Yesterday Peter Molyneux apologised for Godus again, this time blaming the pressures of the game’s high profile crowdfunding campaign for its failings. The urge to over-promise in order to reach a Kickstarter goal in time, he says, is incredibly destructive.
But of course, Molyneux is no stranger to these urges. He’s been over-promising since long before crowdfunding was even a thing. That’s his “jam” and it’s what makes him so delightful. He is comically ambitious, an unerringly passionate ouroboros of promises and sadness that we should treasure forever.
Anyway, here’s an interview with him that never happened. One that might just shed light on the man’s peculiar and consistent tendency to inflate the qualities of the thing he’s making. Oh-hoo!
“I’ve put on quite the spread,” giggled Molyneux as he galloped a few paces ahead of me, occasionally twirling on the spot and beckoning me to follow, like an excited dog. “Yes, we can conduct our interview just down here, in the opulent banquet hall that I have set up just for this very occasion. Oh it’s a spectacular room. Just wonderful, like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
The revered Bullfrog alumnus and creator of strategy flop Godus had agreed to an exclusive interview during GDC, the largest gathering of games developers in the world, as long as we could talk somewhere discreet and out of the way. So I clutched my dictaphone and followed him eagerly through the convention hall’s winding corridors. The mastermind behind Black & White seemed to know exactly where he was going.
“It’s just down here on the left,” Molyneux barked, his voice now quivering with excitement as he barreled around yet another corner. I was having to jog to keep up. “It’s probably the biggest room I’ve ever seen. Wait, yes, it definitely is. And it definitely exists. And it’s filled with… ehh,” the creator of Populous stopped in his tracks and looked thoughtful for a second, panning his eyes around the corridor until they fell on an oil-painting of a proud shire horse.
“Yes. The room has a horse in it,” he declared with all the confidence of a man who pioneered the god game genre, before resuming his triumphant march towards the room’s entrance. “And the horse knows what you’re thinking. And the horse has a big smile. In fact, he’ll probably smile at you as soon as you walk into the room. Because you look like you’re a happy person. Yes, I think the horse will like that.”
I nodded politely at Molyneux and followed him into the banquet hall. There was no horse. There was no banquet hall. Instead we had entered a small, dark broom cupboard stacked high with boxes and mops. A heady whiff of cleaning chemicals filled my nostrils as I felt around the dusty wall for a lightswitch.
A single glowing bulb illuminated Molyneux as he upturned a yellow bucket and sat down on it with a grin. He didn’t seem fazed at all. “Fire away,” he began, throwing his hands into the air. “I’m an open book.”
“Look,” interrupted Molyneux, leaning forwards on his bucket. “Here’s the thing. I’m going to be very honest with you now. There are lessons to be learned in my line of work, hard lessons about horses. You talk about horses and rooms and," Molyneux pinched the bridge of his nose. "Well, people’s imaginations run away with them. They suddenly have some fantastic notion of what this horse is capable of, and they conjure up the splendour of the room in which this horse supposedly lives. Even though I never said the horse lives in the room, just that he was there."
“Now you might rightly ask," Molyneux continued, "is there a horse in this room, like I said there would be? And I could tell you one of two things. One: no, the horse isn’t in the room, but he’s coming. I just got a phone call and the horse is on his way and will be here very shortly. He’s eager to read your mind, to leaf through your consciousness like you or I would leaf through a phonebook. Or two: just forget the horse thing, because I’ve been working on something even better.”
Molyneux craned his long arms behind his head and picked up a cardboard box without breaking eye contact. “I’ve invented something brilliant and it’s inside this box, Steven.”
I switched off my dictaphone and stood up to leave.
“What’s inside this box could change your life forever,” Molyneux continued, his eyes becoming wet, “and all I ask is that you please believe in me and respect me.”
I opened the door of the cupboard and stepped outside.
“My uncle works for Sony and I’ve got a PlayStation 5 with all the games,” Molyneux shouted after me desperately. But it was too late. I wouldn't let him hurt me again.