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?
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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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Patterns to get new “cleaner” UI

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

With recent focus being on the axing of three of LL’s initial new product offerings – and particularly Versu – it is easy to forget that the longest-running of LL’s moves to diversify is still out there, and actually has yet to officially launch in a release mode.

I’m of course talking about Patterns, LL’s PC / Mac game / content building sandbox application. This first appeared in September 2012, although there had been clues as to its name, if not what it would be about, as far back as July 2012, when Rocky Constantine spotted what appeared to have been a slight boo-boo.

I’ve not followed Patterns as closely as perhaps I could, but I have tried to provide periodic updates under my Patterns tag (menu: News-Updates-Opinion > Linden Lab > LL Products > Patterns), including recent notes on it gaining the ability for users to edit and create their substances, followed by support for materials.

The original Patterns UI
The original Patterns UI

While still in its “Genesis” form, Patterns has built-up a small but strong following in the gaming community and via the likes of Desura and Steam. Many of those who have purchased Patterns have provided feedback and input to the game’s development over the last 18 months, which have seen new capabilities added, functionality improved and a number of enhancements to the UI.

The Patterns UI as seen during a Liverstream event with members of the Patterns team (lower right)
The Patterns UI as seen during a Livestream event with members of the Patterns team (lower right)

On March 18th, 2014, the Patterns team revealed that as part of the run-up to release (which had originally been indicated as being “late 2013” when the Genesis version first appeared, but has yet to have a date firmly pinned to it), the UI will shortly be getting potentially its most radical overhaul yet, aimed at “optimizing the play space by cleaning up the real estate”, and which will see the move of the tools, substances, and shapes into “one clean area at the bottom of the screen, where you’ll be able to quickly toggle between each of these different toolbars with ease by hitting the Q or E buttons on your keyboard.”

Patterns: extensive UI overhaul coming soon
Patterns: extensive UI overhaul coming soon

There’s currently no ETA on when the new UI will appear in Patterns, but the team are promising more sneak peeks in the future as work continues. Also coming in the future, I assume under a separate cover, is the Patterns scripting capability, which should further enhance the application’s creative capabilities.

I’ll endeavour to update as further releases are made for those of you still following Patterns.

Patterns gets more substance (editing) and other bits

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

I’m not sure what has happened with the Patterns roadmap; when launched, the original idea was that the product would remain in a Genesis version for about a year prior to progressing to an official “version 1.0” release. However, here we are at the start of 2014, and Patterns is still apparently in Genesis mode with version  0.06 released on Monday January 20th, and the development team promising lots more to come as Patterns progresses.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; a lot of what is going on appears to be as a direct result of user input, and the development team are refreshingly engaged with the Patterns community through blog posts, wiki updates, forum posts and live streams. Makes one long for the crazy, heady, communications-rich days of old in Second Life!

The 0.06 update further enhances the Substance Editor introduced at the end of 2013, and which I covered in brief at the start of January. As  explained back then, the Substance Editor allows users to modify the existing surface and other substances (clay, copper, moonstone, etc.), and to create new substances for use in-game. The initial release included the ability to edit the diffuse (texture)  normal (bumpiness) properties of substances.  Version 0.06 adds the ability to edit and modify a number of additional substance properties:

  • Specular: the shininess of a substance  – this uses a greyscale  palette with white being the most shiny
  • Occlusion: – to map darker and lighter pixels resulting in a texture with an illusion of relief, and so allows the creation of hotspots and shadows on substances.  The brick and bonestone substances are good examples of substances using occlusion maps
  • Illumination: defines the glow and light emission effect for materials, using the range of white (most illuminated) to black.  The lava and moonstone substances are good examples of the use of illumination
  • Metal:  affects the metallic quality of a substance. The default is black with white being the most metallic.
The updated substance Editor with the added tabs for spcular, occlusion, illumination and metalic properties (right)
The updated substance Editor with the added tabs for specular, occlusion, illumination and metallic properties (right)

In addition, the Substance Editor gets an HD mode which doubles the texture resolution when using it, although the release notes indicate this makes using the Substance Editor performance intensive. It is also possible to define the total number of substances you include in a new Substance Pack.

The first part of a new video has been produced to explore the Substance Editor. This is described as “in-depth”, but I have to admit that this first part leaves something to be desired; the new properties in the Editor are glossed over with a “I’ll leave you guys to look these up…” Hopefully, there will be a more detailed look at them in the future as these series progresses, this is only an introduction, after all. However, given there has already been a far more detailed introduction to the Substance Editor already (albeit with only diffuse and normal maps), one has to wonder why the approach in that video was not followed, and a more informative piece produced to kick this new series off; as it is, the initial video is  – frankly – disappointing and waffly.

First Person Camera Lock

The new first person camera lock option in Settings. also note the option for applying your own substance sets to a world (top)
The new first person camera lock option in Settings. also note the option for applying your own substance sets to a world (top)

Another new element introduced to Patterns is the ability to lock the camera into first person view (consider Mouselook in SL). This is activated via the Scene Settings options (ESC > Scene settings > Lock first person view).

Continue reading “Patterns gets more substance (editing) and other bits”

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.

Continue reading “Patterns Future: substance editing and creation, scripting, custom characters and more”