Massive thanks go out to Action Journalist Tracey Lien for her guidance and editing work on this piece, as well as the friend who put me in contact with Molydeux in the first place (you know who you are, dude). This has been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve written so far, and it kind of kills me that I can’t thank Molydeux himself for it publicly.
Fun fact: Molydeux was the very first person I followed when I began twittering a year or two ago. And yes, I did initially believe him to be the real thing, despite it saying otherwise right there in the bio. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been fascinated with the character from the beginning; when I got the above @ reply from him a few months ago, I thought, dammit, I have to write about this guy.
I may have been rather enthusiastic in interviewing him. A lot of information didn’t make it to the final interview, but I thought some of it was too good to waste away unseen, so here it is. Click through to read on.
Why parody Molyneux, anyway?
Before creating the account I had a weekly five-minute comedy spot on a British games podcast – the presenters allowed me to do anything I wanted. One popular feature I kept returning to was myself playing an upcoming indie designer, pitching ridiculous game designs hoping some publisher would be listening.
Now, I’m not saying Peter Molyneux was this character, but after showing the world Milo, I did see a resemblance between him and this character that I had been creating. Both were driven by passion and the need to break new grounds, and both had a tendency of getting over-excited before fully exploring their ideas.
Games Molydeux dislikes
I think Molydeux resents how Limbo gets attention for its mood rather than its gameplay. Would it be so well received if it wasn’t for the colour palette? The game doesn’t really do anything new other than added physics, though he likes how there is no story as that is quite unusual and refreshing.
For Molydeux, it’s really about creating new experiences rather than enhancing old gameplay with new technology, similar to how he reckons From Dust just stole his beloved Populous and added physics and fancy shaders. Of course, that’s not what I feel myself towards these games. I’ve not played From Dust; I’m certain it isn’t really just Populous with elaborate particle effects, but Molydeux only needs to see a clip on YouTube to make up his mind on a full game.
Did you know that the man behind Molydeux nearly landed a job at Lionhead with the real Peter Molyneux?
I came very close to working for Lionhead just a few months after starting the account. I’m sure if I got the job, the account would have turned out quite differently!
The Lionhead interview was in early 2010, for an artist position to work on Milo (which I got to play during the interview!). If I had got the job I’d have stopped the account, no question – this account is just a bit of fun and not anywhere near as important as my career. However, if I had been there for a while and got to know people (including Peter himself), I’d have brought up the Molydeux account to see how they felt about it.
On being Molydeux without stepping on anybody’s toes
I try to avoid my account being renamed “@fakepetermolyneux” by trying to be sensitive to Lionhead’s politics, but that can be difficult without watering the character down. I just hope that Lionhead would come to me first if they had any problems, rather than going straight to Twitter. They’ve actually done this before, and I changed my tweet within minutes, no questions asked. If I offend them, I just need to know what is overstepping the line so that I can avoid doing it again.
Follower feedback and participation. You lot matter. Really.
Lately I’ve received more responses from followers who have ideas on how to expand on Molydeux’s own ideas, which in itself is quite rewarding.
A recent example was a survival horror in which you can only see enemies in mirrors. A follower responded with a suggestion that you could choose to smash the mirrors to create shards of glass as a weapon. Another came up with the idea that enemies can be seen in reflections of anything – glass, marble, liquid – all with corresponding opacities. Suddenly the idea seemed to have so much more depth.
Again: Molydeux’s opinions are not the creator’s own.
I’d say that a substantial percentage of my followers don’t realise it’s a parody. There have been times when I’ll have Molydeux say something ridiculous, yet there will still be people who feel the need to explain to me why it’s ridiculous.
One very recent example is a Steve Jobs-based tweet. Firstly I had people explain how Steve Jobs and the iPhone changed gaming for the better, and then I had some people saying it was in bad taste. Maybe you need to have followed the account for a while to understand the “bitter” aspect of the Molydeux character, and how paranoid he is that casual gaming is going to be the end of large, epic, life-changing games.
I did consider deleting the comment after a few people said they were disappointed, but in the end I decided not to since it came from a good place. It’s a message that is so obviously wrong and off the mark – that was the joke. It was actually a tribute and reminder of how important of a figure Jobs was for gaming. So instead of deleting the tweet, I posted to a link where the real Molyneux shared his thoughts on Steve Jobs.
It was my way of reminding people that I’m not actually Peter Molyneux. I rarely like to break that wall with this account, but I wanted people to know the tweet wasn’t based on my actual opinion. The last thing I want to do is hate on industry figures.
This all is similar to Molydeux’s constant bitchy remarks on Cliff Bleszinski, who he’ll blame for having generic cover systems in his game. I personally hugely respect Cliffy B and am fully aware that he created the cover system in the first place.
And, oh, there may be a mysterious second character in the works.
Within the first few weeks of Molydeux’s existence, I also made audio recordings of another indie developer character who uploads short, five-minute podcasts based on his diary. He’s just been fired from a big-name developer, and is declaring war on them by aiming to create the greatest indie game of all time, all within one year. He leaves his wife and children, hides from society and becomes obsessed with this project.
Anyway, it’s something I keep working on and then dropping, but one day Peter Molydeux will hopefully give out a link regarding a upcoming indie developer to look out for…