Fruit Brute and I were lucky enough to snag a few moments the other day with that celebrity game designer and dangerously charming Brit, Sir Peter Molyneux, whose brain we picked about the life and times of gay romance in gaming and, of course, his pivotal role in bringing gay marriage to light in Fable and the upcoming Fable 2.
While Fable wasn't the first game to feature gay marriage, it was the first time many of us had seen gay marriage in a game treated with consistency, respect, gentle humor, and full production values. So it's a bit of an understatement to say that Le Brute and I were literally jumping up and down with excitement when the universally helpful Microsoft community folks (thank you, John and Tony from Gamerscore!) hooked us up with a face-to-face with Peter Molyneux himself. As usual, we worked our tag-team tandem act - this time I sang while Fruit Brute danced a beguiling jig; together, we tried to make the most out of our brief window. Check it out!
How did the same sex marriage dynamic in the first fable evolve during the development process?
It’s not something we ever said we weren’t going to do; it was just something that we did do. We said this is about having choice and consequence, and allowing people to choose which person they chat up is part of it. When you came to think about it, there’s a man, there’s a woman, there’s a boy, there’s a girl – same-sex marriage just came up naturally.
There was one interesting moment after I said you can get married to the same sex at a previous E3: There was a poll that year in Germany that asked what was everyone’s favorite feature in Fable 1, even though they hadn’t seen it yet and we hadn’t done an awful lot of work on the same-sex marriage. And the poll came out as same-sex stuff. It was absolutely amazing; it was fantastic!
And EA were hemming and hawing about same-sex stuff, because it is different and they’ve got to sail quite a safe line. Then they saw this poll, and that was really useful.
Make the jump to read the rest!
So there was internal resistance?
Kind of. The thing about me is that I’m like the brat in school. They know that if they try and take a feature away from me, I’ll just sulk and sulk. And that’s a terrible sight. So they may moan a bit, but they don’t often... take the dog, for example: when I said “Well, the dog is going to get hurt,” they said that could be a big problem, and could you have it not hurting the dog? I got all pouty on them, and they backed off.
What we’ve seen since Fable came out is a lot greater presence of same-sex romance – we saw last night the Pirates MMO at Sony Online has four princesses and four princes with whom you can dally. How do you feel about having opened that door?
Did I open that door? I don’t know if I did.
Well, it existed in The Sims and in Fallout and in some other places in more or less vague ways, but this was really one of the first times you saw two men actually scripted into the game as more than a one-off – that’s another big step forward.
I wish I felt like I had done it for the first time. A lot of times when you do things, you do them by accident. It just seemed right – it wasn’t something I sat down and deeply thought about. That’s the honest answer.
I didn’t want it to be just a joke. It’s all about giving people the ability to choose in a game. That is part of the choice.
We noticed that it was more difficult to get a guy to like you than a woman – which is how it is in the real world, of course, where gay men are a minority. Was that intentional, or are we just projecting?
It was. That’s absolutely right, it is. There were a couple of numbers – the way the game is balanced all comes down to massive spreadsheets, and our designers can tweak that. There were quite a few gay numbers that set the ease with which gay romance would be accepted. I could have set that to 100%.
Will it be easier in Fable 2?
I haven’t even begun to balance it. The only thing I can tell you is that it’s probably going to be a little bit easier, since the population’s bigger so it’s a lot more distributed throughout the world.
Will there be a Boystown?
I don’t know about Boystown! I’m just thinking of what the little things are that I could do – one of the things I was really keen on doing with the PC version and was persuaded not to was to release the balancing spreadsheets into the community. So you could have gone in and turned everyone gay – that’s one of the 10,000 variables that you could change.
What was the reaction you got to the same-sex marriage after Fable’s release?
I only got positive reactions, that was the only reaction that I got. Now, I’m sure there are some fundamentalist Christian outpost in middle America that’s stamped on a few copies or did whatever they do. Especially from Europeans, who you know, don’t…they have…
…The correct attitude? That violence is bad and sex is okay?
Well, yes. That’s what’s so incredibly strange about designing a game is that you’ve got these totally different views: In Germany, for instance, it’s any blood – and nowadays practically any violence – is immediately super-mature. If you start introducing blood, it’s banned. But absolutely any part of the human body at any stage of excitement shown in your game is totally fine, which is pretty incredible.
One last question: can we persuade you to tell us a little bit more about the dog mechanic you mentioned that might happen during a same-sex romance? You touched on it briefly…
I touched on it briefly, in fact I was playing with you a little bit. I haven’t balanced it yet, but during the balancing there are things that I can do: in the balance files I can make the dogs howl at certain points…I can make them do all sorts of things. I am fully willing for you to inspire me in any way you like.
We’ll think about that! Just use your imagination and we’ll be all right…
Right. Okay. That’s going to get pretty bad – we could end up under the counter after all!
Well thank you very much for talking with us, we know you’re a busy man…
Not at all, it was my pleasure.
(And with that, Fruit Brute and I skipped out into the daylight, gladder than the gladdest gays in gametown, determined to woo some fabulous men of our own!)