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.
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