Back in 2009, Notch revealed Minecraft to the world; introducing us to one of the first true sandbox games we’ve ever seen besides…well…a real life sandbox among other things. Almost three and a half years later, it is one of the most successful indie games ever, selling over 17 million copies of the game. But it was the creations that came out of the game, as opposed to the game itself, that wowed the world. From Hogwarts to the Death Star, these massive projects were only as limited as the imagination of the artist.
However there was always that lingering feeling that even Minecraft was limited. After all, the only option you had when picking shapes was a cube. Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, thinks that they have cracked this problem with their latest creation. Patterns introduces a brand new concept to the world of sandbox games that will blow your minds:
I know, sounds crazy, but bear with me. Patterns is a sandbox game where the entire focus is on creating. No worrying about surviving against zombies; no levelling up and getting upgraded weapons to kill bosses; just pure building. It is as if you’re dropped into a world and told “Here you go. Show me what your imagination’s got.” But unlike Minecraft, Patterns is not restricted by a single 3d shape. In fact, there are potentially hundreds of 3d shapes at your disposal, because you make the blocks yourself as well.
You have three starting 2d shapes: A square, an equilateral triangle and an isosceles triangle, where the longer sides are twice the length of the shorter side. With these three basic shapes, you can create 3d objects that you can use in your creations. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go into the creator every time you want to make a block. Patterns saves those blocks you have discovered, and you can access them later on through your inventory.
Another way to discover new 3d shapes is to simply discover them. In the worlds provided, there are shapes made out of a substance called starene. Mining a starene block saves the shaped block into your inventory. This becomes very handy when faced with more complex blocks that can be difficult to make in the creator.
Another major difference to Minecraft, and one that made me incredibly excited about (almost as excited as when I heard I had triangles to play with,) is that this game takes the laws of physics into consideration. Each material has distinct physical properties that affect how you can use it in your creations. Putting things on ice means it will slide. Making your foundations out of weak materials like grass will make it collapse after hardly any weight on it, and so forth. It forces you to think of how the materials in your creations interact. So no more massive bridges in the sky; you need supports for your bridges, properly ground your buildings, and watch your weight distribution. On top of that, you can punch free blocks around and down hills, and roll wheels around. I spent half an hour just sliding blocks down an ice slope, just because it was fun.
As expected of a genesis version of a game, it’s not totally complete. For one, there can be some rotational issues. Rotating a block can be a bit painful at times, when the rotation keeps going into a direction that you do not want.
Another issue that I discovered is that despite the addition of triangular shapes being a great step towards a true sandbox type game; there are still restrictions to the shapes. You can only make 3d shapes that are in the Linden Labs database, as I discovered when I tried to make a flower as a standard shape. On top of that, having only 3 2d shapes as bases means that eventually you just run out of shapes to make. I’d really like to see a few more basic shapes to work with, like a pentagon or even a right angle triangle.
Finally, the creator mode can sometimes have the edges misaligned. One on the first 3d shapes I attempted to make in the creator mode is an icosahedron. It started off fine, with the first few triangles going in place smoothly. However, about half way through, some of the edges started folding in, and the game recognised them as correct, even though they were misaligned. As it continued, the distorted sides became more apparent until the final face required to complete the shape can only be described as Harry Potter’s scar.
Honestly though, I’m nit-picking. This is the genesis version, so there’s a lot of time to add new shapes. Also, the creator mode and rotation system can be fixed easily. As a start, this game is fantastic. I have spent hours on the four current maps, trying out material combinations for bridges, or practicing my shape compositions, and I am enthralled. I still haven’t actually made anything, but I can’t wait to sit down and work on a big project. I have no doubts in my mind that people will be able to make amazing things out of this game, and I for one am excited to see what the developers will add to help out.
Who knows, maybe I’ll actually finish that castle I’ve tried three times to make in Minecraft.
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