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Populous to Godus: The rubbish-filled road of Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux's journey to create Godus has been a long road filled with "rubbish" games, the designer said during the PAX Prime 2013 keynote, "Storytime with Peter Molyneux."

As part of a "show and tell of Godus," Molyneux outlined the many titles that have marked his career. Molyneux first birthed the 1989 game Populous, a title created "not because of being a brilliant designer, but a rubbish coder," he said. Molyneux couldn't properly code the in-game characters to move on their own, so his solution was to have the user do it.

Subsequent games included Powermonger, a "low point" in the designer's career based on an idea Molyneux came up with during a drunken pub visit. Instead of controlling armies, Molyneux instead came up with the idea to use carrier pigeons to send orders.

"That was the most rubbish idea," Molyneux said. "The game became absolutely crap."

Other titles became memorable for unintentional reasons. In Theme Park, the one feature people remember were "the pools of vomit that covered" the park, or the ability to "move your hand into the creature's groin" in Black & White, Molyneux said.

"Farmville and Cityville ain't god games."

Next was the era of Fable, after which Molyneux left Lionhead to escape a rut, the designer said. After the creation of 22Cans and Curisoity: What's Inside the Cube?, Molyneux returned to god games.

"I dearly love, as a designer, playing god games and reinventing those god games around today's tech, because today's tech is amazing," Molyneux said. "... It means that we can create games that simply have never existed before. We can put ideas in those games that kind of change the world."

Molyneux felt that the genre was falling out of existence, and similar games that cropped up in their absence just weren't cutting it.

"Farmville and Cityville ain't god games," Molyneux said.

Godus is inspired from the "good bits" of Molyneux's previous work, such as Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Black &  White, as well as hit games today — the Civilization series, or Notch's Minecraft.

"Minecraft broke every rule that us designers hold dear," Molyneux said. "... I've met designers that just lost it, because Minecraft didn't have objectives, Minecraft didn't have tutorials, Minecraft didn't have an end."

Godus players will be able to explore a world "the size of Jupiter," Molyneux said — in part because players will "need every square inch," and because "Notch made Minecraft the size of Neptune."

"I've always loved giving people the opportunity to be unspeakably cruel and vicious."

During an onstage presentation, Molyneux demoed the player's godlike powers, including the ability to sculpt by tugging on corners of land or cliffs. When a player moves a cliff wall, this will change the tide of the ocean, which in turn affects wind direction and the weather. Molyneux called it part of a design that combines "little tiny changes" to create a world that is "as dynamic as possible."

Godus includes the earliest stages of man, beginning with the primitive age, where people only care about "building stuff and having sex," Molyneux said. Ages encompass the bronze, iron age and on, going as far as the information and space ages. People will eventually stop walking around the game's world and start driving cars or riding rockets, Molyneux said.

Godus is ultimately about taking "your little people" on a journey through the history of man, and having the power and freedom to do whatever players want, Molyneux said — even if players chose to be less than benevolent.

"I've always loved giving people the opportunity to be unspeakably cruel and vicious," Molyneux said. "I don't know where this comes from, but I like being cruel to digital characters."