back in the day when we had when we had answer phones, you know, you'd be on the phone and it would say, press one to speak to development, press two to speak to the office manager, press three if you're looking to acquire the company."
"And if you press three, they just all shouted, fuck off. And, you know, as an as an independent, I think you've got to, you know, I've sold my company twice.You've got to think to yourself, well, you know, if I'm really fascinated in seeing where the thing I've created can go, then maybe being acquired by by a bigger corporation is the right thing for you to do.But I'm still fascinated in exploring new ideas. Then I think that's harder to do in big companies. So I would say that any successful company is going to be is going to be going to be looked at by by big corporations."
"If you've if you have got the luxury of not having to sell your company, then ask yourself what you want to be within this newly acquired company. And lastly, it's always a shame to me there was relatively few European European corporations that can stand up to the might of Japan, China and America when it comes to acquiring other companies.What about the mega acquisitions in terms of, for example, the Activision, the Bungie is the.Yeah, I'm going to be completely. I don't really quite understand the motivation behind that. It seems like a huge amount of effort they're going to. And, you know, as far as I'm concerned, I'm just asking myself one simple question."
"Is it going to make the games that are going to be coming out of Microsoft and Activision especially better? If the answer is yet definitively yes, then go for it. But if you know, I don't Microsoft and Activision haven't really been clear about what they're trying to achieve by doing this because it feels like an enormous amount of effort.But, yeah, I mean, you know, Disney bought Pixar and and, you know, I think Pixar still carried on. We all thought that Sky was going to fall in and Disney was going to ruin Pixar, but they're still creating charming movies. So mega, mega mergers can can work just as well. They can go equally bad as well."
"What happens if I dial 22 cans phone right now?There's no there's no answer. In fact, there is no we have no phone. We don't even have one. So, yeah.All right. I think that's, you know, thank you so much for your time, Peter. It's always a pleasure to speak with you and hopeful to see you again in a few months. Thank you.Definitely. Thank you."