It's fair to say that Peter Molyneux is a polarising figure in the world of video games. In the '80s and '90s, he was lauded as one of the most important game designers in the world thanks to titles such as Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet, Black & White and Fable – but he has, throughout his career, been accused of over-promising on projects, ultimately leading to disappointment from players.
Such was the vitriol directed at Molyneux that he famously stated that he was done doing interviews – another promise he failed to keep, but one we personally don't mind him breaking. He's recently spoken to Simon Parkin on the excellent My Perfect Console podcast, and the topic of his excitable nature during press interviews naturally crops up.
"I would be in an interview like with you, with a journalist, and they would ask me a question, and I think, 'that's a really good idea', and I'd say, yes, yes – we're gonna have flying pigs'" he says. "Because I was thinking I was designing the game as I was talking to the press, that's what we're talking about here... in today's world, that is total insanity."
In Molyneux's eyes, his passion for game design was too often mistaken for simply telling fibs and over-promising. "I am someone who just leaps into the fight, whether it's creating a computer game or a business – without really much thought of risks or what the problems were. And for me, doing press interviews back then was all about showing the passion that you had for a game, the passion for the thing that you were creating. And what I should have said in the interview is 'look, everything I say, take the pinch of salt and, you know, may not end up [in the game]'. I may not even tell the rest of the team about it."
Indeed, Molyneux admits that, on more than one occasion, him telling a journalist about a feature was the first time his staff had heard about it. "When I used to go back after interviews, a lot of the team members would say, well, Peter, we didn't know that we're gonna have this feature in the game until they read it in the press," he admits.
"It was atrocious, and I have an enormous amount of regret for it. I feel remorse for what I did. But, you know, I think one of the jobs back then was to show the world how amazing [the game] was. The design process was making these games which never existed before; back in the nineties and 2000s, we were creating genres almost every year – and when you created something, it was an act of true invention, and it's easy to get yourself lost in the passion."
Molyneux also admits that his overexcitable pitches did have sinister repercussions. "I have had death threats," he explains. No matter what your opinion is of the 22cans boss, sending him a threat against his life should hopefully feel a little extreme to any right-minded person.
Elsewhere in the interview – which is well worth a listen – Molyneux reveals that he and his team have just begun work on a new project, but we won't be hearing anything about it for some time. It seems like Molyneux really has turned over a new leaf.