Category Archives: god game

Molyneux’s Latest: Godus on Steam

Late last year I posted about Peter Molyneux’s Kickstarter project called Godus. It is a reinvention of his classic game Populous, which created the God game genre back in 1989. The Kickstarter campaign was successful, pulling in £526,563 from an initial £450,000 goal.

Godus is now available on Steam Early Access, which allows you to pre-order the game and get access to a playable beta version. It is available for Windows and Mac for $19.99.

To get you in the mood for some Godly blessings (or smitings), I’ll leave you with video footage of Molyneux demonstrating Godus to Adam Sessler, as well as TDE footage of the original Populous in action:




The Humble Bundle Is Now Populous

The Humble Bundle has always been a popular way for gamers to put money toward charities, and get a bunch of great games to boot. This year’s Bundle features EA games, and it is a terrific deal. Called the Humble Origin Bundle, you can pay what you like and get:

  • Dead Space
  • Dead Space 3
  • Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box
  • Crysis 2 Maximum Edition
  • Mirror’s Edge
  • Medal of Honor

If you pay over the average of $4.83, you also get:

  • C&C: Red Alert 3 – Uprising
  • Battlefield 3
  • The Sims 3 + Starter Pack

And to give retro gaming a little loving, in that last tier you also get Populous.  Designed by Peter Molyneux, Populous created the God Game genre and put Molyneux and his Bullfrog game development studio on the map.  Here’s a video of one of the first levels in this classic game:



The Humble Bundle is a terrific value for gamers, and a huge boon to the charities involved. As always, to find out more about the history of EA, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

A New Godly Kickstarter Project by Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux helped define the “God Game” genre with Populous, developed by his Bullfrog game development house and published by EA in 1989 for Amiga and Atari-ST computers.  In the game, players controlled the fates of a race of little people wandering around varying landscapes, smiting them with boiling volcanoes or spreading pestilence across the lands, or nurturing them with flat fertile soil on which to build homes and prosper and multiply. You were either up against a CPU-controlled rival race of beings, or, in an early instance of online play, against another human via dial-up connection.

While the game was a blast to play, after awhile things would inevitably devolve into a “land flattening” simulation, with players scrambling to smooth the landscape faster than his opponent in order to expand housing for his own minions, resulting in higher influence and more and stronger followers.

The repetitiveness of the game was not its only shortcoming.  It had a very unwieldy user interface that took up 1/2 of the screen,  squeezing the player’s actual view of the landscape for precious screen real-estate.  Populous made true believers out of computer gamers and created Molyneux’s name in the industry, but that gigantic block of icons has been a personal cross he’s borne for decades.  It eventually fuelled the “gesture-only” interface that powered the UI in his magnum opus god game Black&White, doing away with most on-screen icons but not entirely successfully.

Thus, it comes to pass that Molyneux and 22Cans, an indie development house he begat earlier this year, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new project called Godus, that promises to redefine the god game genre as much as Populous established it 23 years ago.  Of course, your excitement level about this venture depends on whether or not you still trust promises coming from Molyneux, who has developed somewhat of a sketchy reputation for promising big, paradigm-shifting game elements while hyping an effort during development, only to fan on the actual implementation of these elements and apologizing afterword when the game is released.  Rinse and repeat.

Although, you have to admit that really only those of us who slavishly follow every little detail of the development of his games throw stones over the results.  Those people who just walk into the game without knowledge of things promised are generally happy with it.  I hope you’ll join me in keeping the faith that Godus and Molyneux aren’t leading us down the garden (of Eden) path once again.

You can check out the Godus Kickstarter project here.

Here’s our Populous gameplay video, for those not as old as Methuselah.  For a  history of the genesis of EA, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

via neoseeker.com

A Quick Look Back: PowerMonger

Molyneux, 2010.  Game designer, sheep herder

In celebration of famed British game designer Peter Molyneux receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at GDC 2011, I want to take a look back at one of the many great games he has been responsible for creating.  But instead of picking the obvious Populous, the (literally) earth-shattering game he made in 1989 under his freshly minted Bullfrog development label,  a release that helped create the god-game genre, I’d like to go with a more obscure choice.

The followup game to Populous, released in 1990, wasn’t quite as successful at cementing itself as a timeless classic. PowerMonger reduces the scope from all-seeing deity to power-hungry army general, but in my mind this helps to make things a bit more intimate.  Directly picking up arms and taking it to the enemy on the ground is much more viscerally satisfying than merely influencing your flock from above.

Gentlemen, we have located their sheep flocks.

PowerMonger’s elaborate opening cinematic definitely gets the blood boiling and ready for battle.  The player, however, might give pause when he sees the task at hand after choosing  a name for himself: a giant scrolling map that represents the 195 lands he must conquer in order to win the game.   From top left all the way down to bottom right, he must spread his influence across the entire world.

A game typically plays out thusly: there are many smaller villages scattered throughout each land.  The player must take over these smaller towns as quickly as possible, recruit fighters to his cause, raid the village and surrounding sheep flock to feed his growing army, build whatever weapons he can at the workshop, and then move on to the next.  It’s rinse and repeat, building his force up to a size that can take on the larger towns, culminating in a battle-royale at the city that inevitably remains.  One land conquered, dozens upon dozens remaining.
C’mon men!  Those sheep ain’t gonna slaughter themselves!
PowerMonger’s graphics are a mixed blessing.  On one hand, polygonal landscapes make for dramatic zooming and 360 degree rotational abilities for gamers.  However, the villagers and soldiers are reduced to nearly indistinct blobs, especially considering the larger, more distinct populace from Populous.  But as they say, the devil is in the details, and the amount of detail contained in the worlds of PowerMonger is nothing short of enchanting.  Villagers roam the lands around their communities, chopping wood and setting sail in their little bowl boats to fish.  Flocks of birds burst from the trees as your army marches across the land.  The seasons pass visibly, with springs rains giving way to summer giving way to orange leaves in the trees in fall giving way to blizzards in winter. The seasonal impact on the game is not only visual; when the snow flies you can expect villages to cease production and take shelter in their houses, burning through their stockpiles of food.

The battle for sheep rages on

Contributing greatly to the feel of the world is the game’s wonderful sound design.  Troops mumble and whisper as they huddle around the crackling campfire.  There is the constant blatting of sheep, annoying enough to have you relishing ordering your army to descend upon the helpless buggers, slaughtering them to help feed the mass for the next battle.  The hammers and sawing drifting up from the workshop as your men concoct new implements of destruction.  The clash and clang as the fighting rages. The belch of acknowledgement from your general as you issue commands is a common audio cue, and one that shows early on Molyneux’s obsession with providing the player with organic feedback on how they are playing; the enthusiasm with which the general replies to commands indicates whether or not he thinks it’s a good idea.  Also of note is the rousing score that accompanies the epic opening, done by prolific video game music composer Tim Wright.

“Psst!  How does one sheep feed all of us?”  “Shhhh!”

The downside to all this is the mind-numbing repetitiveness of the proceedings.  Once you get the rhythm to beating the lands, it’s more and more of the same. Most people probably didn’t make it all the way down to the bottom of the world map; not because of difficulty, but by giving up out of sheer boredom.  Another issue is the confusing litany of buttons on the screen, taking up nearly 1/3 of the gamefield real-estate.  The profusion of buttons needed in his increasingly complex games would continue to haunt Molyneux, until his not-entirely-successful attempt to do away with them completely in his magnum opus, Black & White (2001).

You may take our sheep, but you will never take our freeedoooom!!!

However, is it really a bad thing to repeat battles that are so enjoyable?  PowerMonger is a marvelously fun game, that also provides some respite from the predictable AI by offering online multiplayer, something exceedingly rare in 1990.  The game was also given a WWI themed add-on pack the next year.  Molyneux would go on to create even more elaborate and responsive worlds with games such as the aforementioned Black & White, and Fable (2004), but some of the first steps in the march towards his amazing and amazingly hyped career were made here, with PowerMonger.