Interview with Peter Molineux
During my Amigo days I had the chance to interview another worker of Lionhead who told me about Black and White before it was released but I didn't think it sounded very good. They proved me dead wrong and so I decided to try and catch up with one of the staff members again and get some more info about their work. I was very surprised when I told them I was a reporter and I was given an appointment to call back and was actually allowed to interview none other than Peter Molineux or Peter Bullfrog as he's known to oldskool Amigo gamers. I started to think I might have the wrong guy or be a victim of a wind up but I decided to carry on with the interview anyway. Here it is.
Thanks for agreeing to my interview. My name is Shane and I'm a freelance journalist and multimedia designer. Do you mind if I call you Peter Bullfrog?
As I'm no longer associated with Bullfrog I would prefer if you didn't.
Ok Mr bigshot I take it we got off to a bad start so let me ask you how you started out in the games business.
I was working for a company involved with business applications for the C64 called Taurus Impact Systems when I got a call from Commodore to ask whether we would be interested in producing software for the Amiga, which they were on the verge of launching. During the interview I found out that the interviewer had mistaken our company for one that develops network systems. I pretended not to have noticed their mistake and all I could do was try to bluff my way through it, but that soon the mistake became apparent and I ran out pretending to need the bathroom and then got in my car and drove away. I was so ashamed and things just got worse from there until Andrew Bailey asked me to port his C64 game Druid 2 to the Amiga. When we met the publisher I bluffed my way through the interview (I was good at it by now) and everything worked out from there. We released Druid 2 under Bullfrog which was the humble beginnings of our empire which produced games like Populous, Magic Carpet and Syndicate. Our titles were more popular than I could have expected but it looked like the public loved our ideas and that's how we built our reputation.
That's a great story. I have been trying to get a game released for a long time now. It's called The Ear Brothers (maybe you saw our promo for the Amigo?) and it's kind of a Mario type game with Marioots and Kenut and a range of baddies like a sense of guilt, a bicycle pump and the game is loaded with foul language and violence. I contacted Nintendo, Codemasters and lots of other great publishers but they are too afraid to take it on cos it's so controversial. Would you be interested?
There's a lot of planning that has to go into a game before you contact publishers. You have to know all the details and it has to be an idea that will sell. Violence is popular, but 3rd party Mario-esque platform games aren't going to win much attention any more.
There will be a lot of disappointed people if I don't get it released. I know a kid and we told him about the game and he was really excited. He started shouting "The Ear Brothers" and "Lift me up! Lift me up! (their catchphrase) for ages until he got a slap in the face from his mum. But the point is that was our way of doing market research and everyone we asked would buy the game.
We made a game called Guiseppe in Knobland in Amos many years ago and we thought about changing it into the Ear Brothers. If we could get a preview sent to you would that be enough?
Is this a wind up?
You're not taking me seriously are you? I think publishers should start listening to the ideas of their punters whose money they are taking.
Look, I really don't have time. Contact personnell if you want to take this further.
No. I want to interview you. That was just an example in case the readers had an idea and wanted to know how to get it looked at. Please let me carry on.
Go ahead but I can't stay long.
So, let's talk about Black and White 2. What improvements have been made?
The whole engine, AI and layout has been completely redesigned. It's a totally new game based on the original idea.
What is your favourite game to work on?
Black and White.
You have released a lot of god games over the years. Do you ever get angry letters from religious nuts?
Not that I can recall. Many of the games are inspired by established myths and fictions and are not intended to challenge anybody's beliefs.
Couldn't you put Jesus in one of your games just to make these people happy? He could even be a secret character you unlock.
I think it would serve the opposite purpose. Using Jesus in a game would inevitably lead to a lot of complaints.
Controversy sells! Just think how many people would love a game where you get to crucify Jesus. It would be on the news and people would be queuing up at game stores for it like with GTA! Anyway, it's your game you do what you like with it. I can talk to coders and crackers about doing an unnofficial Jesus mode.
Ok then, let me ask you something on behalf of all your fans. Why did you decide to abandon the Amigo?
With the rise of the consoles and the PC as a popular home computer the Amiga was falling behind and developments were moving too slowly. The power of the PC and 3d cards allowed us to develop more elaborate ideas and work in a 3d environment. A game like Black and White or even Magic Carpet would not be possible on the Amiga. Also we have to take our overheads and the decreasing sales figures of Amiga games. We would be risking bankruptcy.
The Fearmoths have moved to the PC too. We released 2 demos so far called "Ban the Orphan" and "Patrick Swayze Ponders". I still love the Amigo but my grandad broke my A1200 after losing at Skidmarks. He took it in the garden and ran a lawnmower over it. He broke the lawnmower as well but he used his savings to buy me a PC and he bought himself a Flymo so we were all happy in the end.
But anyway. Do you know anything about the demo scene?
Yes. Some of the Lionhead staff have roots in the demo scene where they learned most of their skills before becoming games developers. In fact some staff members released a demo a few years ago under the Lionhead name.
Who are your favourite sceners?
I don't know at this time.
What are your plans after Black and White?
It's too soon to say. There are a lot of big projects in the pipeline. We'll release more details when the time is right.
Do moles have eyes?
I really don't have time for this.
No! I'll be serious now I promise.
It was too late. Peter was gone and the interview was suspended. I tried to contact him again, but was told he would not be available for interviews. I have posted some of my ideas and our Amigo promo intro for the Ear Brothers to Lionhead's personnell department but haven't heard anything yet. I think they will turn it down because its too controversial but maybe when Black and White 2 is finished and they run out of ideas they will get back to me.
I was honoured to speak to Peter "Bullfrog" Molineux because I was always a big fan of his games like Syndicate and Flood but he came over as a bit of a cretin with no time for his punters or for the Amigo which made him rich. He shouldn't forget that he was a common punter once too and we all have to start somewhere.