With Populous, Molyneux essentially created the category of games in which the player acts as an all-powerful controller of a city or a people. So-called god games are hard to define, even for the man who first thought them up. "The definition of what a god game has been diluted," he said. "We can point at some things and call it a god game but they're not god games. The barest essential elements are still in there: you're able to look down from on high and able to influence the world. That still may be in there, but are they god games?"
Molyneux doesn't think Cityville fits the bill. "The genre of god games was grabbed by some Facebook games and they applied some free to play mechanisms when they were very greedy and I think the whole spirit of what a god game is has been lost," he said.
So how will 22cans take back that spirit with Godus? Well, Molyneux has a few ideas, and he sure isn't tight-lipped on his goals. The concept for Godus is pretty simple: you take the role of a deity guiding your people to greatness by shaping their land for cultivation and defending them from enemies using god-like powers that take Belief points to cast. Following the theme of Black & White - Molyneux's last god game, released in 2001 - you can either be a good, benevolent deity or a strict, terrifying one. At its heart, Godus will be a strategy game, but he wants the user experience to be as streamlined as possible without all those silly icons crowding the screen. "The aspiration is that the more you can build into the world that's implemented, the less that you can clutter up the display," Molyneux said. "You should be able to look at your world and judge how you're doing."
Taking a cue from Blizzard, Molyneux wants to create a game that's easy to learn but hard to master. "You can include this as one of the huge flaws with the original Populous, it was very hard to learn," he said. "You need to get people doing something, in the game, as quickly as possible." He told me about the design idea of a Homeworld, the single-player base you start playing with in the current build of Godus. "You only start in your Homeworld with two people and those two people will build this little hut and from that little hut you will gain just about enough Belief [points] to start sculpting the land." Terraforming will play a big part in how fast your people become civilized and advance in technology.
The Homeworld impacts Molyneux's idea behind multiplayer. "The multiplayer campaign works like this: you take a number of your followers at the start, it's not going to be very many because you're only going to have a small amount of population and you'll kind of invest them into your multiplayer game. If you are successful, you'll bring [them] back into your Homeworld with a lot more followers and a lot more belief which will benefit the Homeworld. As you play, your Homeworld is turned from this tiny little hut into a little tiny village into a town, into a city, into a metropolis and eventually it's going to cover the whole of this land. The cool thing is that all of these Homeworlds are connected using the Curiosity technology." The possibilities of using the always-on connection Curiosity in a more advanced strategy game is exciting for Molyneux.
You'll even be able to play Godus on your phone or tablet. "The thing that's astounding to me is that there are no real true multiplayer games on mobile," Molyneux said. There's no real strategy game that allows you to access your game from anywhere, be it on your gaming PC at home or on the train with your iPad. "All of those devices we are going to support. We're going to focus a lot on the PC first, probably the early Alpha's going to be on the PC, but there certainly will be thinking of the multi-device player connecting lots of people together. That's something we definitely can do."