Peter Molyneux, a name synonymous with “visionary”, has established a Kickstarter campaign for his latest game, Godus.
Godus is being branded as a reinvention of Populous, which is considered the first “god game”. Populous was released back in 1989, by Bullfrog Productions, the game development company of which Molyneux is a founding member. Bullfrog Productions went on to develop Syndicate, Theme Hospital, and Dungeon Keeper. Electronic Arts (EA) purchased Bullfrog Productions in 1995, and in 1997, after the release of Dungeon Keeper, Molyneux left Bullfrog Productions to found Lionhead Studios, which developed the Black & White franchise and eventually took over the Fable franchise after Big Blue Box developed the first title.
So with the development experiences of Populous, Syndicate, Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Black & White, and Fable, Peter Molyneux knows a thing or two about game development. So when he says he’s about to reinvent something, people take note.
Well, they used to.
Molyneux is considered by many to be a “boy who cried wolf”, often claiming his projects will revolutionize this or that, and then generally be a disappointment upon the project’s release. Molyneux infamously over-hyped the release of Fable, and later issued an apology to fans. “I just get very excited about developing games and it is hard to restrain myself,” Molyneux explained in an interview with the BBC.¹
Satirists have even gone so far as to create a parody-presence of Molyneux on Twitter: Peter Molydeux. Some of Peter Molydeux’s tweets include: “Had an idea for a FPS where your head is a mirror. Your only weapon is to bounce sunlight in the right directions. You also control the sun,” and, “I want to make a Batman game where you play as Alfred, trying to protect Bruce Wayne from hurting himself by knocking down his confidence.”
With nearly fifty-three thousand followers, clearly the satirists behind the account are not alone in finding Molyneux’s tendency to embellish a bit silly.
Regardless of the liability of his excitement, there is no doubt of Molyneux’s dedication to the advancement of the games industry. Dungeon Keeper was one of the earliest games to feature seamless integration of first-person and third-person gameplay elements, a mechanic that is still prominent today. For that, Dungeon Keeper received high praise upon its release. When Molyneux formed Lionhead Studios, he paid $6 million out-of-pocket to see Black & White through development.² While Molyneux worked for Bullfrog Productions he was also a functioning Vice-President for EA, and later, during his tenure with Lionhead Studios, Molyneux was promoted to Creative Director at Microsoft Game Studios, once Microsoft acquired Lionhead Studios in 2006.
So, even if you are a bit hesitant to trust Molyneux’s claims anymore, at least take comfort in the fact that he’s not in it for the money. His over-hyping enthusiasm comes from passion, not greed.
Molyneux wants people to understand that —that he’s not another pitchman trying to boost sales by talking-up a game. He needs people to understand that truth now more than ever, because now he’s asking the general public to support the development of his next game, Godus.
Earlier this year, after the release of Fable: The Journey, Molyneux stepped away from Lionhead Studios and Microsoft and joined ranks with 22 Cans, an independent development studio founded last May.
22 Cans released their first game, Curiosity, a little over a month ago. The game is a massively multiplayer social experiment that has players chipping away at a large cube, in a collective effort to find out what is inside. Curiosity saw a surge in users on day one of launch, so much that 22 Cans’ servers became stressed, and many players experienced lag while using the game.
After seeing such a turnout for Curiosity, 22 Cans decided that they may already have a strong enough following to pursue a much more ambitious project: Godus.
Nearly a quarter of a century after Populous was released, Molyneux and team have decided to re-invent the genre that Molyneux essentially invented.
22 Cans is calling Godus, “half a living sandbox world, and half a strategy game”. It seems as if Godus is the accumulated experiences of Molyneux’s development career, packaged into one game. “Godus draws on the cunning battle-psychology of Dungeon Keeper,” 22 Cans explains on the Kickstarter page, “the living, changing world of Black & White and the instinctive, satisfying gameplay of Populous.”
Godus has players playing as a god, striving to spread their influence across the world. Players must gain favor to win over the mortals, and in return, devout followers empower you to do more than simply make it rain on famished crops.
“Funding [Godus] via Kickstarter allows us to stay a small independent team with unlimited freedom in our creativity. It’ll just be you, us and our unbridled dedication (no publishers).”
As of this writing, Godus is right in the middle of it’s Kickstarter campaign, and is less than halfway to meeting its goal. Have the years of Molyneux’s over-hype and exaggeration finally worn potential gamers down? Or will this passionate developer find that people still believe in him, valuing his creativity and influence in the industry.
We have fifteen days left to find out.
Visit the Kickstarter campaign page for Godus where you can learn more about the game, the rewards for supporting the game, and a bit more about 22 Cans.