GODUS interview: 22cans' Dictator of Art on designing worlds and working with Molyneux
Are there any challenges specific to creating an art style for a god game as opposed to something like an RPG?
Well you have to use the style and themes that detach the player from the 'world' but keep him or her engaged with the experience. An RPG puts you in the world you're a participant in but with a god-game you're more of a voyeur, affecting events on a grand scale but in a detached way. This is why I'm considering the player as the architect, controller, creator rather than the warrior, wizard or whatever.
In GODUS the longer a building or settlement exists, the more it builds up - what other techniques are you using to keep the landscape vital and engaging?
Ha ha, yeah I never expected that one to be pulled out as something significant. The thought was a small one; build on a tiny space and you build tall, on a bigger footprint you build out. I was looking for ways for settlements to develop in an interesting fashion without having to make the world look like a carpark. I was think of how makeshift dwellings organically develop into complex structures like the favelas in Brazil.
Other than that it's early days on how the world will develop. We have lots of ideas but we’ll apply them in response to gameplay requirements and obvious lackings rather than force them all in at the start.
What level of detail can we expect to see on the inhabitants of the GODUS world - are there individuals and races or are they more just symbols of human presence?
For me they’re almost like ants in an ant hill. Their character really comes out (to the god) through their meta behaviour, how they flock, worship, expand, die and so on. I don't feel that they should have individual personalities. Perhaps if we go in close, in a first person view, it’d be nice to pick out individuals and tell their story. That'd be a nice contrast between god and follower although the work involved is significant.
Your LinkedIn profile has you describing your current role as Dictator of Art - how much of the GODUS artwork is your personal vision and how much input do the rest of the team have?
Yes, well I chose that title deliberately. Certainly the other artists are very talented, contribute a great deal and have already helped define much of the look but I’m very keen to retain ownership and can be a bit of a grumpy old man when required.
I would say the 'vision' so far has been 90 percent mine but the realisation is 100 percent down to teamwork. I absolutely love working with other artists and we discuss pretty much everything but in the end it's my call. Having said that I’m pretty sure they all see me as completely charming, a brother, a benevolent uncle, a confidant, a witty raconteur and an absolute dream to work with.
Which other games do you admire in terms of their art style?
Things like Limbo and Journey were very refreshing and, of course, Little Big Planet and Tearaway from Media Molecule, those guys are great. Wildfire Worlds from James Boty is looking like great fun too and we're both referencing similar things at the moment which is interesting.
These are all admirable and I love them but I do prefer to seek inspiration from outside the industry. I'd love to do something referencing the world of particle physics, scientific imaging, electron microscopy and the nano world. But that's another story!
What keeps you coming back to work with Peter?
Like a lot of the world, it seems I find Peter both infuriating and inspiring in equal measure. However while many people infuriate me there are very few who inspire, I guess that's why we're still working together. Certainly there could be easier and more straightforward working relationships but then, what's the point in that?
I signed up for 22cans to be on the front line not in reserve. Peter is always at the front line going 'Come on guys, don't sit down there in the mud, let's go over the top. I've got this great plan, it'll be awesome…' and often it is.
Thanks to Paul for his time.