As Home winds down, everyone is watching to see what possible new virtual worlds might be coming from Home's developers. Veemee has teased that they are working on one. So I went right to the man who knows, Caspar Thykier. Here's what he had to say..... YPSH : We are all going to miss Home, but we have been seeing developers stepping up to the plate to take over where Home leaves off. One of the most anticipated is the Veemee project. With me today is Caspar Thykier, Founder and CEO of Veemee. You all know Veemees popular Acorn Meadows Park and the many releases they have done for PS Home. Greetings Caspar, and thanks for chatting with us about your exciting new project... Caspar : No problem at all, it’s been a while as we’ve really had our heads down in the studio working away. Like you say, these are sad and uncertain times. But out of chaos springs creativity as we’re seeing from a number of the stalwart Home developers. YPSH : Veemee has been a major part of PS Home for a long time. Everyone knows Veemee. Not just for the Veemee brand, but for bringing real world brands into PS Home like Audi, Wrangler, Diesel, Billabong and more. Now that Home is ending, other devs have announced their plans to create virtual worlds. You have teased us that you are doing your own. Lets talk about it.. it name, its possible release date, and what it is. Caspar : It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of an ecosystem like Home from the very start and see how it’s grown and evolved over the years as indeed we have too as a studio. What made the platform particularly vibrant is you’ve had a group of devs – ourselves, Lockwood, NDreams, HellFire etc. – all with a different sensibility and approach to the platform which helped give it it’s variety of flavors to cater for all the different Home tribes. I hope the community agrees that we’ve had fun together and with our stores and spaces we’ve tried to provide a high quality of experience and creativity. Acorn Meadows is perhaps the pinnacle of the roller coaster ride of content over the years that we’ve produced, which we think struck a chord for its sheer simplicity as a canvas for Home users to express themselves, hang out and have fun: that’s what a park’s all about right? But all good things come to an end, even Breaking Bad! (although the ‘Just call Saul’ series sounds like an awesome spin-off!). And there’s an interesting analogy: I think for all developers who have built studios and relied on Home to stay in business there’s be an important decision to make now. Do you try and somehow recreate Home and build the sequel if you like; or do you try and distil the essence of Home and express it in a totally different way? For our money sequels tend to disappoint and find it hard to capture the energy of the original (for good or bad!). We wanted to avoid that. So you won’t see us create another virtual world or indeed vertical slice of the Home experience. That’s been done by Lockwood with Avakins and seemingly also now being explored with Neotopia. And we wish those guys well. So we’ve decided to pivot and go another way. We spent a good amount of time head-scratching and thinking about what’s at the heart of the Home experience and what made Acorn Meadows so popular. In many ways it was really counter intuitive for something as mundane as a natural urban park space to have worked in a virtual world like Home where there’s the potential to create any space you can possibly imagine. It was a real leap of faith and the response from users was beyond our expectation. It was the community forums and response from sites like YPSH that made us realize why it worked: it was its sheer simplicity. And that’s it. Just a paired back experience where the community were at the centre of their own narrative. When you really deconstruct it you realize that it’s not even the space that’s important. It’s the people; their personalities; their sense of style and self-expression; their voices. It’s the avatars that really matter. They define the experience. Everything else is window dressing. Strangely, that was always our thinking from day one. It’s why we’re called VEEMEE (which stands for ‘make me virtual’). So it’s no surprise that our new product is called just that, which is lucky as we already had the domain name! I can’t tell you too much at this stage, just because it’s a bit different and we wanted to prove it could work before shouting about it. But I can tell you it’ll be released on mobile first. We’ll be conducting an initial beta test at the end of the year and would love members of the Home community to get involved and give their feedback which is why we recently asked people to sign up on our site and through our social channels. For all those people that help us shape the product, there will be rewards. That’s what friends are for! YPSH : What will VEEMEE’s business model be? Subscription or supported by micro-transactions? Caspar : It’s going to be a free to download service supported by micro-transactions and in time an optional subscription element for those looking for that little bit extra. There’ll also be XP & achievements to collect which will access new items. YPSH : Will it be on PS4 or other platforms? Caspar : Our platform has been built to extend cross-platform. But there are no plans for PS4 at this stage. Right now the focus is on the initial launch product on mobile, learning from our users and seeing what they want. YPSH : Will VEEMEE make use of better graphics? Caspar : This is a project we’ve been thinking about and working on for over a year now. We’ve always loved Home but (and let’s be honest here) felt constrained by some of the limitations of the HDK. One of the cornerstones of building our new product was that we wanted to make the best avatar system made for mobile bar none. We think we’ve achieved that. We made some additional key hires to our senior team to make this a reality. That process isn’t just about better graphics but creating the right art pipelines and systems to deliver a system that can be hugely flexible and also work seamlessly across devices. Put it this way, there’s some seriously clever stuff going on under the hood. YPSH : Will it be regionalized like Home is? Caspar : No. We'll be launching in Europe and the US before taking on Asia though. YPSH : Home had many problems, especially towards the end of its life. Things like freezing, lag and errors. Will VEEMEE overcome these issues? Caspar : No one sets out to have those sorts of issues and I feel for the Home team on this stuff. Part of the reason we’ll be conducting an alpha test is to iron out exactly these sorts of issues. But no-one is immune. Look what just happened to iOS 8 for Apple. You can test as much as you like but you’re not going to catch everything. All you can hope is your product is good enough, you have an open and honest dialogue with your users, are quick to respond and that the community supports and forgives in equal measure when stuff goes wrong. No-one’s perfect but you’ve got to put your hand up when things go wrong and get it sorted. YPSH : Will VEEMEE have any protections against hackers, should that happen? This was a big problem recently with Home. Caspar : This is likely to be less of an issue for the product we’re developing but suffice it to say that we’re deploying all that is necessary to protect our systems. YPSH : Any future plans to have other developers to sell their wares as well? Caspar : We’re developing something really quite different. The way to think about it is we’ve worked like a sculptor. We had this amazing block of marble which encompassed all the fantastic learning from Home over the past 5 years. We’ve then worked hard to chip away at it, continuing to chip away the layers until we got to the core of our new platform and product. What’s left is a very stripped backed but beautifully formed, simple and interactive new means of self-expression. YPSH : Will users be able to submit ideas for virtual items? Caspar : Very much so. If there’s one thing I think we are perhaps best known for in Home is the quality and execution of our virtual items: the personal styles that define your avatar which require an attention to detail. There will be channels to get this critical community feedback loop to inform future item development. Having a closer and direct relationship and dialogue with our audience is one of the most exciting aspects of this brave new world beyond Home. YPSH : Home only allowed 100 items to be placed in personal spaces. Will VEEMEE allow us to use more? Caspar : There’s no upper limit on what you can purchase and use on our new platform. YPSH : Will VEEMEE have in-world moderators or a way to notify you if they spot abuse by others? Caspar : We have community managers, moderators and support channels but ultimately it will be a collective effort from our users. YPSH : Talk to me about avatar customization. What new ideas will see with the creation of avatars in VEEMEE? Caspar : As I mentioned above, the avatar system is at the heart of our system. We wanted to set a new benchmark for a character creator system on mobile. That’s actually harder than you imagine and there aren’t many good ones out there on mobile when you look around. You have to consider different device capabilities, screen sizes, resolutions and processing power for a start and that’s before you consider the UI/UX for controls. There’s also all the complexity of how all the clothing assets work across different skeletons and body shapes. Basically it turns out this is quite hard J We wanted something that was easily customizable but also responsive, quick and easy to use. It was also important that we had a design and fidelity that meant that we could continue to engage with our existing and new brand partners in the creation of clothing ranges. Our benchmark wasn’t so much about generating new ideas but creating a system that meant the finished avatar was someone you could connect with and feel affinity towards. These digital envoys have to represent you in the real world. That visceral connection is key. So it was more about a collection of knowledge from all avatar systems out there distilled into VEEMEE that we felt would be right for our product and audience. YPSH : Can you give us a little idea of the size of the VEEMEE staff and little insight as to who will be doing what? Caspar : We’re a team of 19 people made up of coders, artists, production, community managers and QA. I think what people sometimes forget is that that’s a lot of mouths to feed on a monthly basis. The team come from a rich history of gaming in Scotland, working on big AAA titles which is why you see such a high level of polish in all our work. We’re nothing if not perfectionists! Be we’re now bending our experience in gaming and bringing it to bear in the social space to create something really quite new. This fresh approach had delivered some really simple but totally new solutions that we hope people are going to like. Some of the Veemee Team YPSH : Let’s talk games on VEEMEE. Home tried to incorporate games. Many felt that Home tried to hard to be a gaming platform instead of just embracing being a social platform. Home could never match disc based games, however it was well suited for small simple games. What is your opinion on how games should be incorporated into VEEMEE? Caspar : I totally agree. Home (and indeed VEEMEE) tried loads of different types of gaming experience in Home: from NML and Audi V-Run all the way through to darts and pool and everything in between (including super-fun-robo-goalie and Oskar’s Lobster Mania!). What we found is that actually most people came to Home to hang out, socialize, gain XP and then play games. There’s an interesting spin on where we’re thinking of taking gaming with our new VEEMEE platform but it’s worth saying it won’t be there at launch. It’s social first for us. Sorry if that disappoints the gamers amongst you but like I said, we’ve been pretty focused on the first release. YPSH : Home in Japan was loved by many. Mainly for its great events. Any plans with VEEMEE to do special events? Caspar : We’ll be guided by our users on that. What I will say is that there will certainly be ‘happenings’ and Happy Hours. The beauty of having our own platform is we can publish whenever we want – yahoo! YPSH : Lastly, are there any other features we havent talked about? Caspar : Absolutely! I have to apologies for being perhaps a little obtuse in what we’ve got coming up. But we want users to experience the product rather than speculate. What’s for sure is that it is different. It is a new way to think about your relationship with your avatar. It will be on mobile to begin with. And it does have a couple of killer features that we hope will surprise and delight people. Will it be to every Home users taste? Probably not. Are we proud of what we’re making? Absolutely yes! And that’s all you can strive for. Make a product you’re really proud of and hope other people like it too. YPSH : I want to thank you for coming by and giving us the low down on VEEMEE. Needless to say, we are all excited about the prospect of a new virtual world. I’m sure everyone at Veemee is working hard to make this happen. Please keep in touch and update us on VEEMEE. Caspar : You’re very welcome Karen. It’s been a pleasure. We’re working at full speed to bring our new product to market. But it needs to be right and needs to work (that’s just how we like to do things). It’s definitely the end of one chapter and the start of a new one for us. We hope that our friends in Home who have liked what we’ve done in the past will check it out and sign up to the beta program by entering your details at www.veemee.com The last thing I’d say is that we’ll also be offering special rewards for Home users on our new platform when it launches. We’re in this together. After the storm comes sunshine Sign up to keep up-to-date on all that's going with Veemee! CLICK HERE Please note this interview may NOT be copied in full and posted elsewhere without the express consent of the author.