Curiosity: What Do Game Developers Think?

Everyone has an opinion about Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube, the first release from Peter Molyneux's new studio 22Cans. Yesterday we took a look at the types of tapper you can find working away at the app, but what do game developers make of this strange concept?

We polled some of the biggest names in mobile games development to ask them what they thought of the Curiosity phenomenon, and what might lie at the center of this enigmatic cube.

Reactions were mixed to say the least.


Michael Schade, CEO of Fishlabs Entertainment, creators of Galaxy on Fire 2

"To be honest, I'm a little skeptical about the whole Curiosity thing. On the one hand it is indeed a pretty novel approach that is as fascinating as it is simple. But on the other hand it is also hard to say whether it will really be able to live up to the hype. I mean, carving your name into the cube might be fun for a couple of minutes, but only time will tell if people will still be interested in it a month or two from now.

"One way or another, you definitely have to give Peter Molyneux and his team credit for coming up with a pretty innovative and novel concept for an app. But whether or not that concept also turns out to be entertaining in the long run is an entirely different story. Personally, I have to say that I'm way more impressed by Andreas Illinger, for example, who has never made a game before and still managed to release a mega-hit on the App Store with Tiny Wings."

What's inside the cube?

"Either Beethoven's 10th Symphony or an unedited clip from Way Of The Dragon in which Chuck Norris actually kicks Bruce Lee's ass, and not the other way around."

Paul Johnson of Rubicon Development, creators of the Great Little War Game series

"When I was at school, an "experiment" was an attempt to validate a concept by physical test. What's the proposition here exactly, to see how much bullshit can be generated without having to write a good game? And it's clearly working, otherwise someone with my views on it wouldn't be getting involved maintaining it for him!"

What's inside the cube?

"I really couldn't give a monkey's. Probably nothing, wouldn't that be 'profound'."

Rory McGuire, Game Director at Appy Entertainment

"Peter Molyneux set out to create a colossal experiment. You can't argue he's succeeding at that. While the critical response has ranged from tearing it apart to praising its ingenuity, Molyneux has delivered exactly what he promised: an experiment uniting players in simply tapping on a communal easel. It's worth noting that Curiosity isn't actually classified as a game in the iTunes store, it's labeled as entertainment and doesn't show up in games charts. This was clearly pre-meditated and we should set our expectations thus. As a game does Curiosity succeed? Maybe. As an experiment does it succeed? Without a doubt.

"Even for those not concerned with the experimental gameplay results, their numbers are good. Based on the stats button available in the app, they're approaching 300,000 players in a day and a half and have had 220,000 return as of Wednesday. This is without any Apple feature (yet, they'll likely get some sort of placement Thursday if their server performance gets fixed) or any major player acquisition campaigns. There's clearly something that folks are curious about and the numbers seem to be way higher than what 22Cans anticipated based on tweets from Molyneux apologizing for server performance.

"We wish the 22 Cans team success and are curious to see their next experiment. It'd be surprising if the secret of Curiosity lived up to expectations. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. People want to know the answer."

Shane Neville of Slick Entertainment, creators of Shellrazer

"I love that we live in a world where games like this can be made and distributed. Even more so that a successful commercial developer can make an experiment like this. Games don't always have to be 'fun' or profitable to be interesting.

"I want to see how it all plays out. Will enough players download it? Will enough players go crazy and dig through the cube?"

What's inside the cube?

"Whatever it is, I hope that it's something that makes the person who finds it seriously deliberate over whether or not to share it with the world. It would be amazing if it remained a secret forever."

Phil Tossell and Jennifer Schneidereit of Nyamyam, creators of upcoming origami papercraft title Tengami

Phil: "Curiosity feels like an apt metaphor for the modern culture of celebrity and fame. It appeals to the basest human desire to win; to succeed in some ostentatious, and ultimately meaningless way. Much like winning the fame game it brings reward, but without the satisfaction of striving hard in a thoughtful and genuine way. As such, it's reduced to being a puerile and disappointingly ignoble experiment."

Jennifer: "It is an interesting idea and I was definitely curious to find out what the experiment was like. But after a few minutes with the app, browsing phalluses left by fellow test subjects and creating some pixel art of my own, I got utterly bored with it. Chipping away at the blocks felt like the mindless task a drone would perform, certainly not something to keep me curious and engaged."

What's inside the cube?

"At the center of the cube are the schematics for building a time machine. This will allow the winner to travel back in time and reclaim all the valuable hours of their life spent pointlessly chipping away at the cube."

Matt Haggerty, Managing Member at Swarm

"The Curiosity experiment is an incredibly clever idea and a great example of viral content targeting mobile gamers. People are naturally curious creatures, and tapping into that is brilliant."

What's inside the cube?

"What's in the center doesn't really matter. If I say something, I'll just contribute to the viral hype and help Peter take over the world! However, it's all in good fun. Since 22Cans has already stated that everything they're doing is leading up to the final game, I suspect the center of the first cube is some vague clue, or one of many puzzle pieces that help to solve the riddle as to what lies at the end of the real game."

James Vaughan, CEO & Founder of Ndemic Creations, creator of Plague Inc.

"I think that it is an interesting little experiment which lets people work together to achieve a goal. However, I don't really like the idea of hundreds of thousands of people clicking away at cubes for hours on end, it isn't (very) mentally stimulating or engaging. People should value their time more! My preference would be for each person/device to only be able to remove one square each from each layer. That would really focus the mechanics on global collaboration and discovery, instead of grinding (less potential to make money though I guess!).

What's inside the cube?

"A devastating electro-biological Plague which will be released to spread across the globe, infecting humans and computers. You have been warned!"

Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, Marketing Director at ngmoco

"While I briefly chatted with Peter a couple of months ago when he announced 22Cans, since I'm a huge Populous & Theme Park fan, I'm currently traveling in Europe for my visa so I was not able to download & enjoy the game yet (boohoo!)."

What's inside the cube?

"I'm a hopeless romantic and I loved Portal a lot! So I will hope a cute little Companion Cube lies at the center of the cube. A cube in a cube, how appropriate right?"

Phil Larsen, CMO of Halfbrick Studios, creators of Jetpack Joyride

"It's interesting. If that was all Molyneux wanted to achieve, mission accomplished. I have no problem with it not being a traditional game, that's the beauty of this open market, people can create any kind of crazy experiment they want. I see this as a gamified version of those bidding websites, where you can score a cheap item if you are the last one to bid on it. Creates a frenzy of tiny monetary commitments which more than covers the cost of the item, and whoever is lucky enough to be the last person to bid (ie. smash the last cube) then they win.

What's inside the cube?

"A video link of Molyneux reciting a poem which changed his life or inspired him to create videogames, and a cryptic teaser (and possibly invitation to participate) which leads to the next experiment. He can't possibly presume that whatever lies in the center will change the life of the person who smashes the last cube. They could be in any country, of any race and have radically different values. So he must be relating that life-changing expectation to something he went through."

Aaron Isaksen, founder of App Above Games, whose first iOS game Chip Chain debuts tomorrow

"Positively, I really love the social potential of everyone working together on the same cube, chipping away at a common goal. I'd love to see more of this kind of thing...its hyper-cooperative and reminds me of SETI or some of those protein-folding distributed programs.

"Negatively, I'm exhausted by game designers commenting on In-App Purchases by putting in ridiculous offerings at ridiculous prices that are not consumer-friendly. I wish that the community of game developers would try to experiment and explore the positive potentials of free games and in-app purchases, thinking about what's good for players and not taunting them or teasing them for choosing to spend their money on IAP."

What's inside the cube?

"No idea, but I'm not sure how it could possibly be worth 60 billion finger taps!"

Ernest Woo, CEO of Woo Games

"I think there is a place for avant-garde games like Curiosity. It's refreshing to me that developers like Peter Molyneux are willing to push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable for a game [and] Curiosity is very much a parody of the mindless clicking/tapping game not unlike many social games."

What's inside the cube?

"A giant red herring."

William Volk, CCO of PlayScreen LLC

"Not everything has to be a 'game.' There's a long history of 'digital playthings' in the game industry. One of the reason's I pushed Activision to publish Cyan's The Manhole in 1988 (and let us build an interactive CD-ROM based on it) was because I felt that there was a future in this. I still do, in fact. Even before I did that, there was Little Computer People in 1985.

"I think the idea of a 'mystery' to be solved cooperatively by all the players (and there are about 1/4 of a million playing this) is cool and original. The feedback (points and sounds) is well-executed. Good integration with Facebook as well. People are having fun with this, sometimes with memes and the like, but it really showcases why the iPhone and multi-touch technology are cool. Players aren't as constrained in what is possible interaction-wise as they would be with a d-pad."

Dirk Knemeyer, Founder & Chairman of Involution Studios

"From the standpoint of creating engagement and anticipation, it is brilliant. Peter Molyneux is a big thinker and innovator, and he has created what I would call an 'experience', not a 'game', that is conceptually fresh and interesting.

"From the standpoint of game design, it is just a social game on steroids, sort of a mash-up of FarmVille with the spatial, building creationism of Minecraft. It is less an advance than an adaptation. The question is: would it garner any interest without the promise of winning the lottery at the end, or the massive hype machine that has built up around it?

"From the standpoint of a gamer, it sucks. It is the same mindless tap-tap-tap'ing as so many other social games of questionable value. The 'life-changing' prize to the winner would need to be remarkable to make the experience ultimately worthwhile, and even then I wonder how the non-winners will feel about the experience. It might be novel and thus evoke positive emotions, but if it were repeated it would quickly become passe.

What's inside the cube?

"Peter is a philosophical guy, which makes this tricky. The only thing obviously life-changing for almost anyone is a lot of money, at least mid-six figures but better in the millions. But I don't think that is Peter's style. In the old movie City Slickers, the underlying premise is that there is this one, single, unspoken thing that is the secret to living a great life. The conceit of the movie was leaving it unspoken as a means of reinforcing the subjective specificity it has to each of us. I have to think that this will be something similar, that conceptually is important and meaningful but, to your average grinder, will end up being underwhelming."

Josh Fairhurst, President of Mighty Rabbit Studios

"I definitely think it is interesting. I spent quite a bit of time with it yesterday and I can't explain why. My biggest concern is that players will quickly lose motivation. I don't think this would have been a huge issue if the first layer had actually revealed something exciting but it didn't, it was just stock photos of green bubbles. I don't think players will continue chipping away at this thing if there isn't any kind of decent reward for doing that work. Yeah the promise of the thing at the center is good motivation, but I don't think that will counter the increasing boredom players will face. I kind of don't think anyone will ever make it to the center of the box, maybe that's the point? At least then no one could call Molyneux a liar because for all we know there was something life-changing inside."

What's inside the cube?

"In the words of the great martial artist, Kuni: "Nothing, absolutely nothing". Either that or it is a video of Molyneux berating the player for wasting their time chipping away at an intangible cube. I guess that'd be life changing, having someone point out how poorly you're using your life."

Doug Magruder, Airtight Games, creators of Pixld

"The Curiosity Experiment is really interesting. Impressions are mixed even among the people that sit within 10 feet of me. I think it taps into something base that is kind of the core of what games are. A game isn't the physical act of doing something, though that's part of it I think. A game is really just solving a problem. The best games do this in really cool ways with really cool problems and lots of polish and care and love put into them. Curiosity is doing that I think. Whether it is considered a 'success' I couldn't say, and probably isn't for me to say, but I think that there is something very base in it that I would like to look at and find a way to tap into as well. It's an experiment that I want to learn from."

What's inside the cube?

"Oh man, I hope it's something ridiculous and nonsensical. A credits clip through interpretive dance done by a clown, and a cat holding a "thanks!" pic. Baby pictures of the creators. A cheese wheel turning at the rate of 1 revolution per lunar month.

"No matter what it is the entire thing is the ultimate movie trailer. An actual movie never compares to the buildup that you have in your mind when you first see a trailer. The trailer is full of potential and hope and imagination all multiplied by expectation, but once you nail it down into a solid thing it never holds up. It never can. There is nothing on earth that I know of that could equal the expectations of what some of the hardcore Curiosity people have in their minds eyes, so why try? Make it funny, and I hope they do."


Read our Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube hands on
Read our interview with Peter Molyneux

Download Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube (iOS)
Download Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube (Android)