In early March of this year, Peter Molyneux, a games industry veteran, parted ways with Lionhead and Microsoft after working with them for fifteen and six years, respectively. He embarked on the founding of a new games studio, 22Cans, with several other Lionhead veterans, and they have now released their first… experiment: Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube?
The game is exceedingly simplistic in mechanics but, in true Molyneux style, highly promising in eventual return. You install the app on your Android or iOS device (and there’s word of a PC release, but acorns do take time to grow) and you are presented with a large cube, at first a large black cube, but it has since become a patchwork of green and red. The aim of the game is to join in with the other 150,000 and rising participants of the experiment, and tap away at the millions of cubelettes coating the cube. The aim being to strip away layer after layer (you can’t just bore right through it) until the final person taps the last cubelette of the last layer away and is presented with the answer of life, the universe and everything. Also known as ‘the video that is in the centre of the cube’. This “winner” will then have the option to keep the video, and whatever secret it holds, to themselves or to release it upon the world via their favourite form of social media.
I’ve had hold of the app since it first hit yesterday, it provided amusement while watching the US election, tapping away randomly, uniformly, trying to raise my multiplier, trying to draw patterns, carve my name into the cube and so on. And if it’s your cup of tea, I’m not the only one working out the random fun that can be made with just tapping away at a layer of the cube.
One of the best descriptions of the game so far is via Penny Arcade’s Tycho:
Currently, 22Can’s “Curiosity” seems to be Massively Multiplayer Bubble Wrap, which… is still kind of cool.
This isn’t an app trying to sell itself as a fantastically deep and challenging game, it’s about as simple as mobile phone games come: tap on your screen. If that’s all that you want in a timewaster to fit in on those times waiting for a bus or a concession speech, then that’s what you get. And you can maybe make some neat pixel art while you’re at it. And maybe even be the one to find out what’s in the middle. Though I don’t much care for what is in there, it’s always fun to speculate on just how many seasons of Firefly are wrapped up in that cube. If you’re feeling like splashing out, there’s even in-app purchases, with either real cash or the in-game gold, built for buying bombs and pickaxes up to the infamous $50,000 diamond pickaxe. You can even buy the stats and friends support for the game too.
What will be interesting, and I’m sure 22cans are watching closely, is seeing the stats and data generated from this game. A big one, for example, will be the drop-off. A layer has gone in a day (and each layer is obviously smaller) but the stats shows your actions per month, so they’re not expecting this to be over in a few days or weeks. And given it’s such a raw and simple “game” (there are no variables like difficulty spikes to muddy the experience, for example), the data that comes from the app and its players would be rather good to sift through in order to learn how they interact. And this could massively influence the next 21 games from 22Cans (and many other mobile games, for better or worse).
It is certainly true that many would likely have ignored this game if not for the involvement of Molyneux, but there is just this elusive draw to wanting to be involved in Molyneux’s latest creation that keeps people coming. That naive curiosity.