Peter Molyneux is a familiar face at the Game Developers Conference. He often uses it as a platform to unveil new features in Lionhead games - remember 2007's infamous dog revelation?
But Lionhead has yet to announce its next project, and this year Molyneux didn't have any news to share. Eurogamer sat down with him to find out why, and to have a bit of a dig around in his brain. Read on to find out what's whirling about in it (briefly: parrots, vomit, disease, EA, Miyamoto being a "bastard", the Caddyshack films and the future of gaming).
Eurogamer: Why are you at the Game Developers Conference?
Peter Molyneux: Firstly, networking.
Eurogamer: Do you mean hanging about in the bar?
Peter Molyneux: Hanging about in the bar, meeting lots of independent game developers, meeting people I've known before, meeting bankers, meeting a whole raft of people... What's that on the back of your hand?
Eurogamer: I went to the Nordic Game party last night, and they stamped my hand to show that I'm 21, because obviously I don't look old enough to drink in America.
Peter Molyneux: Obviously. What was it like?
Eurogamer: It was quite Nordic.
Peter Molyneux: What do you mean?
Eurogamer: Quite vikingy. Lots of very tall, very happy men shouting at each other. Anyway...
Peter Molyneux: I'm also giving a talk, and it's one of my first real talks. I've been coming to GDC since the dawn of time and usually I talk about the game Lionhead's working on. I think some people go to those talks, and they go away and say, "Oh, that approach they developed is interesting." Other people say, "That's just getting me excited about the game, and not telling me anything about the way Lionhead works."
So this time I'm talking about what if you want to innovate in games, and do mad things like put dogs into RPGs...
Eurogamer: I wondered how long it would be before you mentioned the dog.
Peter Molyneux: ...Then how do you do it without breaking the bank and going totally insane? I'm showing some Lionhead experiments and making the case that first of all, a lot of them aren't anything to do with me, and they're very successful. Secondly, experiments allow us to be brave, and we feel safe about doing experiments.
Eurogamer: That's no good for journalists though, is it? Where's your new game? I suppose it's not called the Game Journalists Conference...
Peter Molyneux: No, it's not. Although I've always said we should have a Game Journalists Conference where we pretend not to release details of the next game, but we actually do.
Eurogamer: In his GDC speech Satoru Iwata talked about Nintendo's approach to experimentation, and how Shigeru Miyamoto works...
Peter Molyneux: I didn't see that. How does he work?
Eurogamer: Well, there's the death spiral, see, where you start out with all these great ideas, but you run out of time and money and end up with a poor quality game.
Peter Molyneux: Hmm, yes [nods knowingly].
Eurogamer: Whereas at Nintendo, very small teams spend up to two years working on each prototype...
Peter Molyneux: Wow, it's the same! Unbeknown, I work the same way as Miyamoto! The bastard got it out before me! How funny, that's exactly the way we work...
At Lionhead we have these little prototypes, and they have what we call sponsors. Anyone who's senior management can sponsor an idea. The prototype projects can last from one week to 12 weeks, but that's the core of what the experience is. The dog in Fable would not exist without one of those experiments.
Well, no one's going to slag it off if Miyamoto uses that technique!
Eurogamer: So you're not going to announce Fable 3 at GDC... But didn't Jonathan Ross already do that via Twitter?
Peter Molyneux: We were at the BAFTAs and so was Jonathan Ross. There were ten people from the Fable team, and they were so excited to win the award that everyone downed the medium-cheap wine on the table - about two bottles each.
I went off to do some interviews. When I came back two of the programmers were slumped on the floor, virtually in their own vomit. The rest of them had Jonathan Ross literally pinned up against a wall, going, "Go on, do a voiceover, do a voiceover, do a voiceover..." Poor Jonathan. They were virtually beating him up.
He then assumed it was for Fable 3, but it could have been a voiceover for any of the Fable things we've got planned.
Eurogamer: So is he going to do a voiceover for you?
Peter Molyneux: He's got a really unique voice. I wonder how recognised it is outside of the UK. I don't mean to question his notoriety, but there's certainly some humour in his voice which would be interesting. But there are no set plans.
Eurogamer: When can we expect to hear more about Lionhead's project?
Peter Molyneux: Two things need to happen before we can tell the world. Microsoft has to see the sense in what we're doing, and we've got to absolutely have something to show you. This is the rule now, the rule I've set myself - I will absolutely not talk about anything, any concepts or ideas, until I've got something tangible to show.
We're almost there on the tangible thing, and we've been showing it round internally. It's probably the best reaction I've ever seen to anything I've done.
Eurogamer: Will you be ready to show it off at E3?
Peter Molyneux: I would show you now if it was up to me. Right this second, on that TV there.
It's something which has been worked on for a very, very, very long time. When you look at it I think you'll say, "Well, that's just insanely simple. Why has it taken so long?"
But what makes it so hard - and this is teasing you horribly - is making it so simple, and yet to have all this unbelievable technology behind the thing.
Eurogamer: Yes, that is quite annoying, thanks Peter.
Peter Molyneux: You've probably got a mild hangover, and that sort of annoyance just makes it slightly worse...
Eurogamer: Absolutely not, I'm extremely professional. And still drunk. Is it a new Dungeon Keeper?
Peter Molyneux: No. Did you go to the GDC Awards ceremony? The first half of the ceremony was all about independent games. It's amazing; it's almost identical to when I started in the industry. You've got these people walking on stage, they look pale and geeky, they are obviously are pushing their bodies to the very limit. And they come up with these ideas which have never been seen before, and they're getting them out there and making loads of money. Who would have though that would come around again? It's gone full circle.
Eurogamer: Do you think we're going to see less huge teams and massive budgets now, what with the monster munch affecting games companies?
Peter Molyneux: If a serious amount of money is going to be bet, it's got to be a pretty sure thing the bet is going to pay off. I'm going to give EA some credit for Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, because they really did try to create some new franchises. I take my hat off to them. I think anyone looking at those games can criticise them a little bit, but you can admire their bravery. But it's going to be a brave, brave person who bets on a new franchise, I have to say.
Eurogamer: Or even tries new things with an old franchise... I'm thinking about games like Prince of Persia, where they tried to do something different with an old brand, but not that many people bought it. Whereas you put the words "Tom" and "Clancy" on the box again and give the man a different gun, and it shifts millions...
Peter Molyneux: It's funny how the games industry has almost bucked the trend of the rest of entertainment. I'm not criticising the recent Star Wars films...
Eurogamer: Don't, because they are the best films ever made. That is a scientific fact. I am a prequels apologist. I am not ashamed.
Peter Molyneux: The first three were brilliant, but the next three weren't.
Eurogamer: Well, that is an incorrect opinion, but you are entitled to it. You were saying?
Peter Molyneux: It's interesting that only the die-hard, slightly fanatical...
Peter Molyneux: ...On-the-verge-of-insane-people actually enjoyed the latter three. But other than that, there aren't many films that have survived one, two, three, four instalments...
Eurogamer: Police Academy.
Peter Molyneux: There is that of course. And Caddyshack 1, 2, 3, and 4, let's not forget that high point of dramatic entertainment. But they tend to go downhill. It's going to be interesting - is there going to be a Tom Clancy 56 and a Halo 99?
Eurogamer: Is there going to be a Fable 72?
Peter Molyneux: Whatever happens in the future of Fable, I don't want you to think you know exactly what features are going to be in there. Don't think about this as an RPG franchise - think about it as the world of Albion.
There's a niche for Fable as there's humour in there and there's a Britishness and I think we'll keep that side of it. But whether it's more action or RPG or MMO or some new genre - that's what we have to do.
I think it's not good enough just to say, "OK, we'll do another Fable." Because in the end you're just driving yourself off the cliff. At some point, someone's going to turn round and say, "You know, I'm a bit bored by all this." We don't want that to happen.
If I was talking about Fable 3 - I would hope there would be three enormously big things about the Fable 3 that would surprise and shock you. Not that I am talking about Fable 3. Hypothetically speaking.
Eurogamer: Is one of them a cat?
Peter Molyneux: No. Good guess. Parrot? Maybe. Not really.
Eurogamer: That's the headline, right there: 'Parrot may appear in Fable 3. With Jonathan Ross.' He could be the voice of the parrot! "Pwetty Polly!"
Peter Molyneux: Yes!
Eurogamer: I want royalties. Anyway, we recently ran a story about Blizzard discussing the next Xbox with Microsoft. Have you had any discussions about it?
Peter Molyneux: [Long pause] Umm... Well, that's so clearly a no comment. That's blatantly... Absolutely no comment.
Eurogamer: I thought I'd ask anyway, because sometimes you get a bit carried away, Peter. No offence.
Peter Molyneux: Yes, that's true. If you'd caught me at the end of the day, I probably would have spilled some more beans.
Eurogamer: Go on, "There are three big things coming with the next Xbox, one of them is not a cat but it might be a parrot..."
Peter Molyneux: What I would say - and this is not saying anything - is it's a bloody exciting time to be in this industry. Every foundation stone you can think of is being thrown away. I'm not talking about any particular manufacturer, but you have the advent of Live, changes to how you play games, what you hold, how games are distributed, whether a games console is just a box you buy and then that's it... All of those things are completely changing at the moment.
You can see us in five years' time, sitting here - if I haven't died of some horrendous old person's disease - we're going to be showing stuff we can't even imagine now.
Peter Molyneux is head of Lionhead Studios. The company's current project, Fable 14: Jonathan Ross and his Magical Parrot, is in development for a console Microsoft is currently designing in space and will be released via brain chips next century.