14
Jan
08

Peter Molyneux

Peter Douglas Molyneux OBE (born 5 May 1959 in Guildford, Surrey, UK) is a computer game designer and game programmer, responsible for well known “God games” Dungeon Keeper, Populous and Black & White, among others, as well as “Business Strategy” games such as Theme Park and most recently, The Movies. In August 1997 Peter left Bullfrog Productions to establish a new development team, Lionhead Studios. Molyneux was inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame in 2004 and was honoured with an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list announced on 31 December 2004. He was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in March 2007.

Lauded as one of the world’s most brilliant and inventive game developers, Molyneux has nevertheless acquired a reputation for issuing over-enthusiastic descriptions of games under development, which are found to be somewhat less ambitious when released. The most well-known case of this was with the game Fable, released in 2004 without many of the features talked about by Molyneux in press interviews during development. After the release, Molyneux publicly apologized for overhyping the game[1]. His role has also changed from designer and developer to more of a publicist and executive producer role. Though credited in part for lending his name to several recent projects, Molyneux is in fact not the principal designer of Fable, The Movies, or Black & White 2.

On the 6th of April 2006, Lionhead Studios was bought by Microsoft and now forms part of the Microsoft Game Studios. At E3 2006 Peter Molyneux gave several interviews in the press, in which he stated that “now his Lionhead Studios is part of Microsoft, they’re more independent than when they were an independent developer[2].

In July 2007 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Southampton.

Peter Molyneux began his career in 1982 by distributing and selling floppy discs which contained video games for Atari and the Commodore 64. The company was called Tauras, which was founded by Molyneux in 1982. Little did he know, there was another company named Touras, only with an “o” instead of an “a”. Molyneux figured this out when a computer company mistook his software for the other company’s in 1983. However, Molyneux pretended he was the manager of that company after what he calls a “devil and angel” experience, with the two opposing forces on either side of his shoulders telling him to either tell the truth or pretend to be the other company. He decided to lie about being the president of Touras in order to earn extra money, although this eventually got him into trouble the following year[citation needed]. After only two years, Molyneux’s company Tauras declared bankruptcy in 1984. He would later remark on this experience with the Good Angel and Bad Devil material in Black & White.

In 1984, Molyneux began working independently after hearing about the popularity of video games, without realizing that that same year was “The video game crash of 1983” – the year when bad video games flooded the market. In spite of this, the computer video game industry was still doing fine, so that’s when Molyneux decided to go into video game programming. His first attempt was a game called The Entrepreneur, which was a simulation game about managing money and starting businesses.

At that point, the simulation game was a very rare genre that wasn’t well known in a time when you could succeed in programming a game about stick figures. Molyneux thought his new idea would revolutionize the video game industry. He told his postman that he was expecting a lot of fan mail as soon as the game was released. Unfortunately, The Entrepreneur didn’t give him the success he wanted; instead he received just two letters from his mother congratulating him on his new video game. The game had only sold two copies, which of course were purchased by his mother. After 1984, Molyneux went back to the computer industry to create more floppy discs.

It wasn’t until 1987 that he decided to re-approach the video game industry with the foundation of the company Bullfrog.

In this period, Peter worked with David Hanlon, Simon Hunter (game sound developers), and Andrew E. Bailey (game programming) on games like Druid and Dragons Breath.

Games

Pre-Bullfrog

  • The Entrepreneur (1984) (Designer/Programmer)

Bullfrog Productions

  • Fusion (1987) (Designer/Programmer)
  • Populous (1989) (Designer/Programmer)
  • Powermonger (1990) (Designer/Programmer)
  • Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods (1991) (Designer/Programmer)
  • Syndicate (1993) (Producer)
  • Theme Park (1994) (Project Leader/Lead Programmer)
  • Magic Carpet (1994) (Executive Producer)
  • Hi-Octane (1995) (Executive Producer)
  • Gene Wars (1996)
  • Dungeon Keeper (1997) (Project Leader/Designer)

Lionhead Studios

  • Black & White (2001) (Concept/Design Leader/Programmer)
  • Fable (2004) (Designer)
  • Fable: The Lost Chapters (2005) (Designer)
  • The Movies (2005) (Executive Designer)
  • Black & White 2 (2005) (Lead Designer)
  • The Movies: Stunts & Effects (2006) (Executive Designer)
  • Black and White: Battle of the Gods (2006) (Lead Designer)

In development

  • Fable 2
  • Black and White 3
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