Interview: Peter Molyneux opens up about Fable 2

GR: But despite all that, you were still confident enough to come out with that "9 out of 10" comment the other day...

PM: I didn't say that! I never said that. We don't know where that came from. I mean if I had said something like that, I don't know what would have possessed me to. It must have been early-onset Alzheimer's or something. [laughs] I don't know why I would say "9 out of 10". That's not like me. Normally I say "We're going to create the best game ever".

GR: Nine out of ten would have been a bit of a downgrade. But we do seem to have a much more happy and confident Peter Molyneux coming up to release than we normally do.

PM: Yeah, the reason I'm so happy and confident this time is that I've realised that it's better to not talk about features. There are going to be some real surprises in Fable 2. I mean I haven't begun to talk about how all the features interact. I haven't talked about all the jobs and how they react, and what happens, and how you get famous. There's loads that I haven't talked about. I haven't talked at all about the story, because I want you to discover that.

It's so next time you see me, you don't say "You said that bastard oak tree and acorns would be in the game!" [laughs] Next time we meet, you're going to say "Why didn't you tell me about this? Because it's really fantastic"

GR: Has that realisation come about purely through your own experiences, or have you been watching the way pre-release marketing's going these days? Obviously you've always done it through enthusiasm, but there seems to be a trend of being forced to talk up a game for a long time before release now.

PM: I'm not a PR person. I know that might sound like the complete opposite of what your perception is, but all I am is a kid showing off. What the press hasn't realised is that I'm just a big kid showing off, and you've got to treat me like that. You know, you don't make big kids accountable.

But that realisation that I had is that firstly, amazingly, people listen to what I say, and that secondly, I've just got to stop shooting my mouth off until I can actually prove it. At the end of Fable 1 I wrote that apology, and I really, really meant that. And there was Peter Molyneux talking to the press before that letter and there's Peter Molyneux talking to the press after that letter. And I've really tried to change what I say and the way I say it and the importance of what I'm saying, and I hope that people see that.

GR: One of the big ideas of Fable 2 is that of making it accessible to everyone. Everyone's banging on about accessibility in games these days, but a lot do seem to confuse simplicity with lack of content. What sort of mistakes and misperceptions about their audience do you think some of those developers are making?

PM: I think the first thing is that if you're going to make a game which is accessible and which draws people in, you've got to start from the beginning. That doesn't mean giving people a three-times bigger health bar. It doesn't mean making sure that when you're in a battle that you always win. It doesn't mean that. It means thinking about that word "accessibility". That led to co-op really. Because it was "How can we bring more people into the Fable world?".

And we really went through this bizarre scenario. Imagine if you're playing at home and your girlfriend is badgering you all the time not to play. Wouldn't it be great to have a game you could play with her? Because then you can carry on playing the game and not get beaten up for it. We went through this whole scenario, even down to the point where we had these pictures on the walls. [laughs]

And that feature's there, and the whole pacing of the start of the game is sculpted because we don't want to frighten people away. And as you go through Fable 2, I think you realise that we don't force you to do anything. Everything is at your pace. That's why the breadcrumb trail is there. Most people think they're going to hate the breadcrumb trail and they end up loving it. It's great because it's there, but the longer you spend away from it, the more it just fades away. But the second you turn around and start following it again, it glows up again, and that means that the casual gamers who will spend three, four, five six hours in [the city of] Bowerstone just messing around don't feel guilty for doing that. And that is a problem in a lot of games.

It's a really interesting thing about [the decision we made about] the Teresa character reminding you about stuff. In the end we said "She's not going to remind you". Because the reminder, you know the conventional thing in games where you decide that every fifteen seconds she should say "Go to Oakfield! Go to Oakfield!", after a while you end up hating this woman. She makes you feel bad. She makes you feel like she's a school teacher saying "Play time's over! Play time's over!"

GR: Like Navi all over again.

PM: And that is all feeding into accessibility. Make sure that people don't feel guilty and bad about the things that they want to do. Make sure that you reward them for doing that. But the second that they want to get back on the road again...

GR: Given the huge amount of moral freedom in Fable 2 and the fact that you've got freedom to have same-sex couples in it as well, do you see yourselves coming in for any of the same sort of flack that Rockstar often gets in America? Like the kind of problems they had with Bully?

PM: I hope not. I mean we've had to defend that same-sex stuff, because I think a lot of people felt more comfortable for us to take it out. You can look at it being in the game and say it's an enriching thing - and hopefully that's how society will see it - or you can look at it and say it's gratuitous. Any aspect of life is like that.

I wanted it to be in good taste. Even though it's a mature-rated game I'm proud to say that my son plays it and he's five years old. We don't show any bodily fluids.

And you know, it's been done in the best possible taste. Most of it takes place in your mind. To be honest with you, I felt that we should have stuck by our guns, and we should have said "Tasteful, erotic stuff in computer games is something that we shouldn't not have". It's insane that we don't have that. When was the last time we watched an action film that didn't have some sort of sexual content?

GR: And there it usually is just gratuitous filler.

PM: Yeah. Exactly.

After three hours with Lionhead's sequel, we tell you why Peter Molyneux might really, finally have cracked it this time

What's it like when several years of work are met with bad reviews and internet snark?