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.