I’ve spoken before about the work of Peter Molyneux, of which that list includes Populous.
Now, it occurred to me that the general concept of Populous could also use a little revisiting.
I’m aware that a number of the deity idioms are covered in Black & White, but I found myself less enthusiastic about the micromanagement aspects that were introduced.
My take on it is that if you’re a deity, you don’t really need to mess about, or at least should have the option.
If you’re powerful enough to send fire and lightning, you don’t really need to raise and lower land just to earn favour. Or, failing that, you could demonstrate your power and majesty and lord it over your subjects.
So that’d be the first thing I’d do: scale back the need for land levelling, or at least remove the micromanagerial aspect from it, that you don’t need to manage every vertex of land.
The second thing I’d do is build it for an iPad or similarly sized tablet.
Not just because I happen to own one, but because there’s a very visceral appeal. You’re supposed to be a deity, you don’t view the world through a tidy interface, you simply view the world from on high, and presumably issue commands with a wave or gesture.
The thing is, it’s straightforward fodder for touchscreen devices: swipe to move around the world, pinch to zoom could easily cover land levelling. Then everything is is pure gestures, a single finger down the screen for a lightning bolt. Two finger drag for fire and so on.
That is, after all, the bit people remember from Populous: sending fire and earthquakes and general divine intervention, not messing about raising and lowering land to appease people.
I’ve seen a Populous type game done on iPad, but sadly the author felt that encouraging people to tap to level land, buy again it has the micromanagement aspect, one tap for each point of land. It would be playable with a mouse but not on a touch surface with such little effect per tap.
The idea isn’t bad but the implementation lets it down a touch.
I don’t know if I’ll find the time to implement this, but I certainly would like to play it.
I do know that I’d take more cues in gameplay from the original Populous rather than its sequel, mostly because while the extra powers on offer do increase the game’s longevity, they do actually complicate the game without really making a great deal of difference, especially in a gesture based setup.