With the recent closure of PlayStation Home, there’s a void left to fill for a socially interactive video game. Even though PlayStation Home never reached the heights that most thought it would, indie developer Atom Republic, which is known for its work on Home, is looking to change all that with Atom Universe. The game – billed as a virtual reality theme park for both PS4 and PC – has recently reached its KickStarter goal. I had the chance to speak with one of the game’s main developers, Tanguy Dewavrin, about what people should expect from Atom Universe, and how the studio plans on differentiating itself from PlayStation Home.
Comics and Gaming Magazine: To start off, why the name Atom Universe?
Tanguy Dewavrin: We started Atom Republic making virtual goods and games for PlayStation Home. When PS Home announced it would shut down, we wanted to carry our universe across with us, so it survives PS Home. We also wanted to make a virtual world which starts really small, with an atomic entity that is the main hub of the theme park, expanding constantly over time, with more and more planets, as new developers make more and more content for our world. Atom Universe encapsulates that vision of steady growth from infinitely small to infinitely large.
CGM: What's the idea, and desire behind creating another socially interactive video game?
TD: Three major events coincided to create the conditions for our game; the gap left by the disappearance of PS Home. Suddenly there is no virtual world on PlayStation, we have millions of PS Home users with nowhere to go to. The emergence of virtual reality; PlayStation develops Morpheus, as Oculus Rift arrives on PC, creating a demand for thrilling content, visually exciting experiences. And lastly the new generation of consoles, mostly the PS4 with a capacity to render high-detail visuals and realistic textures, which needs new games with high-fidelity visuals. These three conditions inspired us to make a high-detail, realistic next-generation game, with the right mix of social interaction for the virtual world enthusiasts, and with enough rides to please the most avid gamers, specially geared towards VR.
CGM: What are the differences, and maybe even similarities between Home and Atom Universe?
TD: We see Atom Universe as more of a meta-game than a virtual world per se. Atom Universe will eventually have all the social features Home had and more, but we initially build our game around a theme park for a good reason: there will always be something to do, games to play, new rides to try, challenges and social events. A lot of Home detractors disliked the fact it was not enough of a game, as at the beginning there was not enough to do, apart from the social interactions. Home improved over time, and they added lots of games challenges at the end. We will have all those challenges at the beginning, and each time you complete a challenge it will feed into your user profile. Whether you earn PlayStation trophies, complete mini-games, achieve challenges, beat a new high-score or unlock a new item, your in-game achievement will increase your meta-score, and enhance your user profile.
CGM: Do you worry that people would often compare Universe to Home, and are these inevitable comparisons understandable in your eyes?
TD: We are really proud to be compared to PS Home, this is our heritage after three years of PS Home development, the PS Home community has definitely influenced us and helped us shape up the design of Atom Universe. However we are moving on, it's a brand new game built up from scratch, enabling VR on the next-gen technology, and with so many more games and activities to enjoy, even on your own. Hopefully people will see there is more to Atom Universe than just a copy of Home; it is an evolution. We did a massive survey last year, before deciding what we make, got over 800 responses, and that helped us conceive the game. We hope to have learned from the mistakes of Home, and will have quicker loading times, better security, and more games to play right from the start!
CGM: What should players expect to do, and see in Atom Universe upon its release, and in a few months, even years from now?
TD: At launch there will be the main Hub where you can socialize: chat, interact with other avatars, dance, drive vehicles and pick up passengers, and interact with environments, like enter the Ferris wheel, sit on benches, lean on walls etc. There will be three rides to play: The mini-kart Racers, a go-kart racing game; the Shooting Gallery, and the Motor Stunts game, where you can perform spectacular stunts in a dune buggy, on an obstacle course filled with ramps and loop-de-loops. On top of that you'll have mini-games in different spaces and new challenges to complete, on a weekly basis. And there will be private apartments where you can invite your friends.
CGM: Are there any differences between the PC, and PlayStation 4 versions? And do you think there would be a difference between both communities in terms of their interest, and how they'll interact and use Atom Universe?
TD: Not really. There may be some blurrier textures on the PS4, but the frame rate seems to be more constant on the PS4, aside from that. a lot of that performance difference will come from the different PC specs. But ultimately it's exactly the same game we are building on both platform, we are not making specific content for one or the other. Most of our audience want the game on the PS4, but they understand that cross-platform is a necessity to have the longevity PS Home was lacking.
We'll see about the differences between the communities, but the PS Home fans indicated they want to transition predominantly to the PS4, that could mean they're more interested in the social interactions, whereas I expect the PC users may be more interested in the mini-games? But I'm only speculating, only time will tell.
Atom Universe has a rough summer 2015 release window.