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I, Gamer: Curismoshity

November 8th, 2012 by

When Peter Molyneaux decided to forgo the superstar game developer lifestyle – complete with head honcho statuette as the King of Microsoft’s creative gaming division – to form the indie start-up 22 cans it seemed inevitable that he wouldn’t be out of the headlines for long.

It is unfair to label anything Peter (as he is affectionately known to the gaming family) throws his hand to as truly independent as there is an entire gaming enthusiast press that throw their weight behind anything he says. However, it’s a good fit for a man with bigger ideas than product. He is free from outside pressures and expectations to produce something that is not only bright but has a certain polish befitting of a man of his standing.

If I’m being truly honest with myself many of the things he has promised and been accused of failing to deliver were never things that I would consider core to a new game or that engendered massive amounts of excitement for me. Once I played Fable 1 on the original Xbox I had a good feeling of what that series was about and capable of delivering. So promising to plant an acorn and watch it become a tree throughout the game sounds interesting but not something I would want massive amounts of development time devoted to. I have no love for animals and relationships with animals (surely on my own given the stories avidly told about the second game) and multiplayer and co-op would have been nice but there are lots of games which cut or compromise features during development. Besides, given that Lionhead were under the remit of MGS (Microsoft Game Studios) the amount of control Peter had over which features made it over the finish line is open to debate.

I follow Peter’s games because he made one of the formative and most important games I have ever played. Without Populous my gaming landscape would be entirely different. It was the first strategy game I fell in love with and opened up my eyes to countless others. Like any drug it all starts with a gateway; and that game was mine. Sitting for hours manipulating terrain in a 3D space and watching how it affected the world was a concept that sounded plaid on paper but fascinating in practice. This was as close to a living, breathing game as I had ever played and the possibilities for the future of gaming seemed endless. I would not be the same gamer today without it.

He has never reached those heights again but I am a more cynical gamer in these modern times. I also have a keener sense of what is possible in the gaming space after spending those years in engineering while at Uni. I like to be surprised and amazed like anyone else but discovering those experiences on my own terms are the delight. Pre-empting those feelings leads to disappointment. It is anti-hype. In fact, nothing that Peter Molyneux has created has been god-like since Populous.

So without having to pump millions into 720p graphics running at 60fps the shackles around his ankles have been removed and we have Curiosity, a game released on mobile platforms that promises something special for one person in the world. The premise is that everyone in the world chips away at a virtual block removing bits of it piece by piece until there is one block left. It is only the person who removes this final piece who will get to see what is in the box itself and that person will have the decision to make whether to keep this information to himself or whether to share with the world.

This is where it gets confusing to me. It is described that what is in the cube is “life-changingly amazing by any definition.” Forgiving him even the fact that life-changingly isn’t even a word or phrase this is a statement that is loaded. There is a lot riding on this. This is the first of 22 games that are being made which will culminate in one bigger game at the end. If what is in the cube is not amazing then everything else that is hoping to be achieved may be for nought.

There is an expectation that as the cube gets closer to the end people will chip away at it carefully and in smaller and smaller chunks. The team at 22 Cans may have overestimated the patience that the human race will have when faced with a free app and an unknown reward. If there is nothing ventured there is seemingly nothing to be gained. At the moment, the cube is good for is being a fresh canvas for depictions of the human reproductive organs. While it may be curious to the outside observer, it may finally be the moment where the curiosity with Peter turns to Paul. And nobody remembers Paul.

If you want to keep up with events on a moment by moment basis you can follow an up to date Tumblr at http://onthecube.tumblr.com/.  Or if you want to speculate as to what is in the cube comment below and brag to the world when you are right. For me, it’ll be a video of Peter gesticulating at what a great social experiment he had just conducted or what he predicted would be the outcome. It could also as easily be a video of Stephen Fry farting which seemed to be the 2 main components of making the Fable series as successful as it is

ps. By the way, I like the Fable games.

Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Midlife Gamer, the Midlife Gamer staff, and/or any other contributor to this site.


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3 Responses to “I, Gamer: Curismoshity”
  1. avatar Adamski UK says:

    Wonderful write up. I’ve had a go at it and so have my kids.

    I wonder if there will be a sudden influx of people jumping back on it when it gets down to the last few layers.

    For some reason I’m reminded of those “Keep your hands on the Truck” competitions.

    As for what the prize is….well, Peter said it would be “life changing”…so perhaps its dinner with him.

  2. avatar Type40_Dashboxer says:

    We mock the Facebook gamer for endlessly clicking on farming resources and what have you – my wife stuck a ton of hours into Frontierville and I just couldn’t see the attraction. What’s different here? In some respects, this is the thickest soupiest reduction of gaming ever, literally reduced to the single act of pressing a button to progress (well tapping on some glass, so 21st century). I have almost 13,000 coins. Do I spend them to see how my friends are doing, buy a bomb? Just not bother? I think the problem with this experiment is that people will get fed up of it even quicker than they did Draw Something. It was only 10 months ago we were ALL playing that and then almost overnight it wore so thin that it was quickly deleted from our phones. I cannot see what this offers beyond reducing your battery life and data plan. I disagree with the Touch the Truck analogy – that was something literally tangible – you always had your eyes (and hands) on the prize, well up until you didn’t, and lost.
    So there’s a ‘life changing’ prize. It’s probably not cash. Is it the keys to the Wonka factory? A horrible disease? A job? Early access to the next experiment? A gif of a winking laughing Molyneux? There’s only one winner, and a lot of layers. What does it say about the people who do spend/ waste their time ‘playing’ this?
    If you’ve not seen it, go to You Tube and watch the Eurogamer Expo video of the talk he did on the Sunday. He’s a great talker and has made some great games and up until I saw Curiosity in action I was beginning to think this could be something special.
    I don’t want experiments, I want the whole game.
    Too cynical? Maybe, but please excuse me, I’m 12,910 coins into the 3 BILLION I need for that diamond pickaxe…

  3. avatar Carver says:

    I was at the dev session at Eurogamer mainly because of the man himself and not to hear about 22 cans. After hearing him talk about curiosity and his plans for the future games I am intrigued. He already stated at the dev session that it wasn’t cash so we now have a stumbling block over what’s inside. It is a bold claim as what is life changing for one person may not be so for another. Claims like this are subjective. As an example. A new car given to someone who owns 5 cars is most definitely not going to change their life, nor will a job if they already have a better more fulfilling one. It’s hard to decide what’s life changing yet Peter thinks he had that answer. Now comes the non-disclosure portion. He says the winner can remain anonymous about the prize and winning which leaves the rest of the world confused. Did somebody really win? Was it all really just an experiment? Have we all been duped to follow the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow only to discover leprechauns aren’t real?
    The “endgame” of curiosity is knowing what the prize is. We could be denied this very experience and how will this leave everyone feeling about what’s coming next from 22 cans? Imagine playing an rpg for 70 hours only to have the game end abruptly because another player beat the final boss first. Would you be happy because of the journey you took or feel cheated due to no pay off at the end, no cut scene, no cinematic, no loose ends tied up just “Game Over”?
    I left the dev session feeling excited about what he was doing but the more I think about it he more I can see this blowing up in his face.
    Personally I hope it all works as I am intrigued as to where we will end up with their AAA game at the end of all these experiments.
    Oh and currently I am sitting on 41000 coins :)

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