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Molyneux talks game design and next-gen

Bullfrog classics revisited? Plus talent rather than qualifications are what counts, he says

Legendary games designer Peter Molyneux - lined up to deliver a keynote at the Leipzig Games Convention, has spoken to GameSpot about the skills required to design games, likely winners of the next-gen console wars, escalating development costs and how he'd like to bring some of his old games up to date.

Here's the Lionhead head honcho's blueprint for those taking academic courses which they hope will lead to a career in game design: "I have spoken to a few educational establishments about the games-design courses, and they are teaching very sound technical skills, but they don't focus as well on the more esoteric design skills that are needed for the job. Designers need to be able to communicate, inspire, and listen, and I see these skills as being just as necessary as an appreciation of the technical side. A good feel for design is also fundamental, and I think this is a talent rather than a skill that can be taught."

Despite his obvious alignment with Microsoft - to which he sold Lionhead earlier this year - Molyneux is taking a surprisingly even-handed approach to the console wars, although he does reckon Sony has become "lazy": "Nintendo has done a great job of convincing us that next-gen is about gameplay rather than high-tech specs. Microsoft has done an incredible job of expanding games online and making them more mass-market. Sony, in my view, seems to have been rather more lazy with its message. How all this pans out really depends on the brilliance of the titles that appear on each platform over the next two to three years. I expect the system with the greatest games on it to end up on top." Not great news for Sony, then, given the perceived weakness of its launch line-up.

And what can be done about spiralling development costs (not really something Molyneux need worry about now Lionhead has access to Microsoft's voluminous funds)? "It should be remembered that there is a law of diminishing return here, so if you spend $5 million and double that to $10 million, you don't get double the quality. This trend really can't continue, and the industry must face the fact we need to stabilize our costs. This will mean that reuse of technology and assets needs to be much better managed." Outsourcing companies take note.

And finally, Molyneux, unsurprisingly, asserts that he would like to revisit some of his old efforts, but admits that it is very unlikely, with one possible exception: "Aside from the licensing complications, some sort of next-gen online version of Syndicate would certainly be popular with gamers. I 'd love to reprise games like Syndicate, Populous, and Dungeon Keeper, but as you point out, we'd need some business development people to sort this out."

And, of course, business development is the last thing on Molyneux's mind as he gets stuck into Fable 2 and another, as-yet unspecified project for his Microsoft paymasters.