There has been much speculation about a new virtual world coming to PS4. Here, for the first time, are all the facts from my interview with David Dow, Creative Director at Madmunki...... YPSH : So the race is on. Home is gone and dvelopers are racing to be the next popular virtual world. With me today is David Dow, Creative Director of Madmunki. You all know madmunki from their Spunland creation that has been on PS Home. Greetings Dave, and thanks for stopping by... Dave: Spun salutations Karen! The pleasure is all mine YPSH : So let's get right to it. Madmunki has decided to create something for the PS4 that sounds very special. Please, tell us all about it..... Dave : Actually, I need to stop with the spunnerisms, as this is not Spunland on PS4, it is 'neotopia'. Neotopia is an ambitious new virtual world - it will launch on PS4 in NA & EU regions at some point next year. It will be a realistically rendered world built on the latest version of the Unreal Engine. It will have all of the key features that the community would expect; from an avatar editor to apartments, public spaces, a shop, events, chat functionality and so on. The complete list of initial features can be found on the website. Ultimately it will be a new virtual social media platform which learns from the mistakes of those that have gone before it. We're placing community firmly at the centre of neotopia – all of it's citizens will have voting rights and we will regularly be putting the options for how it develops up to the vote, initially through our forums, but eventually in neotopia itself. YPSH : Will neotopia be free and supported by item sales like Home or will it be a subscription? Dave : It will be free and funded entirely through the sale of virtual items. Well actually virtual currency; neotopians will be able to buy the currency (the neotopian bit) on the PSN Store and spend that as they wish within neotopia – on everything from clothes and animation packs to apartments, mounts and other interesting interactive items – whatever the community can dream up that is realistically achievable we will make. YPSH : Will the PS4 allow for better graphics for such a project? Dave : In a word – yes! As I said we are using Unreal Engine 4, and taking advantage of all that it has to offer from fancy techy sounding things like 'physically based rendering' (i.e. very realistic lighting and surfaces) to just simply being able to throw a lot of detailed objects about using the raw horsepower of the PS4 YPSH : It's no secret Home made a lot of mis-steps. Let me point out a few to start and ask you how your effort intends to deal with these. Starting with many errors, freezing, store pricing missing, items not listed properly and so on. Dave : The thing to bear in mind here is the that creation of Home started out over 8 years ago, the technology world was radically different then. We're starting out with everything that the Unreal Engine can do, an engine that's pedigree began with fast paced multiplayer games and has gone on to render some of the biggest AAA games on the planet. We're also taking a very different approach to the development of neotopia, by putting community at its heart – any issues faced by neotopians can be effectively escalated via the voting mechanic and brought to our attention. YPSH : Hackers became a big problem on PS Home in the last two years. Sony seemed to be un-willing to deal with it. Will neotopia have measures in place to deal with that should it happen? Dave : I know for a fact that Sony did a substantial amount of work to try and limit the ways in which people could exploit Home but it's a bit like a game of chess, you just need to try and keep one step ahead of your opponent. We take security very seriously but our hope is that any potential opponent would prefer to work with us than against us. Also - we are not Sony, so we should not be such an obvious target. YPSH : In neotopia, we will be able to move from public spaces and have private invite-only spaces as well? Dave : Absolutely. We will start with a limited number of Public Spaces, expanding the range as we update the whole world, with apartments appearing on a more frequent basis. We also plan to have something like clubhouses, but I can't go into the details of that yet – and the concept is unlikely to be ready at launch. Actually let me take this opportunity to mention that a core aspect of neotopia is that we will have a kudos system such that all things including every neotopian will be easily rateable, you will be able to give Kudos to anything and anyone that you like. This should provide everyone (including us) with a good filtering system and more besides. YPSH : I assume we will buy the private spaces. And the items to decorate them with. Will neotopia allow other developers to sell their wares as well? Dave : I know this is a big question for community, especially as everyone has their own favourites. The simple answer is no, at least not a first. One of the most complex things about Home is the fact that are so many publishers, that creates all sorts of issues. We will be the sole publisher, but we do want to speak to other Home developers and see if there are ways we can work together – but it's complex, there are a whole range of unspun legal issues there (pardon my spunerese). YPSH : One of Home's biggest drawbacks was the 100 slot limit for items placed in personal spaces. The PS4 has more memory. Will that allow neotopia to push that limitation higher? Dave : Yes, it should do. We'll announce the finer details of all such issues as time goes on – we are at a very early stage right now, but we would expect to be able to expand on most of those kinds of limitations given as you say that this is on a 'next gen' platform. Hmm. When does 'next-gen' become 'current gen'? YPSH : People are angry about Homes going dark. Many will feel they are done with virtual worlds because now they are afraid that if they support a new one, it will suddenly go dark like Home just did. Dave : That is at the foremost of my thoughts right now, and I totally understand anyone wanting to throw in their towel and walk away. First let me say – PlayStation Home was ahead of it's time. It launched before facebook and twitter became household names, before people knew what 'social media' was. We are launching in a different world with the intention of building something that will last for as long as neotopians keep turning up. Secondly there is the whole voting angle – neotopia will be as responsive to what the community want as we can possibly make it. As high falutin as it sounds I want it to be nothing less than a virtual democracy. YPSH : neotopia is exciting. It sounds like the right concept. It will take much time and money to launch such a huge effort. On that note, I know you are starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. Tell us the details on that. Where do we go to contribute, how much, the time frame, etc.. And will there be any little special "somethings" for those who contribute? Dave : Indeed it will! The kickstarter campaign will go live this week, we are simply waiting on a boring bureaucratic issue to be resolved and then we will be spreading the link to the kickstarter page as far and wide and as fast as we can. We're looking to raise $461k dollars – weird number I know, but simply because that's £250k (we are based in the UK), which is actually not a lot of money for a project this ambitious. As to special somethings – we have a number of those – but rather than list them here can I be lazy and direct folks to the website www.neotopia.co – the complete list is there and we intend to take paypal contributions directly from the website once other bureaucratic issues are resolved. YPSH : How many people are involved in this project and tell us a little about them. Dave : So right now there are 5 of us directly involved and others indirectly, plus we should have another core member join the team this week – and as soon as we get the funding we will be hiring more people. Madmunki itself is a tiny company so we have formed a kind of collective to do this. Obviously there are the two long term madmunkis – myself and Mark Jagger – we've each been making games for more than 15 years and spent most of the last two creating, publishing and supporting Spunland – although our experience of Home goes back before Spunland as we made the Doublesix lobby (the Burn Zombie Burn space) a long time ago when we worked for Doublesix. Then there is Al Robertson who has joined us as Technical Director – Al is an expert in network programming who's been in the industry as long as me & Jagz and his credits include titles as varied as 'Little Big Planet' and 'South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play'. Nader Alikhani is Art Director, and he brings his own company Pixelhero Games to the party – they are experts in Unreal and Nader has been working in the industry for 10 years, I have worked with him on many projects before – he is both one of the most technically and artistically proficient artists I have ever worked with. Finally, and significantly we have Ed Gladwin. Ed was the Head of Commercial Development at SCEE Home – so he brings the incredible experience of having worked at a very senior level on PlayStation Home from when Sony started developing it, up until he left a few months ago. Ed's knowledge and experience will be a critical factor in making this project work. YPSH : One last question, for now Home users often complained that developers rarely made things they asked for. Will neotopia be more open to user suggestions? Dave : Absolutely! Again I hark back to the whole voting concept. Initially – and by initially I mean from right now we will be listening to people through the forums on our website and during the kickstarter campaign will be putting up various things up for people to vote on. Once neotopia is up and running this process will transfer into neotopia itself. I personally love forums and getting to engage with people on them, but the fact is that only a very small percentage of players use forums so we want to make sure that we give everyone a very direct way of getting involved and letting us know what they think. YPSH : Thanks for spending your time with me today Dave. I know you are a very busy man right now. I am sure MANY of us will be watching neotopia closely and I wish you much success. Please come back anytime and share your news with our readers. Dave : Thank you! And please look out for all of our updates. This is very early days for neotopia and we plan for its development, including the kickstarter campaign to be as transparent as possible – more materials will be coming very very soon! Embrace Tomorrow neotopia web site : neotopia - Embrace Tomorrow Please note this interview may NOT be copied in full and posted elsewhere without the express consent of the author.