Feature: Worship in your Idle Time

By David Radd

Posted April 6, 2012

Among social games, there's no lack of strategy titles, though there haven't been as many so-called “god games.” The sub-genre where players exercise god-like control over some virtual populous has been mostly absent. However, Idle Games wants ot change all that with Idle Worship a game that includes, synchronous multiplayer. We talked with Jeffrey Hyman, the CCO of Idle Games, about making and promoting this unique title.

[a]list: Give me and overview of Idle Worship.

Jeffrey Hyman: Idle Worship is a god game. Technically it's a polytheistic god game.  In Idle Worship, every player is a god trying to create the largest and most powerful religion.  To grow your religion you must gain the worship of followers.  Your followers can be friends, strangers and the slightly dim indigenous people called Mudlings.

[a]list: What do you feel the specific appeal of this god game on Facebook is?

Jeffrey Hyman: The genre of god games has been around since the 80's and I always enjoyed playing them as a kid. But what disappointed me about the genre was; I never felt like I was a god when all I could control were non playing characters. It occurred to me that a social network was the perfect place to create the worlds first "polytheistic god game".  In our game, you try to create the biggest religion and become the most powerful god by gaining (through kindness or cruelty) the worship and adoration of friends and strangers, in addition to the non playing characters.  (So clearly I have some issues i still need to work though.)  God games have always had appeal because they tap into the human desire to be liked, adored and in control.  But today these games are even more salient with social networks and popular obsession with things like "the number of Facebook friends you have" or "how many Twitter followers you've amassed".

[a]list: Tell me about the trailer that was done for Idle Worship and what the reception for it has been like.

Jeffrey Hyman: We are very pleased with the trailer, so much so, that we're releasing another trailer that focuses on the backstory of the Idle Worship Universe and its population of Blobites, Sandbillies, and Mudlings.  Our initial goal for the trailer was to showcase the art, animation and humor of the game.  When we initially began showing the trailer the feedback we received was intriguing. Half of the people who saw it said they didn't believe that the game art and animation actually looked like what was in the trailer, while the other half thought they were watching a trailer for an animated television show.  So we definitely made some changes based on that feedback.

[a]list: How have you promoted the game – has reaching out and making the press aware of the product been a key part of getting people to try it?

Jeffrey Hyman: As of right now we've intentionally done very little to proactively promote the game.  To date, we've only acquired approximately 50,000 installs directly from Facebook ads.  Every other installation we've received has come organically as a result of: the press, word of mouth, in-game viral post cards, mini-games etc.  We are incredibly proud of what we've been able to achieve thus far in terms of virality and without question, the attention of the press and the favorable reviews have been invaluable.

[a]list: What sort of reception have you gotten to Idle Worship so far?

Jeffrey Hyman: We are floored by the reception we've received from both press and players.  As you know, the game has been a labor of love for over 2 years and the entire team has poured blood, sweat and tears into making this something both unique and richly entertaining.  Creating something from nothing is never easy and the positive reviews have meant a lot to myself and the team.  But just as important, is the "rabid" response we've received from players.  The number one goal of Idle Games has always been to delight and entertain the player.  We continue to receive email after email about how much people are enjoying the game, the artwork and the characters.  In fact we already have people sending us pictures of fan art that range from kiln fired clay sculptures to highly complex paper models. To receive that kind of response at this early stage makes all of the sleepless nights and struggles worth it.

[a]list: Why was it chosen to have synchronous features over asynchronous features like most social games?

Jeffrey Hyman: Fundamentally I don't believe you can have a social game without at least offering up the ability to play in real-time with others.  At the same time, you're kidding yourself if you think a purely synchronous game will succeed on the social networks.  One of our mantras about Idle Worship is that users should "come for the asynchronous, but stay for the synchronous".  That nicely summarizes our mindset and approach in trying to marry these two different styles of play.  While the synchronous feature is obvious to users, there is another technical innovation that's just as cool but less obvious … namely that Idle Worship features an "unsharded" universe.  While that term sounds as geeky as it actually is, what it means is that no matter what server a player is on, they are free to roam about the universe and play with anyone (regardless of what server they are on).  The one (and maybe only) nice thing about having to build everything from scratch is that we weren't burdened with legacy code and were able to craft a gaming platform tailor made for the social networks. 

[a]list: Do you feel like the quality of the animation and other elements in the game help set it apart from other social games?

Jeffrey Hyman: Without question.  When Rick Thompson and I started the company one of our first goals was that Idle Worship would look vastly different than the competition.  As soon as you start the game  and see the art, animation or read the copy…  you immediately realize that this is something different.  I honestly believe that Idle Worship has redefined what is technically and artistically possible in a flash game.  Let me assure you, that was no easy feat for our artists to create, or our engineers to implement and support.  Our team created a completely novel art and animation tool chain that enabled us to combine hand drawn and painted 2D animations, with flash ... all set within a richly painted universe. All this was achieved while ensuring that the game was performant enough to be played on lower-end machines.  As proud as we are of the artistic innovations, the achievements on the engineering side are equally impressive.

[a]list: Jeffrey, thanks.

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