Peter Molyneux Interview – Part 2

As promised, we’re publishing part 2 of our interview with Peter Molyneux today. This time, we discuss Godus, look back at some of the controversy surrounding the iOS launch and explore the original vision behind the game in more detail.

Upon release of the iOS version, there was a lot of backlash from the Steam community…

If you play the iOS version and the PC version, the games are identical, except for one big thing. If you want gems to change the flow of the game in the iOS version, you do that by spending money in order to speed up or unlock things. On the PC version, you have exactly the same gems, but you have to use your skill as a gamer to earn those gems. And that’s how I think it should work – we shouldn’t charge for gems on the PC.

So the difference is in letting people choose how they want to pay for their game experience?

Exactly, yes – that’s right. When we released the iOS version, just 24 hours later, we also updated the Steam version – so that people could realize that we weren’t suddenly going to make the Steam version free-to-play. We do have a shop in Steam, but you buy things there because you have used your skill to gain those gems. That’s the point we put forward, but the community was so incensed with the idea that we’ve done a free-to-play game… A lot of them were not actually playing the game that we had released, they were just angry and agitated. For them it was more of a principle, but I would almost love to say, “What you want is for every game designer to do a free-to-play game, because that’s going to make free-to-play games better.” It’s not that we shouldn’t do free-to-play games, it’s just that the wrong people are doing free-to-play games.

Every part of Godus is evolving all the time. The way the followers build houses in Godus has changed radically over time, as have the settlements. Free-to-play is another one of those mechanics that will evolve. We’re not doing this to make as much money as we can out of as many people as we can in the shortest possible time. If we did that, we’d approach things differently. I can assure you – our publisher on mobile tried to get us to implement aggressive free-to-play mechanics, and we just said no. We are going to evolve free-to-play to make it fair, reasonable and so people feel like they are investing in their world – not that they HAVE to do it. There are hundreds of thousands of people and the vast majority of people on free-to-play, play Godus without spending money.

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Advancing a civilization through the ages was also done about 25 years ago in Mego Lo Mania, but Godus seems to focus much more on how people interact and how civilizations are built….

At the moment, yes. Godus starts with two little people, and that stage in the world of Godus is about harmony and establishing a race. Later, those little people get on and we introduce conflict. We’ve got this race of people called Astari and they’re giving you a clue that it’s not all going to be about your people. When we implement it, you’ll notice that on the other side of a hill is another race of people, and that race of people isn’t going to be AI-controlled – it’s going to be another human. What’s going to happen then? What’s going to happen when your little people meet those other people?

The more you leash your people, the less free will they will exhibit. Because if God really came down and said, “Peter, you’re gonna go to the shops today and buy six tomatoes because I said so,” then I’m gonna sit and wait for God to tell me to go to the shops again. That’s what leashing represents and so when your people meet someone else’s people it’s only then when you realize how different your people are because of the way you played. That’s going to be a fascinating thing that happens. Then, when there’s conflict, and you leash one of your followers to a neighbor’s follower, that could result in a fight. Or it could result in them hugging each other – that’s going to be truly fascinating. There are god powers you can use to start a war, but when you first meet another person or race, it’s up to your followers.

I’ll give you a very good example of that. We’ve got these Astari and they’re a race of people who love to party. You’ll notice that if you play the game the Astari come over and all they’ll do is sit on a mountain top and they just find your race of people funny and they’ll just point at them and laugh at them. How your followers react to those Astari is down to how you’ve played it. Sometimes a follower will just cower and feel bullied by the Astari. Sometimes followers will walk up to them, put their hands on their hips and kick them – and the Astari will run away.

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What happens after you go through all the ages?

That’s going to be an interesting moment, because one thing that has to happen to go through all the ages is that your people are gonna have to meet other people. What I hope happens then is this amazing thing. If I meet your people, and we get on – we stop making a race of people and we start making a nation of people. And that nation will be filled with many different kinds of tribes and each of us is in control of a tribe. And if you link all those together, they become like a country. If you link all those countries together, they become like a continent or even a world. And even though you’ve taken them out to the modern age – how that country, continent or world evolves is gonna be down to how those people interact. I think that is going to be truly fascinating – there is nothing more fascinating than when you involve human beings.

It’s like a big social experiment, really. For example, there is a very interesting thing that we thought of for when you first meet a new tribe. The way it works is that you come in and there’s this new dock that appears where you can send some of your people. Someone else then arrives, but we don’t allow you any form of chat to that other person. You can only use the game to communicate, and that’s been done for a very good social reason. This moment when you meet another tribe isn’t about you meeting another human being, it’s about your followers meeting others for the first time. If we introduced chatting, then that would break that immersion, almost like the fourth wall. How people communicate is going to be an interesting moment and we initially tried this with our crazy experiment called Curiosity. When we first did Curiosity, we had chat in there – like a board that you could type messages into. When we were testing it we realized, “You know what, this is ridiculous” – people were focusing on the chat, not on the cube. We took that out, and saw that people found many amazing ways to communicate with each other, just using those single taps.

I’m really looking forward to that moment when we unlock this social element in Godus. What’s even more cool about it is that you won’t know whether it’s going to be PC gamer that you just met, or a tablet gamer. You won’t know if it’s some housewife, or that free-to-play hater, and that’s what I’ve always wanted. That’s why I keep saying, “Why can’t we make a game that brings people together?” and that’s exactly what we’re gonna do. Male gamers have girlfriends and wives, and they might play casual games… but they’ve never played together. What we’re gonna do is trick them a little, so they’ll meet in-game for the first time.

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