With PlayStation Home closing in just over a week, Atom Republic are hard at work bringing their spiritual successor to the market. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with CEO of Atom Republic, Tanguy Dewavrin via Skype in order to ask about their current progress and what we can expect from the project in the future.
Adam: So first of all, tell me a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do at the company.
Tanguy: My name is Tanguy Dewavrin, I am the CEO of the company and before Atom Republic I’ve been a video game developer for the past 20 years. I used to be a video games artist, and later became lead artist and art director at various studios including Cryo, Simtex, Argonaut, Kuju, Doublesix, and finally I started my own studio which is Atom Republic.
I worked on many games, some of which you’ve never heard of, the most famous would be the Harry Potter and Catwoman games. I also worked on I-Ninja, M.A.C.H. and Geometry Wars. I was also involved in Burn Zombie Burn, All Zombies Must Die, South Park, I could carry on. What I’m doing now with Atom Republic is developing virtual goods for virtual worlds which we’ve been doing for the last three years on PlayStation Home.
With the news that home is dying, what we did is effectively ask the community what they wanted us to do, so we sent out a questionnaire to to everyone on our facebook page, twitter and blog. We got over 800 responses, majority of them wanted a virtual world for the PlayStation 4. So we thought, “Okay, that’s what we’ll do then”. Which is ambitious for us, because we’re just a small studio. But we said okay, we’ll try and do that.
So we started working on that shortly before Christmas, and we’ve been talking to lots of private investors. They basically think that there’s a risk associated, and they’re not sure. We can’t carry on working forever, which we have been doing since December, so we said “Okay, let’s do a kickstarter and see if there’s an actual demand for it just to validate our project”. So the kickstarter is there to fund the minimum viable product.
That will just fund the first release with one main hub and three mini-games and some social interactions just to get the game out on PS4 and PC, and then we can go back to the private investors and say “Look guys, we have a fanbase, there is a market, there is a demand, please give us some money to expand and make it big”. So that’s the plan.
Adam: One of the questions I wanted to ask about is that I noticed you’re currently around 1/5 of the way to successfully completing your goal. I feel like when MadMunki did their kickstarter, even though they did really well and got a lot of money, they maybe jumped the gun a bit.
You’re only asking for a fraction of what they were, and just a little over what they actually received. I feel like their decision to not carry on after an unsuccessful kickstarter left a lot of people skeptical about other projects like this. What would you say to people that are maybe a little skeptical about funding another project?
Tanguy: First of all, I want to say one thing. Kudos to MadMunki, they used to be my colleagues and they’re good friends. I see them regularly. We are talking now about the kickstarter, and I was talking to Dave [Creative Director, MadMunki] on Friday about it. He gives me a lot of tips and he’s really helpful. I guess we’ve learned from their mistakes, and we are asking less money because we’re obviously not going to make the full game for $30,000.
We’re going to make a first release for $30,000, and that will let us get somewhere to go for the community. On the back of that, our plan is to go to the private investors who we are in touch with and are sitting on the fence about funding this for many months now and say “Look guys, we have a real demand. There is an audience there”.
The reason why we think we will succeed where MadMunki and Nebula failed is because we’re asking for a lot less money and being very reasonable to a point where it’s impossible to go any lower if we want to release anything. So it’s going to be very bare bones. What we’re going to release in the Summer is going to be a skeletal version of the game, but there will be a chat facility. You’ll be able to walk around and chat with people and you’ll be able to play three rides.
It’s going to be an embryonic game, but it is going to be a game, and people will be able to gather there. That will give all the people who are homeless now, literally, a new home. So that’s the plan anyway, and that’s why we’re aiming really low.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences and I’ve talked to a lot of people who did kickstarter campaigns, and they all offer the same advice; aim as low as you can. Don’t ask for any more than the bare minimum, because otherwise you’re just taking more risks. I just want to guarantee that we will succeed on kickstarter, so we’re asking for the bare minimum we can ask for.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences and I’ve talked to a lot of people who did kickstarter campaigns, and they all offer the same advice; aim as low as you can. Don’t ask for any more than the bare minimum, because otherwise you’re just taking more risks.
If we get more, then great. It means we can release the game quicker on the PlayStation 4 and PC in particular. But if we fail, we’ll probably be like Neotopia and give up as well because I can’t get my team to work for free forever, that would be unfair. I will talk to the team and see if they want to carry on and find a private investor, but to be honest, I’ve seen Neotopia fail.
I don’t know what the deal is with Nebula, and I’m very surprised that they’re carrying on after a failed kickstarter. But, having said that, I haven’t seen their demo so I don’t know. I think it would be really hard to find private investors after a failed kickstarter.
Adam: I agree.
Tanguy: So the kickstarter is more like validation. I’m not asking for a lot of money, I know 20,000 pounds sounds like a lot of money, but it will pay our salaries for the next few months. For a small team to finish the game, it’s very hard. To put things into perspective, I think the figure is 23,000,000 pounds (that’s 35,000,000 Dollars) that it cost to make PlayStation Home.
So in relation to that, we’re asking for a thousandth of that money. We couldn’t ask for less, really, because that would be lying if we said we could build the first version of the game for less than that. I don’t want to lie to the people, I want to say “Look, development is expensive and we want to release something”, and we need money for that. We can’t just make it for free because you know, we have kids to feed.
So hopefully we will succeed, because we’re not asking for much, and then once we do that we can get some serious money from private investors.
Adam: So I guess the next question would be that one of the things you mentioned on the kickstarter is that you’re going to be targeting a PS4 release but you’re going to start with PC. I wanted to ask, if you’re successful for a PC release are you going to self-publish or are you going to look at getting on Steam?
Tanguy: I think we will look at Steam, because that’s probably the safest route to publishing games on the PC. It’s a proven platform, and I guess we could release it as a self-contained download, but our plan is to release on Steam to begin with. That makes a lot more sense, commercially.
Adam: That’s good, because I feel like if you’re going to target the PC market Steam is definitely the place to be. So next question, the estimated delivery for kickstarter rewards is August. Is that when we’ll see the beta?
Tanguy: Yeah, we will be releasing the beta this year, definitely. Initially I said that we were going to release it in May, and then people were saying “Oh, are you still gonna release it in May?”, and I’m like, well, it depends on how much we get from the kickstarter. So yes, I can’t really commit to a date (especially for PlayStation 4), but I can say that we hope to release the game in the Summer and the beta will be some time before that.
Yeah, we will be releasing the beta this year, definitely. Initially I said that we were going to release it in May, and then people were saying “Oh, are you still gonna release it in May?”, and I’m like, well, it depends on how much we get from the kickstarter. So yes, I can’t really commit to a date (especially for PlayStation 4), but I can say that we hope to release the game in the Summer and the beta will be some time before that.
Adam: I posted an article and I said that you guys were targeting a PS4 release for the demo next week. Obviously, what I meant by that was that you would be trying to get it out next week. There was some confusion, and I actually updated the article.
Tanguy: Yeah, someone tweeted “Oh, we’re going to get the PS4 version next week”, and I thought I would jump on that and say hold your horses [laughs]. I think the reality is, we’ve got the demo running on PS4. I’ve actually filmed myself playing it, and you can find that video on my [YouTube] channel. It’s there, and it’s working fine.
Adam: So it is playing on the PS4 right now?
Tanguy: It is, yes. There is some footage of it on the kickstarter video, actually, but just a short snippet. The problem is the bureaucracy associated with Sony, as you may know. It can take weeks for them to approve our demo, and to release it. I don’t know how stringent they are with demos, hopefully they’ll be a little more lenient because it’s a demo rather than a full commercial game. But still, we don’t know.
They may say, “We don’t have a release window for you guys until 2 months from now”, so I really don’t know. I hope they say, “Okay, you can release it next week, that’s fine”, but I really don’t know.
Adam: So at this point it could be any time?
Tanguy: Well, no. It’s complicated. It sounds crazy, but when you submit a game you need to request a service called submission service from Sony technical support, and they’ll come back to you in five working days. The deadline for that is today, so hopefully if they come back to us we can submit today and wait. They can say yea or nay basically, they could say “there are some bugs, please fix them”, or they could say that it’s all fine.
So if we’re really lucky, we can go ahead and release it this week, but I doubt it.
Adam: But at the very least, it is in the submission process.
Tanguy: It is, it’s ready to go. That’s quite frustrating for us because obviously we want to give it to the people, but we can’t.
Adam: You’ve said that Atom Universe would be more like a theme park designed around games than a purely social experience. Do you plan to include more games in the way that Home has? They’ve added a lot more full-on games over time, and it’s probably a little premature to ask this but do you feel like if it is successful you can add more games to take it beyond the carnival aspect?
Tanguy: Absolutely, the carnival aspect is to get something out and we thought — especially with virtual reality in mind — it’s something that people get. Like you can look at it and go, “Okay, that’s fun. I’ve been to a theme park, I’ve been to a carnival. I can have fun with a shooting gallery or a roller coaster”, it’s instant gratification for the player. It’s easy to understand.
With the VR, it makes it even more immersive. but the intention is to have multiple planets. That’s why we called it Atom Universe, and [that’s why] we’ve got a space shuttle off in the distance. Because that’s the plan, to be able to shoot out into space, navigate to a different planet, and visit all of the developers different planets. The idea is that every developer will have their own planet.
So we can have the Game Mechanics planet, an nDreams planet, or a PSTalent planet. Each of them having their own theaters, mini-games, you name it. And yeah, the theme park is like the main hub. But obviously, it’s going to be more than a theme park. That’s how we start, because we’ve gotta start somewhere.
PlayStation Home is a good example, isn’t it? You can have any sort of space. For instance, I’ve got a working version of the Atom Republic Park that was our public space in Home, and that’s running in Unreal. So we can use that as a basis as well, to have like a more chilled out place that people would want to get together at to drop by and make friends. It would be a bit less frantic than the theme park.
We’ve got that in the pipeline already, and obviously each of the developers we’re working with will have their own space as well.
Adam: One of the big questions is whether or not items from PlayStation Home will carry over to Atom Universe. You mentioned in your interview with Your PS Home that it would be very difficult to accomplish, but the Home community is obviously very interested in seeing a slice of Home in Atom Universe.
At the very least, will we be able to see some of the designs from PlayStation Home recreated in Atom Universe? Do you own the rights to those designs? This goes for other developers as well.
Tanguy: Yes, everything I did in PlayStation Home belongs to me. It doesn’t belong to Sony. In the same way, everything that Game Mechanics did belongs to Game Mechanics. So we can release the same thing in Atom Universe, absolutely.
Adam: So there are no restrictions on that?
Adam: I think a lot of people will be happy to hear that, because even if they won’t be able to have their items transfer over, they will still be able to reacquire them to some degree.
Tanguy: Yes, that was the plan. It was sort of my pitch to the other developers, “Give us the back catalog and I’ll just release it for you in Atom Universe”, and it’s like cross-promotion for us. We get the kudos for having them on board, and they essentially get free money because they just don’t have any work to do [since] the items are already made. So that’s how we would start in collaboration with other [developers].
Each developer retains their intellectual property for what they’ve made, it doesn’t belong to Sony.
Adam: I guess the next question would be since you’ve announced nDreams, PSTalent and now Game Mechanics as partners. What kind of content can we expect from them [beyond that]?Particularly PSTalent because they’re known for video production. What will they add to Atom Universe?
Tanguy: Some of it is a bit speculative, and it will be clearer after a successful kickstarter. But right now, the idea for PSTalent would be to film themselves in Atom Universe and then display those movies in theaters across Atom Universe, just like they did in Home, effectively. That would be the plan. Levi Vincent [Founder/Executive Producer, PSTalent] has other plans outside of that, but I don’t think he would want me to discuss them with you just yet.
[As for] nDreams, we have a close relationship with them. They are our partners and they’re helping us out during the kickstarter. They’re very excited about our project. So again, depending on the success or failure of the kickstarter. If we succeed, they would create content for us. Their back catalog would be released and they would create new content for us. But again, that’s very speculative and it’s a bit early to say.
I don’t know if Patrick [CEO, nDreams] would be happy for me to set up an agenda for him.
Adam: So they do have things planned, but nothing they’re talking about now since it’s a little early?
Tanguy: I think it’s difficult to tell right now, because it depends. We know the first release will not have any of that content, because it would just be the three rides and the hub.
Adam: At that point, from what I’ve read, there won’t even be avatar customization, [is that] right?
Tanguy: No. We can’t afford to develop that just yet — exactly. So what will they do? Game Mechanics could be doing games and virtual items, like vehicles and nDreams would be the same. I suppose they could be doing dance moves, they’re quite popular. Vehicles and things like that wouldn’t be avatar customization, so that would be alright. But to be honest, it’s quite early, so anything I could say right now would be quite speculative.
I haven’t had a chance to see what they would be doing and when. That’s a bit too early, they want to see a pipeline. They want to know how they can deliver things to me and we haven’t quite nailed it just yet. It’s just too early. All of our efforts are focused on the kickstarter. We know we’ve got those partners with us, we know we can join forces, and that’s the most important thing right now.
They believe in us and we believe in them, but you’ll have to use your imagination at this stage, I think. We are open to suggestion, if you want to direct people to our forum. We have set up a voting board, where basically all the ideas come from the forum. Avatar Customization is on there, but we’ve also got the bowling alley and darts, bumper cars, all the rides, ideas, and the locomotions [as well as] new features.
We’ll see how much of a vote each of those features get, and that will help us determine what goes in the next update. So we are very open to suggestions right now, I know what our partners are capable of doing and they could be doing all sorts [of things], to be honest. But it’s not really set in stone right now, it’s a bit too early.
Adam: One of the things I liked to do in PlayStation Home was glitch, there was a huge community built upon that. The thing about Sony is that they were very adamant about fixing things which they saw as flaws, like glitching, for example. Like getting on a bench. If someone found a glitch to get outside of the map, for example when I was exploring on the demo recently I was actually able to just walk right out of one of the fences.
I know you guys know about that, but you didn’t fix it in [the most recent] update. So would that be something that you would support?
Tanguy: What Dave [Creative Director, MadMunki] did when we were at Doublesix is he had a glitch in the Burn Zombie Burn Space, and people could walk up on the tree.
Adam: I remember that.
Tanguy: What he did instead of fixing the glitch, he set up a jail. So he sent people to jail if they went up the tree. [laughs] Basically, I thought that was quite funny.
Adam: I loved that, it was fantastic, it was one of my favorite things about that space, actually.
Tanguy: [laughs] Yeah, so I really loved that as well. So, you know, I was working with him at the time. We thought it was a really good idea that Dave had. I’m up for it, to be honest. It’s kind of a cat and mouse sort of game, isn’t it? Between the user and the developer.
So I would totally encourage glitching, I think that’s quite funny and we could make a mini-game out of it and give a reward to the person who finds the glitch and we could put glitches [in the map] intentionally. It’s like an easter egg kind of thing. First guy to find the glitch gets a reward. So we could put a reward behind a fake wall or something like that. So I’m all up for it, it’s a great idea.
I would totally encourage glitching, I think that’s quite funny and we could make a mini-game out of it and give a reward to the person who finds the glitch and we could put glitches [in the map] intentionally.
I call it emerging gameplay. It’s like, it’s not intended, but we can make a game out of it. For instance, I’ve placed a football in the park and a goalpost, and I’m thinking, you know, it’s not meant to be a game and there’s no programming involved. But people like to kick the ball about, a lot of people have told me on our forums, “Hey that’s really fun, I can kick the ball into the goalpost”. What I want to do is effectively add a counter over the goalpost to see how many goals people can score.
It’s just emerging gameplay, and I love that kind of thing. It’s something that’s not intended to be a game, but it can become a game because the user finds a new use for it. It’s cheap for us as well because it’s just people exploit a bug and that becomes a game. So there’s very little work for us, it’s not like we need to plan a game. It saves us designing the game, the users are the game designers for us. That’s great, I love that kind of thing.
Adam: Back to the topic of spaces, we’ve seen a lot of the public space which is what you have right now — obviously this goes well into the future after the first release — but are you planning on doing private spaces as well? Do you have anything in mind for what you’d like to do on that front?
Tanguy: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we have lots of ideas, and again, we want to leave it to the community. Private spaces were very popular in Home, and that’s why we’re thrilled to have Game Mechanics on board. Because their SeaClyff apartment was really popular.
The other thing is we have Paul Rance on board at Atom Republic, who is the guy [that] built the main hub. He’s also the [creator] of the original Plaza in PlayStation Home and the Bowling Alley.
Adam: Oh wow.
Tanguy: He was one of the lead artists in PlayStation Home, he’s very modest so he wouldn’t tell you. He’s built the SingStar space. So we have a lot of space ideas, but what we’re going to do as I said is we’re going to leave it to the community. Obviously, that’s not in the first release but I think it could be very soon, probably before avatar customization. Because it’s a lot easier to develop, it’s just a static space, you know.
Adam: Since PlayStation Home is closing this month, will you be spending any time in PlayStation Home before it closes and if so, what are your plans?
Tanguy: We’re going every day. I’ve personally been in PlayStation Home every day for a couple of hours answering people’s questions. We’re doing daily question and answer sessions because I want to kind of get people’s ideas and feedback on what’s going on. What they want to do, what their problem would be, where they want to go next. They have so many questions about Atom Universe.
It takes a lot of time to reply to everyone, but we’re trying our best, and we have a lot of moderators helping us out. So it’s not just me, luckily. There’s about five or so of us answering questions and going on Home every day. So we’re doing a Q&A every day at 7 pm [GMT] in Europe, and 9 pm in America.
Adam: So this is going to be every day up until the closure?
Tanguy: It is, yeah. There aren’t many days left, to be honest.
Adam: We’ve got about a week.
Tanguy: It’s scary, isn’t it?
Tanguy: It hasn’t dawned on people yet, I don’t think.
Adam: I thought I’d have so much time [this month] to get on, and I just haven’t. Mainly because it’s on the PS3 and now I’m using the PS4 a lot more. But I’ve decided this week that I’m going to go on there and maybe do some more writing about the subject. Because the thing about PlayStation Home is there just aren’t many people [that cover it]. There are the enthusiast sites, like Your PS Home, Home Gazette, etc.
But I feel like outside of that space, there really aren’t many people who cover it, you know. It’s definitely a niche.
Tanguy: It is, sadly. But [in regards to] Paul Rance, he made Paradise Health Club, Stately Home, The Complex, Kingdom in the Skies which is quite popular, Sunset Lounge, Prehistoric Valley which is beautiful, Dream Central, the list goes on and on. I consider him [to be] the best artist in PlayStation Home, and we have him on board. He’s proven his skills at the main hub of Atom Universe already, so I’m very happy to have him on board, and I’m sure he’s going to be building great private spaces.
I agree with you, only a week left and I think most people haven’t really realized that it’s almost over. When I ask people they don’t really know where to go next, so hopefully someone will ask the question, where are Home users supposed to go next?
Adam: That’s sort of my plan, and that’s where Atom Universe comes in. There’s been so many attempts, but it’s only been a few days and you guys have managed to get £4,000 which is about one-fifth of the way. That’s one of the things I wanted to do in covering Atom Universe. I was passionate about Home, and I used to go on every day. I haven’t lately, but I think it’s important for people to have somewhere else to go afterwards.
Because you know, it’s hard to explain to your average gamer who maybe spent five minutes in there and didn’t understand the appeal, but even though it’s a niche, it’s a very dedicated one. They’re very passionate about it.
Tanguy: Yeah, I agree. I love working with that community, they’re great, they’re very friendly, they give great feedback. For a developer, it’s a dream to work with a community like that. Because I’ve been making games for twenty years and I used to be in a situation where I would work on a game for two years and release the game and just hope for the best. When it comes out, well it’s too late, I’ve moved onto the next game whereas working on PlayStation Home is different.
I love working with that community, they’re great, they’re very friendly, they give great feedback. For a developer, it’s a dream to work with a community like that.
I make some content and it takes me a few weeks to make a vehicle, a dance, whatever, release it and hear the reaction. Then I can make new virtual items that are better than the previous one based on the feedback I get. I can update the apartments I release, for instance, the Discotheque. People complained they couldn’t change the volume, so the next week I updated the Discotheque with a DJ booth where you can change the volume.
That’s something you don’t really do when you’re at a traditional game studio making normal games. You don’t have that proximity with your audience, you know what I mean? You’re too busy making the next thing whereas there you’re dealing with a community and you have a constant relation with them. You want to implement the feedback, because they’re the customer. So you want to make them happy, you want to make the best experience possible because that’s where your income comes from.
It’s great to have feedback like that because otherwise as a traditional game developer, you just have to rely on focus testing that you do or don’t do, but when you do focus testing it’s always too late anyway. So yeah, I really love it and I want to continue doing it. Having a relationship with an audience where I can meet them and chat for real, it’s brilliant. I read something, I walk into the space and I talk to people and say, “what do you think, what should I change?”
It’s great, you get instant feedback. It’s fabulous, I love it.
Adam: I have a couple more questions before we wrap this up. So there’s a lot of talk on the forums about whether or not Home was successful. In your experience, financially or otherwise, do you think that Home was successful?
Tanguy: For me it was good, for Atom Republic it was successful, certainly. For Sony, I think it was financially successful. But I think it was too small for Sony, and they’re not interested in micro-transactions, I don’t think. I think they want games for gamers and more triple-a and that sort of thing, and that’s where they’re heading with the PlayStation 4.
For me it was good, for Atom Republic it was successful, certainly. For Sony, I think it was financially successful. But I think it was too small for Sony, and they’re not interested in micro-transactions, I don’t think.
PlayStation Home probably got a bit of a bad name amongst the gamers because initially it wasn’t much of a game and there weren’t many games to play. So a lot of gamers were put off by the first experience of PlayStation Home and they never went back, sadly. The few gamers who actually went back thought “Actually, there are so many games. I didn’t think there would be so much to do in PlayStation Home”, but it’s too late now that Sony has already made up their mind.
So I think it’s a political decision that Sony said, “Actually, you know what, we don’t want to be associated with a virtual world that is not a game”, we want to make games for the gamers and that’s what PlayStation is about. So that’s why they’re not porting PlayStation Home. Personally, I think it’s not a commercial decision. I think it’s more of a public image decision. But I’m just speculating, you know, I’m not in their boots.
They might have a different story, but they haven’t explained any other reason for why they shut it down. So yeah, that’s my view, from my perspective. I think it was quite successful.
Adam: So it was certainly successful for you, at the very least.
Tanguy: Yes. It was successful for nDreams, you can ask the same question.
Adam: I remember reading, [Patrick] did a piece and I don’t remember where it was at, but he did specifically say that it was absolutely successful for them.
Tanguy: It was, he did lots of talks about nDreams success relative to PlayStation Home. It was a great experience for a developer because you have a lot of freedom and you can be quite small and still make money. It was a nice environment to develop games and content for, and it’s a shame. I think all of the [developers] I talked to are really upset because people like MadMunki and nDreams and Game Mechanics, they did enjoy it.
It was a great experience for a developer because you have a lot of freedom and you can be quite small and still make money.
The people that I know really enjoyed making content for PlayStation Home, and it’s really upsetting because now we’ve got to move on somewhere else, we’re getting kicked out [laughs]. It’s never a good feeling, but hey, you’ve got to move on.
Adam: It’s really unfortunate because I feel that with the closure of PlayStation Home, the companies that are looking to start their own similar thing — private investors look at that and they say, “Oh, it’s probably a financial decision” where you don’t know that. Obviously it’s very speculative, but it could be for other reasons, like for branding.
Tanguy: I think it’s definitely for branding purposes.
Adam: Absolutely. So to sell the people who aren’t sold yet, if you had three words to sell them on Atom Universe, what would they be?
Tanguy: I think the three words that would sum up Atom Universe the best would be Engagement, Immersion and Persistence. The engagement is because we’ll have daily quests to do and challenges, updates and mini-games. It’ll keep users engaged, so they will be rewarded for coming back every day. It will give them virtual currencies for turning up in specific places and they will want to meet their friends, make new friends and play games. The idea is to engage with people as much as possible.
The persistence, basically we’ll always be on, day and night. So you can chat, play rides and talk to people. There’s going to be millions of [potential] users, so if you add up 18 million users of Steam to 15 million users of the PS4, you’ve got a cross-platform experience with millions of people. So that’s a persistent world, that you’ll always be enjoying day and night. It’s going to be Europe and North America to begin with and then we’ll try Japan later.
It’s going to be totally immersive, and also with the support of virtual reality so mainly Oculus Rift and Morpheus. So you know, roller coast rides will be more enjoyable with VR. You’ll feel immersed in the virtual reality of the game.
Adam: One of the questions that I wanted to ask was actually in regards to virtual reality. PlayStation Home is on the PS3, so they don’t really have that technology available. Working with VR on Atom Universe, it’s probably your first opportunity to do that. What has the experience been like so far working on that?
Tanguy: It’s actually a lot more straightforward than I thought, I thought it would take a lot of time to setup. But Unreal Engine 4 is particularly geared towards that. It’s the most advanced engine for virtual reality, so it’s been pretty straightforward. It’s good fun. It’s a bit of a challenge to design the gameplay around the virtual reality. A lot of people have [asked] us, “How are you going to manage the third person perspective”, because you can’t really have a third person virtual reality game.
But on the flip-side of that, you kind of want to show off your avatar and see your avatar if you’re going to spend all that money buying clothes. So you don’t want it to be first person. It’s a bit of a dilemma at the moment, which is more of a design perspective. The other thing is moving your feet. A lot of people are saying in a virtual reality game you don’t want to move your feet because you want to be in a vehicle, otherwise you’re breaking the illusion that you’re there physically.
If you’re in the vehicle using a controller to control the gun or something, that’s fine. But if suddenly your character walks and your physical legs are not moving, it breaks the illusion. So we’re designing games around that. That’s why the roller coaster, shooting gallery, and the mini-kart game, you’re not moving your legs. People were asking why we’ve got so many vehicle games, well it’s for VR.
Because otherwise, if we have a game where you do running and jumping around, that wouldn’t work in VR because your legs aren’t moving. So either you’re standing still like the shooting gallery, or you’re in a vehicle like Motor Stunts. It’s a design challenge more than anything, but it’s not a technical challenge at all. It’s a real pleasure to work with Oculus Rift and Morpheus.
Adam: I think that about wraps up this interview, is there anything else you wanted to say? You plugged your Q&A earlier, would you like to reiterate on that or add anything else?
Tanguy: I think the main thing is the kickstarter. A lot of people are sitting on the fence and hoping that it will come out anyway. A lot of people are saying, “I hope you won’t give up if you fail your kickstarter”, but the reality is we probably will, and people need to understand that. I’ve got a lot of enthusiastic comments of people saying “Yeah, it’s going so well, you’re still gonna succeed, that’s fine”, but I don’t think that’s fine, personally.
I think it’s hard. It’s really hard, and it’s uncertain. Very uncertain. I mean, we’ve got 23 days left. We’re not at 25%, and famously kickstarter campaigns slow down after a week and start to plateau. So chances are, if you look at our progression, we’ve had a linear progression up to now and it’ll probably plateau at 5k until the last week and then it’ll probably pick up again. So chances are, we’ll fail. I would love to say it’s all going to work, it’ll be alright. I just want people to be aware that if we don’t get the money, sadly, we will not deliver the game.
So if people are loving the game, and if they like the facebook page, all the fans on the forums, and in PlayStation Home — the whole community needs to kind of realize that we’re not just saying we need money. We actually need the money to live, or we will not continue with Atom Universe. We won’t get private funding if we have a failed kickstarter, it’s going to be worse than not having a kickstarter at all and we’ve seen that with Neotopia.
As I said about Nebula, I don’t know how they carry on, good for them if they can. But I wonder how much progress they’re actually making because with a failed kickstarter they probably have the problem where no one wants to invest in them because they failed the crowd funding. So if we fail the crowd funding, we’ll probably sadly not carry on with Atom Universe, so it’s vital for us that people to pledge to the project. There’s no two ways about it.
It’s not a lot of money we’re asking, it’s only going to fund the base game and then we’ll get private funding off of the back of that. But if we don’t get the kickstarter funded, we won’t get private funding. I know it’s not very positive.
It’s not a lot of money we’re asking, it’s only going to fund the base game and then we’ll get private funding off of the back of that. But if we don’t get the kickstarter funded, we won’t get private funding.
Adam: I actually appreciate it, because you’ve been really clear. One of the things about Neotopia I feel is that they weren’t clear enough, because there are only so many directions you can go with this kind of thing. One of the things people thought about MadMunki was that even though they didn’t succeed in their kickstarter, they thought maybe they would keep going and do it again. That didn’t happen, obviously.
Tanguy: No, a kickstarter campaign is very stressful and very draining. The whole team needs to be working on the kickstarter, so we can’t do much work outside of it. We’re always on social media and forums and in Home and trying to sell the game to everyone and answer their questions. It’s a full-time job, and if I were MadMunki, I wouldn’t have started the second kickstarter. A lot of successful kickstarters, I talk to the guys after the successful kickstarter and I say, “Why don’t you guys do another one?”
They say, “No, no, no. No way, we’re going to rest up now and just do normal work instead”, [laughs] because it’s crazy. It’s very tiring. You basically just write off a whole month of development when you do something like that. So I wouldn’t do a second kickstarter for Atom Universe if this one fails, I’ll just do something else and try to earn money.
Adam: Well I think that about wraps it up, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Tanguy: Thank you very much, you’ve been very supportive.
Atom Universe is currently running a campaign on kickstarter where they have reached £4,914 of their £20,000 goal. If you have a question that you want to ask Tanguy yourself, check out the Atom Universe forums for a list of upcoming Q&A dates on PlayStation Home. You can also follow their progress on facebook and twitter.Tweet