INTERVIEW PART 3: Peter Molyneux talks about Curiosity

Leigh Harris
INTERVIEW PART 3: Peter Molyneux talks about Curiosity

Following on from our talks about auteurism and player feedback, MCV concludes its discussion by talking Curiosity with Peter Molyneux.

So tell us a little bit about your next project.

So at 22 Cans, we’re doing this thing which is called Curiosity, and it’s an experiment.

It’s experimenting with technology and interaction and interface in a way that we’ve never seen before, in which groups of people coming together is incredibly useful.

Considering that almost every videogame is experimental in some way, shape or form, why refer to your next set of projects as ‘experiments’ specifically?

To start off with, I didn’t want to confuse people into thinking that they were games, or that these were things which we were going to release that would define what 22 Cans was. I wanted to involve the world in these experiments and be very clear that there were certain things we wanted to learn.

One of the things we want to find out is psychological in nature, because it’ll help us refine the game experience. The question is that if you boil motivation down to its purest purest element, if you rip away story and game mechanics and just ask people ‘What’s inside the cube?’ Is that enough to motivate people to do unbelievable things? Is that emotion of curiosity enough?

As the experiment goes on, we will dynamically tweak that so that if we feel that certain things aren’t enough, we can put different things on different surfaces of the cube to tease and to keep on motivating people. Then on the technology side, the cube will honestly be the first time I can think of that any form of entertainment experience has truly linked millions (not thousands, not hundreds, but millions of people together), to do one simple, human thing.

And that is tapping on a cube.

While we release it, we’ll be around dynamically changing and tweaking all of the aspects of this pure and simple experiment.

Why go for something as funamentally simple as hacking away at a cube for this first experiment?

To me, if you want to learn something and analyse something you have to make the problem as simple as possible.

If I were to release an entire game and say to the world that I was conducting an experiment with this whole game, it wouldn't work. A game is an amazingly complex thing where you have to look at a huge number of things: what people are looking at and noticing, how they’re reacting to the story etc.

The cube on the other hand is absolutely simple, and therefore able to be used to run this test. So, we’re planning all this stuff, and the reason why we’re doing it so early on is because we want that to influence the final game.

So it sounds like you’re trying to run these experiments in an effort to increase your understanding (as a team) of the literacy of player motivation.

Yes, yes. You’re absolutely spot on. A lot of the time, what we’re really dealing with here, is the fundamental nature of motivation.

That is the purest thing that we need to worry about, and sometimes we get that motivation completely wrong. We push our players to be too addicted to our experience. They want to finish the whole experience within hours, and they want to have it done. Sometimes we don’t give people enough motivation and they get confused and bewildered.

The key difference and the big thing which is happening in the world for the first time is that we’ve got the hardware and the infrastructure to link that huge number of people together. Now, what happens to motivation when you have got an entire community (or society if you like) all motivated towards this same goal?

And even Curiosity, which is the most simple thing in the world, where you’ve got a cube that you tap on, will involve a whole society, and if that society is motivated by such a pure and simple thing, then I think the results are fascinating.

Have you heard of a game called Cow Clicker?

Yes, I have! That’s hilarious, the bloke who did Cow Clicker has done a ‘cube clicker’ version of it which took him about a day, and has taken us about three months to do. Cow Clicker is a fascinating thing, and I believe he made a reasonable amount of money out of it!

Yeah, I believe he actually ended up pulling the plug on it after the game after people became far too engaged with a game which was meant to point out the hazards of idle addiction to game mechanics which lack real motivation.

I know, and this is the insane world that we live in now! Where someone can make Cow Clicker as a tongue implementation to say something and it ends up being the very thing that he thought it wouldn’t be. That in itself is an absolutely fascinating thing.

Thank you for your time.

 

Peter was interviewed as part of his inclusion in the Game Masters exhibition in Melbourne, with thanks to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

 

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Tags: interview , peter molyneux , Game Masters , Australian Centre for the Moving Image , 22 cans , curiosity

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