If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a rat, poked and prodded and experimented on, Godus may be the game for you. While the experimental game Curiosity revealed our compulsive nature, Godus, Peter Molyneux’s latest god-game, pushes players to explore the best and worst of human nature.
In Godus you are deity to a fledgling nation that looks to you to mould the earth, damming rivers and creating fertile valleys for your people thrive. It seems like a straightforward god game until it’s MMO traits are revealed and you realize your world is actually part of a grand ecosystem where every diverted lake or dammed river affects the dynamics and weather of nearby players. If there’s one thing Godus seems to be trying to say, it is that we are all connected. Even as a god-like being, you are certainly not alone in the universe.
Molyneux wants to know, will you choose to either to be cooperative or violent when encountering other players’ civilization? Will you honor or challenge the god of Godus, who not only governs the entire game on a macro level but even receives significant royalties from the game? Wouldn’t you like to challenge the deity of deities for a piece of that pie? Together, the game reveals itself to be a massive, tongue-in-cheek social experiment on human nature.
But is it a true unbiased test? In small ways Molyneux is hoping we make a mess of things. In Godus, “You are a god,” he explained during “Story time with Molyneux” at PAX Prime earlier this year, and he’s tired of creating evil storylines that only a small percentage of players actually explore. He and his Fable teams spent months crafting the evil side, only to find less than 10 percent of players were actually choosing that path.
“Explore your inner evil,” Molyneux urged. “Let’s make this planet Klingon.”
In order to create his philosophical rat maze, the world of Godus is built on a part-procedural/part-authored map the size of Jupiter that would take your entire life to scroll across. And everything you do on this map may have unintended consequences to yourself and others in the future. The game revolves around shaping and sculpting the land itself to shepherd your civilization, each landmark in population growth granting you a new god power. These powers fuelled by “belief” allow for “more destruction, more cruelty,” Molyneux explained.
The Belief system has been designed to keep you connected to your people, forcing you to not to become too calloused or detached from your “little people” as Molyneux calls them. Molyneux explained collecting Belief from your people had to be changed from automatic to the a manual task of clicking on individual people. Beta players would get so caught up in sculpting and shaping the landscape they would often neglect their followers. The ability to call your people to a certain marker cannot be used too often either, as it crushes their sense of free will.
“It’s irresistible to clean things up,” Molyneux explained, creating neat lines of cliffs and orderly looking forests, but lose a strong connection between their people. And while collecting belief can be a time-consuming and even monotonous task, Molyneux believes strengthening the player’s bond with their citizens is worth the emotional payoff later on. Part of that payoff comes from how your people interpret your actions. Make some of your people’s houses more beautiful than others? You’ve inadvertently created a class system, Molyneux explained, with the people in shabby houses feeling like the others are god’s chosen people.
During the demo, the sometimes strained relationship between god and believers shone through when Molyneux’s little people weren’t coming despite his calls. “Bastards, don’t show me up.”
Over the days and weeks after the game is launched, your world is going to be connected to other people’s games, stitched together until you’re playing on one massive map with the rest of the world. Soon your civilization will be bumping up against others, affecting their ecosystems as the small changes in ocean currents or tidal patterns you’ve made on your map affect players nearby.
“Are you going to be an isolationist? Are you going to work together?” Molyneux asked. “We’ll see what happens when two civilizations come together.”
Some predict when this happens the whole planet will go to war. At one point during a demonstration of a multiplayer battle, Molyneux used the nicknamed “Fingering” power which turns the cursor into a giant finger of god, poking, killing and destroying, an ability that seems to encourage a gleeful mayhem. However, Molyneux’s worst case scenario? “You are all going to be sycophantically nice.”
Your civilization begins in the ancient age, where all they care about is building and reproducing. They move up through to the Bronze Age at which point they begin to craft weapons, and into the philosophical age where they start to question their god (you) until the Space Age and beyond.
On top of this moral social experiment, Molyneux has layered the “God” of Godus, Brian, who achieved godhood when he unknowingly clicked on the last cube of Curiosity.
The “God” of Godus has the power to make adjustments to everyone’s world, along with the power to make the weather reflect the current weather of his home in Edinborough. He can also make moral decisions that affect gameplay, like “Is it right that the little people work 24 hours a day?” Or will he introduce contraception which invariably will affect civilization’s population growth?
However, a cruel and callous approach does not come without consequences, as Brian’s reign lasts only six months. After half a year Brian must play a multiplayer match against a challenger from the Godus community, the winner of the one on one match is the new “God” of Godus, along with a portion of royalties from the game.
Only time will tell if we band together to create a paradise of cooperation or plunge the Jupiter-sized planet into a world of chaos and war.