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Liveblogging "What's Next for God Games?"

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I'm treating this like notes, so it may not read very well. Take each paragraph as a completely separate thought moment:

Ernest Adams is talking about the background of his interest in god games, starting from his time at Bullfrog Productions and work on the game Populous.

He also mentions a game he was interested in working on but that was cancelled around the time Black & White was being developed. Since Molyneaux was the bigger head in the industry, Adams' game was folded.

So he's going to discuss what he tried to do and wants to put the ideas they had into the public domain.

He appears to have gone off on a tangent about personal experiences in religion..

He wants to explore the concept of religion in the context of a video game.

"What does it mean to be a god?"

Mandate was to make another game in the spirit of Populous.
- player plays the role of a god
- power is proportionate to the number of his followers
- autonomous population believers in you as a god and others as believers in enemy god
- control of weather, natural disasters, environment to affect population
- premise of a god game is indirect control

SimCity is not a god game because involvement in people's lives very direct. It's a "city planner position, not a deity, and if you can't tell the difference you need to go back to Sunday School".

Going into a history of god games..

Populous had no concept of faith. Population had blind faith. Populous 2 used Greek gods. Used mana for ability points.

Dungeon Keeper: population had some sense of allegiance, but not really a faith system. Allegiance was binary. Either with the player or the enemy.

Populous in 3D (forget the entire title) had priest characters. Nature of allegiance still purely binary. Went away from concept of indirect control.

Black & White included some of the ideas Adams' team had for their game.

Other candidates: Doshin the Giant, God of War (not a god game), The Sims, Spore. Adams doesn't really think any of these are god games, but Doshin may be close. Mainly, though, none of these games are about religion.

Next topic is "Religion in Culture"...

Few western preconceptions:
- Benevolence of God, different cultures have different views of God. Christian concept far from universally held. Most people are afraid of their gods. Adams was not planning to use this concept at all in his game.
- Good and Evil as moral compass. Wanted to do without it entirely. Genesis (his game) was about faith but not morality. No judgments about violence or non-violence.
- Monotheism: one god per religion. Polytheism is still existing in the world.
- Religions are mutually exclusive. Common dogma of the Abrahamic relgions, but definitely not universal. Many Japanese observe both Buddhist and Shinto rites.
- Freedom of conscience is normal (western notion). Now a basic principle of human rights. Fairly recent innovation. Wanted to keep this as evangelism in game.

Areas he wanted to explore in his game..

- Mana production as a function of faith, where multiple mana types could be had based on landscape
- Economic burden of religious activity. Balance of priests/warriors/common folk. Cost of prayer and sacrifice.
- Tolerance vs. xenophobia. Times when different religions got along very well, and times when they haven't. Recognition of rights of others and degree of mutual respect. Player could choose an approach.
- Interested in ecological destructiveness of war. It would be expensive and not an easy answer. Didn't want killing opponents to be only win condition. Sectarian wars killed economies and investments in countries.
- Major religious concepts: evangelism, heresy, schisms, iconoclasm

So his game, Genesis: The Hand of God..

Cardinal rule of design: think of players role, and then what player has to do

The Pantheon of quarrelsome gods was a dysfunctional family of deities. Created his own pantheon, borrowed names from Latin (i.e. Belo god of war). Shows an entire family tree of gods (difficult to transpose).

The hand of god is the first game in the Genesis world, an indirect-control god game in spirit of Populous. Focused on tradeoff between conquer and conversion.

Through war, evangelism, and godly powers, convert heathens back to true faith.


- abandoned true gods/false gods
- polytheistic religion with a different cult for each god; they strive for dominance. Different gods have different powers. Player chooses which god to play (sometimes).
- all people believe in multiple gods at once, to differing degrees. All part of same culture. Population believe most in patron god (god of their cult).

Original features
- Faith is a vital resource in the game
- Six mana types to derive power from
- Magic Carpet-like perspective and movement
- Powerful water simulation
- "Golf swing" variable strength spellcasting
- Altitude-dependent spell availability based on height perspective at spellcast
- Multiple settlements to provide for richer strategy
- Male and female people (innovation at time)

Belief model in individual..

- person believed in all gods at different degrees, whoever person believed in most was patron deity

math behavior of faith..

- faith declines over time (need entropy to force player to stay involved). each person's rate of decay is different
- faith can be further harmed by purely random natural disasters (not deity caused). starvation, upheaval, social collapse
- faith boosted by experiencing divine activity (beneficial or not), living on sacred ground, interacting with priest, conversion by evangelist

second-order attributes
- natural religiosity (capacity for belief), varying from person to person, does not change
- susceptibility to conversion. variability of faith in patron god. people should convert at different rates, and not too often
- superstition - responsiveness to divine events
- faith decay rate, vary from person to person

familiar elements...
- level based narrative progression
- indirect control of ordinary people
- semi-direct control of heroes. player sends mystic vision; they seek to fulfill it
- traditional Populous natural disasters
- land modification via godly powers
- multiple climate regions affect gameplay

basic economy..
- mana derived from faith of people
- faith affected by many factors
- kinds of mana produced depend on landscape where people live
- diversity good but not always possible
- prayer and sacrifice create life and death mana and take time from other work

six mana types
- four physical. eareth in verdant flatlands, air in mountains, fire in deserts, water near water - encourages exploration and settlement of different areas
- two spiritual - life from prayer and death from sacrifice
- godly powers require mana combinations. different gods had different abilities

classes of people..
- first estate: priest, protected against heretics, maintain the faith
- second estate: warriors, guard against attacks, fight wars and monsters
- third estate: common people, gather food, water, found new towns, build, have children

class tradeoffs..
- could set ratio of people on per-town basis, but does not designate individuals
- priests and warriors are celibate, but essential for faith and safety
- commoners backbone of economy but vulnerable

- population lives in towns, should be situated near to food and water. later levels may have defenses
- each town devoted to single god. includes temple in middle. towns could trade goods, even with towns of other gods provided they were tolerant
- each town houses all 3 classes
- large towns may interpenetrate - multiple gods/temples possible with high degree of tolerance. creates greater chance of conversion.

- chieftain
- explorer
- evangelist
- anointed by god (you)
- mana price for creating a hero is high
- each settlement can support one hero at a time; settlement is home town
- heroes can be given visions to direct them
- heroes don't lose faith

- search for land and treasures
- lead people to establish new settlements
- if tolerant, establish trade relations

- lead assaults
- destroy monsters
- defend

- preach in secret among infidel
- provoke schisms and civil wars
- lead raids against foreign temples
- may be detected by enemy priests

key tradeoffs
- prayer, creates life mana, takes time out from work
- sacrifice, creates death mana, consumes food AND takes time out of work
- war, reduces enemy population (if successful), damages environment
- tolerance, good for the economy and trade, risky

player activities
- grant resources
- modify land and weather
- natural disaster and miracles
- demand prayer and sacrifice
- set balances

He's flying through at this point and it's hard to keep up, the hour is almost over...

Autonomous behaviors for people, including resource gathering, defenses, fights, trading, random eye-candy, etc.

And I'm going to post.. if anything interesting comes up in the last 5 minutes I'll post again.

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