Oh Pete, you just don’t know when to quit, do you?
During an interview with CVG, Lionhead Studios…head (?) Peter Molyneux stated that, should the next “Fable” game come to fruition, it will stand as a shining paragon of drama, world creation, and storytelling, and will also cure cancer and make delicious milkshakes. Only two of those are lies…
By now, you have probably caught on to the noticable irritation I have towards this man. In all fairness, the man himself doesn’t seem all that bad; despite a excess of Britishness, he seems like your average dude who makes videogames. But whenever he gets near a microphone, one must make handy some ointment for the ensuing facepalm. Whenever he talks, he makes a show of telling us that his next game is not so much going to be enjoyable, but that it is going to alter our perception of gaming as it currently exists. Wear your helmets, folks, lest your head EXPLODE, showering your gaming screen with bits of cerebral viscera.
The problem with this guy is that he has a lack of perspective, or more accurately, that he has an overabundance of ambition. Of course, one cannot damn an artist for wishing to create something new. As gamers, we have all lamented the lack of sweet, innovative ambrosia that used to flow like river water in these parts. And in any other case I would applaud a creator for dedicating himself to this cause. Unfortunately, Pete lets his ambition to create something amazing override his original purpose: Making a game.
I have played the “Fable” games, and although I did not REGRET my decision to play them, I always felt like I was playing a collection of interesting “parts” that were not being integrated into a proper whole. Innovation, especially in gaming, only works when it is being used to buoy an otherwise solid base. “Okami”‘s celestial brush mechanic was an interesting new tool to use in an adventure game, but only worked because of the world surrounding it and the stellar, traditional gameplay it supported. “Shadow of the Colosssus” was a game made entirely of boss fights, something that seems like an absurd idea made up by a naive child, but in this case it worked because each of the colossi presented a unique, engaging challenge, not to mention the support of the atmospheric world it all took place in.
On the other side, though, there are times when things are added just to be “new”, context be damned. Remember “Devil May Cry II”? Remember how you could run along or up walls? Yeah, that looked so cool! Remember how it served NO DAMN PURPOSE AT ALL? Seriously, there was no point to that! As a matter of fact, doing so would probably get you killed, as the enemies would attack you mid-run! In the original game, sure, many of the moves were stylized for effect, but they all had a viable, in-game use. Just putting pieces in for the hell of it does not make the game better, it just gives it some clunky mechanics. Just because one can implement a “blow yourself up and delete your savefile” feature doesn’t mean you should.
Before anyone thinks that it’s a personal distaste with Molyneux that stokes my ire, I should point out that one of Lionhead’s earlier games, “Black and White”, is among my absolute favorite titles. It managed to do new, interesting things with the “God-Game” concept, and still kept a solid, cohesive base with an interesting, endearing world, and fun gamplay mechanics. Was it perfect? Dear God, no. But it was fun and fresh. I also hear that “Dungeon Keeper” is good, and I would very much like to play it. The difference with these was that Peter seemed to remember that he was making a game, and all the “fun” that term was supposed to entail, and most importantly, used the new ideas as SUPPORT for the game rather than trying to cram them in as effectively as one would cram some sort of eldritch lore into a cooking manual.
Innovation is like playing a game of Jenga. You constantly try to add new pieces to the top while rearranging the bottom so the whole thing doesn’t just fall down. The mistake Pete makes quite frequently, especially with the Fable games, is the mass addition of blocks while leaving the structure to wobble and, in some cases, collapse. Here’s hoping next time Peter promises to make a game that is fun to play WITHOUT promising that it will help you tame fel spirits.