Last spring , legendary game developer and idea man Peter Molyneux (Black & White, Fable) left Lionhead Studios and Microsoft to join fellow ex-Lionhead exec Tim Rance at indie developer 22Cans. His first game was Curiosity, a free-to-play iOS and Android app that served as an experiment on many levels.

Curiosity, renamed Curiosity — What’s Inside the Cube?, lets players slowly pick away at a giant cube, knocking away cubelets, layer by layer, revealing little messages from the developer. It’s literally “curiosity” that motivated players to play from November until this weekend when a winner knocked away the final layer.

Before we get to that, let’s look at the goals of the game. Molyneux is infamous for making bold claims about this games, and with the Fable series most especially, hasn’t exactly delivered. He’s always crafted unique and different experiences, but nothing like Curiosity which was a way of testing different facets of gaming, app use and the psychology of users. It had super expensive DLC just to see what people would do and if someone would pay $77,450 (that’s £50,000 in the British pound sterling).

They also monitor game stats and see how people work away at the game, and how its received online, especially when new layers reveal new messages including Twitter hashtags. Even the end-game scenario, where 18 year-old Bryan Henderson from Edinburgh, Scotland, a video explaining the prize gave Henderson the choice of whether to keep the contents of the cube to himself or share. He chose share and we have the video up top as a result.

Henderson, much to the dismay of DLC purchasers and long-time players, only signed up for Curiosity an hour before winning it. But that’s part of the experiment and it plays with the ideas and concepts of game theory. He didn’t need to spend countless hours chipping away at blocks with no reward – that journey wasn’t meant for him. He got in at the right time and now his life has changed forever.

Bryan Henderson is now a god, digitally speaking. In the next game from 22Cans, the upcoming funded-through-Kickstarter title Godus, Henderson will be the supreme ruler. He’ll have the opportunity to work with the developer to set the rules of the game, and can directly effect the world players about to delve into. Not only that, but he’ll earn a share of the game’s profits, meaning its in his best interest to keep the game interesting, whether he choose to be good or evil, hearkening back to the themes of Black & White.

An interesting experiment indeed, and certainly a worthy prize for the winner.

64 billion cubelets in total, 2,000 layers worth, removed one layer at a time. Completed. Can such an experiment work again or would the gameplay mechanics and prizing need to be drastically different?

[Update #1] I’ve emailed Peter Molyneux for his thoughts:

“Its an interesting question, Curiosity was designed to be a one off experiment, however it would be an interesting ‘experiment’ to start again with a known centre.”

[Update #2] The prize for Henderson is temporary, and not the lifetime of the game Godus. Molyneux tells RPS:

“The interesting thing is that what Bryan has won is a grace period where he can be god of gods for a certain amount of time. We’re talking about that period of time [right now]. It won’t be less than a few months. It might not be more than a year. And then we’ll unveil the ability to usurp the god of gods and replace him with someone else. That someone else will then take on all of Bryan’s powers.

It didn’t seem right to me that Bryan would be god of gods for all time. It seems right to me that he has a period of time to be god of gods, and that can’t just be a few days. It needs to be substantial. And in that time, many things could happen. And of course, the amount of physical money he gets depends on how successful the game is. So he’ll probably be god of gods for an amount of time approaching a year. That’ll be a year from release, by the way. It needs to be enough time to make it meaningful for him in every sense of the word.”

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes if used games will affect your console buying decision!

Source: Peter Molyneux