back to article Molyneux: Working at Microsoft is 'like taking antidepressants'

Legendary game producer Peter Molyneux has claimed that working on Microsoft is like being dosed up on antidepressants. The Populous creator launched a bizarre attack on the corporate safety net offered to Microsoft workers – claiming that life at an indie developer is more creative. Molyneux freed himself from Redmond's …


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  1. Tsung

    We're doomed!!

    "Molyneux told GameSpot last week that he believes the fate of the God game genre itself depends on the success of Godus."

    To be honest the first version was a terrble click fest designed for mobiles, the second attempt is not much better. I think Peter has forgotton that games are suppose to be fun; players don't really care about the "little" people in the game. But peter SO wants us to care!. As a "god", I expect them to worship me, and/or fear me.. In this game (at it's current stage) there is nothing.

    He admits the industry runs in cycles, so whilst at Microsoft he clearly was protecting himself from the "non"-indy game cycle.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    He makes a lot of sense

    You generally dont get excellent results without tolerating an element of risk. Big corporates tend to frown on risk, and micromange the delivery risk in such a way that it stifles creativity, and even ability to deliver due to spending all your time shackled by risk avoidance frameworks.

    Its no wonder that IT in any big corporate is a total shambles. Im in a pessimistic mood this week and firmly convinced that IT development in big corporates has almost reached an untenable state.

    Look at MS - an organisation that should be capable of turning out the best software in the world, and but regularly turns out shite.

    Im firmly convinced that the only workable future of development in big corporate is in isolated skunkworks projects.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Convinced that the only workable future of development in big corporate is in isolated skunkworks'


    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: He makes a lot of sense

      Having now worked for some of the biggest in the world, I have to agree.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He makes a lot of sense

        Agreed with the above.

        I'd also say however it's also partly the advertisers who stifle creativity... no that's not right, market research.

        As an example, dungeon keeper 2. It was a classic game, garunteed to sell well if done right, so what do they do? Market trends suggest F2P games make a lot more money than full price retail these days, lets make it F2P. Or taking Fable as an example. Original game, nice but with a few mild complexities. Next game, they stripped down a few things, it was easier and got a few of the "looks too techy" crowd into the game, while alienating a few folks who liked the original (not many) Fable 3 they simplify it even more to the point where people are returning it on the day of purchase, all so they could get that couple percent more folks who didn't like it.

        Same to dragon age 2 as with fable, and diablo 3 vs diablo 2. "Some gamers find this complex, lets simplify it to reach a wider market." Result? They alienate the core market for that game and it winds up dying a slow death.

        There are plenty of games which can be used as examples of this, of being simplified to appeal to non / casual gamers, or having the core mechanics changed to appeal to a wider audience. I swear there was a game a while back due to be an 18, fairly adult oriented, but the publisher wanted it as a 15 so it could sell to a wider audience. The game had half the best (or worst depending on viewpoint) scenes removed to make it a 15, got the 18 rating still and wound up a gutted 18 with nothing special.

        So yeah personally I blame marketting before management, especially since management get their daft ideas from marketting half the time.

        One more appauling example. Don't know if this was marketting driven, or if somebody was dropped on their head but... Shadow the hedgehog.

        "Hey we have a hedgehog with all the powers of sonic, and he can fire bolts of energy from his hands, and he's black. Lets give him some bling and some guns!"

        1. Not That Andrew

          Re: He makes a lot of sense

          What are you talking about? Dungeon Keeper 2 was released shortly after Dungeon Keeper and was pretty much more of the same, although IMHO the first was better. Are you referring to the pay-to-win mobile game EA shat out not long ago?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's not like taking antidepressants. The world does not feel too comfortable.

    That is all.

    1. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: No

      Creativity relies on pushing yourself to think just a little past the line all the time. If you want to grow you need to be in an environment that will nurture that growth, whether it's software development, painting, photography, making cakes, whateber, when you're challenged you grow and you feel fulfilled. When you have every idea stamped out of you at every turn you begin to wonder if there's any point in being creative. We've all had managers that are just not interested in our ideas. I'm not saying MS is anything like that, I doubt it, they wouldn't be able to keep going if it was. II doubt that every area of MS is creative and some parts are probably very rigid. Some people need more creative freedom than others and in this case it appears Molyneux felt too comfortable and not challenged enough.

      We all have to find our muse and our own impetus to push us on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No

      Speaking from experience, fluoxetine (prozac) has exactly this effect on your creativity and thought processes, which is the purpose of taking the damn stuff. As a developer, I found it hard to devise ingenious ways of solving problems - when I look at the code I wrote in that period, it's routine and bland stuff that any moron could write.

      So from a code point of view, I can totally see where PM is coming from.

      Fortunately for me, a few months on happy pills, combined with some CBT bumped my dopamine levels up and I could stop taking them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        OT: How Do Psychiatric Drugs Really Work

        @AC: "Speaking from experience, fluoxetine (prozac) has exactly this effect on your creativity and thought processes, which is the purpose of taking the damn stuff".

        " How Do Psychiatric Drugs Really Work?"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OT: How Do Psychiatric Drugs Really Work

          interesting link - thanks man - feeling a bit crappy myself today ....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No

      Mr. Molyneux appears to have had a fairly mild run-in with whatever provoked his opinion of antidepressants, because in my experience, they're not happy pills so much as pills which give your brain enough rational capacity to tolerate continued existence - a bit like your being stuck naked in some hellish, howling blizzard, with shards of ice raking your body and the wind tearing the breath from your lungs, and then being given access to an unheated tin shack with a curtain for a door. There's no escape, no prospect of change, and in every moment your ears are full of the pounding din outside as it shrieks around your shelter, constantly reminding you that it could all collapse in an instant.

      Occasionally, a friend who is completely unaware of the storm will stroll in and suggest that yoga and herbal tea really helped -him- out, become indignant at your lack of enthusiasm, and slam your curtain on the way out.

      So yeah, working at Microsoft may not be all that, but if prozac can make you feel warm and fuzzy and lazy, all I can say is that you better count your lucky freakin' stars.

      1. Alister Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: No @ David W

        Brilliant description, which nicely sums up my experiences as well.

        I wish I could give you more than a token upvote

      2. Vociferous

        Re: No

        >antidepressants, because in my experience, they're not happy pills so much as pills which give your brain enough rational capacity to tolerate continued existence

        Yes. That is how antidepressants work. They don't make you happy, they make you not absolutely god awful I-cant-get-out-of-bed depressed.

        It's odd that even today, when so many people take them, the myth of "happy pills" still persist.

  4. malle-herbert

    "working on Microsoft is like being dosed up on antidepressants"

    Because working there you'll probably going to need them anyway...

  5. Sandpit
    Paris Hilton


    Mr "over promise, under deliver" was once legendary but these days he is seeming more and more mythical. When was the last genuinely good game he made?

    (Paris because she likes a good game apparently)

    1. Aldous

      Re: Legendary?

      He has made plenty of genuinely good games on paper. Actually delivered on what he said? ummmm Populous?

      The guys smart and he has made good games but ffs he needs to shut his mouth when he is promising super awesome feature X, even though the game has gone gold and its still not written...

    2. Boothy

      Re: Legendary?

      Shame he hasn't just done an updated Populous. Reboot the franchise. Used to love those games on my Amiga.

      It would appeal to new and old players. He could even do a mobile version, especially if it was close to the early Populous versions (1 & 2), which would fit in quite nicely with small touch screens.

  6. Irongut

    So he left MS to become more creative and is writing a game called Godus that is a copy of Populous? I think he and I understand the meaning of the word creative differently.

    1. Tom_

      The best bit is he's actually working on Godus 2, the sequel to the copy of Populous...

  7. bigtimehustler

    Yea, I think to be fair he lots it a while ago. These days he is living off of the legend he has created for himself in a different time. Why also is he so obsessed with God games? If he thinks success is all about the risk taking, why not make something new and not rehash the same genre he has been working with for most of his life.

  8. Truth4u

    Looks like you found the only software developer who doesn't like job security

    You know what would be good for him? 0 hour contract.

    1. Truth4u

      Re: Looks like you found the only software developer who doesn't like job security

      Let's see if a month of being called into work at random times of the day to suit the whims of his employer gets his creative juices flowing. And then when he gets paid less than his rent, the pressure will surely lead to a creative masterpiece. Or maybe not.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was on anti-depressants

    They gave me the shits.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: I was on anti-depressants

      I was on (lots of different) antidepressants.

      Venlafaxine - I think - was by far the most interesting in terms of withdrawal symptoms - great big spasms/zaps down your spine that would seriously jerk you - made walking difficult.

      Suffice to say I stayed away from train platform edges.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I was on anti-depressants

        An antidepressant whose side effects cause you to involuntarily twitch yourself into the path of an oncoming train... now there's irony for you!

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: I was on anti-depressants

          Yes, I upvoted you, because six years ago I had the same thought - hence staying away from train platforms!

          (standing at edge of platform, get brainzap, stagger forwards, realise what's happening, lean back and fall on arse to prevent it. Funny looks from commuters > being train paste...)

          Steven R

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confirms my view about Microsoft as a cult

    MS had a leader whose pawns believed he was God and the product line was the Second Coming. Everyone who worked there got caught up in this belief and held the view that MS could do no wrong. So roll on the next 100 or 1000 years then?....

    But it was delusion. It was market dominance and abuse dressed up as attractive compelling products. Instead, history has shown us the corpses, i.e. the demonic IP theft with graveyards full of fallen soldiers from Lotus to WordPerfect to Xerox-Park.

    Even then MS couldn't get it right! There were so many holes it could have been a "Dell-Boy" operation. But history asks, how did we let them away with it? Why did we absorb the exorbitant fees and the hardware and manufacturer lock-step 'lock-in'?

    All this time the cult cloaked its followers. They remained unaware of the level of hatred towards the brand, and therefore blissfully naive to how this hated could fuel the rise of competitors such as Google who pretended to be their antithesis. After all who could foresee a fun anti-corporate start-up turning into the devil? But soon history would deal us another blow... And as we know those who don't learn from it are doomed to be pwned...

    MS like the NSA, oblivious to the affects of their actions in pursuit of their goals are only now waking up from their comas and asking 'why doesn't anyone want our products'... MS staff had to be 'deprogrammed' to see this. The deprogramming came in the form of Internet Irrelevancy, along with brutal margins & haircuts, all the while enduring the rise of Google, Apple and Samsung.

    But the MS share price is still rising? True! But MS futurists see the writing on the wall... How long will the corporate customers stay, especially if Google apps, open-source FOSS and Linux prevail... What will MS have left then?... Will there be a Windows 2095 or a Windows 9500?... History has taught us yet another lesson about the Cult of Personality....

    1. Juillen 1

      Re: Confirms my view about Microsoft as a cult

      It'll take a _long_ time for the corporates to abandon their established working install base of servers/databases/web/authentication/bespoke applications that rely on running on Windows. A LONG time.

      Still, it happened with UNIX, and Novell, so the future is always an interesting place, but the big incumbent (UNIX as an app server) took a LONG time to be replaced by Windows in the volumes it has.

      The writing is generally on the wall for most large companies.. They're like historical empires, and those have the habit of gaining ascendancy for a while, then lapsing into small states or vanishing entirely.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Confirms my view about Microsoft as a cult

      "Anon", I'm as anti-MS as the next guy, but if you weren't trolling, seek professional help especially as you seemed to miss the irony talking about cults when you clearly follow the cult-of-GNU (and no I'm not saying all GNU users/developers/proponents behave cultishly, but unfortunately, many do)

  11. RainbowTrout

    I really liked the non-Kinect Fable games, wish he would focus on those.

    1. Simon Ward

      So do I - I love the Fable 'universe' - hell, I even bought a bloody 360 so I could play Fable 2.

      Sadly, since the franchise is now owned by the Beast Of Redmond, the chances of PM focussing on them are somewhere on the far side of nil.

      Mine's the one with the Crunchy Chicks in the pocket, ta.

      1. wowfood

        really enjoyed fable and fable 2. Fable 3 was a joke of a game though. I always had it in my mind that adventure RPG style games were meant to be challenging to a degree, and last a while.

        Fable 3 didn't even last 6 hours, it didn't last 3 hours if you ignore the loading time going into your inventory. And you couldn't die in it. Even with difficulty turned up it didn't seem possible to die in it.

  12. Erik4872

    Some good points, but missed the mark a little.

    I would say that comparing working at Microsoft to being on antidepressants kind of misses the mark. Not everyone is lucky enough to be in a situation where they can just start up a business and if it tanks, oh well. People with lives outside of work and obligations like the idea of stability. Not everyone is a single guy in their 20s with no ties to anyone or anything else who wants to do nothing but work on their startup.

    Also, the comments aren't just applicable to Microsoft -- any large corporate entity is like this on the "official" side. I work in a product engineering group of an extremely large, extremely bureaucratic organization. Things happen quickly around here, but getting anything we do out to the rest of the world is a very slow process. Some people can't handle that -- I admit that some of the stuff I've seen drives me nuts sometimes. We sometimes lose people hired from outside because they just don't get the fact that they need to work within a very strange framework if they want to get stuff done. But...I get to do interesting product design work, I still work hard (and get rewarded for it) and I get a regular paycheck as a bonus.

    Some people can do good work in a large organization -- if they're motivated and stick with their tasks when the processes and procedures get maddening. Others who are naturally slackers or get fed up easily learn quickly that they don't have to try too hard to stay employed as long as there are no major staff purges. Look at places like HP and IBM who routinely blow out thousands of people in a shot. Some of it is corporate stock price stupidity, but I guarantee there are tons of people who get laid off simply because they're dead wood. Everyone's seen situations where a department has been wiped out or is now irrelevant but people who were there are still working.

    I just think it's the wrong metaphor. Startup culture isn't for everyone. And as you get older, stability starts looking really good as you collect responsibilities along the way.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Some good points, but missed the mark a little.

      And as you get older, stability starts looking really good as you collect responsibilities along the way.

      There is also opposite side: as you grow older and acquire experience with age, dealing with challenges becomes easier and instability does not seem so threatening any more.

    2. Robigus

      Re: Some good points, but missed the mark a little.

      Startup culture isn't for everyone

      I read that as "Strapon culture isn't for everyone"

      Friday just got a little better.

  13. Anonymous Coward 101

    I wonder if Mr. Molyneux's former line manager would be able to offer an alternative point of view for his leaving MS?

    1. bigtimehustler

      You think a line manager at Microsoft would offer any sense? They would just spurt out some business jargon no one truly understands and then move on like that is the definitive point of view.

    2. Charles Manning

      I asked and here is what I got

      Dear Field:Sir_Madam

      Field:Full_Name worked for us for Field:Service_Period. During that time Field:he_she was a valuable team member contributing to the success of our fantastic products.

      We are sad to see Field:him_her leave to pursue other interests.



  14. Bladeforce

    True Peter..

    Classic case of Microsoft stagnates then copies

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: True Peter..

      .....No.......copies THEN stagnates!!!!!

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Like taking antidepressants"

    You find yourself wanting to commit suicide?*

    *Apparently depression is a side effect of some anti depressants, a little detail drug companies don't like to discuss very much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Like taking antidepressants"- have and upvote

      I turned them down when prescribed a couple of years ago for that reason... and I a'nt killed myself or anybody else yet.

      Buggers don't tell you these things most of the time. My mother developped breast cancer (at least partially) because of the drugs she was prescribed during her menopause.

      Shithead drug (company) pushers...

    2. Vociferous

      Re: "Like taking antidepressants"

      > Apparently depression is a side effect of some anti depressants

      True, so don't take them if you don't need them, but the main reason people sometimes kill themselves when they go on antidepressants is that when you're deeply depressed, you're too down to do ANYTHING, and when the antidepressant starts to work there's a window where the sufferer is still suicidally depressed but also starts getting enough energy to actually off himself.

      1. foxyshadis

        Re: "Like taking antidepressants"

        The window theory really isn't it; there's just lots of things that can go wrong with brain imbalances with millions of variables, and short of a non-existent total brain mapping and diagnosis, docs have to start with the common drugs and work their way down to the weird and unusual. Unfortunately, if you're unusual, a common drug might pull you in exactly the opposite direction and lead to more debilitating depression or psychotic crazy.

        They help far more than they hurt, but they aren't perfect, just like the rest of life. Trying a few is the only real fix unless you manage to get your personal life in order int he meantime.

  16. Tim 11


    I'm not sure Molyneux intended to make this point but let's not forget that supertankers go down too, and when they do it's with disastrous results partly because the impact itself is bigger and partly because people refused to believe it would ever happen. I know far more people who've been made redundant from big firms than small ones.

    This doesn't seem to apply to the banking system (for reasons which are incomprehensible to me) but for other large institutions the apparent safety may be a mirage. Comparisons between MS and Titanic anyone?

    1. Frank N. Stein

      Re: Supertanker

      As much as some in the industry would like to see Microsoft sink into the sea, the Supertanker analogy doesn't work here because of one element that doesn't apply to a ship in the water. MONEY. A Supertanker owned company with money can't prevent a ship from sinking if it springs a leak. Despite losing money on Surface RT and Surface, X-Box, and Windows 8, does it look like Microsoft is sinking? Microsoft stock is currently at $40.20 Up 0.85(2.13%) 2:20PM EDT - Nasdaq Real Time Price. Microsoft isn't going anywhere, any time soon. They just promoted Nadella to CEO. The Jury is still out as to whether he can turn things around. We'll just have to wait and see.

  17. Vociferous

    That's not how antidepressants work.

    But Molyneux has never let details bother him before, why start now.

  18. Frank N. Stein

    So, working for an indie developer is like being in a raft with a hole in the side, while hopelessly attempting to survive it's inevitable sink into the sea? This bloke may have told us more about indie development than he ever intended.

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