Peter Molyneux is unquestionably passionate about video games.
Anyone who's met him or watched him talk about games knows that he's prone to excitability. It's just his personality. The man adores gaming and wants everyone to feel the same.
But he's been subjected to some harsh criticisms over the years for early hyping of game features that never materialized, or release date estimates that were repeatedly delayed. (Because that never happens in video games.) No game has drawn more criticism, though, than his most recent project, Godus.
That's mainly because Godus was partially funded by gamers via Kickstarter. Some backers have complained about the lack of promised features, more than two years after the Kickstarter campaign ended. Others have bemoaned the game's level of completion — or lack thereof — despite all of the time that Molyneux and his developers at 22cans have been working on it. Earlier this week, Eurogamer published a scathing interview with the gamer who was supposed to experience "life-changing" events after winning Curiosity, the precursor to Godus, but who's barely heard from 22cans over the years since.
The latest development: John Walker at gaming blog RockPaperShotgun recently secured an interview with Molyneux and attempted to give a voice to the complaints of players and backers. Said interview ended up lasting almost an hour and a half, and that's largely because Walker's interview style was... well, combative. At best. The interviewer took Molyneux to task about broken promises and missed deadlines, among other things, and questioned his entire legacy as a developer with a reputation for empty hyperbole.
The interview is incredibly long, and it becomes quite heated on both sides. Frankly, it's rather difficult to read, regardless of which side you take. Walker claims that it's not his intention to be beligerent, yet he opened the interview with the question, "Do you think that you're a pathological liar?" Molyneux, wanting to set the record straight, indulges Walker's questions longer than most people would.
A few other choice quotes:
Regarding the funds from Godus' successful Kickstarter campaign being insufficient to complete the game:
Walker: ...You've been working in the industry for over thirty years, you know how much money it costs to make a game and you put a specific amount—
Molyneux: No, I don't, I disagree John. I have no idea how much money it costs to make a game and anyone that tells you how much it's going to cost to make a game which is completely a new experience is a fool or a genius.
Walker: But you have to have enough experience to know the basics of budgeting a videogame, you've been doing it for thirty years!
After Molyneux spends a great deal of time explaining the realities of the creative process and what it's like to develop video games from scratch, Walker continues his assault as if Molyneux said nothing:
Walker: You're asking me to accept that you know you've run late on every game you've ever made but you were going to finish this one in a ludicrous and obviously impossible seven months?
Molyneux: No, I didn't say absolutely we'd be there, I said we'd try to finish it on [time] this time. And why are you beating me up on these dates things? You sound like a publisher.
Walker: It's three years later! People gave you half a million pounds and you've taken their money—
Molyneux: One is, John, you're becoming very emotional, I think firstly you need to take a breath, because if I had walked away from Godus I'd agree with your points, but I haven't walked away from Godus. We are committed to Godus, we are recruiting people to go on to Godus, I have never moved that percentage beyond 52% where it is now.
Walker: How long should backers wait for you to deliver the game they paid for three years ago?
Molyneux: I don't know. All I know is that there are people here that have been working on Godus, that we have worked on Godus for one hundred and twenty thousand man-hours. We have got three terabytes of documentary feature. We've replied to 31,000 posts and tickets. We've done 57 community videos. Do you know how many updates we've done on Steam?
Walker: I don't think anyone who paid for the game cares.
Reactions are pouring in all over the Internet, particularly on Twitter and Reddit. Gamers and backers who were already frustrated with Molyneux are thrilled that Walker gave their complaints a platform. Game industry journalists and gamers who have no horse in this race seem disgusted by Walker's treatment of Molyneux, given how many years Molyneux has been in the industry and the numerous beloved games he's created.
Rock Paper Shotgun: http://t.co/CysXq19cLY - John Walker performs the most brutal journalistic takedown I've seen - and the most deserved.
— Jack (@Jakkar) February 13, 2015
Peter #Molyneux throws hissy fit. Blocks 'the press'. http://t.co/Mb4CqttNJB Some light relief from all the bullshit for the rest of us. — Osten Ulbe (@bluest_one) February 13, 2015
@botherer I am along time reader of you and RPS. I feel this interview was a low point and actually quite nasty, and very unlike you. — Tom Woolford (@TCWoolford) February 13, 2015
At the time of this writing, most of Twitter seems to be offering comments of support or sympathy for Molyneux, though a very vocal contingent are upholding Walker as a hero. Over on Reddit, a group of gaming journalists are split on the issue. Some condemn Walker for unprofessionalism and condescending questions. Others defend him for asking the hard questions.
What do you think?