Peter Molyneux on zebra sofa

Peter Molyneux interview

37 year-old Peter Molyneux is the co-founder of Bullfrog Productions Ltd and a vice-president of Electronic Arts.

Q: What's the secret of your success?

It's a lot to do with the people who work for you. And it's important sometimes to tell them to stop fucking around and get on with making good games. I know that sounds stupid, but just because you spend a year working on something, it doesn't necessarily make it a good game. People need guidance and motivation.

Q: Do you think offline gaming will die out in the next five years?

It definitely won't die. The internet will change the way that we play games and the way that games are designed. It's strange that technology has come full circle. Up to the release of Theme Park we used to make an effort to keep the size of the program down to two or three floppy disks, but then when CDs came along the space didn't matter any more. But now the big factor on internet games is the size of the download, so everyone's talking about making games which are under 5Mb! We're back to the old days of the floppy disk!

Q: Will that change when ISDN connections are more common?

Not entirely. The internet is great for playing games where you compete against other players, but you have to remember that not all games are competitive. In some of the games we've done, you just create a little encapsulated world. In Theme Park you're not competing. It's almost like meditating.

Q: Will Bullfrog become more involved in online entertainment?

I'd be very surprised in five years if we have the technology to support true internet gaming. You have to think of the infrastructure that needs to change. You need LAN lines laid down and cabling. It's a massive amount of investment. That's probably going to take off in Germany, Japan and America before it takes off in the UK. As a worldwide phenomenon it will take longer than people realise. The trouble is that you journalists have screwed it up for the developers! You're out there telling people how the world should be, but we're not ready.

Q: If the public demand it, surely you will be there to give them what they want?

The internet's rather like Interactive Movies. Everyone used to talk about how great Interactive Movies would be - you could walk on to the set of Baywatch and dictate the action, decide what happens to the plot - but of course the reality is that it's an impossible thing to do. And yet all the development community started working on Interactive Movies and most of them were crap. That was a result of pressure from the press and the same is true of the internet - the press keep writing about multiplayer gaming, but the technology just isn't there.

Q: When it does happen, what is the potential for online gaming?

Neil Armstrong once said that people expect too much in a year and not enough in ten years. That really applies to internet gaming. In ten years it's going to be amazing. Everyone wants it now, but it's not going to happen.

I don't think people realise quite what internet gaming is going to be like. It's not going to be like network gaming where you know all the people in your office and you all have a game of Duke Nukem together. I tried playing an internet game called Air Warrior, which is a multiplayer flight simulator. It was the most boring experience I've ever had. I went into it and there were people in there who had been flying around for years, and they just shot me down in two minutes. There's no fun in that. Games will have to be specifically designed with the internet in mind and the games will have to cater to players at different skill levels.

The idea is for Dungeon Keeper to be the first real internet game from Bullfrog. We'll release the offline version in November and six months after that we'll release the internet version which theoretically could support up to 500 players. The big problem is no one's really worked out how to make money out of the internet, but I really want to do an internet game because it's nice to get in there while it's in its early stages.

Q: How do you get 500 people playing one game?

You have to create a world which people can roam around. You'll have your own dungeon but you can also send out creatures who move from one dungeon to another.

Q: Are 3D accelerator cards a good thing for PC gamers?

It's already a nightmare to support all the various soundcards and if there are more than 10 graphics cards it will be awful. We're looking at the 3DFX, but what we are supporting absolutely is Direct3D, which purports to support all the cards that matter. We might use that in Creation.

Q: Are you going to support the next generation consoles?

The honest answer is that my primary direction has been to grow Bullfrog up to six teams of developers. That's taken Bullfrog from 40 to 90 people. If I also had to build a department for console conversions, that would have taken it up to 130 people, which is too much. Syndicate Wars will appear on Playstation and Saturn next year and so will Dungeon Keeper. Theme Hospital looks likely to be contracted out, but that's as far ahead as we can predict.

Q: Would you like to work on the N64?

I'd absolutely love to. The trouble is getting to work with Nintendo. They're very particular over who they work with and they don't have a very solid relationship with EA, unfortunately.

Q: What's your favourite non-Bullfrog game?

It's so boring because I always have to say the same thing, but it's definitely Civilization, or Civilization 2 now. It's absolutely brilliant. A work of genius. incredibly addictive.

Q: Do you really have time to play games?

Yes, I have to. I couldn't do this job if I wasn't a gamer. I'm three levels from the end of Z already and I've only had it three days! I think I'll always be playing games, no matter what I do.