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Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 1

Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 1 (photo)

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Peter Molyneux’s made a career off of psychologically manipulating gamers. His popular early PC games “Populous,” “Black & White” and “Dungeon Keeper” put players in the deity-like roles where they decided the fates of whole worlds.

08162010_Peter_Molyneux_Fable_II.jpgMolyneux’s next breakthrough came with “Fable,” a third-person action RPG where the look and attributes of your avatar changed depending on where your actions fell on a moral continuum. If you were a dastardly rogue, then your complexion would grow pallid and you’d sprout horns from your forehead. The reactions of other characters in the world would change, too, depending how you conducted yourself. “Fable II” continued in the same vein, giving players a broader range of social actions to engage in, including marriage (even same-sex unions). The sequel also added a dog companion, which aided you in almost every aspect of the game’s quests.

“Fable III” is taking a different tack as it extends the series’ action/RPG formula. It kind of goes back to Molyneux’s earlier games by putting players in charge of a whole kingdom. But, you’re not at a celestial remove in “Fable III.” You get to see how your decisions affect the citizens in the gameworld, which ramps up the psychological tension behind the decision-making.

Molyneux has a reputation for being garrulous and perhaps a bit over-promising when he talks abut games, but the truth of it is he continues to be excited and energized by the possibilities of game design. I got the chance to talk to Molyneux during his barnstorming tour for “Fable III” and the first part of a mammoth interview starts below.

How would you explain “Fable III” to someone who’s not familiar with the series? Both in terms of the game’s plot and in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish?

So, what are we trying to create in “Fable”? For me, what we are trying to create is an experience where somebody feels, they feel involved in a story that they haven’t experienced before. That’s very, very important for me. This is the foundation rock of everything I know about, I’m going to show you know. What I’ve created first of all, is a story which has a normal traditional arc just like every story does, just like every film, every book, they pretty much have this same arc. It’s all about growth and power. “”Fable III” is all about the hero’s journey, but also about what comes after. Half of this game is all about a very standard heroic journey where you start off as a rebel. There’s this king called Logan; he rules over a country called Albion. And, with Albion, we are really talking about England. He is this tyrannical, evil ruler who also happens to be the lead character’s older brother. England’s had lots of these rulers– Henry VIII was one of them–all of his decisions are causing untold suffering in the land of Albion. You could say this is like the Philippines were or like Yugoslavia was, you could set it in either of those countries. We put you in the role of a rebel, a rebel that has to bring together people to take on the crown and overthrow the crown. Now, traditionally, you would storm the castle, the baddy would die in some spectacular battle and the prince takes the crown. But what we wanted to give players is a story which gave them a little bit more meat on the bones than that. So, we say when you go to take on the king and you overthrow the king, you become king yourself. Why not make that the halfway point of the story? Why not make the remainder of the story about the promises that you have made on the journey to becoming king yourself? And those promises are very similar to those our politicians and our rulers or rebels make to us, the poor people. And, then when you become king, the realization dawns that it’s very, very hard to keep all of those promises. That becomes an interesting story in my mind because it’s a story about power that has relevance in today’s world.

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You’re basing Albion on a mythologized historical England but you’re clearly drawing from the current political moment, too…

You know when, as wonderful as Obama is–he’s a great incredible president, you know, I look up to him as iconic–but he did make promises. He made them did for probably very good reasons, which I can’t know, especially being an Englishman. But Guantanamo Bay is still open. You can see on Youtube, where he said it would be closed in a year. When even great rulers–like Obama in today’s world–make us promises that they don’t keep, it has got relevance. So that’s the bedrock of what we’ve got in “”Fable III”.

The next thing to talk about, very quickly, is who you are when you play this game, who do you want to be. Are you a core gamer that’s absolutely fanatical about combat and fighting and killing and being ultra-good and dextrous and fast, someone who knows where those buttons are instinctively? Are you someone who is fanatical about storytelling? Or are you someone who prefers a kind of lighter experience, who actually is just going to pick up this controller and you know just mash this button and not really care about being with the gamers? Are you going to care about the customization and what your hero looks like? Are you someone who is going to care about going and talking to people in the world, chatting people? Maybe chatting up a girl or a boy–or the same sex if you want to– and then getting married and setting up a home and having children and just completely going off on fewer quests? “Fable III” is the sort of game that allows all of those types of things for all of those types of players. For me, in today’s world, it’s all about accessibility and it’s all about if I should be able to hand you this controller and you should be able to play this game and do what you want to do, but still be involved in the drama.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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