Editorial: The Mad Man Behind the Curtain

Your mother's in here, Che!

I love it when demons possess him and he starts spewing barley soup.

What ho and hail, Lusipeople!

My oh my what an exciting week! Amid the din of the internet hordes slowly migrating away from the Xbox release and towards whatever controversy strikes their ire next, a news story popped up unexpectedly. Some may have even heard it before now. Yes, Peter Molyneux’s Curiosity had been defeated and laid in the dirt, the champion hailed as the new king God in Molyneux’s next game. The most common reactions seem to vary from disgust to genuine surprise, as is typical of any news article related to Molyneux. The man is, after all, utterly insane.

Which is why I am absolutely in love with him.

I love his weird British accent. I love how he holds his hands like a Tyrannosaurus Rex when he speaks about his ideas. I love his shiny yet always enticing head. I love the way he prances about in a maid’s outfit, sprinkling candy canes and lemon drops over my head…er, hold up. That only happened in my dreams, but I love it nonetheless! As a force of personality, Peter Molyneux is one of the greatest things to happen to gaming since gamification courses started at Arkham Asylum.

Of course, it goes without saying that most of his games are mediocre if not terrible. Populous and the Black & White series are two shining exceptions, but for the most part I agree that his games are underwhelming at best. The Fable series hardly revolutionized the video game industry, although I suppose we could credit it for being the first time the dog was more entertaining than the main character. My point is that Molyneux is hardly gaming’s greatest designer. He is, however, a wonderful person that I wish could be the face of gaming. He is the true believer. He is the hype man. He is the Flavor Flav to gaming’s Public Enemy.

That way the players can clearly see they need to invest their stocks in Oil in order to progress past the Huffalump intestinal level.

Nonononono, we want to put the Zebra mimes next to the gumdrop death traps.

See, the first step in understanding the Molyneux is to accept that, on some level, he actually believes what he is saying. Nobody else does, mind. Even his wife and kids have permanently tempered their expectations about everything he says. But Molyneux maintains an endearing, unyielding sense of optimism that allows him to truly believe in what other people might dismiss as crazy talk. This is the man who famously claimed that trees would age in real time in his game; of course, it failed to happen, but who else would try and do that? Molyneux has effectively adapted the improvisational adage “yes, and” into video game design. While his ideas either fail to be incorporated into the game or fail to buoy the game’s metacritic score when included, I cannot help but admire the scope and seeming randomness of those ideas. This is the guy who put STD mechanics into an action/adventure game! Why? Why not?!

This admiration is also why I tend to gravitate towards the positive reception camp with regards to Molyneux’s prize for Curiosity. The experiment-cum-game never reached the worldwide phenomena status Molyneux openly hoped for,* but I find it hard to argue that making the rules and earning a cut in a game that is just over 15,000 preorders while still in development is not somewhat life changing. Plus, who ever would have thought giving game-breaking powers to a random player based on no criteria beyond the random fun of random was a good idea? Nobody, that is who. Nobody but Peter Molyneux.

The ironic bit is that this is a game devoted to trains.

A moment of calm in the tempest of Peter.

Peter Molyneux, as a person, is simply bold and entertaining. Naturally we have learned to not take his word for it when it comes to promising features in games, but can we not admire the features he would like to see? Or the optimism that thought those things were possible? He is the baseball batter who refuses to aim for the stars but instead aims for Jupiter, Mars, or the Prius parked beside the McDonalds across the street. Yes, yes, he still seems to strike out every time he swings, but who would not be impressed if he managed to actually hit what he was aiming for? And who can deny that he picks things to aim at that very few developers of his clout are willing to try? For all the praise I lavished on Bioshock: Infinite, I cannot deny that Levine played it mighty safe from a mechanical perspective. If Molyneux had been in charge of that product, I have no doubt we would have seen a gameplay mechanic in which we must impregnate the right set of people at the right times to ensure the birth of George Washington. Because why not.

So what about you, Lusipurr readers? Are there any developers whom you acknowledge as terrible but nonetheless earn your love? Any deep, dark secrets held in your closets that you hide from your gaming friends? Share with us in our comments! Only we will know. Well…us and Peter…because Peter always knows…

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*Possibly because the only way for Curiosity to have made it on the nightly news in this cultural climate would have been if some crazy man stabbed people while screaming “I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS IN THE CUBE!”

9 comments on “Editorial: The Mad Man Behind the Curtain”

  1. “If Molyneux had been in charge of that product, I have no doubt we would have seen a gameplay mechanic in which we must impregnate the right set of people at the right times to ensure the birth of George Washington.”

    He would say that, then the game would actually just include some banal fetch questing ending in a choice where you either let Washington’s mother live or push her off a cliff. MORALITY SYSTEM!

    And I can’t say I really know of any developers like this to fit the question of the article. Maybe Suda51 and his bizzar-o Killer 7. I enjoyed that nonsense a lot. (There actually IS a plot to that game beyond random BS, it’s just presented in a ridiculous way AND includes some actual nonsense)

  2. Suda51, to me, is what Peter Molyneux could be if we squinted our eyes and he (PM) actually delivered on half of what he imagined. While I haven’t had the chance to play a Suda51 game, from everything I’ve heard and seen they are experiences to behold.

    That’s something I’d personally like to see a lot more of. While it’s seemingly easier to find creative footprints in the film and television mediums, Video Games often lack any clearly centered visions – at the very least by comparison. One could argue that it’s easy to tell you’re playing a Levine or Kojima game, though I wonder if that’s more a staple of the series than the intentions of the developers themselves. Suda51 is perhaps the only developer (that I can think of) who has jumped from IP to IP and brought his own unique brand of awesomeness.

  3. What might be more surprising is how molyneux keeps getting more chances to be a total letdown. Why do guys like this get all the opportunities?!?

  4. While I never held much interest in the later games, I did play Black and White and remembered it quite fondly.

    Say what you will about the man, he dreams big and even if those dreams hardly ever become a reality, he still doesn’t stop dreaming big. He’s like the Walt Disney that has yet to meet any large scale success, but never gives up on those crazy ideas of his.

    And I, for one, am grateful that such crazy people like himself, and Suda51, exist. We need more of the eccentric people with unusual ideas paired with the pragmatic people that can make those ideas work.

    It would certainly go further than the dudebro shooters calling having a dog companion ‘innovation’ when it’s already been done before, also by Peter, but still. I know it’s a stretch, but I just wanted to add a dig at the XBone and the dudebro shooters.

  5. To my mind Suda hit a creative high point with Killer 7 that he hasn’t really been able to come close to with No More Heroes.

    I want to like the NMH games, but they’re just a series of button-mashy melee levels which each lead into a boss fight. Rinse and repeat. *Blech*

  6. @SN: I guess you liked the combat in killer7 then? I felt that got pretty repetitive at times. But I’ve never played the no more heroes games. I’ve watched LPs though.

  7. I guess that the combat could be considered just as repetitive by some, but the inclusion of seven different characters added variety, and, more importantly, the levels were far less uniformly structured.

  8. Of course, the major difference may simply have been Shinji Mikami’s involvement…

  9. Yeah, switching between the different members was pretty cool. And Mikami definitely added a Resident Evil flavor to it, with the nature of the puzzles and key items. I really did like that game.

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