Game development is an industry built on big promises, and there are few people who have promised more than Peter Molyneux. A figure in gaming since the late ’80s and credited with first creating the “god game” genre with his work on 1989’s “Populous,” Molyneux found himself flanked on all sides this week after the state of his latest game, the Kickstarter-backed “Godus,” was called into question by various gaming sites and some major media outlets.
Molyneux’s current problem is more than two years in the making, stemming from his current company’s (named 22Cans) previous game/social experiment/thinly veiled gimmick, “Curiosity.” “Curiosity” was a mobile game that consisted of players around the world joining to mine through layers of a gigantic cube, at the center of which an unknown grand prize lurked. That’s pretty much the gist of the game, but that’s all right; it was functional, and there are certainly many more mobile games that don’t deliver anything near the riveting experience of tapping frantically at a digital cube. But the game’s grand prize is where Molyneux’s current complications arose.
On May 26, 2013, the final piece of “Curiosity” was tapped away by 18-year-old Bryan Henderson of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the sky opened up, angels poured forth from the heavens and the grand prize was revealed. Actually, the game gave Bryan an email address and sent him a congratulatory video message from Molyneux. The prize was this: Bryan would be a central figure in 22Can’s next game (the aforementioned “Godus,”) ruling over the digital world as the “God of Gods,” and receiving a small percentage of the game’s total revenue.
The prize is certainly unique, and if implemented correctly could potentially be as “life-changing” as Molyneux hyped it to be in the weeks leading up to the reveal. The problem is, as of this week, it hasn’t been implemented at all.
In order for Bryan to actually assume the “God of Gods” role, the multiplayer functionality of Godus (a service dubbed “Hubworld” by 22Cans) has to be put into place first, and the company has been facing both financial and technical hurdles. So even though an in-the-works version of “Godus” has been available for purchase on Steam and as a mobile download since May 2014, Bryan has been cut out of the equation. In an interview with Eurogamer published last week that initially turned heads toward the problems with “Godus,” he says that most communication from 22Cans and Molyneux stopped roughly two months after his big win, and that he sometimes forgets about the game and contest completely.
For as much flak as he should catch from the situation, “Godus'” technical and financial woes can’t be placed solely on Molyneux’s shoulders. Sometimes things don’t work out; problems arise in development, people leave and plans change. But the lack of communication and the fact that something hyped to be so “life-changing,” in the end didn’t warrant basic email correspondence and can’t be overlooked. At the end of the day, games are a business, and the people who play them a are demographic being sold a product — something to keep in mind the next time an industry big wig promises something that sounds a little too good to be true.
Sam Nixon’s ‘Words From a Nerd’ runs every Wednesday in the Colorado Daily.