A year ago today, I published an interview for The Guardian about Peter Molyneux, a veteran game designer whose professional reputation was falling apart around him.
The headline quote? Molyneux was going to stop talking to the press entirely. He was destroying his own credibility by making promises he could not keep, far too early to know their viability, and he announced he needed to focus on game creation, not on talking about games that were still in development.
And he did, Molyneux went quiet. For the rest of 2015, we didn’t hear a word from him. That’s not to say Molyneux was perfect, in our interview he promised a feature complete Godus release by September which never appeared, but he was at least keeping quiet about development.
Last month, Molyneux broke his silence and returned to talking to the press by accepting an interview with Eurogamer. While many viewed this as yet another broken Molyneux promise, in context I hoped it might be a positive sign for a sustainable model of press engagement going forward.
Since last year, Molyneux had been working on a title called Godus Wars. While the fact he has focused resources on this rather than the main game of Godus was concerning, but the fact he waited until days from the game’s launch to say anything about its existance at all seemed reassuring. Perhaps this was a Molyneux who finally understood that he needed to wait until his products were feature complete, until he knew which features would be there at launch, before talking.
It felt like a good sign for Molyneux having learned at least some lessons from last year.
Unfortunately, it was only a matter of hours before it became apparent that there were a lot of negatives to Molyneux’s return. Godus Wars was riddled with issues, and attempts to defend his return to press interviews would quickly become futile.
Godus Wars was offered for free to Godus owners as an apology for the problems finishing development on Godus. That good will gesture turned south when it became apparent there was a paid microtransaction locking off all but the earliest sections of the game. It was an appology gift that wanted you to pay for it, which did not go over well.
Molyneux and 22 Cans had to very quickly backtrack, removing the microtransaction, but by then the damage was done.
Furthermore, it quickly became suspected Godus Wars was intended to replace the finished product Godus would have been. Why release it as a new game under a new name? Most likely in an attempt to escape the negative reviews on the main Godus Steam store page.
Lastly, with the microtransactions removed from Godus Wars, it became apparent there was yet another issue Molyneux and 22Cans had failed to take into account. the fate of God of Gods Bryan Henderson.
Bryan, who tapped the final cube in Molyneux’s Curiousity game, was promised the title of God of Gods in Godus, a title which would come with a 1% revenue share on sales of the game. This never materialised.
Molyneux was quick to explain at the reveal of godus Wars that Bryan Henderson would be a character in Godus Wars, but at the time failed to elaborate on whether or not this meant Henderson would be finally seeing his revenue share.
As it turns out, Henderson is not recieving any revenue from Godus wars, which is likely a good thing considering the game’s primary revenue stream was removed shortly after launch. Godus Wars has already been given out for free to the vast majority of the market who were interested in purchasing the game. With the in game microtransaction removed, there would have been minimal revenue stream incoming for Henderson to profit from.
Henderson still doesn’t know if he will ever see any money from 22 Cans. He believes a meeting may happen in the near future, but he doesn’t know for certain what’s planned for him.
A year after my interview with Molyneux, I feel unsure how to look at the man and his studio. While the move to talking about games only once they are ready to launch is a huge improvement on where we were a year ago, the way Godus as a property has been handled continues to throw up concerns.
I am primarily concerned with whether or not The Trail will be a turning point going forward. The Trail was announced by name a year ago, and since then we have heard nothing about what the game is going to be. To me, that’s a positive sign that he knows not to hype the project before it’s finished. I just hope releasing something without the Godus baggage helps us see the Molyneux I’ve been hoping for the last twelve months to see emerge.
I hope, but I’m not hopeful.