Dabe Alan

Peter Molyneux on past promises, Project Godus, and facing a world that may not want god games

Peter Molyneux on past promises, Project Godus, and facing a world that may not want god games

“As long as something has a nice feel to it, people love to play around with something for a long time, and explore the depths of something even though it’s very simple,” Peter Molyneux said about Curiosity, his team’s iOS experiment in crowd-sourced discovery. In that game players tap blocks to break them, and they can tap shapes and designs into the side of a giant cube. The first player to reach the center wins something mysterious. Molyneux said that the tapping mechanic from Curiosity informed the design of how you sculpt landscapes in his upcoming god game Project Godus, a re-invention of the ideas he explored in the classic Populous.

That is, if the Kickstarter reaches its goal. There are only days to go, and Molyneux seemed realistic about his chances for success.

What happened?

“I don’t think it helped coming out on Thanksgiving. I don’t think it helped being in UK pounds rather than US dollars. I don’t think it helped not having a sort of playable-looking prototype. I suppose if I did it again I would almost certainly set it up in US currency, but that’s tricky to do if you’re not a resident in the US, but it’s possible.” He would also have a prototype ready to go to show players, and time things better. The opening and close of your Kickstarter is usually when the most backers give money, and the holidays can be a time when money is tight.

The timing was tricky. Molyneux felt that they had to fix Curiosity’s technical problems before asking for funding on a new project. “It would have been totally inappropriate to do any other way,” he explained.

We talked stats for a while. Only around 20 percent of the backers are from the United States. The timing was an impediment. The currency can be intimidating to those not used to converting money. At some point Molyneux stopped me and laid out the real issue: People may not want the game, or not trust his word. 

“You try to find excuses why things don’t work, but at the end of the day we’re trying to take a genre which is kind of withering at the moment,” he said. “They’ve been chipped away and withered, and we’re trying to take that and re-invent it and make it as wonderful and as fresh as maybe the original was, and maybe that’s something people don’t want. We need to be honest with ourselves.”

There is also the fact that Molyneux has a reputation for promising amazing things from his projects, only to deliver experiences that often fall short of his original, breathless descriptions. He, of all people, needs to show more content up front to prove his words, In the case of Project Godus very little of the game was shown at launch, making it easy to dismiss.

“That side of my profile has not helped at all, you’re right. You pay the price for promises that were made with all honesty, hand on heart, I truly believed the things I said. I’m definitely not a person who has toed the correct PR line all the time, that’s certainly true. Maybe that’s one instance of that side. You have to ask yourself at the end of the day really, if this is a way for people to say you should just shut up. And maybe it is. If the Kickstarter doesn’t work you have to look at those things.”

He brought up Curiosity’s technical problems, and counted that as a promise that was made and not kept. It’s also fresh in people’s minds. The team at 22 Cans have just released a video that shows a prototype of Project Godus, and the game looks good, especially for a genre that’s been so under served for the past few years. Molyneux also said it’s hard to over promise things when it comes to a Kickstarter; players who back the project will be able to play early versions of the game and provide feedback that will help guide development.

In other words what people want, in a large degree, will be what they get. The trick is to get the Kickstarter over its goal. Support for OSX has been added, but Molyneux said that addition was close to trivial; it’s not a large drain on resources or money, but it could bring in more backers.

You have to balance those additions near the end of Kickstarter campaign with the cost of implementing those future. “The temptation is to every day add a new effect, or new level, or a new way of playing, we could console or Linux support,” he stated. “If you reacted to every single piece of feedback you’d add a feature a day. It would be unrealistic. We’ve tried to be very logical about what we add.”

The Project Godus Kickstarter has had a rough path. 22 Cans is coming off the difficulties of Curiosity and the bad press from that game’s rocky beginning. Molyneux himself has a reputation for hyperbole when it comes to describing his own games, and Project Godus offered backers very little in terms of screenshots or video of what the game may look like. The timing added its own challenges, as did the currency. It remains to be seen whether gamers want more God games.

You can back the Project Godus Kickstarter right now, and selflishly I’d love to see it succeed. The world needs another God game.

For now, Molyneux will be talking to the press, discussing the game and why he believes in it. He politely declined to discuss other possible projects, claiming it would be wrong to detail what could lie in the future while the Project Godus Kickstarter still has a chance of making its goal. If it fails, the newly introspective Molyneux has to deal with a modern gaming industry that may not be interested in his projects, or his promises.