Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
When Patterns debuted, it didn't really do anything for me. Even though I'm a huge fan of Minecraft, Linden Lab's Patterns didn't seem to offer many of the things I actually enjoyed about that game. It was SL designer Damien Fate's DamoPatterns videos on YouTube that finally caught my eye and got me interested in this sandbox game.
Now that I've played around with the beta, there are a few things I'd love to see in order to maintain my interest in the game. Because Patterns is still just a fraction of what it will one day be, some of these ideas (if not all of them) are already in the works (and in fact one of them was sort of included in this week's update). Regardless, these types of changes are necessary to add more depth and 'playability' to this rose-tinted world. For example:
This was obviously going to be my first point, and it's not because I don't find squinty-anime-eyed-corn-chip-man endearing, but he (or she) just isn't an avatar or expression of me in any way I can get behind. You'll probably be able to change the material he's made of in the future, but I'd like to see more. Let me build my avatar in the shape stone, designating head, body, and limbs. Let me build things and then scale them to fit my avatar, and attach them (that sounds familiar...). Let me skin! Let me do something to make that avatar as identifiably mine as the landscape is.
This is something else that might sound familiar, but the simple ability to resize objects allows for an entirely new level of building complexity that very few other games of this type can claim. Yes, just like Second Life, but for a slightly different crowd, and with a slightly different approach.
Right now the thing that keeps me busy in Patterns is getting all the starene on the map. Once I do that, I feel a little bit listless. Obviously the point of the game is to build, but I think the only reason i ever built a house in Minecraft was to keep the zombies away at night. Patterns can't just do what Minecraft already does if it wants to stay fresh and interesting, but aside from the hardcore builders, many players like me need a reason to do something. Just a little push to get things going.
I'll admit I'm one of those people who is in favour of an achievements system for SL, not because I believe that new users need to be given a purpose, but rather because I think they need to be given time to find their purpose. The point of achievements wouldn't be to lead players around by the hand, but to keep them directed and interested long enough for them to figure out what they're interested in pursuing on their own. The longer you can get someone to play, the better your chances are of getting them invested in the game.
Expand and Add Complexity to the Environment
I could make due in a game without goals if the environment was broad and interesting enough, but Patterns' floating (and partially indestructible) islands really limit how much exploration is possible. The latest update added several new chunks of land and a couple new starene idols to destroy, but that new content didn't keep me busy for very long. Obviously the world of Patterns will grow, but I would love to see these pre-made floating islands connect to the ground -- and a procedurally generated map, maybe with pre-built temples and structures scattered randomly throughout. New plants, maybe even a small critter ecosystem like the one dropped from early iterations of SL. Adding an element of wonder and surprise to an otherwise straightforward premise is a great way to keep players interested.
Minecraft multiplayer was a huge pain for me to set up. Honestly, I didn't want to host a group server or anything like that, I just wanted to be able to invite a few friends into my world to play around, Diablo-style. Instead I spent an irritating afternoon fussing with port forwarding and router settings and a whole bunch of garbage that soured the experience for me rather dramatically. With Patterns on Steam already it seems like it could be a match made in multiplayer heaven, so I'm optimistic. Worlds like this are meant to be shared, and sharing should never be a chore.Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.