Peter Molyneux says a bizarre moment involving a mandatory adjustment of his office chair convinced him that it was time to get away from Microsoft.
There was a time when Peter Molyneux worked magic. Like Magic Carpet, for instance, a wonderful flying carpet simulator, or Populous, the original god game, or Syndicate, a dystopian, hyper-violent game of extreme insider trading. His output over the past decade or so hasn't been quite so remarkable, however; the Black & White and Fable franchises are both ambitious but neither has thus far lived up to its hype.
But after more than five years of living under the Microsoft umbrella, Molyneux announced in March that he's striking out on his own once again. He left the company on good terms but said there was no question that he had to get out, a point driven home by a rather strange encounter with Microsoft's "chair adjustment personnel."
Molyneux said that recent accolades like a BAFTA Fellowship and various lifetime achievement awards made him "unbelievably proud" but at the same time forced him to question whether or not he actually deserved them, and also fueled an "unbelievable desire to make something." And then one day, as he was sitting in his chair, eyes closed, headphones on, trying to come up with ideas for Fable: The Journey, a seemingly random and unrelated incident finally broke the camel's back.
"Suddenly I felt my chair move. I looked around. Standing there was the Microsoft chair adjustment personnel, this nice woman who comes once a month, fiddling with my chair settings to make sure it was posturepedically correct," he told Develop. "I thought; this is insane. I was in a creative padded cell. Everything I did couldn't hurt me, both creatively and physically. The danger was long gone. I had this huge desire to make something truly special, and I felt like I was being suffocated creatively a little bit. That was the moment I realized I had to go."
Molyneux said he still meets with Xbox executives but believes that his best chance at changing the world will come through his new indie studio 22 Cans. And even though he has a rap sheet that most designers would kill for, he said he doesn't believe that any of his work stands among the greatest games of all time. "To achieve that is my absolute, absolute passion," he said. "All the steps that I've taken in my life have led me to this point."