As many of you may already know, during the Kickstarter for Atom Universe, Atom Republic announced that Game Mechanics, former content creator for PlayStation Home, would be creating content for Atom Universe. You can read the full Kickstarter announcement here. Game Mechanics created a lot of great content for PlayStation Home such as the SeaCliff Retreat personal space/club house (day and night versions), personalized furniture, and A Day at the Races horse race game.
The CEO of Game Mechanics, John Ardussi, also created the Cutthroats: Battle for Black Powder Cove game for PlayStation Home:
I got a chance to chat with John this week for an exclusive interview for J.F.C & The Virtual Community.
Trisha: Hiya John! On behalf of J.F.C & The Virtual Community and the Atom Universe Community, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me as we are very interested in what you have been working on and what you will be doing for Atom Universe!
John: Thanks for asking, Trisha. When we were doing items and spaces for PS Home, there were two of us – Mike Gehri and I. Since then Mike moved, joined a racing team and lots of other fun stuff. I have been working on games with several different people in several different countries. Every new project has brought something new and exciting. I have not been bored.
Trisha: LOL I wouldn’t think you would be bored. I know you always stay busy. You have many fans within the AU Community who are all excited you are part of this project that we all love so much! As you know, April 1st marked the 1-year anniversary of PlayStation Home’s closure. Fortunately for us, Atom Republic has been working on their Atom Universe project and it was announced last March that your company agreed to be a partner for the game and create content for it. Can you tell us a little about how you learned about Atom Universe and why you decided to partner with Atom Republic for it?
John: When Home announced it was closing, I sat down and tried to figure out what it would take to make a new version. And the bottom line was it was bigger than any project I had done outside of Sony. While I have connections, I am hesitant to ask other people to invest in my idea. I am not a money man. So I decided to hang back and see what happened. A few projects were trying Kickstarter and other ways of funding but their numbers were way too low compared to my analysis. Here was my plan in a few sentences:
- $2,000,000 up front funding
- 18 months of development before it brought in any money itself
- Focus on being able to charge users money for things
- Create an open system that others could create content and sell items
Most of the plans that came out from other developers did not match my plan at all, so I stayed out of it. People were asking me to choose sides, but there was no side to choose. I tried contacting Lockwood about Avakin since that seemed like it was going live, but I never got an email back. In hindsight it looks like Lockwood is doing all their own content so no place for me.
Then in March of last year I got an email from Tanguy Dewavrin of Atom Republic about working with them. I said it is a great idea but I needed to generate revenue to stay in business and Atom Universe was at least a year away from being able to sell things on their platform. I met with their new lead programmer at E3 but the message was the same – no money for outside developers anytime soon.
But their plan was very close to mine. They had many of the same priorities and understood what it was going to take to create a platform worthy of people spending money in. So I endorsed their project as one I thought had a chance to make it.
I have been a player, a supporter (including Kickstarter), but not much help to them otherwise, not yet anyway.
Trisha: Well I know the capabilities for 3rd party development for Atom Universe are still being worked out and so I’m sure you’ll be able to contribute more in the future. I’m excited that Game Mechanics is on board with Atom Universe and can’t wait to see your content in the game. Now I know you have been involved with many different projects, most recently Demo Derby for which you launched a Kickstarter in January. Can you elaborate on what you have been working on over the last year since PS Home’s closure?
John: As an independent developer, you have to keep the money flowing. So I have made a few games since I left Sony. The first was The Hat Man: Shadow Ward. It is a first person survival horror game where there is no map and there are no instructions. You just have to feel your way around.
Next I ported an old Macintosh game so it runs on modern hardware. The game is called Crystal Quest Classic. It plays exactly like the original from 1988. It is just as fun and addicting as it was back in the day.
My latest project is called Demo Derby. Back in 2001 I did a demolition derby game that was true to the sport. No power ups or rocket launchers. Just crashing, bending and the last car moving wins. Rather than just doing an update of that game, I am starting from scratch and building it all new: new car models, new tracks, day/night options so you can derby under the lights, etc. Everything will be better. I already have a demo version up on our website and people are loving it. We did a Kickstarter in January that did not reach the goal, but we have moved our fundraising over to the Game Mechanics website at: http://gamemechanics.com/projects/demo-derby/. You can get all the rewards from the Kickstarter but it ends 6/30. The game is scheduled to be out near the end of this year.
Trisha: Those all sound like great projects and I wish you the very best with Demo Derby! As you know, Atom Universe is being developed using Unreal Engine. I understand that because PlayStation Home was developed using a proprietary, in-house, Lua-based platform, similar to Unity, many former 3rd party developers for PS Home are more familiar with the Unity gaming engine (which many used for prototyping their work for PS Home) versus UE. Based on previous conversations we’ve had, you made me aware that you really didn’t have much experience working with UE either. How do you plan to address that in order to create content for Atom Universe?
John: I had never done anything with the Unity engine before I did our Hat Man game. When I showed up at Sony to start work on PS Home, there was no one in the building who knew what I was supposed to do. They pointed me at a computer and a dev kit and said, “Go.” So picking up a new development environment is what I do. Atom Republic isn’t asking me to do anything yet so I have not spent any time on it. If they call and I have time, I am on it. Recently I have had no time, which is a good thing. I prefer living indoors and my landlord wants rent every month. Lately I have been in golden shape getting outside work.
Trisha: Yes, we all have to pay those darn bills don’t we lol. I’m sure you will have no problems getting up to speed with UE. Now even though you haven’t been able to immediately contribute to creating content for Atom Universe using UE yet, I recall you telling me you were still able to help Atom Republic by providing assets for your horse game. Can you elaborate upon that?
John: In November Tanguy contacted me about porting my horse race game from PS Home, A Day at the Races, to Atom Universe. He and I worked out a deal for them to get my source and the beginnings of that you can already see in the Arcade Plaza. That is all in their court now. I cannot wait to see it working.
Trisha: Oh yes, I have noticed the horse track at the Arcade Plaza and now we know where it comes from! I can’t wait to see it working in the future! So have you been keeping up with news on Atom Universe and Atom Republic’s progress on the game? Based on what you have seen or know about Atom Universe, what do you like about the game so far and what would you most like to see in it?
John: I have walked around a few times and it shows promise. My experience is likely unusual in that I usually go in around midnight Pacific Time and no one is around. Technically it looks great. Its success will be based on people being able to buy things and hangout playing fun games. Until we see that, I will be concerned.
Then part 2 will be the ability of others to make content. I have seen a few apartments but have not seen a way to go in them myself. I need to go and hangout more.
Trisha: Well I’ve been on the Early Access version late at night when there weren’t others around too so maybe I’ll see you sometime. 🙂 Plus, during this stage of development access to PS4 users, who comprise the majority of the AU Community, is limited to Kickstarter backers/donators and those who have won PSN codes via various contests and giveaways. The Mirage House private space created by SubD Studio was accessible from the beginning of the Alpha last year up until the Early Access version was released in March of this year. SubD Studio recently remastered that space and I actually got a chance to chat with them about that here as a follow-up to my previous interview with them. I think we would all love to see spaces like the Seacliff Retreat you created for PS Home in AU! So what kind of content do you plan to create for Atom Universe? Previously created content for PS Home and/or something different?
John: I have promised Atom Republic that the day they make it so I can build items that I can sell on their platform, I will port any of our PS Home items that people want. I also had a couple that never got released that would be fun. And I really want to have another shot at autonomous characters again like the Mysterious Doll, the Robotic Canine and the Robotic Feline. I am sure I will make a few boom boxes. And who knows, maybe even a pirate game. 😉
Trisha: Sounds great, John. That Cutthroats game on PS Home was a lot of fun and I’d love to see something like that in AU. Thank you very much for your time today and we look forward to hearing more updates from you in the future as well as seeing your content in Atom Universe!
John: It’s always fun to tell my story, Trisha. And I still miss PS Home. I wish there was something similar here today, but soon we will have Atom Universe. We should go out for a few drinks and I’ll tell you my PS Home Fashion Space story. Thanks for the interview. Hopefully I’ll run into you in Atom Universe!
The interview above was conducted and written exclusively for J.F.C & The Virtual Community