Peter Molyneux is nothing if not honest. While you can ridicule him all you like for his over enthusiastic marketing and hype, he genuinely believes in his team and their work, even if his passion sometimes blinds him to stone cold facts. Case in point; Fable 3. The third title in Microsoft's morality-infused role-player didn't hit the same sort of critical heights as its predecessors - Carl awarded it a 7 - and Molyneux admits he was "pretty ashamed" by Lionhead's final product.
In an interview with Gamasutra, Molyneux begins by explaining that Fable 3 was the first title Lionhead ever completed in two years. Used to three, four year development cycles, less than half of that forced the team to adopt a new approach. And as such, the game itself suffered. "That is one of the things that we're changing," reveals Molyneux, "that is just such an old school way of working".
As with every game Lionhead has developed, the most crucial part of development is near the end, when the team sits down and decides what to cut and what to keep. One of Fable 3's key features - the ruling aspect where, as king or queen of Albion, you act as monarch of the kingdom itself - was heavily cut down, according to Molyneux. "The edit was very harsh and hard to actually make the game fit".
And while Fable 3 sold very, very well - five million units and counting - Molyneux admits the critical reception - which numbers in the high 80s - upset him deeply. "I know I probably should say it's a great game just respective of whatever it was, but the Metacritic score was sort of low-'80s," explains Molyneux. "I think I'm pretty ashamed of that, to be honest, and I take that on my own shoulders, not the team's shoulders. I think that, when you have something like that, which you can feel as a kick in the teeth, you have to pick yourself up and fight even harder".
He goes on to explain that features like Fable 3's abstract levelling design - where you traverse a mystical road, each level achieved represented by a door opened and chests plundered - suffered as a result of Lionhead's ambition not being properly executed, thanks to not enough time and not-so-refined development process. That's all changed now; Lionhead has adopted a new strategy for prototyping and implementing features like this, and Molyneux is - as ever - very excited about it. "We've spent a long time thinking about that and doing our research on how you can have a creatively-led production process and how you can take the complete randomness out of the way that a lot of ideas are developed and evolved".
Next up for Fable is The Journey, a Kinect title that, contrary to reports, is not on the rails. Molyneux couldn't be any more insistent on that matter. [Gamasutra]