Hey, remember Godus?! It was successfully Kickstarted in 2012, despite launching with no video at all, as the name of "Peter Molyneux" still carried enough currency to raise over half a million pounds for his return to the god game genre. Just over two years have gone by, and mobile free-to-play versions of the game launched last year, but what state is the PC development in now? Molyneux has announced that he's now working on a new project, a mobile thing called The Trial, suggesting Godus is no longer his focus. And the team currently working on the game have recently acknowledged that they, "simply can't see us delivering all the features promised on the kickstarter page." Uh oh.
So what is the state of the development? It sounds as if the developers themselves do not quite know. Designer Konrad Naszynski has recently been added to the team and is being impressively frank about his experiences on the Godus message boards. As well as stating that he doesn't believe the Kickstarter promises are achievable, he added, "a lot of the multiplayer stuff is looking seriously shaky right now especially the persistent stuff like hubworld." And more recently he has posted to explain how "frustrated" he is with the speed at which he's able to bring change. The developer arrived by peculiar means, having played the Godus alpha and becoming concerned about the direction in which it was headed. He was given an unpaid position by Molyneux, he says, and after a year was finally appointed to a place where he should be able to influence the direction of the game. When trying to fix seriously underdeveloped aspects of the game, Naszynski explains that he had to choose something that seemed quickly achievable with minimal resources, so chose the story. He says that had he selected to overhaul the resource system, "I would have been told outright no."
He describes his current feelings as "cautiously optimistic", while explaining that any changes made to the game have to be financially or reputationally justified. He concludes,
"It's going to be a juggling act and I'm betting a lot of my pc only proposals are going to be shot down and there will be things I will be told to work on that won't contribute to improving pc. If that's the case I'm just going to state that outright when the time comes."
As for those Kickstarter promises, it's not looking good. The silliest claim made was that it would be finished in "seven to nine months". That wasn't even true of the money-raking mobile versions, and with the PC game in Early Access since September 2013, it's been missed by a further 17 months on top. The Linux version, added as an achieved stretch goal, has shown no signs of appearing (and the game is built in an engine that doesn't support Linux). A "student forum" was promised, claiming to provide "feedback on your game design and any career advice you might need", but we can't find them. (In fact, 22Cans' forum is entirely disabled.) We've searched for items like the "Godus Art/Design" book, received at certain pledge levels, and cannot find evidence of its existence.
It probably isn't a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention that a Molyneux project might not match its promises. The developer has become a lampooned figure for his grand proclamations and lacklustre delivery, although somehow the reputation of the work of he and his colleagues at Bullfrog 25 years ago seems to sustain his reputation beyond this. Even in the wake of the absolute mess that was Curiosity, there was still enough good faith to see just over half a million pounds handed over to the millionaire developer for the Kickstarter. A Kickstarter which Molyneux described in December as "very destructive". One he says he regrets, and would not do again if he were to do it over. Perhaps rather surprisingly, and without apparent irony, Molyneux states that a Kickstarter causes one to over-promise at the start of development. He told Tech Radar,
"There's this overwhelming urge to over-promise because it's such a harsh rule: if you're one penny short of your target then you don't get it. And of course in this instance, the behaviour is incredibly destructive, which is 'Christ, we've only got 10 days to go and we've got to make £100,000, for fuck's sake, lets just say anything'. So I'm not sure I would do that again."
This rather considerably concerning statement on how he went about getting people's money doesn't seem to have slowed the developer down. His new game, The Trail, will be an "experience never seen before" according to the Fun And Serious Games Festival at which he announced it. Molyneux "explained" it thus:
"It can be understood at a glance, and it entertains the idea of communication beyond words, by means of music, art, and so on. The problem with social media is that we communicate too much. If you and I, who are having a conversation right now, could only say ten words to each other, we’d feel frustrated, with lots of things to say that we can’t utter. But, on the other hand, we’d make every effort to make those ten words sound as meaningful as possible."
He goes on to explain that his new game will, "build on feelings and emotions untapped so far." The site also appears to attribute to Molyneux the statement that Godus, "lacked in narrative, progress and reward." A fascinating use of the past tense for a game still being sold, for £15, as Early Access.
We've attempted to reach out to 22Cans for comment, but their email addresses appear to be bouncing.