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Peter Douglas Molyneux, OBE (/ˈmɒlɪnjuː/; born 5 May 1959) is an English video game designer and programmer. He created the god games Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Black & White as well as Theme Park, the Fable series and Curiosity – What's Inside the Cube? His new studio 22Cans currently works on Godus.
Peter Molyneux began his career in 1982 by distributing and selling floppy disks which contained video games for Atari and the Commodore 64. He believed that including games on the disks would improve sales, and later decided that the games were the main selling point.
He created The Entrepreneur, a text-based business simulation game about running a fledgling company. "In those days you could literally call a game 'Space Blob Attacks Mars' and sell about 50 million copies. So what did I do? I did a business simulation", Molyneux later said. Molyneux published the game himself in 1984 by duplicating hundreds of tapes on two Tandy Corporation recorders. After taking an advertising space in a game magazine, he prepared for the game's success; he later stated in an interview, "I was utterly convinced that this game would sell tons. I thought, 'You know, this letter box is just not big enough. It's just not going to fit all the envelopes.' So I cut – and this is no joke – I cut a bigger letter box". However, the game received only two orders, one of which Molyneux speculated was from his mother. In 2007, a GameSpy reviewer commented that the economic gameplay mechanics in Molyneux's Fable II may have been a descendant of The Entrepreneur, stating, "I'm a little concerned that it's Molyneux sneaking in a remix of his first game, Entrepreneur".
Due to the game's failure, Molyneux retreated from game design, and started Taurus Impex Limited—a company that exported baked beans to the Middle East —with his business partner Les Edgar. Commodore International mistook it for TORUS, a more established company that produced networking software, and offered to provide Molyneux with ten free Amiga systems to help in porting "his" networking software. "... it suddenly dawned on me that this guy didn't know who we were", Molyneux later said. "I suddenly had this crisis of conscience. I thought, 'If this guy finds out, there go my free computers down the drain.' So I just shook his hand and ran out of that office". Taurus designed a database system for the Amiga, called Acquisition - The Ultimate Database for The Amiga and, after clearing up the misunderstanding with Commodore, the program was released and became a moderate success.
Using money earned from the database program, Molyneux and Les Edgar founded Bullfrog Productions in 1987. Molyneux provided the original concept for Populous, the first god game for the personal computer. Released in 1989, Populous was a major success for Bullfrog and went on to sell over 4 million copies.
Electronic Arts, Bullfrog's publisher, acquired the studio in January 1995. Molyneux had become an Electronic Arts vice-president and consultant in 1994, after EA purchased a significant share of Bullfrog. Molyneux's last project at Bullfrog was Dungeon Keeper, which was released in July 1997 to high critical praise. A significant innovation of the game was its unique combination of first- and third-person perspectives, in the ability to "possess" any one of the creatures (or "minions") in the game world, yielding a first-person experience reproducing the physical characteristics, visual perspective, gait and voice of the minion. Molyneux left Bullfrog in August 1997 to found Lionhead Studios. The last title released with the Bullfrog logo was published in 2001, and in 2004 Electronic Arts merged Bullfrog Productions into EA UK.
Lionhead Studios and Microsoft
Molyneux came up with the concept for Lionhead's first game, Black & White, and convinced his small staff to take on the task in late 1997. He paid the $6 million in development costs himself. After three years, in 2001, the game was finally released.
In April 2006, Lionhead Studios was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios. At E3 2006, Peter Molyneux gave several interviews in the press, in one of which he stated that "I think you're going to see a lot more fantastic games from Lionhead because of that relationship [with Microsoft]." On 4 June 2009, he was promoted to Creative Director of Microsoft Game Studios, Europe, although he continued to produce video games with Lionhead Studios.
On 7 March 2012, Molyneux announced that he would be leaving Lionhead and Microsoft — after the completion of Fable: The Journey — to begin work at a company founded by former Lionhead Studios CTO Tim Rance called 22Cans.
In the media
As one of the industry's leading and best-known figures, Molyneux has appeared on many television shows and video gaming news discussion or documentaries. He has been repeatedly interviewed for shows that include GamesMaster, Games Wars, Gamezville, Bad Influence!, Gamer.tv, and Games World. He also made an appearance in the Scottish web series Consolevania. More recently, Molyneux was featured within an episode of Godus alongside The Yogscast.
An episode of G4's games retrospective series Icons was devoted to him, during its third season. More recently, a comprehensive two part interview was filmed of him during the 2006 Brighton Games Developer Conference by leading UK website Eurogamer. He was also featured in the fourth episode of the Discovery Channel mini-series Rise of the Video Game alongside Will Wright and Sid Meier, fellow developers of simulation titles. Molyneux was accredited in the "Top Ten Game Creators" Countdown by GameTrailers. He has given keynote addresses and spoke extensively at worldwide conferences, including Games Convention, Games Convention Asia, Develop, and the Game Developers Conference.
Despite the success of his games, both critical and financial, Molyneux has acquired a reputation for issuing over-enthusiastic descriptions of games under development, which are found to be somewhat less ambitious when released. This goes back to Black & White, though the most well-known case of this was with Fable, released in 2004 without many of the features talked about by Molyneux in press interviews during development. After the release, Molyneux publicly apologized for overhyping the game. In February 2014 he is quoted as being "Ashamed of the final product Fable 3 and I never want to work with Microsoft again." In February 2015, Peter Molyneux stated during interviews in gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun and British newspaper The Guardian that he will "never speak to the press again". Both publications were under the impression that they were conducting the last interview.
Awards and recognition
Molyneux was inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame in 2004 and was honoured with an OBE in the New Year's Honours list announced on 31 December 2004. He was awarded the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in March 2007. In July 2007, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Southampton. In March 2011, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Game Developers Choice Awards and has received a BAFTA Fellowship at the 2011 British Academy Video Games Awards.
- The Entrepreneur (1984) (designer/programmer)
- Druid 2
- Fusion (1987) (designer/programmer)
- Populous (1989) (designer/programmer)
- Powermonger (1990) (designer/programmer)
- Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods (1991) (designer/programmer)
- Syndicate (1993) (producer)
- Theme Park (1994) (project leader/lead programmer)
- Magic Carpet (1994) (executive producer)
- Hi-Octane (1995) (executive producer)
- Magic Carpet 2 (1996) (designer)
- Genewars (1996)
- Dungeon Keeper (1997) (project leader/designer)
- Black & White (2001) (concept/Lead designer/programmer)
- Fable (2004) (designer)
- Fable: The Lost Chapters (2005) (designer)
- The Movies (2005) (executive designer)
- Black & White 2 (2005) (lead designer)
- The Movies: Stunts & Effects (2006) (executive designer)
- Black & White 2: Battle of the Gods (2006) (lead designer)
- Fable II (2008) (lead designer)
- Fable III (2010) (lead designer)
- Project Milo (formerly known as The Dmitri Project) (tech demo) (lead designer)
- Fable: The Journey (2012)
- Curiosity – What's Inside the Cube? (2012)
- Godus (2014)