Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

"You know what Peter Molyneux's like," an ex-22Cans employee told me while trying to sum up the infamous designer's tendency to make enormous promises and then just kinda... forget about them. "You try to hold onto his words and they slip through your fingers."

Molyneux — who has long had a reputation for making promises he never quite delivered on — has again been accused of misleading statements, if not outright false ones, in relation to Godus, his Kickstarter god game revival. In an attempt to get to the bottom of it all, Kotaku spoke both to Molyneux and to three people who have worked with him over the past few years. This is the story of how Godus ended up where it is today.

PC vs Mobile

Godus, which Peter Molyneux once touted as "the ultimate god game," originally launched as a Kickstarter in late 2012, garnering £526,563 (or about $US800,000) in pledges. At the time, it was pitched as an "innovative reinvention of Populous" with "a living world" and much-hyped multiplayer for PC, Mac, mobile, and — as a stretch goal — Linux. As we've previously detailed, nether multiplayer nor the Linux version have come to fruition, and for a time there was serious doubt from 22Cans as to whether we'd ever see either.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

Initially, Molyneux and co said they were focusing on Godus' PC version, insisting that it was priority number one. The Kickstarter, while not going so far as to state that outright, only offered a PC version as a backer reward and contained claims that the mobile version would not lead to a dumbed down or otherwise compromised PC game. "No absolutely not," they wrote in response to a question about whether mobile would lead to a lesser PC game. "We are gamers at 22Cans, we love depth as much as we love innovation. We will be playing the game with you during our Alpha and Beta stages, so if anyone gives us feedback we will look at that. But we're not making a dumbed down game."

In May 2013, the people behind Godus released an unfinished, buggy PC alpha, followed by a beta, followed by minimal updates and large patches of radio silence when the mobile version came along. Said mobile version, which was released in August 2014, ultimately bore little resemblance to the god games of yore, with a microtransaction-based business model and gameplay that drew upon common mobile game tropes, especially farming. Opinions on it were mixed.

Molyneux told me that the mobile version was only meant to be a detour — that it simply took longer than intended (the plan: a few months, the result: nearly two years) — but according to two people who have worked for 22Cans, that's not quite true. Mobile was the primary focus from day one, according to those people. During team meetings, Molyneux would talk about the mobile version's potential to earn millions of dollars per day and attract hundreds of millions of people, according to people who were in those meetings. He cited companies like Rovio and King as 22Cans' main competition. Godus, sources say, was built with mobile in mind from the get-go. It came up during nearly every design meeting my sources were privy to — even PC-focused ones. (Molyneux denies those accusations.)

This was surprising to developers internally, according to all three people I spoke to, because many people had joined the company expecting to work on a PC game — on something akin to Molyneux classics like Populous or Black & White. But they soldiered on through the mobile version's development in hopes of eventually getting to that point. Meanwhile, the PC community's ire only grew and grew as 2013 turned over to 2014, especially as patches of silence lengthened and updates became insubstantial.

Despite claims from the team that all was well and Godus would be a fully independent game, the Kickstarter money wasn't enough to maintain a production of Godus' size on multiple platforms. So 22Cans made a deal with mobile publisher DeNA in May of 2013, another move that sparked controversy and prompted heavy scrutiny. Molyneux claimed it was only a distribution deal at the time, and that mobile mainstays like microtransactions wouldn't creep into the game's structure. Then they did.

Speaking to Kotaku in an interview, Molyneux denied that the mobile version took priority from the beginning, but he copped to having money issues that the Kickstarter couldn't solve. It seems, curiously, that he and his company did not ask for enough money in the first place, so he made a deal with that old video game devil, a publisher, out of necessity.

"You only have to do the maths," Molyneux said on a Skype call yesterday. "There are about 22 people here and the average salary is about $US40,000. Do the maths on how much that costs to run the studio for a month. It doesn't take a genius to work out that the $US800,000 or so we raised on Kickstarter is only enough to take you a certain amount through development. That's why we had to sign on a publisher. That does put an extra impetus on delivering. I wish we didn't have to do that. As a designer I wish I had a gigantic cavern of money to dig into, but you have to keep your finances and do things in service of that."

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

I asked if he'd considered completing the PC version before shifting everybody to mobile. "In hindsight maybe I wish I'd done that," he replied. "But we laid out this strategy and it seemed sensible at the time. It had some benefits. The mobile version is kinda self-sustaining now."

As 2014 progressed, focus on the mobile version proved more and more troublesome for the game's oft-ignored PC version. Even after Molyneux and crew had announced that the mobile version was mostly done, server issues on the publisher's end forced 22Cans into months of additional development toward the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 — something Molyneux says contributed to a handful of key developers' decision to leave the company and an ensuing patch of radio silence after that.

Despite all this and the apparent lack of funds that necessitated a publisher in the first place, Molyneux noted that the company still had Kickstarter money in the bank — just in case. In hindsight, he says he wishes he'd used it.

"We thought it was gonna take nine months, but what we really should have done is put 200 per cent contingency on that," Molyneux said. "Actually, it's very hard to justify contingency in a Kickstarter campaign. People ask, 'How are you gonna use the money,' and then you say, 'Well, two-thirds of the money is just there as a contingency,' people wonder what the hell is going on. So I should never even have intimated dates. I wish we'd made it through the mobile phase faster than we did. I wish development didn't throw us these curveballs all the time."

Always Talking, Never Listening

From the outside looking in, the development of Godus seems disorganised, executed with little regard for many of the features pitched to Kickstarter backers and Steam Early Access buyers. Key features didn't materialise in the PC version, 22Cans abruptly switched to focusing on mobile, and when the community rose up in a great tidal wave of rage, Molyneux and co didn't change course. In our interview, however, Molyneux claimed that 22Cans was always listening, always trying to keep backers in the loop and listen to their feedback. For instance, when the developer decided to suddenly focus fire its efforts on the mobile version, Molyneux said keeping everyone on the same page was a top priority.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

"We tried to explain as best as we could," he said. "We went on the forums, we posted videos. But the problem was that it took longer than we thought it was gonna take. I thought naively that it was gonna take a few months, and it took longer than that. This is an excuse. It is an excuse. I'm not the brightest cookie in the barrel. It was unfortunate, but we were honest about it."

On top of the communication issues, some backers had been fuming that Molyneux had yet to fulfil many of the Godus Kickstarter's promises, such as multiplayer, a Linux version, and a book documenting the behind-the-scenes development of the game. But Molyneux maintains that listening to those backers was a big part of their process.

"There was [a concrete plan to fulfil promises to backers]," he said. "I would say I had more of a plan for Godus than almost any other game I've worked on. We've done 57 video updates where we talked through each stage of the development. And we've always had these big milestones. Releasing a demo, releasing an alpha version on Steam Early Access, refining that over three months, and then moving onto mobile because there were people who backed the Kickstarter for a mobile version… The problem isn't our milestones. The problem is that they take an awfully long time."

But people who worked on the game paint a different picture. Even today, you need only glance at numerous forum threads to see that relations between the Godus team and their community have been strained for quite some time. In a recent video update, Molyneux chalked this up in part to inexperience with Kickstarter and Steam Early Access. This problem, allege people who previously worked on the game, could have been avoided — or at least diminished. Molyneux was provided with frequent, detailed reports on the community, but more often than not, Molyneux's whims took priority, say three people who worked on the game.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

Other members of a core dev group — now made up of longtime Molyneux friends and associates Paul McLaughlin and Tim Rance, former Ubisoft designer Jamie Stowe, and lead engineer Gary Leach — would influence his decisions, but the Godus team was fragmented. Left hand often failed to speak to right hand. Molyneux and his group would sometimes squirrel themselves away for days, said one of my sources, only to emerge with some difficult-to-implement new feature or one that directly contradicted what 22Cans had previously told the community.

Or Molyneux would say something to the press that dev team members weren't even aware of. Some team members, for instance, found out about Molyneux's new game, The Trail, first from articles and then directly from Molyneux. This happened, according to one person who worked on the team, immediately after Molyneux called a big meeting about how everyone needed to improve on company-wide communication. "He squirrelled himself away with two other people for two weeks," said the source, "and when he emerged, he was basically like, 'We're moving everyone onto a new project called The Trail. What's The Trail, you ask? Well, you'll all find out — separately!"

This type of behaviour led to instances where members of the dev team would publicly say one thing to the community, only to be forced to contradict themselves not long after, especially where future plans for the PC version were concerned. It was a source of frequent frustration for developers and community members alike. Everyone I talked to felt like they had very little impact on Godus' ultimate direction. To make matters worse, they began to feel like they were shutting out the community, like they were doing something that wrong, something that didn't quite sit right with them.

Interestingly, however, my sources agreed that Molyneux isn't some whip-cracking, spittle-shouting dictator. They said he was very kind, with an almost Steve-Jobs-like aura about him. He was frequently sincere, excited, cradling new ideas like a thrilled parent. But he was also flighty — prone to losing interest in one idea when another popped up — and he almost always got final say, even when other high-up members of the team didn't necessarily think his decisions made sense, according to people who have worked with him.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

Alienating the community in pursuit of some of those ideas, especially, made one important person in the company hesitant, said one source. They worried, among other things, about legal ramifications of not fulfilling Kickstarter pledges. But the source claims that person wasn't able to alter course. It was still Molyneux's company.

In hindsight, it's unsurprising that Kickstarter didn't mix well with a man whose rap sheet of larger-than-life promises has become inseparable from his game-making legacy. Kickstarter is a place where promises both spring to life (to get people interested) and go to die (when development takes an unexpected turn or drives off a cliff). It's a tough place for games — what with all the inherent uncertainties of game development — whether you've got a Peter Molyneux making sweeping proclamations the whole time or not.

Some developers came away from all of this more soured on Molyneux than others, as evidenced by things like this NeoGAF post from ex-community manager and longtime Molyneux associate Sam Van Tilburgh. In response to another poster's suggestion that Molyneux should have a PR person to keep his infamous larger-than-life promises to a minimum, Van Tilburgh replied, "That used to be me. Problem is he never listens to advice and instead will bully and insult you into oblivion if you dare to disagree with him."

And in my interview with Molyneux, I did notice that he has a certain, extremely frustrating way of talking around anything that makes it sound like his intentions were anything less than pristinely pure. My sources were adamant that he had some sins to make up for, but he played the saint the entire time. He owned up to some mistakes, but he never took responsibility for being at the heart of them. It was always circumstance, bad luck, naivete, or some sad twist of fate. Negligence was never even considered.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

If nothing else, Molyneux verified the structure of his team in our interview, explaining that his product meeting team spends hours or even days brainstorming big picture game/company strategies, but denied the accusation that he lets his whims control the development process above all else. He did, however, say his methods tend to be experimental — prone to new ideas being tried and sometimes discarded — which explains why features like multiplayer were added to Godus and then quickly removed, only to be left on the cutting room floor for more than a year.

"We take stuff out and put it in again," Molyneux said. "It's the way I work. It's the way it worked with Magic Carpet and Black & White and Syndicate. Dungeon Keeper took four years because we rewrote the game three times. It's ridiculous, I know, but this is the way I approach things. I know it's inefficient. I know it's frustrating for any backers looking at it and expecting the sort of game they imagined. But that's the way of it."

Molyneux then emphasised, once again, that listening to backers was a key part of his process. "We've done polls, we've done surveys, we've brought people in from the community. We have one working for us now. I've done design calls with backers. But the fundamental problem is, we haven't had people working on features the community wants until now."

Two years is a long time to wait when all you've got to go on are words.

Winding Down

People have been wary of Godus' development progress for a while, but red flags really went up toward the end of 2014. In the wake of Molyneux's announcement of The Trail and server problems with Godus' mobile version, the Godus team shrank to three members, said one of my sources. Some people left the company of their own volition; others were moved onto The Trail. Things did not look good, especially for Godus' PC version. The widespread scepticism of the game was encouraged by, among other things, a disheartened forum post from new lead designer (and former incensed community member) Konrad Naszynski on January 10, 2015. In the post, Naszynski said multiplayer was likely out of the question, despite all the promotion a couple years back.

The reasons behind the team shrinkage is disputed. Two people who worked on Godus say that this was Molyneux's way of winding down development on the game. The mobile version was more or less complete, and the Steam version wasn't making money, according to those people. Funds, meanwhile, were beginning to dry up. Despite the fact that the Steam version was only halfway done, Molyneux was, according to those sources, willing to call it a day and shift focus onto The Trail.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

Molyneux, however, disputes this, saying he took note of a dispirited, downtrodden team and decided it was time to bring in some fresh faces to take over Godus' development.

"We're not backing away from Godus," he told me. "It's just the logic of how approach it [that's changed]. We've launched hundreds of updates to Steam Early Access, and we've done god knows how many on mobile. This team is pretty tired, as you can imagine after all that. We needed some fresh people. And honestly, a lot of our people had been working so hard that they chose to leave the industry. [Former producer] Jemma Harris has gone to the film industry, and [former community manager] George Kelion left the industry. So did [Kickstarter head and community manager] Sam Van Tilburgh. It is really, really hard work."

Molyneux said that — despite adamant claims to the contrary from two people who have worked with him — he never intended to wind down development on Godus. He admitted, however, that it could've happened had things not turned around recently.

"To me, that point [of almost giving up] came just before Christmas [2014]," he explained. "What happened was, we were — as a team — about to move onto combat and multiplayer. At that point this incredible bombshell was dropped, that the servers we were using — which were provided by our publisher, DeNA — use a system called Mobage. We had to switch off to a completely different system called LCD, which was still in development. And if we didn't do the development time there, Godus wouldn't be live on the App Store and Google. We were basically forced to do that work.

"That was the straw that broke the camel's back. That's when I started to see in people's eyes that sort of dullness. That's when I thought, 'You know what? Unless I can bring in some new fresh blood to this team, we're gonna flounder.' I think that was a smart move. What I should have done is put the community and press on notice that this was happening."

Waiting For Godus

Instead, fears were allowed to run rampant for nearly three months, and many fans and backers came to believe that the game was doomed. However, shortly after a piece on Rock Paper Shotgun earlier this week called attention to the radio silence and indications of development troubles, Molyneux and co came out with a video in which they declared a new dedication to Godus' PC version. The development team has ballooned back to a less discouraging number — with a combat specialist, a new artist, a new coder, and, soon, if hiring goes according to plan, a new scripter/designer — now led by Konrad Naszynski with Molyneux in more of an advisory role.

It's not ideal for people who crowdfunded a god game principally designed by Peter Molyneux, creator of the whole damn genre — nor is what they were led to expect — but perhaps that's for the better at this point. Molyneux thinks that it's a necessary step, and he says he believes players will appreciate it with time.

"A guy named Konrad Naszynski — who actually posted a forum thread and started this whole thing off — he has so impressed me with his enthusiasm and his ideas," he said. "His fresh take on the story that's coming out soon on the update branch, for example. He's super passionate about making Godus a great, fantastic, amazing PC game. And it made sense to have him take up the day-to-day stuff. I'm still there. We brainstorm his ideas together, but he's the one who actually turns those ideas into working documents. If someone implements a feature, he sits next to them and tests it out."

Meanwhile, Molyneux says he plans to have developers post daily update blogs about their progress, and there will apparently be webcams around the office, presumably for frequent streaming, as well. If all goes according to plan, the community will not be in the dark this time around. Of course, given the project's history, that is a goddamn god-sized if.

The team's main priorities as of now? A story that's "meaty by PC game standards" and combat, which will hopefully be followed by the long-promised multiplayer option. However, there is still reason for doubt. In a recent forum post, a 22Cans programmer explained that multiplayer is probably doable, but maintaining servers will be extra costly.

"We've been able to [make multiplayer happen]," he wrote, "just not been able to afford the costs associated with releasing it. That's always been the issue. If we do release it, it's going to have to come with some kind of price tag. That or it's going to be limit[ed] to LAN/Steam friends games like it was when we first launched. The hubworld approach needs monetisation, otherwise we'd sink in a week from costs. I think the multiplayer [Molyneux] is planning is based on these known problems. Not sure what that means yet."

On top of that, two people connected to 22Cans say the company is still facing money troubles, something which leaves their ability to sustain full-steam-ahead work on two separate games — not to mention a costly multiplayer mode — in doubt unless they can secure more funding. When I learned of this yesterday, I emailed Molyneux for comment, but he still hasn't replied.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

In wrapping up our interview that took place early that day, however, Molyneux made some bold claims. He of course asked that people give him time and leniency given that the team only recently began tackling the problem of Godus' PC version in earnest, but he also said he now intends to largely disappear from the public eye until Godus is complete.

"The fundamental problem here is me," he lamented. "I think my days of talking to the press and talking through development and talking about exciting ideas are over. I think we need to draw a line under Peter Molyneux. That needs to be it, because I think my reputation has hurt the development of Godus. It hasn't helped. Every time I'm quoted in the press now whether I'm talking about Dungeon Keeper or Steam or what have you, it becomes this massive headline.

"It's just become incredibly destructive. I think I'm no longer gonna go to GDC or E3. I'm no longer gonna go around on road trips for press. I think we just need to draw a line on that. It makes me incredibly sad. I loved talking to the press and I loved being a designer in front of people, talking through ideas. But I think now it's just too destructive. So now I'd rather retreat. I would rather die than stop developing games, but I think retreating gracefully from the public eye is the best thing I can do. I think if Godus was not done by me, it wouldn't have caught quite so much flack."

Granted, he also claimed that he's been trying to avoid speaking or appearing publicly for the past year, and the results have been... questionable, especially in light of the fact that he's spread similar sentiments around to publications like Rock Paper Shotgun and The Guardian while continuing to do more interviews. Moreover, keeping quiet is kinda what got us here in the first place, so maybe an all-or-nothing approach isn't the best idea.

Why Peter Molyneux's Godus Is Such A Disaster

At the end of my interview with Molyneux, I asked one final question: after this whole runaround, did he think he'd misled people, intentionally or not? His response was puzzling, verging on bizarre.

"Everything I say in the press misleads people," he said. "I spoke to a journalist yesterday, and the first thing he asked was, 'Are you a pathological liar?' When I say something in these 57 videos I've done, when I say something to the press, I truly believe it. And my philosophy, for what it's worth, is to be a designer — not to be a PR person, not to be careful about every word I say. And that's led me to this disastrous position where I can never say anything. Because everything I say misleads people. Especially with me, because I'm such an eloquent talker. I talk around a point and then a segment comes out."

But then he added:

"I said we want to make a great game, and I still stand by that."

So take that — all of that — as you will.


Comments

    tldr; Do not invest in anything by Peter Molyneux unless it is actually finished, completed and released. Even then be wary.

      I didn't mind Black & White, but it definitely didn't live up to the hype, and that game left zero cultural footprint (other than being evoked in discussions about Molyneux). Then Fable came along and was another lofty, but forgettable game. I saw Godus on KS and said fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Molyneux is just a hypeman at this point.

        He's like the fucking pied piper, playing his tune and leading the damned into a mire of despair.

          That was funny and horribly depressing at the same time.

    Peter Molyneux: shit developer, brilliant marketer.

      Unfortunately not, or people could just stop buying his games. Bullfrog made amazing games, and Black and White and Fable aren't bad games either.

    The interview with him in RPS is really brutal. It almost becomes hard to read.

    "Are you a pathological liar?"

    That's the opening question. It's a weird read. Sometimes a question gets asked, then they won't wait for whole answer before launching another attack.

      yeah, it was even more brutal than their interview with ubisoft a couple of years ago and in that they tore ubi not one, not two but three new arseholes

      Yeah, I thought that they'd started hard but it would work to cut through the normal PR fluff...but jeez. John may as well have brought a katana to the interview.

      Indeed.. I mean I can understand "tough questions" but the interview just smacked of cheap interviewing tactics I normally see reserved for "current affairs" programs like Today Tonight and the like.

      I couldn't stand reading it to be honest =/

        To be fair though, Peter Molyneux said he could have spun things but didn't: in reality he's spun so much his head has just about fallen off. I'm glad someone has done the journalistic equivalent of slapping him in the face and telling him to wake up to himself. Molyneux doesn't mean to be an arsehole, but he is, unfortunately.

          Oh i agree completely that Molyneaux has definitely tried to bite of more than he can chew on a multitude of occasions.

          The thing is you can still deliver a proverbial interview bitchslap w/o resorting to really low brow attack tactics that RPS used. It just cheapens the whole interview IMHO

      I read the RPS interview on the weekend. 'Brutal' is a nice way of putting it.

      Both men got pretty emotional and agitated during it. And Molyneux talks a LOT. There were so many paragraphs that I just skimmed.

      Molyneux spins and equivocates at every tough corner, offers meaningless mea culpas that are meaningless because he doesn't actually intend to operate differently, instead offering up a barrage of excuses. John Walker is relentlessly unkind and badgers at more than a few points, with that uglest of journalistic tendencies to demand the yes/no answer you want, complexities or unfairness of framing be damned.

      It's an ugly, heated mess with no good outcomes and no real understanding of each other.

      Molyneux wants John to leave well enough alone and realize that game development is a complex process where you can't always deliver what you promise, and John wants Molyneux to stop fucking promising what he can't deliver.

      It was a thoroughly exhausting hour and a half phone conversation of badgering and excuses.

      In the end, I really don't think there IS an article you could write out of that, and publishing the whole thing was Walker's ethics in play, allowing Peter the opportunity to not be misquoted or taken out of context... because all the context is there. Naked. Nothing ommitted.

      Uncomfortable enough to read, I can't imagine participating.

    This guy has been shafting people since the original Fable, yet he's one of those guys that when you hear him speak you believe everything he says.

      I had no idea of his history or that he was behind Bullfrog. All I know about the guy is that he helped give us Fable, which I loved and lament the sequels, and that people continuously accuse him of bullshitting. So, with those facts in hand, I can't believe people took him at face value.

    I played it on Android for about 10 minutes, not knowing it was Molyneux's game, got bored very quickly as it was more of the same bland mobile 'civ buildin'/'god game' that has flooded the market. I got disappointed when I found out who made it. He'd've been better off porting Populous to mobiles and left it at that. I can't see how 22 people were working on that one game for so long

    Why does anyone put up with Molyneux's s**t? Even when he's not completely misleading the consumer his games are pretty forgettable at best.

    The Steam version wasn’t making money, according to those people. Despite the fact that the Steam version was only halfway done, Molyneux was, according to those sources, willing to call it a day.

    Everything wrong with Early Access in a nutshell.

    Related:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-02-12-devolver-honours-molyneuxs-broken-promise-to-curiosity-winner

    The only three games I really enjoyed, Fable , Black and White, Black and White 2.

      I thought Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate and Populous were damned amazing too. But I'm old and was playing them when they came out.

    I'm finding it quite disturbing that an article about judging the decisions of someone in hindsight isn't seen as a little more transparent. We're consumers and truthfully, what we don't understand about games could fill an ocean and what we do could probably fill a bucket or two. Unfortunately, most of what we think we know could (by our own admission only) fill a galaxy. This leads to a strange culture where we totally believe he said/she said. When it's a man talking about a woman, we'll believe him. When it's a journalist basically saying a bunch of stuff that seems kind of personal and framing an argument against the person they're speaking to before they've even spoken, we'll still always believe the journalist. It's because as consumers we love it when responsibility is removed from us. That when some guy says, "this'll be great" we sue them because we took the words literally when she should've just learnt a little bit more about human communication since it's existed as long as we have.

    Godus being a disaster is undeniable but it's also undeniable that things don't turn out the way people plan and i'm a little uncomfortable about the tone of the article. It just rings false to me, I mean it reads like a backstage wrestling dirt sheet where a "source" tells us Hulk Hogan is going to beat Randy Savage tonight! Well, MY sources say yours are rabbits.

    Edit: Reading over it again, i'm still a little disturbed. I found the final paragraph quite puzzling as well since the writer deems it puzzling (when it ain't, that's for you) despite it being quite clear that Molyneux is talking about the possibilities of the creative process publicly and that truth that is true at the time of speaking is still truth. If I had to take the garbage to the dump and I say "I'm taking the garbage to the dump tomorrow" but then I run out of fuel halfway, I'm not lying about going to the dump, a problem arose. It seems the issue is that Peter should just not talk freely to the media because they hold him to things you wouldn't hold someone to in a conversation. It seems the issue being painted here is that he's a megalomaniacal Vince Mcmahon/Donald Trump character whose poison infiltrates all those in his way and whose tendrils flail around in an anguished attempt to satisfy his "whims". Seriously, I don't believe the narrative from the information given.

    Last edited 14/02/15 4:53 pm

      Article: "In a recent video update, Molyneux chalked this up in part to inexperience with Kickstarter and Steam Early Access."

      You: "We're consumers and truthfully, what we don't understand about games could fill an ocean and what we do could probably fill a bucket or two."
      and
      "it's also undeniable that things don't turn out the way people plan"

      It's true that not everybody here understands about everything about games. It's quite likely that there are people on that web site that have professional experience working in the industry.

      Personally, I have some education in software engineering and professional experience in software development. A game is a form of software engineering project. The article is quite clear in describing Molyneux at being indecisive about the features and goals of Godus, especially switching from focusing upon PC to mobile gaming. A basic knowledge of software engineering would tell you that could have a terrible effect on the ability to deliver a project on time and on budget.

      You don't seem to be familiar with some of the history here. People believe this sort of article because it is entirely consistent with Molyneux's past and present behaviour.

      Molyneux built his reputation in 90s, while at Bullfrog. When Bullfrog was sold to Microsoft, he kept developing games, but he started building a reputation for being overoptimistic when talking about current and future projects; but the project always actually came through, not quite as promised, but pretty close. While at Two Cans this has developed into a simple failure to deliver.

      I'm not a game developer (although I have written simple games in the past). But I don't need to be one for this. Game development is a tremendously complex and involved process, at the level Molyneux is currently at. We all know that. Molyneux, also knowing that, repeatedly makes promises and breaks them. We know that he is familiar with the processes involved - he had a major role at Microsoft for many years. In full awareness of that complexity, he still makes and breaks those promises.

      We don't have to be experts to recognise the problem here. We rely on Peter's expertise as a twenty-year veteran. Other companies develop much more complex games in shorter timeframes on time and on budget. He has a demonstrated inability to do so, and what we've seen of his recent actions gives us no reason to believe this is going to change.

      Basically, we believe the narrative because it matches everything else he's done in the last fifteen years or so. Sad, but true.

        That's the problem with game developers, we look at their previous games and expect every future game to turn out the same.

        It's the same thing as what happened with George Lucas, when the prequel trilogy was announced everyone went crazy because they expected another miracle trilogy, only to be ultimately disappointed because lets face it, Lucas is a moron.

        Molyneuxs has always been a terrible developer, having an executive position doesn't disprove that, making a couple of good games doesn't disprove that (Don Matrick anyone?)

        The developers who are worthy of that kind of trust, and praise, are the ones who consistently make great games, every time, and are honest and truthful when they screw up. Hideo Kojima comes to mind.

      If you can stomach the transcription of two emotional people arguing with each other over the phone for an hour and a half, I'd recommend reading the Rock Paper Shotgun interview 'article' (copy-paste transcription so as not to let anyone be taken out of context or mis-quoted).

      It's mean-spirited and brutal, but John Walker does quote back a couple inconsistences to Molyneux about things he's said and done, and Peter manages to dig himself into a hole and offer up MORE inconsistencies within the course of the interview.

      It becomes clear that he asked for less money than he expected would be needed in the Kickstarter because otherwise he'd have got nothing, and that he was aware in advance that the stretch goals were a bit of a stretch. As for any other smoking guns... I didn't see 'em. He dropped the ball on communication with people, and he had people speaking for 22 cans which got off-message, saying the multiplayer was a shambles and unlikely to happen. They signed to using Middleware which didn't support Linux (one of the stretch goals) under the understanding that it eventually would, once the middleware-owners implemented it... which hasn't happened and doesn't have a solid time-frame.

      It's illuminating but not vindicating.

        Keep watching Molyneuxs with those rose tinted glasses of yours.

        How could he have asked for less money then required for the Kickstarter, when he had put 2/3 of the money away as reserve?

          I'm confused. I'm not sure where the '2/3rd as reserve' comes from. He actually said in the interview that in order to have 100% contingency the kickstarter would've had to ask for 1.5M pounds, and they were flat-out getting half a million. I'm not sure what this 'reserve' is about, it didn't come up in the interview.

          He also admitted that he suspected (not 'knew') that he would need more, but didn't want to ask for it because the public was already critical of a 'Personality' like him making use of the platform in the first place, and he felt he had to lowball the figure in order to make sure that the time invested in running the Kickstarter campaign wasn't wasted time and effort.

          Those are not flattering things for him to be admitting, I'm not sure where pointing this out counts as seeing him through rose-tinted glasses.

          John's other 'gotchas' were really more badgering. He dropped the ball on communicating with the Curiosity winner, but that was incompetence in not following up, instead of deception or equivocation.
          Not being able to meet the linux stretch goal was particularly ill-advised, but to a certain degree also out of 22cans' hands - the middle-ware had announced plans to support linux, but hasn't yet, so the Godus devs can't implement it until the middleware suppliers do.

          They're excuses for circumstances that should've been communicated better, but they're not smoking guns to catch the guy out on the 'pathological liar' charge.
          To me, the evidence of pathological lying is mostly just the kickstarter dodginess, and the pretty blatant equivocation that comes from saying, "No publishers... for the PC version," then picking one up for mobile and putting PC on hold for two years while developing the mobile version.

          If you read the interview it's a tonne of belligerent, emotional badgering on John's part and a tonne of plaintive and long-winded excuses on Peter's part that make the whole thing really unpleasant.

          If you want some Molyneux-bashing fodder, though, the lies told IN the interview probably include the complaints/promises/threats about not doing any more talking to the press. Which I don't know, maybe he meant to include the caveat, "*except for what I've already agreed to do," or something.

            "He dropped the ball on communicating with the Curiosity winner, but that was incompetence in not following up, instead of deception or equivocation."

            The original video linked to the winner promised a cut of every sale of Godus.

            The contract actually offered to the winner was to pay a cut of every multiplayer transaction for Godus during his term as God of Gods. That multiplayer may not ever happen (although it hasn't yet been cut off completely.)

            I can't see how that mismatch can be characterised as simple miscommunication. It's as if I offered you $100 an hour to work for me, then the paperwork turned out to offer $100 an hour if the Greens hold Government.

              Fair enough, if the video said 'royalties from the sales of Godus' then that's pretty clear-cut. I didn't see the original video, so I was under the impression from all the talk after that it was always about the multiplayer role.

              As for the multiplayer not happening, I'd figure that falls under the category of miscommunication because the whole 'not going to happen' idea is thanks to a rogue developer going on the forums and saying he can't see it happening because it's a dog's breakfast, and thanks to THAT clusterfuck he's now toeing the party line, which is that it's 'in development'. Which was always the official stance. Not a promise broken as much as 'not fulfilled YET'.

                To quote word-for-word from the video, "Every time people spend money on Godus you will get a small piece of that pie."

                However, one thing I missed was a minute later he adds "you will accrue riches from that game from the start until the finish of your reign" which is in line with the contract.

                Although he then adds "You will have fame. You will have fortune..."

                Anyway, not as straightforward as I remembered, but given the holdup with multiplayer...

      How can anything turn out according to plan, when the person in charge of that plan constantly rewrites it over and over again at his own discretion.

        Well, there's the rub, isn't it? It's why you can't fully trust devs who want to be free of the shackles of publisher-controlled development. And it's why Duke Nukem Forever and Daikatana both turned out to be such shambles. Their leads were allowed to set their own schedules and budgets, but also wanted their games to be the very cutting edge... at a time when the cutting edge was changing every couple months, causing endless re-writes. It's pretty telling when John Walker complained to Molyneux along the lines of, "You said seven months, for fuck's sake it's been THREE YEARS!" he complained, "You sound like a publisher, John!" Very telling, that.
        "Junior, you probably shouldn't eat a bag of cheese as your breakfast and dinner every day."
        "Gah! You sound like my Mum!"
        "Maybe your Mum was onto something."

    Good article. Cogent if not concise.

    I prefer cogent.

    Last edited 14/02/15 4:58 pm

    You could almost forgive a lot of his mistakes as accidents and circumstance, if only The Trail didn't exist. People were expecting (and had paid for the development of) one game only for the developer to switch to another.

    Eh, screw him.
    The fact that he overhypes and underdelivers so often makes me very annoyed.

    What he did to Bryan Henderson was just awful, and really quite hard to read :/ Yet at the same time, while I was glad to see RPS hold back nothing, I felt bad for him. He seems so deluded but doesn't understand how badly he sometimes messes up, it's just a really sucky situation :/

    Last edited 15/02/15 4:06 pm

    Unless I'm missing it, you appear to have forgotten to credit Elizabeth Simins for the fragment of her comic you're using.

    The RPS "interview" was pretty gross. I do feel for Molyneux - he seems not to have enough of a filter; he gets excited by his own ideas and potential, and speaks before he knows for certain they will come into fruition, and he and his team - and the consumers - all suffer for it, whilst the media loves the spectacle of it all.

    He's only human.

    Watching that trailer, I have no idea why it’s so difficult to make this game. It’s not exactly ambitious and it’s been done a few times before. What was the hold up?

      "It's been done before," is exactly why the hold-up. Because they didn't want to do what's been done before.

      The curse of the creative - when what you draw/paint/write/compose/code doesn't match the vision in your head, turns out being just like everyone else's shit and that's not what you were going for... so you go back to the drawing board, or refine, or reiterate, or enhance... Compounded by the fucking nuts situations of game development.

      Specifically: They asked for 7 months worth of money from Kickstarter. It wasn't enough, obviously, but they only asked for that much because it was what they thought they could get - because if you don't get what you ask for on Kickstarter, you get nothing. So yes, that was the first dumb decision.

      So they only got 7 months (minus Kickstarter's fees, minus VAT), which only got them about as far as putting out a rough PC alpha on Early Access. Early Access money didn't bring in enough to finish it. So... work without pay, or...? Plan B: a way out. No venture capitalists were biting, no angel investors. They promised 'no publisher' for the PC version, but they didn't say anything about a mobile version, did they? And if the mobile version is faster and easier and generates Rovio-level money, they would have a revenue stream to draw upon to keep the lights on while they finish the PC version.

      So they got a publisher to do the mobile side of things, which came with a tonne more money than the Kickstarter brought in, and the use of a multiplayer engine that they'd otherwise have had to buy. But the engine didn't support the stretch goals (eg: Linux support). So while working on the Publisher's dime, they had to do the mobile version first, to the Publisher's requirements, then they would be allowed to use their share of the mobile revenue and presumably (but I'm not sure) some more of the publisher's money to pay for finishing off the PC Steam version. Which is now underway.

      So basically the Kickstarter only got them about 'half-way' and a publisher took them on a detour, and along the way they had to change engines (middleware) because the publisher demanded it, which meant either developing two incompatible versions with no asset-sharing, or two incompatible versions with some transferrable assets and coding. They opted for the latter.

      Throw in some distractions of dealing with the press with regard to kickstarter backer rewards (physical 'making of' book not being released, because... well, the game is still being made), and how to handle the Curiosity side-project winner's reward of a vaunted multiplayer role and royalties from it, when multiplayer isn't even built yet... and yeah. It's been a development schedule cohesion clusterfuck.

    I think there are three main issues to PM:

    1. He's a man of ideas and vision and creativity. But a horrible businessman. He should be in a team where he's the man with the ideas but nothing else, allowing everybody else to actually be in charge of stuff.

    2. he suffers of the common problem of people of ideas that start believing their own propaganda and after a while start believing that they cannot possibly have an idea that is not good. They lose a critical approach about their ideas and often get touchy or scorny if someone else suggests otherwise. That approach may or may not work for independent artists doing their own projects, but it's catastrophic for someone in charge of several employees attempting years-long endeavours.

    3. He's a terrible developer. His method, or rather lack thereof (as quoted in the article) is terribly disorganised, wasteful and risk-prone. Again, someone else should be in charge of decision-making, scheduling and methodology.

    Rule number 1, always finish your title on 1 platform to start with, don't waste time trying to get it running on 2-4 other platforms or this shit will happen.

    Once game is pretty much feature complete on PC, Peter should have ONLY then looked at the Mobile/mac/linux platforms, he spread his dev team VERY thin and expected miracles. Truly just another fool in the gamedev industry who refuses to learn from past mistakes.

    Molyneux isn't, as he claims, "eloquent." The word he's looking for is loquacious.

    “It’s the way I work. It’s the way it worked with Magic Carpet and Black & White and Syndicate. Dungeon Keeper took four years because we rewrote the game three times. It’s ridiculous, I know, but this is the way I approach things. I know it’s inefficient. I know it’s frustrating for any backers looking at it and expecting the sort of game they imagined. But that’s the way of it.”

    So he is basically saying "I do what I want and I don't care what people say or think of me".

    He just admitted that he forces his way of things on the rest of his team, and doesn't listen to anything anyone says.

    This guy has always been a complete moron. I have always known how much of a total useless developer he is, but people always listen to him. He is a terrible businessman, terrible leader, terrible developer. One of those guys who got lucky on an idea or two, and ran with that for decades (George Lucas for example), with some kind of bravado that just frustrates me.

      Populous, Syndicate, Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Black & White... somehow at some point he was able to make (or have a major role in making) some of what are hands-down the best games of their time and in some respects, all time. No-one's been able to make anything quite like them. Whatever he was doing under Bullfrog was working. I'm pretty sure where things de-railed is when people gave him too much freedom.

      Like many creatives, someone like that needs constraints. Absolute freedom is a curse. When you can do anything, you do nothing out of the desire to do everything. Someone - such as, in the past, publishers - needs to ground people like that and tell them: "No. Enough."

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