With 'just 50 levels to go', psychological experiment Curiosity is now a race to the big prize, says Molyneux

But what will be the impact of cube griefers?

With 'just 50 levels to go', psychological experiment Curiosity is now a race to the big prize, says Molyneux

Back in November 2012, UK developer 22Cans started its grand experiment.

If any other studio had launched a game which consisted of a large cube made up of smaller cubes that you removed by tapping on them, it would have been an interesting flop.

As the debut title from Peter Molyneux's new studio, though, Curiosity has been a massive success.

Released on iOS and Android, full name Curiosity - what's inside the cube has been downloaded over 5 million times (roughly 4 million of those on iOS).

At its peak, it had around 800,000 daily active players; something that's since dropped to around 100,000.

But as the end game approaches, this is certain to pick up.

What's in the mind?

"Curiosity was always a psychological experiment," Molyneux explains.

For while offering only the simplest interaction in terms of gameplay, the point of Curiosity has always been 'what's inside the cube?'.

All we know is that 'it will be life-changing' for the person who uncovers it, and that opportunity has been sufficient to keep people - including PocketGamer's own very curious Harry Slater - tapping away ever since.

Of course, just tapping away isn't enjoyable, which is why players have come up with their own reasons, or even meta-games for their activity (as is Harry's Curiosity Cube Diaries - Volumes I and II).

"Curiosity shouldn't work. It goes against all game design rules," Molyneux states.

"We didn't tell people they could draw on the cube. They just did. We've had five marriage proposals, one obituary and political debates."

In an example of this, someone drew the Twin Towers, and then someone drew planes crashing into them. It all ended with (textual) calls of 'U-S-A. U-S-A.'

And lest we give a wrong impression, there's been the expected rash of penises too.

Gaping void

But that was the past.

With the recent update, which includes the ability to use in-app purchases to remove and add large number of cubelets, 22Cans is now looking to bring its experiment to an end.

Using the headline that there are just 50 levels to go (Harry reckons it's actually less), 22Cans is ramping up the hype about what is exactly in the centre.

"What's in the centre? It's the same thing that it always was," Molyneux says carefully, before adding cryptically that the centre was there before the cube.

"I'm desperately excited to give it away."

Two steps back

Of course, the experiment was always going to have to end at some point.

"I think six months is long enough," Molyneux says. He suggests the centre might be uncovered at 5pm on May 21st, which is when Microsoft has its next-gen Xbox press conference.

I think he's just being mischievous.

However, what is significant is that with the goal in sight, the ability of players to spend money to remove and add cubelets adds additional tension to the experience.

"It's not a graffiti board any more. Curiosity is a race," Molyneux says.

He's happy to admit the ability to remove cubelets wasn't part of the game's original design, but a reaction to how people were playing.

"Money make a difference," he explains. "It's a hoop to jump through. You have to really want to do what you do when you spend money. It's not just pressing a button to add or remove cubelets."

So now, will a reinvigorated audience of cubelets removers prove an attractive target for rich players who want to obstruct the game's ending?

"A griefer totally messed up my Minercraft server," Molyneux says, highlighting the personal impact of such negative gameplay.

But, of course, encouraging this sort of behaviour is something he's always explored; games such as Dungeon Keeper to Black & White and the entire Fable series play with our ability to be good and bad.

Curiosity - what's inside the cube is just his latest experiment...

Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on
Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.