26 July 2013

Populous the Beginning


Released in 1998, despite its name, Populous The Beginning was the third game in the "populous god simulation" series. Players took the role of a Shaman, the mystical leader of a nameless tribe who had acquired mystical powers granted by ancient gods after putting on a mask filled with chicken feathers. She aimed to gain control of all the planets in the solar system believing she will be able to become a god among the other gods or something. Whatever.

My view towards Populous the beginning is mixed. Most people were into it due to the "god" like powers granted to the players but I was probably bit more interested in it's RTS side as I was mostly in to RTS games around the times (probably around similar times with dune 2000). Populous was a simplified RTS game but it's main focus was the "throw fireballs, cause earthquakes and call down lightning on the poor villagers and watch them fly around after taking endless punishment" thing.
The RTS factor was about building couple of wooden huts and training few types of units. The shaman acted as a super unit who was more powerful compared to the regular folk. She also had an arsenal of spells to cast within a limited radius around her so you usually walk her around the map, looking for stone totems to gain new abilities and spells and wreck havoc on the enemy villages. 
Even so, the gameplay felt somewhat repetitive because all you did was to build couple of huts, educate few savages and send hordes of priests to enemy huts to convert their savages while your shaman kept the other clan's shaman busy with devastating spells. That was it for almost every level, again and again. 

What I found interesting was the fact that each level takes place in a different planet in a strange solar system (while almost all of them resemble earth with trees, waters and hills) Some how it made me wonder about the gods who gave the shaman her powers and if the story would connect to aliens. Nope, never did... But lets say it did;
Maybe its not the ancient gods that grant powers to the shaman but aliens who have abduct and probed her. They used her to take over the tribe and use her followers to do their bidding. Maybe they needed to mine a strange mineral from these planets and the tribe were used as slaves? 
Each tribe can have an alliance with a different alien faction. (So now we have 4 tribes and 4 alien factions) The tribes would all start with the same tech level (primitive) and start to evolve towards their alien masters. In return the aliens give their shaman various powers and spells via mystical statues scattered around the maps. This might even allow for some sort of "age up" system where you get to see your tribe grow stronger with high-tech alien powers acquired by worshipping the totems and alien head statures.

The idea got me excited at first so I jot down some unit concepts on villagers and units from different ages but after spending some time thinking about it the entire concept seams rather weak. Its more or less the same game with different skins and an upgrade system. It's a mod more than something new. Few modifications to gameplay wont make it any more appealing or any less boring than it already is. 
Also the concepts seem to lack progress as somehow I keep getting stuck at some points and cant seem to improve on the monotonous, cliché ideas that I come up with.


Stays the same as before but less mythical, more scientific as her magical abilities are now a bit more technological or at least scientifically explainable as the alien masters would be gifting them to her. It would still seem like magic to the villagers as they wont be able to use any of it without the aid of their shaman. Not much difference there.


Haven't thought of spells but would probably leave them as is. However there should be a slight difference here as spells should not be cast but "activated" using special alien technology in order to suit the new story better. For example lightning should be called via an alien artefact the shaman gets to pick up, or earthquake should be triggered using an alien seismic device that the shaman places on the ground, the flying monster in Angel of death spell should become a flying saucer that abduct villagers etc.


Populous 3 doesnt need any resources because all huts are made from wood and braves collect as necessary. It may add some flavour to have some more resources into it.

Trees - Same as before, your villagers go and collect lumber from the nearest tree when you order them to build. Each tree can provide a finite amount of lumber, once depleted the tree is removed. New trees can grow in time. (randomly? near other existing trees?)

Fruits - Some trees can have fruits, probably an infinite resource. As long as there are fruit trees near the settlements, the villagers can wander to the nearest tree and pick fruit, eat for a few seconds to feed their hunger. Hunger can affect villager response speed and combat abilities. (hungry warriors cause less damage or have less hit points, move slower etc)
Gem Stones - This can be used as a resource to be used for researching new technology. Gems are valuable to aliens and fuel their technologies? If you can collect enough and bring it to your altar (some new building that acts as gem storage) you get to pick a new tech or spell, send the shaman into the altar, spaceship comes, takes the gems and grants you the tech you have requested.

Maybe if the tribals can keep their primitive looks but use alien tools that would make things more reasonable. Maybe a simple research tree with few alien upgrades per unit. Each research would make a visible change on the unit.

Populous - alien tech examples

Populous - new resources

Below are some more ideas about an ageing system similar to age of empires, store gems, send shaman to altar, press level up button, spaceship comes and brings the tools required for your civilization to progress through time. not good but i will leave the images here for the sake of it.

Populous the ageing

Yea... still seems weak... Maybe it is better to leave Populous as is and look for other games to spoil :)