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In this article I am discussing the iOS version of Godus
I love god games, games where you get to influence the development of a world. Sim City, Civilisation and of course Populous we all favourites as I grew up.
Now the original designer of Populous, Peter Moleneux, has given us a new vision of god games in the form of Godus. The story behind the development and the campaigns run to get it started are almost a “how to” of gamification really.
It started in around 2012 with the release of the iOS “game” Curiosity. This had people clicking on squares on a 3D cube to clear layers. All people were told was that the person who cleared the very last square would win a prize of a lifetime! Clearing cubes gave you coins. Coins could be used to buy better tools to clear squares more efficiently. There was also a series of in app purchases (IAPs) that allowed you to get access to these for real money. A few months later a chap called Bryan Hednerson opened the cube and discovered he would not only get a revenue share of a new game called Godus, but he would also be the main god of the game.
Curiosity was the very definition of gamification – it had … well… curiosity, creativity (people began to use the cube to create drawings and messages), social aspects and more. it was also boring as hell in the long run!
Anyway, Godus. The iOS version was released recently and I was really excited – until I saw that it was Freemium, or Free to Play (F2P). Interestingly, Peter suggested he hated that term and that it was actually invest to play.
The game sees you growing a small population and evolving it as it journeys through an unexplored world. It should be amazing. You can sculpt the landscape, influence and directly control your followers in all sorts of ways and generally play god. Except it isn’t.
But first, lets check some elements with a User Type Hexad. My initial thought would be Free Spirit – it is a game all about creating a world after all!!
Loads going on here and probably a whole lot more. But is something here that I find interesting. It looks like the game will attract Players more than Free Spirits. What I mean by this is, people who just want to collect points and the like. If we look at the mechanics and elements in use that attract this type, we can see the game pushes them much harder than anything else – driving people to need to collect and potentially to pay to get ahead. The creativity is always secondary to having to collect currency and rewards.
The parts that make Godus on iOS suck as a game…
Time Dependent Rewards, or as I would refer to it here “Time Locking”. To be able to do anything in Godus, you have to collect all of the things your people are producing. The major “currency” of the game is Belief. With this, you are able to perform actions such as build houses. Each house generates Belief over time, you have to keep going back to collect it.
This kills the game in several ways. The first is that it is not possible to get into a flow or a rhythm with the game. Run out of Belief and you have to wait for more – or pay to do it straight away. Secondly, once your Belief has recharged, you have to go back in to collect it. If you don’t, it just sits there waiting for you. Effectively you have to go back at least once a day to make the most of it.
From a stickiness point of view, this makes perfect sense. They want the metrics to say people are playing every day. If people want to get anything out of the free part of the game, that is what they have to do. The trouble from the players perspective is that this becomes a chore. Start the game, click every house (which could be quite a task later on), then play – it is a barrier to getting on with what you actually want to be doing – and just feels like a way to drive you to pay for things to actually be able to enjoy the game.
This isn’t just a rant about Godus, there is a lesson here. Time Dependent rewards are a powerful way to get people to keep coming back to your system. However, if they have come back, at least reward them with a simple and seamless process to doing what they want to do once they are there. In the case of Godus, coming back in once a day should automatically collect everything for you, so that you can just get straight into playing the real game – no one has downloaded it to spend time clicking on houses!
Gamification should never get in the way of the task, it should either enhance it or stay out of the way!