Update, October 9th, 2014: Linden Lab announced that development work on Patterns has been discontinued.
In keeping with Rod Humble’s promise of rapid iterative cycles, Patterns received its first update on the 18th October.
Looking at Reactions to Date
Before getting down the the update, I thought I’d take a look at reactions to date. It is fair to say that overall, Patterns has been generally well-received in the “gaming community”, with positive comments appearing in response to articles about it, on the Patterns forum and forums elsewhere, together with a host of largely positive videos and tutorials being promoted to You Tube.
Within the SL community, the reaction has been somewhat more mixed. While many (myself included) have been willing to give it a chance and are happy – for now at least – to see where it leads and forgiving current shortfalls and bugs, others aren’t and have written it off before even the first update has arrived. Still others are loudly remonstrating that Rod Humble is pushing LL into something “it isn’t”, a “games company” with the subtext that it can only end in failure. Perhaps it will; my own view at this point in time is that it’s just too early to tell, although I remain of the opinion that diversification could be beneficial to the company and SL over time.
But to come back to Patterns. Many of those who have been working with it have been flexing the overall building capabilities – and this has in some ways mirrored early usage of Second Life. While Those at linden Lab expected their world to be filled with the unusual, bizarre and unthought-of, most early adopters worked with prims in remarkably familiar ways: houses were very much based of real-world designs, etc.
Of course, Patterns is a much harder world to go directly to the fantastic as the physics engine isn’t so obliging to turn a blind eye to a stately mansion sitting atop a tree or floating over a mountain (not unless they are part of a protoworld to start with, anyway). Even so, people have been playing with recognisable builds – such as Damien Fate, and his lighthearted look at building a house.
Others have been looking at the question of vehicles in Patterns – and while axles per se are lacking at present, some have been having fun nonetheless…
I’ve been playing Patterns since it came out two weeks ago, and have to say I’ve found it buggy (not unexpected with an alpha release), very limited in terms of things to do (ditto for an alpha release), frequently repetitive (if only because for the last couple of days I’ve been reduced to vacuuming-up everything in sight….) – and oddly compelling and absorbing. The workbench / forge (or to give it its proper name, the Shaping Stone) has had me beavering away at what is / isn’t possible to build, and I’ve enjoyed experimented with different means of building bridges, ramps, stairways, etc while exploring in-world. More recently, I’ve been enjoying simply blowing this up (although I admit, creating “starene” bombs passed right over my head until Nalates Urriah pointed out one is built in the original promo video. Doh!).
So… what about the update?
A Word About Savesets
Before we get to that, a word about Patterns savesets – one I wish I’d read before launching into the update and building things :).
By default when starting the update, a player is starting over; this is a new version with a new world, so you’re essentially starting from scratch, which is a bit of a pain if you’ve collected a few tonnes of substances in your inventory or created a slew of custom shapes.
However, all is not lost. Providing you’re not too heavily into the update, you can re-load various elements from earlier sessions with Patterns (providing you saved your games) into the new version. This not only means you can revert back to just playing within the 0.01a world – you can load your inventory and shapes! The process for doing this is currently a bit complicated, but the indications are that future versions will included the ability to load data from previous versions etc.
In order to load-up data, you’ll need to access the savesets for the game. These are located in the following folders:
- Windows: C:\Users\[user name]\Appdata\LocalLow\FreeRange\Patterns\SAVEDATA|
- Mac: \\Library\caches\FreeRange\Patterns
The savesets themselves are called:
Note that if you have already played the update, you may also have savesets from version 0.01b. These are differentiated from version0.01a savesets by having a “2” in the filename.
To use a saveset file from 0.01a in your updated Patterns, all you need to do is add a “2” to the name so, for example: “data_ProtoWorld_0” (the world file) would be renamed “data_ProtoWorld2_0”. Note that this may overwrite any existing 0.01b file with the same name.
So what has been updated? Speaking in the update video, Mike Cox, a producer for Patterns, tells us the Shaping Stone, the physics engine(s) , and performance optimisation have been the focal points for the update. The world has also been updates with additional areas to explore.
On start-up, Patterns now defaults to full screen mode, and on entering the world you’ll find yourself in a familiar “spawning” pyramid. On getting outside, the world initially appears to be little changed from the initial release; perhaps the most obvious change is that the leaves on the trees are a darker green and sport a different texture. Get yourself across the first chasm, however, you’ll see that things have indeed changed.
Getting to the new islands is something of a challenge. Matters are not as straightforward as 0.01a as height differentials are more extreme and xome substances are pushed to breaking. In my case at least, I found creating a specific shape greatly eased the process of getting across gaps. Gypsum, a substance that was rare to the point of non-existence in 0.01a (unless I managed to miss it), is much in evidence on the additional islands. However, getting to all of it, and to the other things which are available is a further series challenges, simply because of the topography.
I’m not sure what has been done with the Shaping Stone, but I initially had issues in working with the newer version which I didn’t encounter first time around with pieces refusing to link. I thought it was my SL instincts kicking-in and causing me problems. Certainly, coming back to Patterns after a night’s sleep left me merrily building away again, and accumulating a range of objects, although I’m still at a loss of what, precisely, an “antiprism” is, although it does seem to be popular with others…
The other engine updates are perhaps too subtle to notice in-world. I didn’t really have noticeable performance issues with 0.01a, so it is hard to tell if anything has improved. Sadly, the camera remains largely untouched and frustrating to use. It does appear that if you’re standing on a large open space and TAB-toggle the camera, it will set itself further back from your avatar than version0.01a, but this could simply be me not having noticed with the initial release.
The new islands are obviously the biggest change and as mentioned above, offer a significant set of challenges both in getting to them and around them. Much need for ramps and stairways, so it’s likely older islands may well find themselves vacuumed for resources once more.
The other major change is the ability to have your own creations (formations, to use the Patterns parlance again) interact with one another more freely. It’s now possible, for example, to create ramps and tracks and move your other formations – cheese rolls, wheels, balls … trucks – along them without them falling apart.
I did encounter one odd control, while tearing down the side of a pyramid, an on-screen control popped-up, which I’ve not seen before. I have no idea if it’s been there all the time (not seen mention of it), if it is new for 0.01b (perhaps to do with moving your own formations around?) or something else. All I could get it to do was change colour from orange to green (Update: it’s the rotation tool :). I’ve not used this before, and it is supposedly activated using R, which for may has simply added / removed a building block from my avatar’s left hand. As I was dismantling a wall at the time and using the mouse, as in the screen cap, its appearance totally threw me).
A small, iterative update with some nice touches, but nothing that is particularly revolutionary – which is precisely the point; the Genesis Release is about evolution, not revolution. Certainly, there is nothing here which is going to get those who have already made up their minds to give Patterns perhaps more than a further cursory glance. However, with the update schedule confirmed as being around every fortnight (two weeks), then it’s fair to say that Patterns is liable to keep initial interest going among those who are already engaged with it. Some of this may well be increased should Linden Lab / Free Range Software reveal that they are implementing user requests (of which there are many in the forum) and that multi-player is on the cards, if still a good way away.
For my part, I’ll keep digging, building, exploring, falling and, umm… oh yes – blowing things up :D.
Videos courtesy of Linden Research Inc and Damien Fate.