Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at 6:00 PM by Chris Smith
Now that everything seems to be running smoothly for 22cans’ mysterious Curiosity “experiment”, the fledgeling developer has moved onto bigger and potentially better things. Peter Molyneux is going back to basics with his latest endeavour and he wants to take us – or at least, our wallets – along with him. GODUS is described as an “innovative reinvention of Populous” on the Kickstarter page for the game. Without the massive funding of Microsoft behind him, Molyneux no longer has the capital to throw at a project as large as this, so he’s turning to the gaming public for payment up front. With only 16 days remaining for pledges, there’s a good chance the project won’t reach its goal of £450k in time… but I really hope it does.
I never played the original Populous, released in 1989, since I didn’t own anything resembling a PC until my teenage years. I did, however, play Populous: The Beginning on my PlayStation, which came out in the prime of the console’s life in 1998. Without knowing that I’d picked entirely the wrong platform to play it on, I really disliked the game as a whole; the controls were clunky, the graphics were nothing special and it seemed almost unfinished. I came away with a feeling that I should have enjoyed it, because I really liked the idea of a god simulation game.
It wasn’t until 2001, with the release of Black and White, that I really started to see the potential of the genre. The simple elegance of controlling everything with a floating hand, coupled with a very visceral and instant form of morality, ticked a lot of boxes. I have always been a fan of titles like Command & Conquer and SimCity, but neither RTS nor traditional simulation games offered the same level of unbridled creative license. I could lob rocks across the landscape one second, cast a spell using mouse gestures the next, then finish up by building my followers some new houses by ripping trees out of the ground.
Unfortunately, Black and White wasn’t everything that I had imagined. Even the inclusion of multiplayer didn’t seem enough. There was so much more that I felt could have been done, coupled with a good deal that I wish they’d left out. I could tolerate the two anthropomorphous consciences of “Good” and “Evil”, but quests delivered in the form of badly-sung sea shanties were incomprehensibly stupid. One of the biggest features – the pet mechanic – seemed tacked on; the last thing I want to do while moulding the land to my will is to tell a giant monkey when and where he should do the toilet. I was left with a distinct sense of wasted potential once again.
Black and White 2, released four years later in 2005, was another mixture of excitement and disappointment. A lot of the things that I loved had been improved – city building, spell casting and ways to interact with the landscape had all been enhanced and I felt more like a god than ever before. But the pet was back. So were the singing quest-givers. Un-skippable cut scenes, glitchy mouse control and, perplexingly, no more multiplayer. I went into this game excited, but left half-way through, dismayed at myself as much as with the game. Why couldn’t they just make a truly excellent god sim; one I could really enjoy?
Now, many years later, there might be an answer in the form of GODUS. For a start, there’s been no mention of giant monkeys yet. No consciences to beard and nipple their way across my screen. In fact, everything that’s being emphasised so far has been the important aspects of a god sim: creation, destruction and leadership of your people. Multiplayer is being touted as a big part of GODUS, but 22Cans are keen to emphasise a strong single-player experience as well. While still in its early stages, GODUS is promising to become the god game I’ve wanted to play since I first sat down and played Populous: The Beginning.
So here I sit, with this potentially brilliant game poised in front of me, walking the knife-edge between creation and oblivion – a uniquely fitting scenario for this genre of game. If 22Cans can’t secure adequate funding before the deadline, this game might never get made. Perhaps they’d re-launch the Kickstarter sometime in the future, after the studio make some more money, with a lowered funding target… but who’s to say that 22Cans will even be around that long? Without this game, there’s every chance that this series of “experiments” will end up as another Molyneux creation that never lived up to their potential.
I don’t want to see that happen. I want GODUS to succeed, for it to be an excellent game and for us to finally get the god sim we gamers deserve. No more disappointment, no more half-measures… and please, no more bloody singing.