Peter Molyneux recently left Microsoft and his own Lionhead Studios to take the developing road less travelled. He wasted no time in establishing a new indie start-up called 22 Cans – a name which keeps me awake at night wondering whether it means twenty-two cans of food/beer, or twenty toucans. I’m hoping the latter or even better: twenty toucans drinking twenty-two cans of beer.
Molyneux is aiming to develop twenty-two experiments, all of which will help guide the final development of his most ambitious game to date. Speaking to website New Scientist, Molyneux outlined his lofty goals of creating a personal gaming experience; one that is based upon a wealth of user data that’s been mined from these twenty-two experiments.
Most of this data will be mined through social media, so expect the experiments to be tied into things like Facebook and Twitter. The goal is to gauge people’s reactions to the experiments, collate those reactions, and use them to create the final game, which will be released two years from now. Molyneux has just started talking about the first experiment, and it’s called “Curiosity”.
Players will be presented with a single black cube inside a virtual room. You’ll be able to interact with the cube by chipping away at it, only every person playing the game will be chipping away at the same block. After an undisclosed amount of chips, the cube will break open and reveal its contents but only the player who happens to get in the final strike will see the contents of the box. Molyneux will then track the reaction to the contents of the box, and see how it is shared and spread over social media.
What’s inside the box? Well, in typical Molyneux fashion, something “truly amazing, absolutely unique”.
The “Curiosity” experiment will also test people’s willingness to buy virtual items. You’ll be able to buy things like an iron chisel (which makes strikes on the cube ten times more powerful) for 59 pence, which is just over R7. Alternatively, if you’re insane, there is one diamond chisel up for grabs that is 100, 000 times more powerful than an ordinary strike; that’ll cost you £50, 000! That’s about R650, 000. Molyneux stresses that this isn’t a money-making scheme, but rather a way to test just how far people would go for in-game purchases.
This all sounds very similar to what fellow game genius Will Wright had in mind for his start-up. HiveMind was also supposed to harvest user data to alter the game experience, however that project has been shelved due to legal issues with partners.