A Second Second Life: Patterns Is Sort Of Out

By Craig Pearson on December 5th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

It's Rod Humble's Indie Bundle
Imagine a game where the world is yours to reshape. Now imagine it becomes famous, and everyone knows what it is. It appears on the TV, confusing news presenters, and there are conventions devoted to it. That game is Second Life. You thought it was going to be Minecraft, didn’t you? Hah! I’m like Derren Brown, but hairier. But it’s okay, as there’s a very good reason for confusing you like that. The next game from Second Life makers Linden Labs, Patterns, is clearly inspired by Minecraft. As I found out when I played it.

It’s already out, but in that sneaky ‘pay now to get it while we develop it’ way, called the Genesis Version. But it’s playable, currently $10, and rather relaxing and sweet. Two things differentiate it from Minecraft: triangles and physics.

Like Minecraft, you break things and make things with the parts you scooped up, though here there are blocks and triangles. I’ve had a brief playthrough with the latest version. It handily reconfigured the controls without updating the ‘Help’ section, so following a brief period of confusion and crying I discovered that there’s a ‘scoop’ and ‘place’ mode: you swap between the two and spam with the left-mouse to get what you want, using right-mouse to look around. The rest is confusing, but that seems to be because it’s transitioning between one period of usefulness to another. I’m currently unable to resize blocks, and some of the more obscure shapes don’t seem to want to join my inventory.

Here’s what it looks like:

But I did build a bridge. I walked around a bit, using my zappy arm to scoop up the raw materials and then walked up to a ledge. The edge was built out of triangles, and I haven’t found a way of making those into useful buildings yet. But I do have blocks, and I know what games with placeable blocks and large chasms want from me. Patterns and I share a wink and a nod and I begin. I start laying bone white blocks out and walk along, a glowing white bridge carefully emerging beneath me. Then the game does something that I consider mean: the bridge slowly tips up and drops me into the chasm, killing me. It has taken the contract between the gamer and the physics engine and torn it up! Putting a block on the ground doesn’t immediately anchor it. There is a solid block on this side. I secure it by building a square around it and attaching my blocks to that. This works. I have tamed thee, physics.

The other side is a world built out of triangles and blocks, all made up of different materials. It’s rather lovely, but the as the controls don’t really seem to be responding as well as I’d like, there’s not much I can achieve over here. So I’m putting Patterns away for the time being. I’ll return to it, and this side of the world, when the controls are a little tighter. That’s fine. It’s only version 0.01d, after all. That’s not even a whole number. There’s no multiplayer and no sharing just yet. In the meantime, here’s what patience and competence can turn out.

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21 Comments »

  1. Dariune says:

    So it’s Minecraft with Triangles?

    Considering the concept of Minecraft is quite simple and the scope and potential so large, I really hope they do more with this.

    • Sayori says:

      No, but Minecraft can be called lazy made 8-bit Second Life…

      • Pajama says:

        Well, if you think about it, Patterns actually has physics which really fleshes out what Minecraft never had. I mean, I enjoyed minecraft and sometimes play it, but the addition of more different block types [top tiles in Patterns example or triangles] having actual physics makes this game much more interesting than it’s competition when it comes to depth.

        Hopefully they flesh out the creative tools a bit and add a more adventure element to it [not combat unless it is fairly good] so that it feels worthy of a full priced purchase.

  2. Stardog says:

    I thought this was some Second Life mod/area or something, not an actualy standalone game.

    And, yeah, non-steam version or no buy.

    • rod humble says:

      Non steam version coming this month. Probably around the 20th just fyi.

  3. Feferuco says:

    My guess is comes next gen and consoles are powerful enough we’ll get a ton of games like this from larger developers. Maybe who knows building stuff next gen will be like shooting stuff this gen.

  4. Consumatopia says:

    I really hope this game works out–adding triangles and physics to a Minecrafty-block world looks really intriguing.

    I do have doubts, though. I’m not sure that Linden Lab would interested in facilitating the kind of mod community that Minecraft has. That alone isn’t enough to sink the game–Minecraft mods are awesome, but the game would still be a success without them.

    More critically, it might be too abstract. While other Minecraft-ish games go too far in making their graphics concrete (e.g. making each block of dirt a highly detailed mesh. It looks nice in screenshots and videos, but it means that everything created in the game looks like the work of the game developer, not of the player), this game is actually even more abstract than Minecraft. Your character looks like some kind of triangle alien, and while in Minecraft you can craft (pre-programmed) furniture and tools, in this Patterns you lay down materials in abstract shapes–any use you derive from anything you make is solely a function of its material and shape. I think for a free-form building game, Minecraft has precisely the right level of detail/abstraction–the sorts of doors, chairs, fences, walls, stairs etc that you create look recognizable as human objects, but they’re basic enough that it doesn’t feel like the game creator is imposing his vision on you.

    It’s like they still want a game with the generality of Second Life, but the simplicity of Minecraft. I’m not entirely sure that makes sense–that voxel-ish structure (I would love to know how that is represented underneath) makes it easy to build a giant wheel for your character to run on top of, but it doesn’t look possible to build smaller things. Would people want to play in a world in which you can make anything, but only if it’s inconveniently huge and awkward? Because that’s the world in those videos.

    • Wulf says:

      The ironic thing here is that Linden Labs has done more to openly support modders (even allowing them to make money from their work) than Minecraft has. And people have achieved some utterly crazy things in SL. I’ve seen fully functional rebuilds of Uru areas and stuff like that. Crazy things.

      To be honest, if they embrace the modding community as much as they have with SL, it’ll be a good thing. I hope they don’t “embrace” it in the way that Minecraft has. I’ve nothing against Minecraft. I’m a long-time vocal fan. But Minecraft has hardly been modder-friendly (the mod API, after all this time, is still in private development).

      • Consumatopia says:

        I didn’t mean to suggest that Second Life didn’t support modders. Players can build scripts in the world, I think many parts of the client are open source, they tolerated other clients connecting to their servers, they seemed to be imagining a future in which other people would be running servers that would be compatible with their protocols (Second Life as a sort of 3D web, I guess). Second Life is more open than Minecraft in about every sense I can think of except one, in that Minecraft was designed from the beginning for players to run their own servers.

        But I haven’t heard any talk like that with regards to Patterns (admittedly, I don’t hear very much talk about Patterns at all). Patterns and some of LL’s other projects seem to represent a change in direction from Second Life, seemingly influenced by Minecraft and Little Big Planet, so I suspect it won’t have the same developer-focus that Second Life had. But that’s only a guess.

        In any event, I didn’t think this issue will be what causes Patterns to succeed or not. But then again if they do support modding, there could easily be a “Day Z” situation in which some mod becomes more popular than the main game. We especially shouldn’t be surprised in this case: although the technology combining blocks, triangles and physics is exciting, the videos above don’t really capture my imagination. And I’m evidently not alone–this RPS thread, as well as an earlier one that I recall, is sparsely commented. Patterns, as it is now in this very early state, doesn’t look like a lot of fun. The potential excites me, but the experience itself doesn’t, yet. (Which is an ominous state for a product from the same developers as Second Life to be in).

  5. Rikard Peterson says:

    It looks a bit pretty. I like this look better than the Minecraft look. Just breaking it up a bit with the triangles helps a lot.

  6. ChainsawCharlie says:

    Looks rubbish

    • Sayori says:

      Well, I don’t know if it’s rubbish but if it’s cannot be worse than Minecraft.
      Also I don’t care about both “games”. So no bias.

      • The Random One says:

        I don’t understand. Even if you think Minecraft is rubbish (and I do) there’s no upper limit for rubbish. Just because something is rubbish it doesn’t mean something else can’t come and be even more rubbish. Oh, how we miss that thing we had, we will wail! It wasn’t rubbish after all! Except it was, but then there was even more rubbish. There is no rubbish event horizon; the rubbish always finds a way.

  7. MuscleHorse says:

    Hate to be THAT GUY but he’s called Derren Brown, not Darren.

    Darren Brown sounds like that guy who mugged me for my cans of lager.

  8. TheIronSky says:

    It’s far more gratifying to just learn the building tools in Second Life rather than trying to use obscurely-shaped polygons in typical Minecraft fashion.

    In other news, Primordia (The New Wadjet Eye Point & Click Adventure) is out today. I’d say it’s deserving of a ‘happy release-date’ post, too.

    • Consumatopia says:

      It’s far more gratifying to learn how to use Blender and Unity to make a game of your own rather than muck about with Second Life’s awkwardness. Minecraft is simple enough to tinker around in without it being work.

  9. Just Endless says:

    Geodesic domes, finally possible!

  10. gizgastore says:

    Imagine a game where the world is yours to reshape. Now imagine it becomes famous, and everyone knows what it is. It appears on the TV, confusing news presenters, and there are conventions devoted to it. That game is Second Life. You thought it was going to be Minecraft, didn’t you? Hah! About me please visit:http://www.gizga.com

  11. strangeloup says:

    I’m rather a fan of Linden Labs, and I’d been sort-of keeping an eye on this, but the beta, sorry, ‘Genesis’ release had passed me by until I saw the story here.

    Watching the introductory video convinced me that it was worth $10 of my money to try it out — god knows I’ve spent more than that on silly things I’ve used once in Second Life, or TF2 hats, or similar frippery.

    Downloading at the moment, but I’ve got a good feeling about this — obviously it’s at an early stage at the moment, but I think it could go on to be something very special.

  12. sahawilliam says:

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