Patterns Future: substance editing and creation, scripting, custom characters and more

LL logoUpdate, October 9th, 2014: Linden Lab announced that development work on Patterns has been discontinued.

Patterns, the PC / Mac Minecraft-esque sandbox building game / application / creative environment from Linden Lab, had originally been aiming for an “official release” of Version 1 around the end of 2013, after a 15-month gestation period as a “Genesis” product, in which much feedback and involvement from Patterns users has been encouraged.

As it stands, the formal release has yet to be made – the latest version being 0.05a – but that shouldn’t be taken to mean Patterns hasn’t been going anywhere over the course of the year. A small (Or what appears small, it could easily be much larger) and very enthusiastic community has developed around it, and the back-and-forth between the Lab’s devs and that community appears to have been lively – including a series of livesteam events, one of which I reported upon back in October (which was the last time I stuck my nose into Patterns).

While the official release has yet to come, November and December did see something of a flurry of activity around Patterns, with videos reviewing some of the progress through the year, as well as some significant updates and news on the future; all of which suggests that perhaps things are now being pushed closer to the point where Patterns gets that all-important “official” release.

As it has been a while since I last covered Patterns. this piece is aimed at rounding-up everything, and may not come entirely as news to everyone, so bear with me as I play catch-up.

The Future

The major news on the future of Patterns initially came on November 27th, 2013, when the Lab issued a letter outlining some of their plans for 2014. While the “first release” was referenced, no actual date as to when this might be was given. However, what was mentioned made interesting reading:

  • The introduction of a Substance Editor to modify the existing surface and other substances (clay, copper, moonstone, etc.), and to create your own substances for use in-game
  • A character creator to customise / create basic Patterns characters
  • A LUA-based scripting system which will “access to script APIs that control game variables such as lighting values and the pull of gravity”
  • The promise that “even more functionality will come from the ability to author moving platforms and control behaviour in support of a variety of gameplay types.”

To help illustrate these new features, happyhappygaming, an Admin for the Patterns wiki managed by Curse, produced a little video.

Substance Arrival

This news was followed in December by two releases of Patterns – 0.05 and 0.05a – which introduced the Patterns Substance Editor referred to the “state of the game” letter.

Ther Patterns standalone Substance Editor
The Patterns standalone Substance Editor

The Substance Editor allows users to create new surface and other substances for use within Patterns either by using the existing substances or completely from scratch. It appears as a new option after logging-in to any version of Patterns from 0.05 upwards, and is actually a separate application to Patterns itself – clicking on the link in the Patterns start-up menu will ask you to confirm you wish to quit and close Patterns and launch the editor.

Once launched, the editor allows you to edit or define a substance, change its properties, such as whether it will crumble or not if a character tries to harvest it, how fast it will crumble, how durable it is as a building substance, what behaviour it has (“bouncy”, “slippy”, etc.), and so on. The editor also allows you to define the diffuse (texture) and normal map for a substance.

The use of an additional tool such as Photoshop or GIMP will likely be required for any modification of existing substances which requires changes to the diffuse and normal maps, but this isn’t actually a huge hardship.

Happyhappygaming has produced a video introducing the basics of the editor, including the use of GIMP for texture modifications, with the promise of more to follow.

An interesting aspect of this is that it appears as though  – like Patterns custom worlds – substance packs created by users can be shared within the Cosmos for others to use and further modify and re-share.

Some improvements could perhaps be made with the integration between Patterns and the Editor. While it is possible to launch the Editor from Patterns (closing the latter), the reverse is not currently so; the Editor must be closed and Patterns manually re-started. It would be smoother and nicer if this could be rectified in the future such that closing the Editor offers a Patterns re-launch – but this is a small niggle, and one which actually may exceed what can be done in Desura or Steam.

As it is,  the ability to create and customise world textures is a very logical progression for Patterns, and the UI is easy to grasp. I just wonder how long it will be before we see “Patterns substance abuse” turn up as a phrase ;-).

Patterns Tutorial Videos

With the revamp of the Patterns website, the Lab turned to Curse to provide and admin their Patterns wiki. As a part of this, Happyhappygaming, (who has been very busy on the video front, all things considered, and would appear to be fast on the way to becoming Pattern’s version of Torley) has produced a set of tutorial videos for those new to the Patterns universe (or Cosmos, perhaps I should say).

At 8 to 10 minutes in length, the videos aren’t quite as punchy as Torley’s SL TuTORials, but they are a good way of getting to grips with things for both new users and those returning to Patterns after a length absence in which just about everything has changed.

At the time of writing, three videos were available:

Desura Migration

I actually missed this when it occurred in September, but if you purchased Patterns directly from Linden Lab (via the Patterns website) prior to them acquiring Desura, and have not played patterns since, you’ll need to register with Desura and enter your Patterns activation key in order to continue to receive updates. You can read about this on the Patterns website.

If you purchased Patterns and have not used it since LL's acquisition of Desura, you can use your existing activation key with Desura to active Patterns there & receive updates
If you purchased Patterns and have not used it since LL’s acquisition of Desura, you can use your existing activation key with Desura to activate Patterns there & receive updates (Desura account required)

The above does not apply to those who purchased Patterns via Steam; however Steam users can also register themselves as Patterns users on Desura  and receive the game & updates from there, if preferred.

ToS Oopsie?

As an interesting aside to this, I noticed that while the Patterns website refers to the August 2013 Linen Lab Terms of Service, complete with the controversial section 2.3 (as does the Desura website), when starting Patterns from Desura, the pre-August 2013 ToS is displayed (with the less controversial section on licensing) and requires agreement before Patterns will launch.

A slight hiccup in thinking sees the Patterns website refer to the "new" August 2013 ToS from the Lab, while Patterns itself references the "old" ToS
A slight hiccup in thinking sees the Patterns website refer to the “new” August 2013 ToS from the Lab, while Patterns itself references the “old” ToS

I’m not reading anything more into this than a failure to completely connect the dots somewhere, and fully expect to see it rectified in the future. As noted, it is mentioned here as a point of interest.


I’ve not actively kept-up with Patterns over most of the year. If I’m honest, I was absent from the game for several months, which left me feeling overwhelmed by the changes when I tried to settle back into it again in September / October 2013. Happyhappygaming’s videos have helped put to rights.

I’m quite intrigued by the forthcoming updates as well as with the Substance Editor, all of which appear to be presenting capabilities to Patterns which will be familiar to SL users. Not that I think LL are trying to make Patterns appeal to SL users – but that they do have a clear idea of what is liable to add to the general appeal of Patterns to a wider audience.

Time allowing, I’ll try to keep a closer look on things in 2014 ;-).

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