Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube is a new mobile “social experiment” from renowned game designer Peter Molyneux’s new independent studio 22Cans. It’s available now from the App Store as a free download. The Android version is apparently available from Google Play, though many users have complained of significant compatibility issues preventing its installation. A quick and informal Twitter poll around the time of writing indicated that the app appears to be incompatible with a variety of common, popular devices including Motorola’s Xoom tablet; HTC’s Desire, Vision and One S; Samsung’s Galaxy Note; and even Google’s own Nexus 7. Molyneux’s tweets suggest that the actual, working Android version will be released later today, so check back later to see if a working version has been submitted.
Curiosity’s core concept — no pun intended — is that there is something interesting in the middle of the eponymous cube. Players from across the world will have to cooperate in order to chip off the various layers of the cube and discover what it contains. Tapping on the cube removes a single component “cubelet” from its surface, and the next layer may not be chipped away at until all of the previous layer’s cubelets have been destroyed. Whoever taps the final cubelet away will discover “what’s inside the cube,” and the eventual aim of the experiment is to study how — or if — news of the secret spreads across social media networks. The eventual goal is to implement the data acquired from Curiosity into a future game developed by 22 Cans, set to arrive in two years’ time.
In order to make the process of cubelet destruction somewhat easier, a variety of tools are available, ranging from firecrackers, which destroy a small square area, to a diamond chisel. Each of these tools costs a particular amount of in-game currency to acquire, with the more effective items costing huge amounts of coins. Coins are earned simply through tapping on the cube and through connecting to Facebook — a player’s friend joining the quest to chip their way through the cube rewards them with a lump sum of currency. Coins may also be spent in small quantities on tracking progress against friends and viewing stats. There does not appear to be a means of acquiring currency via in-app purchase at this time, though when the game was initially announced it was suggested that the diamond chisel would cost an equivalent of £50,000. Molyneux claimed at the time that the vast cost of the more powerful items was “not a money-making exercise,” but instead an attempt to study the psychology of monetization and the social dynamics of players collaborating — or competing — on a project such as this.
Molyneux and the team assert that players shouldn’t “assume that the journey to the centre of the cube is simply tapping… there will be many surprises as the world becomes more curious.” The game’s documentation also asserts that there are various skill-based mechanics for players to discover, with one such system being what appears to be a “combo meter” at the side of the screen, counting how many cubelets the player has destroyed without missing or tapping on an already-cleared space. Apparently some of these mechanics are yet to be either implemented or unlocked in the game, as the “shop” screen includes four options that have icons but are listed as “coming soon.”
Curiosity’s base mechanic may be very simple, but the combination of Molyneux’s recognizable name plus simple human curiosity has caused a large number of players to investigate the game already. Impromptu “art projects” are springing up all over the cube, and many are being shared on social networks. A dedicated Tumblr blog has even been set up by a community member to post interesting creations from the cube’s surface.
While the actual “gameplay” of Curiosity is — at present, anyway — nothing more than tapping, the project has the potential to be an interesting experiment in more ways than one. How many players will it attract? How many will stick with it? How many will be willing to pay real money for a greater chance at attaining the final prize? It is clear from the stat screens already in the game that 22Cans is keeping a careful eye on everything that players are doing so far — what isn’t clear yet is what they are going to do with that information.
As a brand new release, Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube is not yet listed on the App Store or Google Play leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.
Not a “game” as much as an interesting experiment, but one well worth a look while people are still interested.