UPDATE: Shortly after this article was published, Rock Paper Shotgun published their own interview with Molyneux. It makes for genuinely uncomfortable reading.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: It’s been a rough old week for Peter Molyneux. The industry veteran, who effectively invented the God Game genre in 1989 with the groundbreaking Populous before going on to create a string of classics like Dungeon Keeper, Theme Hospital, and Fable, has seen his reputation in tatters.
It began a couple of weeks ago, when news that his current prokect, Godus, had suffered severe staff cutbacks as 22cans diverts resources to new game The Trail. A damning assessment of Godus came from the game’s new lead, Konrad Naszynski, on the developers’ official forum – stating that the game was nowhere near meeting the goals outlined in the original Kickstarter pitch, and perhaps never would. This was followed by a hasty confirmation – and trademark humble apology – from Molyneux.
But the worst came on Wednesday when popular UK gaming site Eurogamer published an interview with Bryan Henderson, the young chap who “won” Curiosity and was promptly promised fame, possible fortune, and a pivotal role in shaping what was then called Project Godus. Unfortunately, those early promises led to naught but a string of unreplied emails and Bryan was left, much to his disappointment, forgotten by the very man who had promised to change his life forever.
The reaction from both the gaming community and the wider gaming press was immediate, and intense. Molyneux has long been known for making promises he then later fails to honor – remember the fiasco around Fable‘s acorn? – but this was a case of his promises affecting far more than merely missing game features and review scores. It wasn’t helped when, last night, indie publisher Devolver Digital revealed that Bryan would be appearing as a “God” in upcoming side-scroller Not A Hero.
Today, an “exclusive” interview with UK newspaper The Guardian saw Molyneux laying down what appears to be a final, regret-filled promise – that he will never speak to the press again about any of his current or future projects.
Why the quote marks around the word exclusive? Because, in a particularly ironic twist, it turns out that Molyneux gave the exact same interview to at least two other press outlets: Rock Paper Shotgun and another, unnamed, gaming site – just hours apart from each other.
Rock Paper Shotgun hasn’t (yet) published the result of the interview they conducted with the industry veteran, so we only have the interview with The Guardian to go by; but reading it is simultaneously depressing and makes you wonder how a man seemingly so aware of his own flaws continues to make the same mistakes time and time again, only on a far grander scale.
[pullquote]”People get so frustrated with me, so much so that they’ve threatened me, they’ve threatened my family and it just cannot go on, it really can’t”[/pullquote], he’s reported as saying to Guardian journalist Laura Kate Dale over a Skype conversation. “I think I’ll get this over and done with, I’ll answer some of the things backers are saying, but after that I feel the best thing I can do is just ….”
The tone throughout the Guardian piece presents Molyneux – who was awarded an OBE in 2004 by the Queen of England for services to the videogame industry – as a broken man. At points, he comes across as bordering on suicidal.
This is a very different Molyneux from the one we’re used to – the man who, despite his many failures over the years – is more used to appearing as an energetic, enthusiastic dreamer, someone who is animated when speaking in public about his ideas; but as with many dreamers, reality often hits home, and Molyneux has become increasingly beset by both a sceptical audience and scrutiny into his practices over the years, to the degree where many have simply ceased to listen to him.
Molyneux isn’t retiring from the games industry – his current home at 22cans, which he founded, is still continuing, still laboring on Godus, and of course he’s still working on his next project. And this isn’t the first time that he has promised to stop talking, stop making promises, and just get on with things. But with the weight of the negative publicity he’s currently facing thanks to recent headlines, it’s honestly hard to believe that he can ever hope to repair his reputation in the eyes of the gaming community.