What is Angry Birds? At its heart, it’s nothing more than a cutely skinned, absurdly simple physics simulation. It’s a technical achievement somewhere between Pong and Super Mario Bros–well, at least from the perspective of pure game mechanics. For the average luddite, coding Angry Birds might as well be astrophysics.
Creatorverse, by Linden Lab (the developers of Second Life) is a $5 iPad app that hopes to equalize the great coding divide. It resembles MS Paint, or any simple shape-drawing software you’ve ever used. But rather than ending the experience with a mere print, everything you create can be assigned a simple, interactive function, simulated in a physics engine.
In other words, it’s an app that allows you to draw your own Angry Birds.
You start with a clean desktop. Tap the circle toggle, then tap the desktop to shape your circle. So far, this is just like any other illustration program. But when you tap on this circle that you made, another panel pops up with all sorts of physical characteristics attached. As easily as painting that circle orange, you can make it bouncy. And what’s a bouncy orange circle? That’s a basketball.
This is the basic workflow behind Creatorverse, and once you find your way around a bit, creating becomes very quick. You can craft portals or tweak an object’s wind resistance, and these functions never get more complex than a few taps.
Now, my attempt to build a basketball hoop was a little too challenging as a first foray into Creatorversing. Making the hoop–an object with an interactive hole in the middle–was not something I could decipher. But my bigger frustration was met when I couldn’t figure out if the app was hiding an undo button and if or where layers came into the mix. Because when I went to tweak the nitty gritty, I made slop of my masterpiece. Then I accidentally uploaded it to share because that is extraordinarily simple–it’s all of a button press.
I still got to play a bit with finished works, though, as the app has a leaderboard of my fellow creators’ shared works. You can check out the most popular pieces (thus far, surely stocked by Linden Labs employees), by streaming them to your iPad to play. Then you can further customize these pieces, or reverse engineer them to learn new tricks for your own creations.
In the era of Minecraft (and OK, Second Life), it’s refreshing to see a creation app framed around quicker, more tangible experiences. If I were to recommend one game for kids on one of those “this is the stuff you should buy your kids” lists? This would be it.