Peter Molyneux has explained the delay to Curiosity, his studio’s debut mobile game, telling us that at one point he and his new studio, 22 Cans, were genuinely worried that Apple was going to refuse to approve it for release.
Curiosity, which will release next week, is the first in a planned series of 22 experiments in which players around the world collaborate to chip away at a black cube. When the last layer is chipped away, the block’s contents will be revealed – but only to the person who struck the final blow. It’ll tell Molyneux and 22 Cans much about player psychology, about just how long players are prepared to sit clicking knowing something might, but most probably won’t happen.
Speaking to us yesterday, Molyneux explained that the game’s planned summer release slipped for a number of reasons, the first of which was simple reality. “In my mind it was a simple black cube in the corner of a white room,” he said. “How long could that take?
“But the act of connecting millions of people together in one single experience, all the security involved in that, the servers, scalability – literally, within seconds, the ability to balance and refine anything; all added substantially to that black cube in the corner of a white room.”
In August, the studio began a beta test, which served only to show how much work there was still to do. Molyneux, stung by criticism for only releasing Curiosity for iOS devices, decided an Android version should also be made. Finally, early last month, the studio submitted its first app.
“Apple started to realise, I think, just how unique Curiosity was,” Molyneux says. “There was a big debate: one of Apple’s guidelines is that apps shouldn’t ever be dead. They can’t support apps that you use once and then they’re over and done with.
“As you know, I’ve kept what’s in the centre of the cube utterly secret. If it gets out, it just ruins the whole thing.” Apple wanted to know what was in there; Molyneux hasn’t even told his wife or child for fear of it getting out, so stood his ground. Then came the debate of what Curiosity actually was. How should it be categorised?
“Is it a game? Is it gambling? A lottery? Is it a sweepstake? What is it? Because it simply hasn’t existed before,” Molyneux says. “Is it a piece of art? There was a whole lot of discussion about what it is. I think, with Apple, when we got to a certain layer, they started debating the very thing that you, and I, and everyone is going to start really debating when they finally touch the cube.
“At one point we were really worried that they were going to say no, and we panicked a little bit and thought about what we could do to turn that into a yes. They could have just said no – it would have been so much easier for them to say no. They don’t /need/ Curiosity.”
At last, it’s happening, and at 22 minutes past midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, Curiosity will be released. “It’s very unique,” Molyneux closes. “I’s unique in concept. It’s the world’s biggest treasure hunt. On Wednesday, just after midnight, we’ll see what this eperience really is.”