Creatorverse: Android arrival and playing on my S2

As Daniel Voyager reports, Creatorverse today makes its debut on Android, and is available via Google Play at a (UK) cost of  £3.14 (US: $4.99, approx), and requires Android 2.3.3+. There is yet more to come, with Creatorverse due to debut on the iPhone shortly, and possibly go elsewhere as well.

Creatorverse on my Galaxy S2

Given I have a Samsung Galaxy S2 and time on my hands today, I opted to download Creatorverse and have an initial look. Doubtless there are some out there who would like the short form of my thoughts on the app, so here they are:

Creatorverse is baffling, frustrating, teeth-grinding, innovative, engrossing, and potentially highly addictive.

To be fair, the first three of these issues are as much down to trying to use Creatorverse on the S2’s relative small screen as much as anything else. Simply put, the UI is so small, it’s hard to see the various button icons easily. Well, at least for me; I freely admit, I’m getting older and my eyes aren’t what they used to be (and as I write that, Spike Milligan’s immortal addition to the comment echoes through my head: “they used to be my ears!”). Even so, and despite the relative intuitiveness of the drag-and-drop shape creation options, it is as well that Linden Lab have produced a range of tutorial videos to help people get more to grips with Creatorverse; in today’s “satisfaction in 5 minutes or forget it” society, there is a risk that some might otherwise chuck Creatorverse over their shoulders all to easily. This is a Settings option (device MENU button > Settings) for “Restart Tutorials”, but I’ve yet to find out what this actually does…

Which would actually be a shame – because, as with the latter part of my summary above, Creatorverse is engrossing – and potentially addictive. The basic screen display is easy enough to grasp, comprising a white grid workspace area when shapes can be dragged and dropped, and can be drawn freehand. Anchor points are present in both objects and lines, which can be use to drag / stretch corners, sections of a line or shape, and so on.

The Creatorverse basic workspace

The workspace is also somewhat context-sensitive. Add an object to it, for example, and additional buttons will appear to the left of the screen, such as the PLAY button, which allows you to switch to another screen, wherein anything you’ve created, together with any forces applied to it, will play and allow you to interact with it. Touch an object in the workspace, and a further series of buttons appear along the bottom of the screen, allowing you to do various things with objects your created.

Here’s where the first grumble arises: the buttons all use icons, some of which aren’t terribly clear, such as a sphere with a line either above or below it. Tapping a button does bring up a prompt as to what the button will do, but I’d tend to suggest the prompts themselves aren’t overly intuitive. Or maybe that is just me; I was certainly struggling to make sense between what I was seeing on the screen and what the prompts were attempting to explain….

Say whut? On-screen prompts aren’t always clear to the uninitiated

The problem with the buttons on a small screen is further exacerbated by the colours used on them. White-on-light grey really isn’t visually friendly at the best of times and while all of the buttons are easily touchable with little risk of overlap, the constant squinting to try to make out a tiny icon which barely stands out against its light surroundings does cause a degree of frustration.

If you’re reading this, LL, please  remember not all of us have 20/20 eyesight – or access to a magnifying glass – and do something to improve the legibility of the buttons on smaller screens.

That said, once you start to wrap your head around the various button, options and functions, Creatorverse does become more and more intuitive, with the degree of creativity it presents really only limited by one’s imagination. As the promo video (which, following last week’s launch of Creatorverse on the Kindle range, has been somewhat updated – see below) states, it’s possible to create all sorts of things – games, puzzles, simple (but effective) simulations – the list goes on.

A major feature with Creatorverse is the ability to share your work with others, and to take work others have made and modify it. Each of these is done through two buttons on the right of the workspace screen, one of which enables you to upload a creation from your workspace to the Creatorverse Galaxy, and the other allows you to browse the Galaxy in a number of ways, again using a series of buttons along the bottom of the screen.

Unlike the workspace buttons, these are labelled, and so somewhat easier to discern, although again, the white-on-grey approach isn’t entirely ideal on a small screen. Creations themselves are presented in “bubbles” on the screen, together with  a NEXT PAGE button to page through those options with multiple items (double-tapping this button will cause the current selection to “fall” off the bottom of the screen and a new batch to drop in from the top), and a BACK button to return to the workspace (which also seems to appear as a “+” on some displays).

The Creatorverse Galaxy

Once a creation is loaded, it appears in your workspace, where you can either fiddle with it or you can tap the PLAY button and see it in action – again, the secret here is to poke and prod and slide the various elements of a creation and then seeing what happens.

All of the buttons in the UI have sound associated with them. While these may get a tad irritating (if so, tap the MENU button on your device, select Settings and decrease the volume setting slider), they actually help confirm a button has been tapped / an action is being taken – again, useful when using a small screen.

Anything you create is automatically saved in your “local” workspace, which can be viewed via the Creatorverse Galaxy button and the LOCAL button therein. This includes an option to delete unwanted work you have – although I noticed that deleting three of my one creations resulted in repeated error messages appearing on-screen until I actually exited Creatorverse and re-started it (tap the MENU button on your device and then tap EXIT).

Feedback and Thoughts

Creatorverse is somewhat like Second Life in that the UI isn’t immediately intuitive beyond a few of the buttons, and getting to grips with it is very much on the lines of “suck it and see”. Also, and as with Second Life, it is relatively easy to slip into a familiar mode of using the app once you’ve got your head around the various options and functions (which I admit in my case is still taking time). Certainly, as a shared creative tool, I can see it being a lot of fun on something like a tablet, where two people can sit side-by-side and collaborate on a creation.

Building things that work

Remote collaboration is somewhat harder – there is no collaborative workspace at present, so working with someone else looks to be a case of making something, uploading it, letting someone download, tweak and upload it once more before taking it “back” and working on it. Not entirely straightforward, and the apparent anonymity of the tool doesn’t seem to make for easily sharing creations and projects with friends.

I do have a few other quibbles with Creatorverse on Android. One of these is the apparent lack of tailoring the app to use the strengths of Android devices. No attempt has been made to integrate the application with the BACK button found on most Android devices, for example. Given that Creatorverse does use more than one screen, this can become a tad annoying – even though there are in-built BACK buttons for the application itself, force of habit tends to have one using the device’s own BACK button, only to be unceremoniously dumped out of the application altogether.

It’s also not clear where creations are stored. Does “Local” mean on the device itself (I could not find any sign of a folder related to Creatorverse on my S2), or on a “local” (to you) area of the Creatorverse Galaxy? The latter would indicate that app is constantly communicating with a server somewhere, so if using it while on the move (say on a train journey), it might start eating into your data rates. So don’t forget to physically EXIT the app when you’re done (MENU > EXIT) just in case :). Similarly, if the app does need to maintain a link with a remote server, can it be used on flights, etc?

Quibbles aside, however, Creatorverse is something which can – and already is – providing a lot of fun for a lot of people. It’s had broadly positive reviews on the iPad, and looks set to do the same on Android. While I may have highlighted some of the “negative” aspects here (some of which I freely admit may be down to my own lack of digging-in to the finer points of the application), I have to say I’ve had something of a fun afternoon getting to grips with it and playing with things – and it has distracted me from doing other bits and pieces. I’ll doubtless be back for more. For now, however, I’m off to take another look through the tutorial videos…

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4 thoughts on “Creatorverse: Android arrival and playing on my S2

  1. I had tons of fun with this over the weekend since I picked it up on Amazon Mobile. I had the same snaggles as you had with it. It looks like they just ported it straight over from their iOS app, which isn’t a hard thing to do these days. Google provides a free tool to do just that!

    It’s been a little tricky for me on a phone instead of a tablet, but I’ve got my fair share of creations up already.

    Like

    1. I’ve not shared anything as yet. Still having issues getting used to the UI and remembering which buttons are which (trying to do without the magnifying glass!). I’ll doubtless get something up at some point. But – OMG! Between this, SL and Patterns, I’m turning into a very lazy so-and-so!

      Like

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