Peter Molyneux is a visionary game designer who gets excited and overhypes his upcoming games, which inevitably fail to meet the impossible expectations he has set. Video game fans have known this about Molyneux for some time. Either you forgive him for it or you disdain him for it—by now, anyone who cares has settled into one camp or the other.
Molyneux casts his lot with the latter bunch in an interview with Develop this week. After referring to Fable III—the last numbered entry in his role-playing game series—as a “train wreck,” Molyneux told Develop that he really needs to stop talking up his games before they’re finished:
I just shouldn’t get so excited in front of the press. There’s an empirical decay between what the idea is in your mind and what you end up with, no matter what creative field you’re working in. I talk to a lot of creative people and they’re often disappointed in their own work.
That’s a poignant observation, and one that hits close to home—Molyneux is certainly disappointed in his own work. If the “train wreck” judgment seems harsh, it’s worth considering it in context, as postpartum malaise is another essential ingredient of the Molyneux psyche. In the Develop chat, Molyneux says that Fable II “was a step in the right direction,” but when he was promoting Fable III in 2010, the developer told a GamesRadar reporter that Fable II was “rubbish.”
How far back does Molyneux extend his disregard for his own work? Well, the original Fable became its own source of sorrow for the designer. Back in 2004, he issued an official apology for Fable’s shortcomings—namely, for all those features that he said would be in the game but didn’t make it to the final product. And Molyneux even casts a jaundiced eye toward Populous, the “god game” with which he first made a name for himself. At the Game Developers Conference in 2011, Molyneux attributed some of the game’s most notable design elements to his own programming “incompetence.”
With the benefit of Kickstarter funding, Molyneux is now working on Godus, a spiritual successor to Populous. Read the full Develop interview to find out why Peter Molyneux thinks Godus will be “delicious” and potentially “glorious.” Then wait a few years and read another interview to find out why Peter Molyneux thinks Godus is shit.