Tuesday, March 07, 2006


This happened late last week. From Eurogamer
British developer Lionhead has confirmed industry rumours of layoffs at its studios in Surrey, with the company's headcount being cut from 250 to 200 in the wake of poor performance of recent PC titles.

The cutbacks are also believed to spell the end of some of the company's current projects, with studio founder Peter Molyneux telling staff on Friday that only two projects, both for next-generation platforms, will be staying on the roster.

It's a very popular pasttime to rip Peter Molyneux. Like I've said before, though, I'd rather play a Molyneux game that fails than most games that succeed. Yes, he overpromises, but who doesn't? Everyone promises the moon--to a large degree, that's the nature of the hype cycle.

Here's why Peter Molyneux should receive huge amounts of respect. Take a look at his original games since 1990:
--The Movies (2005)
--Fable (2004)
--Black & White (2001)
--Dungeon Keeper (1997)
--Theme Hospital (1997)
--Theme Park (1994)
--Magic Carpet (1994)
--Syndicate (1993)

In comparison, look at Sid Meier, who is almost univerally beloved:
--Sim Golf (2002)
--Alpha Centauri (1999)
--Gettysburg (1997)
--Colonization (1994)
--Civilization (1991)

I liked Sim Golf (except for the craptacular 800x600 max resolution), but it was a "B side." Essentially, Sid's made four new games in fifteen years. Molyneux's made twice that number, and while it's certainly fair to say that Black & White failed, it was a brilliant concept that just didn't work out.

I have complete respect for Sid Meier, and he makes brilliant games, but he never takes chances. Somebody has to, though, and I think that's Molyneux.

We're a strange lot, really. We constantly complain about there not being any original ideas, or unique games, but when somebody makes an original game, we stay away from it in droves. We expect the same level of polish and nuance from a new franchise as we do from a game that's in its third or fourth iteration. So Molyneux's made this long series of quirky, creative games, and particularly in the last few years, it seems that fewer and fewer people still care.

I think the one thing that Molyneux should have done was work with Introversion (the makers of Uplink and the sensational Darwinia). No one reminds me more of a "young Molyneux" than these guys, and it would have been an absolutely perfect creative match. Mentoring some of the most creative developers in the software industry would have resulted in a brilliant collaboration, and I only hope he recognizes that someday.

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