Atom Republic is a developer known well to those who love PlayStation Home. Some Home developers (as seen elsewhere here) have announced their intentions to try and develop a new virtual "Home-like" world for the PS4. However, Atom Republic's intentions on what they plan to do next, has not been known. Until now. I had the pleasure of speaking with AR's owner/creator, Tanguy Dewavrin, recently and he was ready to tell me all about his future plans. Here's what he had to say...... YPSH : It's been a while Tanguy since we talked. So here's the big question! Do you have plans to enter the arena for creating a "Home-like" virtual world on the PS4? Tanguy : Yes it's been a while! As you know, we wanted to be sure we'd develop what people want, so we gave ourselves the time to listen: we asked our community of followers where they wanted to go next, in the form of a big questionnaire. We got over 700 replies, and have analysed them. This helped us shape up our next project, that we are proud to present to you now: it is called "Atom Universe", and will initially be released on the PS4. It consists of a futuristic theme park, filled with rides, funfair games and attractions. It's a persistent online multiplayer game, where you can meet other users, chat and invite them to play with you. YPSH : Sounds like a big undertaking. So how does Atom Universe differ from some of the other projects already announced? Tanguy :There are many unique aspects about our project, but we're most excited about user-generated content. For instance we will allow players to upload photos from their mobile phone to use them as in-game textures, say to design their own t-shirts or tattoos. The possibilities are endless: imagine taking a photo in real life, and placing it in a frame on the wall of your apartment in Atom Universe? Ultimately people will also be able to create their own rides, like in Roller-Coaster Tycoon or Theme Park World: You'll be empowered to design your own games, and invite others to experience your creations. This will create new content exponentially, for everyone to enjoy. Looking to the future, we will let users upload their own models, or scan themselves with 3D cameras to create their own avatars! We are also looking into new technologies like procedural facial expressions and animations.... Another exciting aspect is Virtual Reality: we will support the Morpheus headset, to make the rides more immersive, and make the experience of meeting other players more compelling. YPSH : Other devs have announced their intention to use Unity or the Unreal engine for their creations. What will Atom Universe use for its creation? Tanguy : While Unity is a great versatile engine, we chose Unreal Engine 4, because it's the best rendering engine for next-generation graphics, in particular to support Virtual Reality. YPSH : Tell us what this will allow you to do that you couldn't do on Home. Increase item limits in personal spaces, for example? Tanguy : Aside from the user-generated content, it's the democratic process we will implement through the forums. This is where the community comes into action: we don't have the whole specs decided in advance. Instead, we will ask the community using a voting board: we will list out all the future features to implement, and let the community vote for them. The most popular features will be implemented first, and the least popular ones will be de-prioritized. For more info, head over to our forums on Atom Republic. So in your example, we would like to ask the community what they'd like in their personal spaces, in terms of limitations and features, before we implement the personal spaces. Having said that, we can hope that the PS4 will be capable of rendering a lot more detail than the PS3, therefore there should be less limitations. YPSH : Sony tried to make Home more attractive to gamers by creating a lot of games within Home. Most were not well received. Can Atom Universe improve on the quality of "built-in" games? Is your focus on games built-in or just a few to make it interesting? Tanguy : Atom Universe is a game before being a virtual world. It will be filled with plenty of rides, with new updates every other month. PlayStation Home is awesome, but a lot of gamers were put off by the lack of activities in it, beyond socialization. At least in the first few years. So in Atom Universe, we will make sure there is always something fun to do: there will be a plethora of mini-games in the form of the different rides: bumper cars, water slides, shooting gallery, Ferris wheel, fireworks, go-kart racing, stunt buggies, etc... All of these feed into a meta-game: each player has a player profile containing his or her meta-score, achievements and various trophies. YPSH : What about other platforms besides PS4? Any chance it could cross-over to PC's or other consoles? Tanguy : We may consider releasing Atom Universe on PC in a year's time. But for now, the focus is on PS4: that's where our community tell us they want to go next. YPSH : I assume we buy virtual items to support it (like Home) ? Can we purchase virtual apartments, furniture and clothing items like we did in Home? Tanguy : Absolutely. However you must understand that we will build Atom Universe in stages. As you rightly said earlier: it is a big undertaking. The first release will contain the chat functionality as well as a few rides. Then, every other month, we will update the game with new features and new rides. So clothes will be available for purchase in one of these updates, and furniture in a later update, a few months later. This way, we can fine-tune and prioritize the functionalities that go in, based on the community's feedback, and as a result improve the user experience with each iteration. YPSH : Will you partner with other devs and allow them to make items for Atom Universe like Home did? Tanguy : The short answer is yes. We have talked to most Home developers, and I invite all developers who haven't been in touch yet to email me at email@example.com, if they want to collaborate. So far, all the developers we talked to are happy to be involved, to a degree . Atom Republic has always been a collaborative effort, federating talents from multiple artists and developers. We still want to syndicate many developers into the development of Atom Universe. YPSH : Since we are talking about buying items to support your project, let's talk funding for a moment. Do you have plans for any self-funding? A Kickstarter? Sponsors? Tanguy : We don't rely on a KickStarter campaign to fund our game. First we are relying on self-funding, then seeking private investment. Also, we want to have something to show for ourselves before we ask for money through crowd-funding. YPSH : When can we expect to see the Kickstarter? Tanguy: We will wait until we have a running demo before we do a KickStarter: hopefully this will happen by February 2015. YPSH : Others have tried Kickstarter and were not able to make their goals. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to make yours work where others have failed? Tanguy : We are announcing the game months in advance, to build up the awareness and some following. Through our forums and word of mouth, we hope to gain some momentum. By February, people would have heard about us. I would hope that any questions and concerns people might have would have been resolved by then, through questions on our forums and social media. And most importantly, people will be able to see for themselves what we're aiming to achieve, by downloading our free demo at that stage. YPSH : Do you know yet what the Kickstarter levels will be and what those who pledge will receive for those levels? Tanguy : Well it's early days... We are starting to discuss this, but we have reached no definite decision on this yet. I invite people to post their suggestions on the forums! We'll dedicate a thread to this subject. YPSH : We also (starting today) will have a thread here called Atom Universe News to keep everyone up-to-date. Speaking of partners, besides other devs making items for AU, have any expressed an interest to partner with you on the actual development of Atom Universe?Tanguy : Among the many developers we talked to, four will have an active role in the content creation. In particular, we've been talking closely with nDreams: they are hoping to be involved with Atom Universe as we move forward, and are very excited to see what we can achieve. Ultimately Atom Universe will contain multiple planets, and each developer can have their own. YPSH : What about customizing and creating our avatars? The Home model got overloaded and could not handle many items. The lag got so bad you could barely find anything unless you spent a lot of time finding the items you wanted. Can you tell us a bit about how Atom Universe will improve on the Home model? Tanguy : Back to my point about iterative development: the initial release will not feature any avatar customization. This will happen in an update, and will be gradually improved based on user feedback. This said, the issue of taking too long to load the inventory is an issue a lot of people flagged in our survey, and we will make sure this doesn't happen in Atom Universe. The solution, in a nutshell, is to store everything on the cloud, and only download what you need, rather than the whole inventory. YPSH : What about load times in general? Will Atom Universe load much faster than Home once a user has purchased many items? Tanguy : Yes, because we will stream data from the cloud as and when we need it, rather than download everything. YPSH : Special events in PlayStation Home were always welcome. Japan, in particular, ran the best ones. Any plans to do some of that in Atom Universe? Tanguy : Definitely. Ultimately it would be great if we could do events as sophisticated as the ones in PS Home Japan! But to begin with, My community manager Boxer Lady and I will organize simpler regular events: fireworks every week, parties, quizzes, challenges, games, as well as seasonal events for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween etc... YPSH : For Home users who acquired a bunch of items from Atom Republic, is there any chance a few items might be ported over to give to the loyal fans? Tanguy : The tricky thing here is: I don't know who bought what: the only info we get out of Sony is how many items we sell, but we don't know the details of our customers. The only way of knowing would be for users to send us their invoices. In return, we could give out voucher codes for new items in Atom Universe. Ideally it'd be great if we could find an automated process for that. But right now it would have to be a case by case operation, so potentially a very slow process. We'll think of something though, and post our proposal on the forums when we have one. Just one advice for now is: make sure you keep your invoices! YPSH : Can you give us idea of when your project will be available on the PS4? Tanguy : We aim to release the first installment in April 2015. Then we will release a new update every other month, each with more features and games. YPSH : Will there be a beta before the official launch? If so, can users sign up for it? Tanguy : It's a great idea. Maybe after the KickStarter, i.e. around March? YPSH : Thanks Tanguy for the stopping by and filling us in on Atom Universe! Much success to you! Be sure to come by again and give us an update. Tanguy : My pleasure, thank you for this opportunity! I will be delighted to update you when we have more to show. Keep tabs on everything Atom Universe - CLICK HERE Please note this interview may NOT be copied in full and posted elsewhere without the express consent of the author.