slum magazine

“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval

A Look at Linden Lab’s New Games: CreatorVerse and Patterns

Being original, copy-catting, or reinventing the wheel?

Excerpted from an article by Gwyneth Llewelyn on her blog.

By now I guess half the planet knows about LL’s new games, CreatorVerse and Patterns. I personally wish LL all the best in selling those in the extremely competitive market for low-end games. They might have some success, though. And here is why: they are copying established ideas, adding their own twist, and showing off something they’re good at. This sounds like a recipe for success.

CreatorVerse is something which seems to be designed for a market of younger persons, but I would download it for my iPhone — if it worked on myiPhone (it doesn’t). The concept is simple: do some doodles, connect them, activate a physics engine on them, and see how your doodled creations interact. You set your own goals.

So what are the strong points?

  • First, it leverages on Angry Birds’ success of making a fun game around a physics engine. This was clever from the Angry Birds crowd, who probably saw all those movies on YouTube about people having fun with modding games with good physics engines, just to have fun shooting trashcans and similar things. CreatorVerse is as simple as Angry Birds, or perhaps even simpler…
  • Secondly, LL clearly has a lot of experience with physics engines. So it’s clever of them to leverage on that know-how.
  • Thirdly, CreatorVerse “borrows” the open-endedness of Second Life itself. It’s not really a “game” but something “entertaining”. And, of course, you can share your physics-enabled doodles with others. There might be a Marketplace for CreatorVerser “things” soon. Why not? Some of the examples on the video are quite cleverly constructed, even though if they’re merely… doodles.

So effectively you can create your own version of Angry Birds and share it with your friends. But you don’t need to be an expert developer: everything is built-in, with an interface that a kid can use. And you don’t need any fancy graphics skillz either: doodles work just fine. It’s a game for everybody.

Instant success? Well, I don’t know. The lack of a “gaming” experience means that it’s targeted for people who know how to amuse themselves on their own without the need of an incentive. However, I’m not a gamer, so perhaps this is far more addictive that it seems from the video. I have to admit that I have Angry Birds on both my iPhone and on Google Chrome. Why? Because there are always some odd moments where I’m sitting on a queue or on the train and forgot to get a book to read. Shooting birds against pigs is the perfect pastime for me in those moments :) And even though I might not find CreatorVerse overly addictive, I’d certainly enjoy a few doodle now and then just to see what happens — on those idle moments waiting for someone else.

Patterns is CreatorVerse in 3D. Well, sort of. It’s a bit more sophisticated, and it immediately got the nickname of “Minecraft with triangles and physics”. Again, Linden Lab is not reinventing the wheel, but trying to improve on an original idea. Minecraft was perhaps as successful as Angry Birds — perhaps not in terms of revenue, of course, but in popularity. It has attracted a huge clique of complete fanatics. Patterns just allows slightly more complex shapes than cubes — but not overly more complex, just more fun to build — and adds the physical engine, so you cannot build “impossible” things. If you wish to build a high tower, it needs proper foundations. Of course you can just have fun watching it crumble down :)

Similar to Minecraft — or even Second Life! — it seems to be a virtual world. But not a “serious” virtual world like SL, but a silly VW like Minecraft. In fact, it might do pretty much everything that Minecraft does, with the same simplicity, but add the fun of gravity and physics. So, again, Linden Lab has some great points in favour:

  • Clearly builds on Minecraft’s success as a very simple and fun environment
  • Again, builds on LL’s expertise with physics engines
  • It allows immersion in a virtual world with shared content
  • It leverages on Second Life’s original idea of “having fun building things on your own” which so many oldtimers still think that should be SL’s mission

However, it does not compete with SL itself. It’s way too simple for that, and I’m sure it’s not intended to become more complex — it would distract from the overall fun experience. While it’s definitely not my style of game — I’m the oddity that finds Minecraft boring! — I can imagine hordes of Minecraft fans trying it out.

So I think that with these two examples Rod’s LL is entering the gaming market with two ideas that are not veryoriginal — meaning that they have good chances of being picked up as being part of trends — but that have unique twists to it. Aye, LL is reinventing the wheel — but it’s definitely Wheel 2.0, with extra tires and more spokes :) CreatorVerse is for all those people without graphic skills who loved Angry Birds and only wished they could design levels for it. Patterns is for all Minecraft fans who want to have fun blowing things up with gravity and physics. Both games fit well into the existing trend, adding a new layer of innovation which might be just enough to make them compelling.

For Rod, all it matters now it to know how much time they have “invested” in each development, and how many copies they’re expecting to sell. If they enter the low-end game market — the kind that is available from Big Fish Games, or, to a degree, on Facebook (but is dying out there) — they need to be able to develop lots of simple, engaging games with their special twist (which leverages on identification with the brand that LL is famous for), do that in little time (to keep costs down), aim for enough revenue to pay for the development costs, rely on the long tail for ongoing revenue, and start quickly on the next two or three games. This is mostly limited by LL’s imagination in coming up with new ideas and by the average revenue they expect to get from each batch.

Will each game sell a million copies? Probably not :) But maybe they can sell a hundred thousand each. That would be a strong incentive for LL to continue to develop new, simple, fun games with similar characteristics. They should definitely bring out Patterns for the mobile/tablet environment — but it would make sense to do that, say, for Christmas, which could mean more sales by then. It’s a realistic business model.

Of course there are risks. But LL seems to be playing it safe. They’re not being too original and following trends. That makes it easier for the gaming community to “accept” their games. Because, after all, the problem with an “unique” game is that only “unique” players will play it — an issue that LL faces with Second Life.

Read the full article at Gwyneth Llewelyn’s blog

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About slummagazine

slum magazine is about all things Second Life: art, music, news, reviews, shopping, love and life.

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This entry was posted on September 25, 2012 by in News, Reviews & Opinion and tagged , , , , , .

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