Interview: The Whims Of The Gods Allows Co-Op Players To Build A City Together

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The Whims of the Gods - via PJ Games

Among the various simulation games, The Whims of the Gods is a unique take on the Strategy City Builder game enhanced with a co-op experience. Set within an ancient civilization, the game allows players to build a city however they desire and also protect it with the ultimate defense strategy.

This aspect adds a significant challenge to players and demands a creative approach to efficiently utilize the resources and progress the gameplay. Plus, sharp attention to detail in the world like the religious systems and calendars for future events greatly adds depth of experience. To learn more, we interviewed Lukasz Janczuk, the Lead Designer behind the Whims of the Gods, over email. 

World of the Whims of the Gods
The Whims of the Gods – via PJ Games

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role on The Whims of the Gods.

Lukasz: My name is Łukasz Janczuk, and I’m a Lead Designer on The Whims of the Gods.

Building and protecting a city in an ancient civilization sounds like an intriguing premise. How does the cooperative aspect of the game enhance the player experience?

Lukasz: There are very few city builders that offer co-op experience. And even in those games players build separate cities and cooperation is offered e.g. with resources exchange. We want to change it.

In The Whims of the Gods, there is ONE city. Both players build it. So it is no longer: “You have too much wood. Can you share it with me?”. Now it’s more like: “We need more wood. Can you build a road here so we can transport resources faster from the forest? I’m cleaning right now”.

The Whims of the Gods - via PJ Games
The Whims of the Gods – via PJ Games

Can you shed light on the gameplay experience in The Whims of the Gods for two players? What sets it apart from other cooperative adventures?

Lukasz: Because players are building one city we had to give them a way to define their responsibilities during the game. There will be few decisions for players to make during the game that will define it.

For example, the very first decision is between animal husbandry and farming. This decision will unlock access to different sets of buildings for both players. At the same time, they will need help to do everything. Domesticated animals will need animal food made from e.g. corn. So you have your area to care for, but at the same time, you still need support from another player.

The overall setting and design choice of the game look highly unique and engaging. What was the inspiration behind the design choice?

Lukasz: We started with two initial ideas in mind – demanding gods and the myth of the ark. As it happens the idea of people building a ship to avoid a great flood can be found in many cultures. At the same time, Aztec culture offers a fascinating pantheon of demanding and whimsy gods. So we want to mix those two and try to push it further.

Think of this as a sort of “what if?” for Aztecs. What could they achieve if they had access to different resources and technologies? It is not our goal to have a historically accurate depiction of Aztec or any other culture, but we want to use this rich culture as an inspiration and see where it will take us.

The Whims of the Gods - via PJ Games
The Whims of the Gods – via PJ Games

The concept of a mystical calendar shaping fate is fascinating. How does this mechanic influence gameplay, and how do players prepare for upcoming events?

Lukasz: The Calendar shows what events are approaching. The events themselves can be considered ritual whims. There will be helpful events and there will be problems to solve. Your people may be in a better mood for some time or they may refuse to eat certain types of food. Or both at the same time.

Thanks to the mystical calendar, you can see what is coming and prepare. Calendars also need some maintenance to give more information about the events. So you may know that people will refuse to eat something but not what it will be. When you know, you can adjust your production to avoid starvation.

The game mentions battling terrifying enemies from the heart of the mountain. How do players defend their city against these threats, and what strategic elements are involved in combat?

Lukasz: The monsters will attack from time to time creating a threat for the city. The battle module is designed with the idea that all important decisions are made before the battle e.g. what units to produce or how to set them up. Both players have access to different sets of units and only a good mix will give a chance for victory.

The Calendar will offer some information about incoming enemies to help players prepare, but when they come, the battle will be conducted in auto battler style using everything players prepared beforehand.

The Whims of the Gods - via PJ Games
The Whims of the Gods – via PJ Games

The Whims of the Gods emphasizes cooperative gameplay. How does the cooperation system work, and what challenges might players encounter while working together?

Lukasz: There are challenges in every aspect of the game. Players are doing everything together. Building, food production, industry, battles. All of those require activity from both players or the entire city will collapse. Both players need help to win the game. This creates a unique experience for even the players that now city builders by heart.

The things that may not require second thought in other games may lead to disaster if there is no coordination with the second player. Balancing player agency with the unpredictability of events from the mystical calendar is a complex task.

How did the team approach designing this feature to provide players with meaningful choices while maintaining tension and excitement?

Lukasz: For the city to work, all elements must work together. If it works, the player may just sit and watch. To create the challenge, we have to constantly tip the balance. It can happen in various ways. The battle forces you to create units. They cost resources and people. If they die in battle, they are lost. 

Even new technologies can tip the balance. If you unlock a new building, you want to add it to the system. So the economy of your city must change to accommodate it. A sudden influx of people will force you to increase food production and housing requirements. So to create a challenge, we just have to throw enough of those problems at the player.

The Whims of the Gods - via PJ Games
The Whims of the Gods – via PJ Games

How long has the game been in development, and what were some of the significant milestones or challenges faced during this process?

Lukasz: The game has been in development for more than two years right now. The biggest challenge is of course cooperation itself. In creating the game it is always a big help to look at other titles in search of inspiration and solutions for the problems.

With the decision to make a co-op city builder, we set ourselves on the path to finding answers to the issues no one ever faced. It is challenging and stressful but at the same time, it is a rewarding process.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Lukasz: We are planning a demo version of the game very soon, so if you are interested, I would suggest you wishlist The Whims of the Gods so you are up to date when more news shows up.

The Whims of the Gods is an upcoming simulation strategy video game under development by PJ Games. It is planned for release on PC. 

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