Topia Hands-On Preview

At GDC, we received a hands-on demo of a new planet-shaping god game from the developer of the original god game, Populous. Like in Populous, in Topia you can raise mountains or sink oceans, and the iPad’s touch interface makes you feel like a divine artist.

Developer Glenn Corpes helped develop the original Populous, and has been hard at work making a god game for iOS that lives up to players’ heavenly aspirations. The planet you control is fully in 3D, with a gorgeously rendered landscape that can be altered on the fly. Tools in the upper-right corner let you raise or lower terrain, and smooth out rocky crags to create lush, grassy plains. With two fingers, you can swipe to spin the planet in any direction, or pinch to zoom in close.

Populating this world are herds of fantasy animals. There are grazers that resemble sheep or cows, and carnivores that will try to hunt them. Later additions could include carrion scavengers, and possibly birds or fish. Each animal has its own AI, and they’ll flock together when two herds meet.

The creatures in Topia don’t seem as exotic as those in a game like Spore, and from your godlike view they’re barely more than miniatures. But when they group together, they swarm over the environment like ants on an anthill.

The goals of the game will be simple, like escorting a herd across the planet by tracing a path, or growing the animal population to a certain size. You can also use godlike powers to strike down carnivores with a bolt of lightning, using mana that is earned by maintaining a happy herd.

Topia aims to be a simple, accessible god game, with teeming herds of animals and a minimal user interface. It looks great, but we’re not sure yet if clear player goals will make it more than just an attractive sandbox. Topia should be available this summer.