Shedding light on The Movies

Lionhead's Peter Molyneux answers our questions on The Movies.

Peter Molyneux spent a good portion of last week locked in a small room on the French Riviera. His mission: to expose the latest builds of both Fable and BC to attendees of the Microsoft-produced XO3 event.

While much of the spotlight there focused on these two titles, we distracted Molyneux briefly from these tasks and asked for an update on The Movies, an Activision-published title tentatively due next year. Molyneux kindly indulged our request.

GameSpot: We've seen the PC version of The Movies on a number of occasions now, but how is development of the console versions progressing?

Peter Molyneux: The core concept of the game is the same for all platforms, but the design of the interface is obviously different for the console version. Also, as we have found that console gamers prefer challenges that are well-defined and shorter than those you might find in PC games, it is something we are addressing at the moment. That said, currently, if you were to just look at all the different versions you would see very few differences at this stage.

GS: How are you managing your time, given you have three substantial projects in the works? Do you have a favorite project? And are you already focusing on your next, post BC/Fable/Movies project?

PM: At the moment I'm actually overseeing four projects: Fable, BC, The Movies, and Black & White II. At the moment I'm spending the majority of my time on Fable, but I still try to spend an afternoon a week with the teams working on Black & White II, The Movies, and BC.

I don't have a favorite as that's like saying you have favorite child. Once Fable is finished I'll move on to spend more time on Black & White II. Work has started on another secret project, but it is so far out there's now way I'm going to tell you anything about it yet.

GS: Were you exposed to any brilliant games, new ideas, or sharp personalities at XO3? What caught your eye that you can tell us about?

PM: Well, unfortunately, at all of these events I'm locked in a small room doing demos of my games to the press, and so I seldom get the chance to check out other games, but I did get the chance to play about with Top Spin which I thought has the makings of a great tennis game. And, of course, I was blown away by the fabulous graphics of Ninja Gaiden, and then, of course, Halo 2 is looking very good indeed.

GS: How different is the latest build of The Movies compared to what you originally envisioned the game being? Can you give us any examples of changes that have been implemented during development?

PM: The Movies, so far, has deviated very little from my original vision for the game. We still have to decide how to handle some aspects of the game, but the game is really very much as I first envisioned it.

GS: We've heard that players will actually be able to make mini-movies rather than movie trailers, as was originally planned. Can you tell us what the difference is and how this affects gameplay?

PM: Actually, you can make both. For mini-movies, you can add your own soundtrack and record you own dialogue--and then send these to your friends and put them on the Internet for all to see. Trailers can be used to market your movie and are created from the mini-movie.

GS: How will sequels be dealt with in The Movies? Do you see them as a positive or a negative side of the movie industry?

PM: Sequels have had mixed fortunes in the history of the movie industry. There have been times when they have been frowned upon and times when there seems to be nothing else released--with sequels outperforming the original in both box office receipts and critical acclaim. So, in the game, the success of a sequel will depend on when you decide to make it, and, secondly, how it compares to the original. It's up to the gamer whether they make a Terminator 3 or a Highlander 2.

GS: Since The Movies is being designed to be expandable, will you be encouraging players to develop their own add-ons for the game?

PM: This is definitely something we want to do. We will make every attempt to support the mod community as much as possible.

GS: Simulated worlds are a feature of most of your games. To what extent will the world in The Movies go about its business if the player does nothing? For example, in Fable and BC, other heroes or dinosaurs apparently go about leading their lives regardless of what the player does. The player could effectively just stand and watch, especially in BC. We have to wonder if characters in The Movies will form relationships with each other or perform their jobs regardless of input from the player.

PM: In some ways you've answered the question for me. Yes, absolutely. Your studio will continue to run without any input from you. Stars will continue to have affairs, femme fatales will try to seduce the crew, and if you don't use your stars enough, they'll develop drinking problems or look for other jobs. It is fundamental for me that any game world we create has to have a life of its own.

GS: Can you describe your working relationship with Activision? Hand on or hands off?

PM: If you want to make a superior game, you have to have a great partnership with a publisher. In times like these there is no way we can behave like prima donnas. It is far better if we work together, hand in hand. I know this sounds very sugar-coated, but it really is the only way to work together.

GS: How demanding is the task of creating and managing the business of Lionhead Studios? Do the demands of creating games obscure other nongaming elements of your life? Do the light of day and the moon shine in past the drawn curtains? Do you stargaze, take weekends in the country, go on bike trips, or maybe sit down with a good trashy novel on occasion? Or is it all games, all the time?

PM: I have a great team of people who help me run Lionhead, so I can concentrate with the teams on making great games. This means that I normally dedicate mornings to business matters and the afternoon and evenings to game design. I know I'm really lucky to be in the position to make any game design I like. Well, within reason.

There are mornings when I'll come bouncing into the office, like Tigger out of Winnie the Pooh, and excitedly tell everyone the game idea I've had--only to be told it's total rubbish! At the risk of sounding boring, games are my passion, and when I'm not thinking about them, I'm often playing them. And I love board games too!

GS: Thank you, Peter.

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