Peter Molyneux took money off students, continues to fail at living up to promises

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Peter Molyneux OBE, creator of Populous (widely considered the first ‘god game’), Black & White, Fable and Curiosity, his social experiement with his new studio at 22cans after he left Microsoft, has once again lived up to his reputation and failed to make good on a promise.

In 2012, 22cans set up a Kickstarter to fund their new game, Godus, a supposed return to roots for Molyneux and it surpassed the funding goal of £450, 000, eventually reaching £526, 563.

Godus was eventually released to the public in ‘Early Access’ (a system for developers to publish a game online through Valve’s Steam storefront while in development for those curious enough to have a look) and actually still remains in Early Access in 2015. Although it has released on iOS and Android, those versions appear to be several updates behind (1.9 on mobile, while the PC is on 2.4).

However, with the game still not done and no real signs of 22cans backing down from development, Molyneux has begun to talk about his next game. The press seems to now be distracted from the issues at hand with Godus, 22cans and a failed promise to students in their two year old Kickstarter.

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The Godus Kickstarter had a tier specifically for students, which promised the following:

STUDENT – You’ll receive a beta key to test GODUS with us and will also get access to our exclusive student forums where you’ll get feedback on your game design and any career advice you might need. This is perfect for any students who are currently studying game design and/or development. Everyone will also get access to an online masterclass session and we will look at some of our tools together The university with the highest number of students who pledged will also receive a guest lecture by Peter. This tier is only for students and you’ll need to confirm your university after our campaign is finished but it can also be used as an add-on for any other reward tier.

That tier in particular reached 359 students, resulting in £3590. Apparently, students never received some of the above. In an exchange on Twitter with Lewie Procter (who originally brought up the issue), Alex Rose, an independent developer said: “They also promised some forum where they would critique your games.

“Like, the tier I supported didn’t even grant a copy of the game, it was literally just access to this nonexistent forum.”

After searching for the forum in case it’d been created in the time he hadn’t logged in, Rose found that the forum only contained an “exclusive backer forum” and not much else.

Another Twitter user, Samuel Howitt, did say that they kept their promise on the university visit however.

Student money isn’t something that comes lightly and if we were being funny, that £10 would have gone nicely to the pub or a shop. No, they trusted that Peter Molyneux and his new team would deliver on their promises this time around. It wasn’t investor or publisher money and a lack of constraints means that it could be put to good use – namely their rewards for helping this game exist – it was their money.

Much like many of Molyneux’s promises, it was made and never thought through. It was probably done in a way to draw people in and then eventually give back to them. In another more cynical view, it was done and then probably a realisation that this just isn’t possible, wished away under the rug, along with growing trees and Curiosity.

In a recent video update, when discussing finances, Molyneux makes no mention towards the student money and begins to talk about publishers. On Twitter, Procter said: “Peter Molyneux complaining that the publisher is taking a slice of Godus revenue. The publisher he never mentioned when Kickstarting it.”

Along with these new revelations of “a whole other layer”, 22cans have seen fit to aggressively discount the game on PC and make it free-to-play on mobile in the past, while backers have been sitting on an unfinished game for nearly a year.

Even when speaking about Kickstarter since Godus was successful, his tune has changed dramatically (not too dissimilar than when he was at Microsoft and afterwards talking about Kinect), when speaking with Techradar he said: “And if I had my time again, I wouldn’t do Kickstarter at the start of development.”

This being a year after stating it was “the only way to make a game in today’s world”.

The new game – which Molyneux actually refuses to talk about – is called The Trials and like mentioned above, is in development while Godus remains in a state of disarray. This is foul on many levels, but mostly to the backers of the game, who are still waiting on a complete product.

So with a majority of the students that did donate in 2012 (which you can guess, some will no longer be students themselves) having not had their rewards delivered to them, the game still isn’t done and a new game on the way, I asked 22cans PR if I could ask questions to Molyneux through email or by phone.

This was in December. It’s now February and we’re not much closer to any answers from him, even as PR have been relinquished of the role of dealing with me and his Personal Assistant and Admin have now taken charge.

To steal Procter’s words in a way, why wasn’t this brought up sooner? Will it be outside of the too few who are curious about the student money that was put into development under false pretenses? Will anyone care now that Molyneux has a new shiny thing to write a million pieces about? The answer probably won’t surprise you.

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