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Peter Molyneux: Keep it simple, keep it crazy

By Matthew Handrahan

Peter Molyneux: Keep it simple, keep it crazy

Wed 22 Aug 2012 2:49pm GMT / 10:49am EDT / 7:49am PDT

Veteran UK designer opens Unite conference with first public demonstration of 22 Cans' Curiosity

During the opening keynote speech at the Unite conference in Amsterdam, veteran UK designer Peter Molyneux stressed the importance of simplicity and focus in game development.

Molyneux left Microsoft earlier this year to start an independent studio, 22 Cans; a process that he described as "scary", but one that has allowed him to attain the sort of "singular focus" on a "singular idea" that his previous job precluded.

"The amazing thing about where we are today is that the whole world are becoming gamers, and if you really want to engage all of those people you've got to think about simplicity," he said.

"20 years ago we thought we had about 10 minutes of someone's time before they got bored. Nowadays, that's down to about a tenth of a second"

"We thought simplicity was important 20 years ago, when we thought we had about 10 minutes of someone's time before they got bored. Nowadays, that's down to about a tenth of a second; that's how long it takes for someone to press a button and move on to something else."

Molyneux gave the opening keynote at Unity Technologies' annual conference due to 22 Cans' use of the Unity engine in its series of experimental projects. The first project, Curiosity, is a large virtual cube that players can whittle down until the secret at its core is revealed to the person who makes the last incision.

Molyneux demonstrated Curiosity for the first time at Unite, revealing an experience with unexpected layers: each time Molyenux destroyed one of the cube's 64 billion discrete parts it created a musical note, and a timed series of strikes contributed to a multiplier mechanic that built the player's score.

As each layer of the cube is depleted, 22 Cans will be able to change what effects striking the cube will create, and even layer images or messages on its surface. When Molyneux accessed the in-game store, it revealed a number of destructive items beyond the widely discussed chisels - the "diamond" version of which is on sale for $50,000 - including bombs and firecrackers.

Molyneux believes that, "we need to think completely differently about the problem of making games today," and Curiosity is the product of experimenting with a number of ideas that are key to modern development: persistence, co-operation and audience interaction across multiple devices and a range of inputs, all supported by a free-to-play business model.

But the appeal of the idea remains in its simplicity and focus. "The mistake I've always made is trying to focus on more than one thing," he said. "Experiment with simple mechanics. The scariest thing for a designer isn't complex stuff; the scary thing is simplicity. That's the place we don't want to go, and it certainly terrifies me."

While Molyneux's endorsement of Unity at a conference for Unity developers is hardly unexpected, he claimed that the accessibility of the engine has allowed 22 Cans to hire staff from a variety of different industries, and iterate on simple ideas without the need for deep technological understanding. This ability to "think differently" about game design is key to surviving in the broad, connected marketplace of today.

"People say that [Curiosity] is crazy, and it is crazy. But we've got to do something different. We've got to be crazy. We've got to experiment with these new things. We can't just lock ourselves away in ivory towers, coming up with a concept and just releasing it. Those days are gone. Forever."

From Recommendations by Taboola


"the "diamond" version of which is on sale for $50,000"

Wow thats oen expensive videogame. Typo, maybe?

Posted:4 years ago


Geoff Richards Commercial Manager, Net Communities

6 0 0.0
It's not a typo. It's the cost of an in-game item; a super-duper block destroyer or "power-up" if you will. It was added as part of the experiment. Is anyone crazy enough to buy it?

Posted:4 years ago


Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic

151 98 0.6
I'm certainly intrigued!

Posted:4 years ago


Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support

155 65 0.4
@Jeffrey Sounds like an invitation to credit card thieves, to me.

Though that would be one hell of a credit limit.

Posted:4 years ago


Hugo Trepanier Senior UI Designer, Hibernum

196 222 1.1
This is intriguing, but just for argument's sake... what do you think Peter Molyneux is hoping to prove with his $50,000 price tag for this special one-off item? I can't imagine they'll put a lot of development time into creating something really worth this much money for a single customer.

What will be the ultimate goal, the final reaction, will he just go "oh, wow, somebody actually bought it"? And then what?

I'm not sure if this is really a clever idea or just an attempt at generating free buzz around his project without actually having anything to show.

Posted:4 years ago


Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 943 0.7
This is opening the door for rich kids to have the ability to have all the cool things in a game, were the hard working family man gets only the mediocre features of a game. So this isnt a matter of how well you play, but having features unlocked depending on how much cash you are able to spend. Nice experiment Molynux. im not a fan of your EGO. Im slowly losing any respect I had for you.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 24th August 2012 1:43pm

Posted:4 years ago


John Pickford Owner, Zee 3

55 183 3.3
I don't really understand the experiment aspect. What is he trying to find out?

Unless the game has something more to it the whole thing screams of utter contempt for the audience. Is he really plotting to have millions of people pointlessly tapping away and spending money on minor upgrades.

The $50k thing is a one-off (only one person can buy it). I'm not sure how it's even possible to sell that on iOS. Maybe it has to be purchased outside of the game somehow but I think that breaks Apple's rules too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Pickford on 22nd August 2012 7:22pm

Posted:4 years ago


Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,025 1,486 1.4
Eh, I just don't really get it. Maybe it's just me, but I don't find this interesting, engaging, or enjoyable, which are really the only three reasons to play a game.

Posted:4 years ago


John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London

510 549 1.1
Isn't the top price tier on the app store $1,000?

Posted:4 years ago


John Pickford Owner, Zee 3

55 183 3.3
Seems they are doing it with in-game currency. Video demo: (if links are allowed in here)

Looks as tedious as expected.

Posted:4 years ago


Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 595 0.4
Peter Molyneux is a genius self publicist. Hence the $50,000. It attracts media attention.

We are thinking of having a $100,000 IAP in Pussy Flip.

Posted:4 years ago


Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 595 0.4
And now he is changing the name of Curiosity for SEO reasons.
He can't get online presence with a Mars rover for competition!

Posted:4 years ago

The clock on Peter's credibility is ticking down - the delay of the game, and the change of name are just the last of the issues before we have to write off his ego.

Posted:4 years ago


Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,025 1,486 1.4
@ John Thanks for the video. I don't think I could imagine a more boring way to spend my time. I'd literally rather sit around doing nothing, because at least then I could look at the (much more interesting) things around me.

Posted:4 years ago


gi biz ;,

341 52 0.2
I can't tell whether I would try it or not. But after all clicking like a bot isn't what farmville players do all the time? Molyneux is taking the risks, but we will all benefit from the results whatever they are. And yeah, thanks for the link!

Posted:4 years ago


Hugo Trepanier Senior UI Designer, Hibernum

196 222 1.1
This reminds me of Minecraft when I see this endless cube chopping, without the crafting bit. It unfortunately looks like only one surface can be grinded at once, which would completely take away the possibility of creating a massive communal sculpture.

Posted:4 years ago


Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online

160 124 0.8
Two fun scenarios:

1. Someone buys the item, but does not use it.
2. A group of people crowdsources funding for the item, then either uses or does not use it.

Posted:4 years ago


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