22Cans' upcoming god game, Godus, will allow players to guide their civilization from the primitive age through to the space age by inspiring their little people to advance and evolve on their own.
During a demo of an early build of the game, Godus' creative director, Peter Molyneux, said the player won't have direct control over what their little people do, but the player can manipulate the environment to give their people what they need.
"When you start playing the game, they're primitives — all these little people care about is where they're going to sleep, what they're going to eat and breeding as much as they possibly can," Molyneux told Polygon. "After you've played for a while, they'll move into the bronze age where they don't care so much about how many of them there are, they care about the tools that they have and the tools you inspired them to invent."
After players have played for a very long time, the little people will start working toward going into space. Instead of building axes and basic tools, they will build entire rocket ships. The relationship between the player and the little people is one where the people naturally know what they need to do in each age, but the player will influence how they will do it, what they believe in and their attitude toward others.
"You're digitally painting in this world where everything you do has some sort of consequence to it."
"That to me feels god-like," Molyneux said. "If you were going to be a god, you want to take these primitive people into the civilized world, and we do that with very, very simple but interesting game mechanics all set in this simulated game world."
During the primitive age, when players clear land of trees, the primitives will automatically know to build homes so as to expand their civilization. During the bronze age, when the people need water for their foundries, the player can sculpt a river close to the village, or they can do nothing and have the people trek long distances to bring back water.
At no point does the player in his or her capacity as god pick up the villagers and actively force them to do things. But every action the player performs in the game world — whether it be changing the terrain, altering the flow of rivers or expanding coast lines — will have some impact on the people of the world.
In one example Molyneux gave, he used a mouse cursor to drag some coastlines outward to expand the land. By pulling chunks of land further into the ocean, he ever so minutely changed the direction of the tide, which in turn affected the direction of the wind. These tiny impacts ripple across the entire game planet. Molyneux said that while most of these effects will go unnoticed, they can have much larger consequences when there is a forest fire and the wind direction — which was influenced by the tide that was altered by the changing terrain — pushes the flames straight into a village.
Players can also inadvertently (or intentionally) create political systems within their world by how and where they craft buildings and homes. For example, if a player decides to beautify all houses on top of hills, the little people in the game world will notice and come to believe that there is a class system where those preferred by God get to live up high. Similarly, if a player wins a person from a different civilization through a battle (say, for example, a red-haired person), and that red-hair character has their house beautified over the other houses, then prejudice might develop within the civilization against gingers.
"We have one common mechanic that you can become a master in, and that is sculpting," Molyneux said. "You're digitally painting, but you're not painting on a flat canvas, you're digitally painting in this world where everything you do has some sort of consequence to it."