Peter Molyneux Curiosity Interview: What's In the Cube?

Earlier this afternoon, legendary game designer Peter Molyneux curated a session at the Rezzed Indie & PC gaming event in Brighton, England. In it, he discussed the upcoming Curiosity experiment from his indie development studio, 22 Cans. Afterwards, we spoke with him about the experiment, and his expectations for the company's work.

One of the concerns we had is that by talking about the experiment, and what you think you might get from it, that this somehow taints the experiment from a scientific perspective. Is that fair?

Yes, I think that's true. There's this balance I have to get right because I need to make sure that people know about the experiment (there are 650,000 apps on the App Store and it'll just be sunk) and making sure it's a true and valid experiment. So as you see, I try not to talk too much about the experience of the cube and what's inside these layers. I've talked a little bit about it but not much about it, because I do want this has to be a valid experiment for when we're making that final game. You're going to see me continue to tease rather than tell. That's what my intention is.

Be a little bit coy?

Yeah, you've got to be coy. If you're not careful, and you say too much, people know what it is and it doesn't become an experiment.

I don't know if you're a betting man, but have you considered the possibility that someone will get to the last block and not tell anyone, thinking 'I own that'?

I can't make my mind up about this because in a way, the original intention was to say right, the most interesting psychological thing is when you go back to the cube, and you realize that you've done all these taps, and there's something in the middle. This idea of curiosity, will that lead you to try and investigate what was in the cube, or should we this bring up on the screen? "Joe Bloggs from Massachusetts has opened the cube, if you want to e-mail him, he'll tell you."

It's still a little bit undecided. I'll make that final decision when we see how many people are engaging with the cube. My original intent was to say absolutely nothing and leave it down to the individual to use social media to find out, to tell people or choose to tell people. Like a lottery winner, some people take the publicity, some people don't.

From a legal perspective, could someone go to Kickstarter and say if you give $5 and I get my $20,000 or whatever, then I'll tell you?

It's interesting. You see, the fascinating thing about this experiment is there's nothing I can think of, other than maybe Facebook or Twitter, that really connects people together, and really it's using a mass audience to solve a simple and pure problem. I don't really know what happens psychologically speaking when you get to the center of the cube.

The interesting thing is how deep into the cube will you go before it's revealed? You don't know, is it going to be the very center, the last cube in the center of the cube? Or is it going to be level 1,000? It could literally be the first day it's solved. And, just the psychology of pass-the-parcel, which if you play pass-the-parcel now, even at your age, you couldn't resist accessing the last level. It's a fascinating thing. It's pure motivation and a pure, tiny piece of gameplay. I think that, in a way, it's the purity that tells us most about it, maybe.

You mentioned a million people could play. Do you have the infrastructure to support that many concurrent users?

The way that we work is that we are running on an Amazon server, and we can switch on other Amazon servers and the code is structured to be able to do that. Each server can handle thousands. I'm not sure exactly how many. So when we see it peaking up, then we can switch on another.

So it's scalable?

It's scalable, and we have to have that technology for our final game, so it's something that we have to solve and get the bugs out because this curiosity is so simple, we should be able to do that. It's a scary thought when you think that some Apps, a million people can download them in a week. Certainly, we'd have to switch on all these servers, but it is a scalable solution.

You mentioned clues about what lies in the center of the cube this afternoon. Can you give any sort of clue about the clue? Is it about your career, something people could find in a game that you've done?

No. No.

You can't tell us anything at all?

No. I love mystery shit!

You did mention that cooperation would be the core feature in the next experiment. Can you give us any kind of insight about that?

Again, I think to your first point, your first question, is you're giving away too much. The next one is about cooperation, and I think it would be better if I held that back. I think it's even more interesting than the cube.

Is it radically different?

Yes, radically different. It's another one of those incredibly simple problems that's such a pure simple problem to solve. But it's also hard to solve.

Will it have an equally big pay-off at the end?

We're thinking about the pay-off at the moment. It won't be as big as what is in the cube.

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