Remember Curiosity? It's alright if you don't - it wasn't a very good game, despite having an interesting social concept. Basically a bunch of people continually tapped at an enormous digital cube clearing billions of virtual tiles, and only one of them would "win" by reaching the center. The Tootsie Roll center of that Tootsie Pop turned out to be Godus, a crowdfunded game that allows players to play god and influence the lives of tiny polygonal villagers. It's currently still in "early access" on Steam and available on Android as a work in progress.
Godus and its lead-in Curiosity (now removed from the Play Store) were created by Peter Molyneux and his team of developers at 22Cans. You might recognize that name - Molyneux is an auteur developer responsible for series like Dungeon Keeper, Populous, Black & White, and Fable. In the long and winding video below, Molyneux personally promises the "winner" of Curiosity the chance to join him in the creative process for Godus and become the "God of Gods" within the social framework of the game, shaping the rules for all players. He also promised that the winner of Curiosity would "share in the success of the product," getting a portion of the money earned by the final game.
The guy who found the golden ticket and opened the last cube was Scotland resident Bryan Henderson. At the time he was an 18-year-old guy who became something of a minor celebrity in the indie gaming world because of his digital accomplishment. After winning he met with the developers (but notably not Molyneux himself), had a few drinks, and eagerly awaited his prize. According to an interview with Eurogamer, he's still waiting almost two and a half years later.
Bryan Henderson, Curiosity winner. Image credit: Eurogamer
According to Henderson, the developers at 22Cans have basically brushed him off since the beginning of the process. After a few weeks they stopped contacting him, and after a few months Henderson grew tired of sending a monthly email for an update and getting nothing in return. Once excited at the prospect of helping to influence a digital gaming landscape (not to mention earning thousands of pounds in potential shared revenue), he says he's basically given up hope that he'll see anything of his promised "life-changing" prize.
Godus development has lagged, if not exactly stalled. The multiplayer component, a core part of the promised social structure and the home of the "God of Gods" feature, has been on the roadmap from the beginning but remains unfinished. Gamespot reports that many of the game's developers have either moved to a different project or left the company altogether. When contacted about the contents of the interview, Peter Molyneux said that he and his team still intend to follow through on his promise. "I totally and absolutely and categorically apologize. That isn't good enough and I'll take it on my own shoulders that I should have made sure he was communicated with."
Good luck with that, Peter. If I was Henderson I wouldn't hold much hope for that prize, all the same. The rest of us can take this as a cautionary tale of the current early access fad in game development - it's essentially the same as the crowdfunding model, with the same pitfalls. The lengthy interview, worth a read if you'd like a look at the non-workings of a developer more interested in promotion than completion, is available on Eurogamer.