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Molyneux: Small-Team 'Experiments' Key To Fable II's Genesis

As part of a new, in-depth Gamasutra interview, Lionhead's Peter Molyneux discusses the small-team "experiments" that birthed key Fable II features -- and ta
In a new, in-depth Gamasutra interview, Lionhead's Peter Molyneux discusses the small-team "experiments" that birthed key Fable II features -- and talking the necessity for pre-production, says: "You just can't walk into an office of 100 people and say, 'I've had a really good idea, hey let's all do this for a while'." Molyneux, whose Xbox 360-exclusive action adventure title has just debuted, was asked about how to design games in these days of massively large production teams, where it's more difficult to be 'reactive' and change game elements. The Populous and Black & White creator noted changes in the business since his early days at Bullfrog: "I mean, that's one of the things that you learn, is that when you have got 100 people, you just cannot be that creative whirlwind anymore. You just can't walk into an office of 100 people and say, 'I've had a really good idea, hey let's all do this for awhile'. Because it is all about the genius of planning out. There are people behind the scenes whose names you never hear, who are brilliant at planning out these terrible experiments that I give them. Part of this process that we started off in Fable II was to say, 'Right, we are going to experiment and we're going to take that experiment seriously, and we're going to have competitive experiments going on, and we're going to feel absolutely fine.' There's one rule in those experiments. Any experiment that was done, all the code and art would be thrown away, so you weren't burdened. A lot of the time you're burdened by the need to make things solid and sustainable and, 'God, we're writing a piece of code now, and by the time we're finished it'll be three years old.' These experiments, we iterated around. The dog was an experiment, and the combat was an experiment, and the free roaming was an experiment, the breadcrumb trail was an experiment. There were many different iterations, and that is when the team is smaller and a lot more agile. And then when you get to the end of those experiments you have to think about it, and say to yourself, 'Right, I've got my list of ingredients. That is it. I'm going to make my game soup out of this list of ingredients. I'm not having any more. I can have more of this sort of ingredient and less of this sort of ingredient, but I'm not going to add a new ingredient.' That first experiment took about a year, and allowed the planners to plan out more consistently, into the rest of the project. What we don't do, a lot of the times, I think publishers have this term -- which I think is a totally invalid term. They say, 'Are you in production?' We don't -- there isn't a sense of that, because sometimes you can't say that code is fully in production, because quite often, even though you've got these experiments, you know what you're doing; you're still putting something in and taking something out again because it may not work, or may not work for this system." You can now read the full Gamasutra interview on the subject, including more information on the co-operative game patch and some fascinating details of some unexpected production work done for the game.

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