Lab pauses Blocksworld development and promotion

Blocksworld was a sandbox type game allowing users to create and build from blocks, purchase specialist packs, and even sell their own creations through a marketplace

Update July 2020: on June 17th, 2020, the Blocksworld servers were shut down and the dedicated website closed, presumably as a part of the work in transitioning LL services to AWS. The app was removed from the Apple Store around the same time, and from Steam at the start of July 2020.

Linden Lab has confirmed it has “paused” development and promotion of its iOS sandbox app, Blocksworld.

For those unfamiliar with it, Blocksworld has been a part of the Lab’s product stable since 2013. Initially developed by a trio of Swedish guys calling themselves Boldai AB, it was acquired by Linden Lab at the time the company was looking to broaden its product offerings under the stewardship of former CEO Rod Humble. This effort encompassed:

  • The in-house development of games like Creatorverse (Android and iOS, 2012-2013 – now defunct) and Dio (browser based, 2013-2014 – now defunct)
  • The acquisition of companies and their products (LittleTextPeople  and Versu, 2012 – IP released back to the original developers, 2015; and Boldai AB with Blocksworld).
  • Partnering with Free Range Games to produce Patterns (2012-2014, still available via Steam, but only in “off-line” mode, no shared worlds).
  • A short foray into owning a games distribution platform through the acquisition of Desura (2013-2014, sold to Bad Juju Games).

Since its launch, the game has been steadily developed and has performed reasonably well – including gaining some brand support through Hasbro (with their G.I. Joe brand).

More recently, the Lab made it available through web browsers (although it never really worked well in Firefox) and through the Steam Early Access programme. As a part of the Lab’s product family, it has always appeared on the More Products listing at the foot of the web pages – which is how I found something may have changed.

Blocksworld used to appear in the footer area of the web pages

In looking at my SL dashboard at on July 3rd, I noticed Blocksworld was no longer listed, leaving only Sansar. I also noticed the two websites associated with Blocksworld either redirected back to the Lab’s corporate website (in the case of or had an expired security certificate issue (

Over the course of July, the footer area of the pages have continued to be revised so they focus on SL, Sansar and Tilia and appear to leave little or no room for Blocksworld to make a return. Nevertheless, the game continues to be available on the Apple Store App Preview, and on Steam Early Access, and to appear on the Lab’s product page.

The revised web page footers seem to leave little room for Blocksworld with their focus on SL, Sansar and Tilia

All of which made me wonder what was going on, so I reached out to the Lab in early July to ask. It took a little time to get a reply, and when it did come in, it was a little short, considering the length of time it took for it to arrive:

Our primary focus continues to be on Second Life and Sansar, so we’ve paused new development and promotion for Blocksworld. However, Blocksworld continues to be available in the App Store as it still has a healthy amount of users and many people continue to enjoy it.

Which is fair enough to a point. When one considers the Lab is now engaged in developing an iOS “companion” app for Second Life, then possibly stepping back from working on Blocksworld (assuming the skills used to develop Blocksworld are indeed still at the Lab) allows in-house iOS talent to be re-directed towards this new SL companion app.

Even so, something of a nagging doubt remains, for two reasons:

  • The last significant update to Blocksworld was March 2018 – well before  any work started on an iOS app for Second Life. This tends to suggest the app’s development cycle had perhaps already reached a ceiling in terms of resources at the Lab.
  • Also, if skill sets have indeed been diverted away from Blocksworld to focus on the SL iOS, then they are potentially going to be re-directed for some time, simply because of the amount of time app development and enhancement takes.

So it’s hard not to wonder what the future might actually hold for Blocksworld. How long is the pause likely to be? Is there a risk that  – given the amount of time since the last update  – this “pause” might also stall the apps ability to acquire / retain users? If so, what then?

Will it be considered to still be a worthwhile enough revenue generator to warrant future development, or at least on-going support? Or might it come to be seen as a nice little app that has run its course, left to slowly fade away over time? I’m hoping for the former, and will continue to try to keep a check on it, even if it only sates my own curiosity!

Lab updates Terms of Service

LL logoUpdate, December 1st: Following my line to the Lab, the ToS was re-issued with Section 10.1 corrected to reference Section 11.5 instead of the incorrect Section 10.2, which had been removed with the original December 1st update. This article has been amended to reflect the update.

On Tuesday, December 1st, 2015, Linden Lab issued an updated Terms of Service (ToS) covering their Second Life and Blocksworld products – and for the first time, at least in recent updates, outline the specific changes which have occurred within the ToS, defining them as:

  • Removal of references to Desura (sold to Bad Juju Games in November 2014) and the Linden Dollar Authorised Reseller programme (discontinued as of August 2015)
  • Explicitly addressing the Lab’s intolerance of harassment of Linden Lab employees
  • Clarifying of the arbitration provision in accordance with applicable Californian law.

In addition, and in light of the formation of Tilia Inc., the Lab’s virtual currency subsidiary, the Terms of Service have been expressly expanded to define “the terms on which Linden Research, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiaries (“Linden Lab”) offer you access to its interactive entertainment products and services.”

The alterations to reflect the fact the at the Linden Dollar Authorised Reseller programme is no more can seen in the massively foreshortened Section 4.7 of the revised Terms of Service, which once again make it clear that the only point of reference for the exchange of Linden Dollars for physical world currency may not occur anywhere outside of the LindeX, nor may Linden dollars be purchased other than via the LindeX.

The update to reflect the Lab’s intolerance of staff harassment can be found in a revision to Section 6.1. iv, to whit:

(iv) Post, display, or transmit Content (including any communication(s) with employees of Linden Lab) that is harmful, threatening or harassing, defamatory, libelous, false, inaccurate, misleading, or invades another person’s privacy; [my emphasis]

There has been speculation this relates to certain personal attacks directed towards Ebbe Altberg through the likes of Twitter. However, it would seem more likely (I would hope) that this section is intended to address similar attacks which have been made through the Lab’s own forums, etc., over which they have full jurisdiction.

Section 10 contains the changes to the arbitration process, with section 10.1 being greatly streamlined in content and focused directly on the requirements of the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”).

While I am not a lawyer – and so the following statement is purely speculative on my part – it would appear that included in these changes is an attempt to prevent class action suits from being bought against Linden Lab as a part of the arbitration process:

Should either you or Linden Lab elect to resolve the Dispute by way of binding arbitration, the arbitration shall proceed in accordance with the then-current Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), except that in no event shall the arbitration proceed as a class or representative action. [my emphasis]

One error with these latter updates is that they still reference section 10.2, which has in fact been removed from the ToS as a part of the updates; something that has been raised with the Lab. Section 10.1 now correctly references Section 11.5.

A further change, not mentioned at the head of the ToS can be found in Section 4.1, where the final paragraph has been revised to read:

You may not sell, transfer or assign your Account or its contractual rights, licenses and obligations, to any third-party (including, for the avoidance of doubt, permitting another individual to access your Account) without the prior written consent of Linden Lab.
[my emphasis]

This raises an interesting question around the subject of shared accounts – often used by groups where an account might be used by more than one person for administrative purposes, etc. While the sharing of account passwords has always been frowned upon, the revision to section 4.1 tends to suggest that these accounts could now be deemed as a violation of the ToS unless the Lab’s written consent is granted. I’ve written to the Lab on this point and am awaiting a reply.

Those hoping this update might see a further improvement to the wording in Section 2.3 relating to IP rights will be disappointed. The section is untouched and remains as much a mess of a word salad now as it did following the “clarification” of July 2014.

Lab divests itself of Desura

LL logoIn a press release made on Wednesday, November 5th, Linden Lab announced the sale of Desura, the on-line digital distribution service which they acquired under Rod Humble’s leadership in July 2013.

Desura has been sold to Bad Juju Games, the Indie Game and Middleware Tools Developer for the Mobile, Console and PC Gaming markets, and based in Aliso Viejo, California. In the brief press release, the Lab state:

As has just been announced, Bad Juju Games has acquired Desura from Linden Lab.

Bad Juju has taken over all day-to-day support, maintenance, and ongoing enhancements to the Desura website and service platform. The Bad Juju team will be reaching out directly to developers with games on Desura and are happy to respond to any questions they may have.

Transitioning Desura to a new owner is great for Linden Lab and our customers, as it allows us to further enhance our focus on creating the ambitious next-generation virtual world, while continuing to improve Second Life and growing Blocksworld.

Desura is a fantastic platform for game developers and players, and we look forward to seeing it continue to evolve and grow, now as part of Bad Juju Games.

Desura: just 16 months in the Lab's portfolio
Desura: just 16 months in the Lab’s portfolio

A press release from Bad Juju themselves indicates that negotiations over the future of Desura have been underway for some months:

Indie Game and Middleware Tools Developer Bad Juju Games®, today announced that it has officially acquired Desura™, a comprehensive digital distribution service for PC, Mac and Linux gamers from its former owner and operator Linden Lab®. The move comes after several months of coordinated planning by the companies to ensure uninterrupted operation of the Desura service as well as a comprehensive roadmap of new features that will significantly benefit both its users and game developers during the upcoming months and beyond.

It is unclear what the sale of Desura may mean for Scott Reismanis, if indeed it means anything at all. Reismanis, who founded the digital distribution service, and who joined Linden Lab as “Director of Digital” not long after the acquisition. With his experience in empowering creators to benefit from their digital content, Mr. Reismanis may already be involved in the development of the company’s “next generation” virtual worlds platform.

While this may sound a little like 20/20 hindsight, I confess to being unsurprised by the sale of Deura; I’ve actually been expecting news of this kind for the past couple of months, and particularly since the Designing Worlds interview with Ebbe Altberg. During that programme, Mr. Altberg referred to the Lab being in a process of cleaning up their product portfolio (some 3 minutes into the show), with the use of the present tense suggesting to me that the process was still going on, rather than him simply referring to the company’s removal of Versu, Creatoverse and dio from their portfolio. Given the statements of support that have been repeatedly given about Blocksworld, the comment in the DW show seemed to indicate something would be happening to Desura and / or Patterns.

To be totally honest, at the time I felt it more likely that Desura would be let-go than Patterns, as the latter at least seemed to fit with the Lab’s sandbox creativity philosophy, while Desura always seemed more of an awkward fit, and something more likely to generate a decent return if offered for sale. Of course, as it turned out, Patterns went first.

Confirmation also seemed to come when an enquiry on an unrelated matter led to a response from the Lab that all remaining advertising including Desura, would be removed from their remaining web properties ( and The reference to Desura chiming as odd, given it was ostensibly a Lab product.

I was broadly supportive of the Lab’s attempts to diversify their product portfolio, even iff the effort always did seem half-hearted. Companies with all their eggs in one basket tend to by very vulnerable to any number of circumstances not always of their own making – although equally, they can also sit very comfortably in a niche and enjoy a long life. Even with Blocksworld still on the books – and another repeated statement that the company will be standing beside that product – it now seems that for better or worse, the Lab has opted to keep only their golden egg, Second Life, and focus on perhaps producing another they can nurture alongside it.

Patterns: Lab seeks interested parties (adiós, little dorito man!)

LL logoLinden Lab has announced it is discontinuing development of Patterns, its sandbox game for the PC and Mac. In a press release issued on Thursday October 9th, the Lab state:

Recently, Linden Lab announced that we are working on an ambitious project to create the next-generation virtual world, while we continue to improve Second Life and grow Blocksworld. As we focus on these priorities, we have ceased development for Patterns, and we will be no longer offering the game for sale.

We at Linden Lab are extremely grateful for the adventurous early players who explored the Patterns genesis release. Those who purchased the Patterns genesis release will still be able to play their copies of the game, but features relying on server connections, such as world-sharing, will not be functional.

Patterns had early promise, and while Linden Lab focuses our efforts on our other offerings, we are still evaluating the future of the Patterns technology. Interested parties are welcome to contact us with proposals.

Patterns: development discontinued
Patterns: development discontinued

Following the announcement, the Patterns website was taken down, and all links to it referred back to the Lab’s corporate website. However, the game itself remains accessible, as per the announcement, although the loss of server-side elements means that the Cosmos for world-sharing is no longer functional, limiting users to the worlds they created and save locally or to the default worlds supplied with the game. Also, as a result of the move, keys for the game will not longer be purchasable, although existing keys will remain redeemable for those who have them.

Patterns was another of the games which the Lab started developing (initially using a company called Free Range Software) under Rod Humble’s tenure. Despite never reaching a formal release status, the game had undergone continuous development right through until earlier this year (I covered a lot of the updates and additions to the game through this blog), with the last update introduing a new UI. It also established a quite loyal following of users both through Steam and, later Desura.

In tha last major update (May 2014) Patterns gained a revised UI
In its last major update (May 2014) Patterns gained a revised UI

As a game, Patterns was hard to judge; the sandbox capabilities were interesting, and these came to be a focus, with more and better tools being added, together with the likes of materials capabilities and so on. Over time, creatures were also introduced, and a multi-player capability was added which allowed up for four players to work together (or compete). However, outside of the sandbox element and creating new worlds, and the competitive “you build it up, I’ll knock it down” aspect, it was actually hard to see where Patterns would potentially gain a large enough following to make it viable.

The most interesting point of note with the announcement, however, is that the Lab appear to have taken on-board the Versu situation, and rather than simply closing the door, have indicated they’d be willing to hear from third parties who might be interested in taking Patterns on – albeit with the caveat that the company is still evaluating the technology used in Patterns at this time.

Regular readers here will recall that while the Lab initially closed the door on Versu and indicated that they weren’t interested in seeing its development move elsewhere, they did eventually reach an agreement with Emily Short, Richard Evans and Graham Nelsen which allowed them to take Versu forward under its own banner.

That further changes to the Lab’s product portfolio may be forthcoming was perhaps hinted at in the Designing Worlds interview. In discussing his thoughts on whether or not the Lab was what he was expecting, Ebbe Altberg commented (around the 3-4 minute mark), “some of the other products in Linden Lab’s portfolio were maybe a little bit surprising to me, but we’re getting that cleaned-up” [emphasis mine]. Hearing him use the present tense – given that Versu dio and Creatorverse went at the start of 2014 – seemed to suggest to me that one or more of the Lab’s other products might be under the microscope as far as continued support might be concerned.

Whether or not Free Range Software have retained any involvement in Patterns, and if so,  whether they (or indeed anyone else) would be willing to take it on, is unknown. For the moment, however, it would seem that the little Dorito Man is heading off into the sunset.

Will Dorito Man head into the sunset, or will he yet live on somewhere else?
Will Dorito Man head into the sunset, or will he yet live on somewhere else?

Patterns: all change for a new experience

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

Patterns, Linden Lab’s slowly maturing sandbox game for the PC and Mac saw a new release on Friday May 9th. The update brings with a host of new features, including the promised new user interface, which I previewed in April.

Version 0.7 requires acceptance of the Lab’s Terms of Service, which tends to be the case with each major update of the game. Once this has been done, the changes to the game are evident right from the start, with the new right-hand sidebar now managing both logging-in to the game / creating an account and launching the game options, which now comprise five options:

  • Create: allows you to create new worlds using the basic worlds provided with Patterns, or using your own existing worlds, either saved locally or previously published to the Patterns Cosmos
  • Explore: allows you to explore the worlds in the Cosmos and access them. Worlds are defined in terms of featured, recently uploaded, and popular with users
  • Find Multi-player allows you to quickly find any multi-player games which are in progress
  • Tools: allows you to launch tools associated with Patterns. This is currently the Materials Editor, which I first looked at back at the start of January 2014 and then again in a little more detail and the end of that month
  • Settings: access the game’s settings: controls, keys, graphics and audio.

The Create, Explore and Multi-player options preview available worlds in tabs, each world having its own thumbnail (if available) which, when clicked, displays more information on that world. This makes previewing worlds and selecting interesting ones for game play a lot more informative than earlier Patterns versions.

It's a lot easier to preview Patterns worlds - your own or those in the Cosmos - with the new release of Patterns
It’s a lot easier to preview Patterns worlds – your own or those in the Cosmos – with the new release of Patterns

You can also opt to open any world in both the Create and Explore modes as either single player or multi-player. When starting a world in multi-player mode, you can either leave it set to “open”, allowing it to be displayed in the Multi-player tab such that anyone can select it and join the game (up to the maximum number of four players), or you can set a password against it, which other players have to use in order to access the game (handy for when you want to keep a game among friends).

The streamlined UI makes selecting shapes, materials and models a lot easier, and also offers a cleaner overall UI. At the bottom of the Patterns window is a tool bar area which has a toggle option on the left which switches it between elements and materials, and each of which have ten placeholders apiece, which can be used to store your preferred elements and materials ready for immediate use. an Inventory icon on the right of the toolbar will open your full inventory of shapes, materials and models, allowing you to quickly drag and drop them into the placeholders, replacing anything previously stored in any given placeholder, making selecting and swapping shapes to suit your needs fast and easy.  ESC closes the inventory window and returns you to the game play.

When used in-game, ESC will pause the game and call-up additional options, but in a slightly different format to previous releases, with everything other than the option to save the world to your hard drive now also located in the right-hand sidebar. These options include the familiar game settings, the respawn world option, help, and a new scene settings option.

The scene settings option provides access to a number of tabs which allow you to adjust a number of options associated with a world – how gravity works, what appears in the sky, fog effects, lighting (direct, reflections, etc.), SSAO blurring, and so on.You can also use this option to add your own materials packs to a world as well. A video from SandovalCurse (aka happyhappygaming on YouTube) of the Curse team provides and overview of the scene setting options.

Continue reading “Patterns: all change for a new experience”

Patterns: of UIs and passwords

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

In March I reported on plans to overhaul the Patterns user interface at some point in the future. These plans took a step closer to being revealed on April 5th, when Sandoval Curse (aka HappyHappyGaming on YouTube), keeper of the Patterns community on Curse, issued an initial sneak peek at the current updates to the UI. The changes are both extensive and appear to be exceptionally well thought through.

While the video comes with a warning that it shows elements of the UI from a Patterns nightly build, and are thus subject to possible change, what is presented suggests that the team are looking to make using Patterns a look easier and the ability to move between elements of the UI and modes of operation a lot more fluid, while at the same time offering a less cluttered build / play space.

The changes to the UI are evident right from start-up, with the log-in panel moved over to become  sidebar on the right, which also doubles as a game mode launcher once a player is logged-in.

The new log-in panel looks set to become a sidebar for both logging-in to Patterns and for launching game modes
The new log-in panel looks set to become a sidebar for both logging-in to Patterns and for launching game modes (click for full size without so much screen cap blurring)

Once logged-in, the panel allows the player to select from world building, continuing game play, accessing the Patterns tools (I assume these are the shape forge and the substance editor) and change their settings.

Selecting any of these options many display a further slide-out panel. For example, clicking on the world building option displays a list of available worlds in the Cosmos the player can use as a template, together with options to select either single (default) or multi-player modes.

Selecting existing worlds as templates when building worlds is a lot slicker
Selecting existing worlds as templates when building worlds is a lot slicker (click for full size without so much screen cap blurring)

Inventory and shape / substance management has been completely overhauled, with a new inventory bar at the bottom of the screen which allows for much easier toggle between shapes, materials and models, as well as offering a cleaner drag-and-drop panel when applying materials to shapes, etc.

The new inventory bar allows easier toggling between shapes and elements / substances. Where appropriate, it appears to open a panel for easier drag-and-drop of materials and substances onto shapes
The new inventory bar allows easier toggling between shapes and elements / substances. Where appropriate, it opens a panel for easier drag-and-drop of materials and substances onto shapes (click for full size without so much screen cap blurring)

In-world game controls have been revised somewhat, making shape and model manipulation easier as well as trying to make it easier to move, rotate or delete things. I might be wrong in saying this, as it is hard to tell from the video (and any settings Sandoval uses), but it looks as if the default third-person camera angle may also have been revised.

According to the video, not only may things change between now and the UI being released, but there is a lot more still to be demonstrated, and a further sneak peek video is promised. This being the case, and in lieu of being able to fiddle with things directly, I’ll leave you with Sandoval’s video.

Password Recovery

Nalates Urriah has a piece up on Patterns password recovery, drawing on a video posted to YouTube. The short version is: there isn’t a password recovery option. The support team’s advice, should you forget your password is to create a new account. However, this isn’t necessarily as bad as it sounds. Passwords are only required to access the Cosmos. You can still play offline without logging-in. What’s more, even if you do create a new account and password, you should still have access to all the worlds you have built yourself, whether playing offline or when logged-in to the Cosmos.

If you forget your Patterns password (or user name), you should be able to create a new account and still access your existing world builds (tested usin Patterns build 0.06a via Desura and Steam)
If you forget your Patterns password (or user name), you should be able to create a new account and still access your existing world builds (tested using Patterns build 0.06a via Desura and Steam)

The only pain I can see with this – and admittedly, I’m no longer a regular Patterns player – is that if a player is well-known as a Patterns world builder, any worlds you upload to the Cosmos after an account change will obviously be linked to the new account name, and so may not be instantly recognisable to other players. Also, those who regularly play in the multi-player mode will have to advise other players of any change in order to ensure they receive invitations into games.

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