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When Peter Molyneux spoke with God

Curiosity has ended and winner Bryan Henderson will serve as god over 22 Can's first full release Godus. VG247's Dave Cook spoke with Peter Molyneux about Henderson's impending reign.

When Peter Molyneux first announced Curiosity he promised that what laid in the centre of the game's mysterious, beckoning cube would prove life-changing to the winner.

The prize wasn't money or a trip to space, and it most certainly wasn't a copy of Half-Life 3. It was the chance to preside as god over Godus, the first game from Molyneux's new studio 22 Cans.

It's all too easy to call Curiosity out as a cynical marketing stunt, but if the aim was to make people curious about the studio's intentions for Godus then it can be argued that yes, the app was a resounding success.

The last cube was tapped on Sunday, May 26 by Bryan Henderson of Edinburgh, Scotland. He has since admitted that he only downloaded Curiosity an hour before he won, and that he didn't know what Godus was at the time.

Scorn followed. How dare this seemingly uncaring, uninvolved individual win the spoils so suddenly when other players had been tapping away for weeks? It's a moot complaint because Curiosity was always a lottery with only one winner. This was always a possibility.

Henderson, confused and ecstatic in equal measure contacted Molyneux to find out what his reign as god would involve, and his life hasn't quite been the same since. You may even call the prize 'life-changing'.

He's since been interviewed by gaming outlets, tech sites like Wired and he will earn a share in Godus sales. If that's not life changing then I'm not sure what is. But I - like many of you - was confused as to what the role of god entailed, so I got in touch with Molyneux to get a clear picture.

"These are controlled, defined, designed powers," Molyneux explained," which won't throw throw the game into wild spirals of being unbalanced. What Bryan can do is he can choose a few moral things that are right in the world, so he can choose to do things on a gross level - that's everybody's games - or he can do it slightly defined.

"He could say all of a certain group of people have slightly different rule types, and the options we're giving him are really interesting. For example one of the things in Godus is the little people called 'Followers' They will either work for you all the time - they'll do exactly what you're saying 24 hours a day, seven days a week in game time.

"Bryan could choose to make them all a little bit happier by giving them some time off. Now that may well slightly slow down the pace of the game, but it'll make all Followers happier. You could almost view these as Bryan's commandments; what he believes all the Followers in all the Godus games should believe is right and wrong."

Whatever Henderson decides to impose on his Followers can filter down to either a small set of players, or impact everyone playing the game, but it can also impact his own prosperity. Molyneux explained that because Henderson will earn royalties from every Godus sale, upsetting players could dent his real-world income as a result.

Molyneux recently confirmed to RPS that Henderson's reign as 'God of all Gods' can also come to an end after an undetermined grace period, but when I asked him about this he was wary to divulge any new information, as the exact rules have yet to be finalised.

Regardless, all of this makes for a very intriguing social and psychological experiment. Will Henderson rule with an iron fist if he's having a bad day, or will he give Followers time off work if he's feeling generous? Nothing like this has been attempted before, and just like Curiosity before it, I for one am curious to see how the format plays out in practice.

I asked Molyneux for his thoughts on the reaction caused by Henderson's win, and the fact that he had only started playing that day. He replied, "It's the same as walking into a newsagents and buying a lottery ticket for the first time and winning. It seems unjust if you've been playing the lottery all of your life, but those things can happen.

"It was slightly unfortunate that it happened on a Sunday as we were all kind of scattered. We weren't in the office, we were all in our homes, so Tim from our team spoke to Bryan on the phone to confirm he was who he said he as, and then I sent him some text messages to explain what it was that he'd won.

"He then saw the video and since then we've spoken to him to explain it, and he's coming down to the office this week to see the game, we'll show him his God Dashboard - which he can use to manipulate aspects of the game. Then he will get ready for his reign to start when Godus goes public."

Godus is currently without a solid release date but it's in an alpha phase at the moment, giving the game's Kickstarter backers an early taste of the project. Molyneux explained that the alpha and eventual beta phases will be used as a test-bed for Henderson's disruption, as well as a way to hone the game's touch and mouse-based land sculpting mechanics.

Molyneux is well known for his cheerful optimism and refreshing approach to wild ideas, but when I last interviewed him the Curiosity servers were suffering a terrible strain, the Godus Kickstarter was burning slowly and he sounded genuinely down. The whole campaign was a big risk after all.

I asked him how he felt now, upon looking back at that shaky start, and to see the team's ambition coming to pass. Quickly he replied that he felt like he did back at Bullfrog, when the team would sit down and thrash out new, insanely complex mechanics for games like Dungeon Keeper or Syndicate. The ambition was daunting, and the ideas seemed impossible to realise. But time and time again they found a way to make it work.

"You know what," Molyneux continued, "I really feel - and I get quite emotional when I say this - but I've remembered who I really am, and I think I'd forgotten that. I'm not saying I've had a bad time at all, and Fable was brilliant to work on, but I kind of got lost in those big dusty halls, but now I'm just remembering that I just love what I do."

Both Molyneux and Bryan 'God of all Gods' Henderson are at a crossroads. One is a developer who has found his spark again after breaking away from the world of triple-a production, and who is now able to express himself without restriction, and the other has gone from every-man to digital God in the space of a weekend. No one knows how any of this will all play out, but that's all part of the experiment's fun.

"I kind of think the experiment is still going on," Molyneux concluded, "because of how Bryan acts as a digital god, and what his story is will be fascinating in itself I think. I couldn't have thought of a better person to win it really, because he has been plucked out, and he just came off a radio interview with the BBC, he was interviewed by Wired, we're flying him down to out offices this week, and it's the start of a really interesting time in his life."

What's your take on Hendersons role as 'God of all Gods'? Let us know below.

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