Peter Molyneux in Godus Outcry

explains why the game designer’s latest project failed to live up to expectations

Image: Hot Grill on Flickr

Image: Hot Grill on Flickr

Following a lengthy period of controversy, game developer Peter Molyneux has said that he will not be speaking to the press for the foreseeable future. The decision has come as a result of the long and drawn out furore surrounding his latest release, Godus.

Molyneux and his development company, 22Cans, promised fans a game in which they could play God. It was claimed that gamers would be able to sculpt the landscape of their own little world, and cradle their small number of followers until they became a fully formed civilisation. Molyneux even promised multiplayer, an uncommon feature of the average God game, insisting that players would be able to compete against each other in combat by sending their devoted followers out to fight. A prototype video was provided on the game’s Kickstarter page, showing off these impressive features. It wasn’t long before the target figure of £450,000 was met by fans of Molyneux and his work.

Sadly, many of the promises were broken, as Molyneux increasingly devoted his time to the mobile version of Godus along with his current project The Trail. Targets were ignored, the development team shrunk, and communication with the game’s community broke down. Many fans who had donated to the project were left disappointed by the lack of progress, some even feeling that they had been cheated out of their money. Truth be told, people lose money on Kickstarter all the time. There are countless tales of people being scammed out of their money, donating to projects that will never be completed. This case is different because of Molyneux’s status within gaming: well known for creating games such as Populous, Black & White and the Fable series, many see him as the father of the God game genre.

The concept behind the God game is rather simple: players are given God-like powers and a world to play with, in which they must use their abilities to complete missions. This isn’t the first time that Molyneux has failed to deliver on a pledge. For example, in the run up to the release of the original Fable, he claimed that the game was so sophisticated that if a player knocked an acorn from a tree, it would eventually grow into its own tree. While the game itself was well received, this neat feature never made it into the actual release of the game. As someone who has played Godus, I can say straight up that it is mediocre at best. While the terrain sculpting aspect is interesting, the lack of depth in the rest of the game is obvious right from the start. Beyond some simple civilisation management, there isn’t much to do, and I lost interest quickly. While I may not be an avid follower of Molyneux and his work, I can see why others who have donated to this project would feel angry. It’s understandable for a developer to miss out a relatively minor element such as was the case in Fable, but to leave out a whole list of promised features is simply unacceptable.

If Godus has taught us anything, it’s that developers must rebuild trust with the gaming community. In recent years there has been a growing divide between those who make the games and those who purchase them. This has come as a result of a great number of titles failing to meet expectations. It seems obvious that the first step in rectifying this should be for developers to avoid making promises that can’t be kept, or else we might end up with many more disappointments like Godus.

Peter Molyneux may have stepped out of the limelight for now, but the damage to his reputation has already been done, and the division between gamers and developers is unlikely to heal for some time. While 22Cans isn’t the only developer to promise more than it can deliver, it has garnered attention due to Molyneux’s status. Hopefully this turn of events will work in everyone’s favour, and Molyneux will devote more time to Godus and less time to his own public image.

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