Written by Stryctnin; PSHG Co-founder and Team Writer
nDreams is possibly the most creative and innovative developer team in Home. Their imaginative and original ideas have brought adventure and mystery to the players who frequent their spaces. First with the memorable and well missed Xi and now the very popular Aurora, they have proven themselves to be the developers to go to for unique and fun games.
With the release of the new unusual looking space called Ansada Fone, I approached nDreams and asked Patrick O’ Luanaigh, Chief Executive Officer for an interview. Included are exclusive looks at the early prototypes for Ansada Fone and the Aurora space.
PSHG : Can you go into a bit of background on how and when the company was formed?
Patrick: I founded nDreams at the end of 2006 after leaving my previous role as Creative Director of Eidos. It was just me in a small office for the first 12 months.
PSHG : How many work for the company now?
Patrick: We currently have around 20 people working here, (plus we use some additional freelance staff.) And we’re hiring.
PSHG : Do you work on any projects other than Home?
Patrick: We create some Xbox Avatar Marketplace costumes and props. In the past, we’ve also created online ARGs and Facebook games as well. But we’re almost totally focused on Home at the moment.
PSHG : I just discovered that you make Facebook games from your website, how different is that from developing for Home?
Patrick: The process is similar, but the biggest hassle with creating online 3D games is that they need to run on a range of different browsers/computers. Home is so much easier, as everyone has a PS3 with the same powerful graphical rendering power. Facebook is also very competitive now and it’s hard to get your game noticed. We had more success with branded games than our own original IP on Facebook.
PSHG : Any plans on doing a full disc based game or PSN games in the future?
Patrick: I don’t think we’ll ever create a game that launches at retail on a disc. But creating a PSN game? We have a fantastic relationship with Sony, so it’s definitely possible in the future.
PSHG : Most of the spaces you create in Home have an RPG feel to them. What genre of games do you all mostly enjoy to play?
Patrick: We love narrative and storyline, hence it tends to infiltrate almost everything we create! Pretty much everyone in the office is a huge gamer, but we do have a broad range of tastes – shooters, RPGs, RTS games, plus social and iPhone games as well. We also seem to have a lot of Call of Duty fans here. I play pretty much anything, but my favourite titles are games like Uncharted 2, Oblivion, Ico, Half Life, Bioshock and Flower. Skyrim is the game I’m most looking forward to currently.
PSHG : What type of foods and drinks get ya’ll through the day?
Patrick: Caffeine and cookies.
PSHG : Xi was an instant hit with the users of Home and is deeply missed by the lucky users that were around then that had a chance to play it. Can you give us any insights on its creation?
Patrick: It was probably the most exciting and tense project I’ve ever worked on – it was our first nDreams game, so we had a lot to prove. We were fortunate in that we spent about six months playing around with Home trying things out, pushing the tech and coming up with a very ambitious design. Everything just about hung together and we had stressful moments during the live 3-month period, but it was hugely satisfying. We remain incredibly proud of it, and the reaction that it received from the Home community.
PSHG : Xi was filled with minigames. The most notable ones were in the game test area section called Hexopolis. It consisted of 6 games named :
- Point of Sale
- Zombie Mall
- Angry Mountain
Were they created by the same person or each created by a different person?
Patrick: Actually, those games were designed by a designer who worked here called Nikayo. We set him the challenge of creating some quick snappy mini games and he designed them all (as well as the two text adventure games).
Any plans on releasing them as a package in the PSN store or other outlet?
Patrick: No – we put them into the Xi Museum (where they are playable for free) and to be honest, we’re now focusing on big new projects.
PSHG : The Xi storyline took players through the underworld of Home where they tried to figure out what happened to the people who developed it. Along the way we are introduced to Jess and a yacht that is called Capulet which is from Romeo and Juliet. Was that an insinuation of a romance that had gone terribly wrong?
Patrick: There were quite a few subtle storylines that our writer touched on. Jess/Jessica’s past is something we didn’t go into, but you may just be right.
PSHG : Is there really a Jess?
Patrick: I don’t want to give anything away should a sequel ever appear.
PSHG : In Jess’s Apartment there is a painting on the second floor above the fireplace of a cow being eaten by a shark. I have wondered what that is all about since first entering the space when it was part of the Xi game. Is there any significance to it? Why did you choose that to be in there?
Patrick: It was an image that we really liked; we wanted to keep a slightly threatening/dangerous feel to Xi, and I think the picture helped add a little touch of that to the apartment.
PSHG : After Xi was removed pictures of the Pirates Galleon Ship started popping up everywhere and rumors that it was going to be the next Xi started. Is there any chance we will see another ARG (Alternate Reality Game) like Xi in the near future? Maybe a Xi 2?
Patrick: I’d like to plead the fifth amendment on that question.
PSHG : Musicality was the first space that users could play musical instruments and be on stage with their friends at the same time. Was Rock Band a contributing factor in the creation of this space?
Patrick: Maybe a little bit. We felt that jamming on stage would be a cool thing to do. I’d previously produced a PS1/PS2 game called ‘Music/Music 2000′ (known as MTV Music Generator in the U.S) so the idea of taking samples/loops that were in the same key/tempo and allowing players to change them on the fly seemed like a good one.
PSHG : Both the Aurora Public and Personal spaces are the most graphically detailed spaces out in Home as well as the most bizarre. Could you share the inspirations on the creation of them?
Patrick: We wanted to do something unusual and unique. There are so many photo-realistic spaces in Home based on places that exist in real life; surely one of the best things about a virtual world is that you don’t need to stick to reality! We have a very talented artist here who came up with the Aurora concept and brought it to life.
PSHG : I interviewed your first NA General Jmbazi for the Gazette a few months ago. Is there anything planned special for the Aurora Generals?
Patrick: Yes. We’re waiting on Sony to sort a couple of things out for us but it shouldn’t be long. We plan to induct more Generals moving forwards.
PSHG : The Collect-O-Rama Scavenger Game is a unique approach on collecting some good, exclusive items on Home and something that is pretty hot right now. Are there any other plans for something like this in your future projects?
Patrick: Not straight away, but I’m sure we’ll do something else like that next year.
PSHG : How high up do you plan on the leveling to go in Aurora? Do you plan on capping it off anytime?
Patrick: We’re going to cap it at 100 for now. We have a very special level 100 reward launching soon.
PSHG : I’m currently at level 65 and it takes a while now to level up. Are there any plans to release more items to come out to help you level?
Patrick: The Aurora hoodie should help you level up quickly (once you’re over level 55) if you don’t have that. We might also introduce something else to help people level faster at some point soon after the level 100 cap is introduced.
PSHG : In the Aurora personal space there is a wooden fence with a gate. Are there any plans to extend the space or add-on to it?
Patrick: Yes. We have LOTS of plans to extend both Aurora and the apartment as well. It’s simply a matter of time and resources (we’ve been very busy on the Bootleggers ’29 FPS in particular). Hopefully soon.
PSHG : Located in the Aurora Public Space there is a fishing pole and tackle box, do they hold any significance?
Patrick: Yep – check out Aurora 1.2 which has now launched and the Sky Fishing game.
PSHG : What’s the highest level any one of your team has gotten in the game?
Patrick: Level 1000. But we can cheat 😉
PSHG : Highest amounts of points in the orb running game any one of your team has gained?
Patrick: 1,000,000. See the previous answer.
PSHG : Highest amount of points in the Island Defense game?
Patrick: 1,000,000,000. Being the creator of the game has its advantages.
Ansada Fone Space.
PSHG : This is a very unusual space and something that has not ever been seen in Home. Almost like a 3D sidescroller. How did this space come about to being made?
Patrick: We were approached by a great guy who creates a comic called Ansada Fone. We worked with him on some ideas and came up with the concept for the apartment – we’d been thinking about a fixed tracking-camera style 2D view for a while and the cartoon style seemed to suit the concept well. We thought it would be quite an unusual addition to Home and certainly pretty different to usual apartments.
PSHG : What inspirations did you use to design it?
Patrick: Cartoons, 2D plat-formers and cell-shaded games like XIII.
PSHG : XIII, if any of you remember it, was an extremely awesome game.
PSHG : This fall sees a big change in Home. What are your thoughts on Home’s 1.55 Update and how will it affect you and your creations?
Patrick: It’s going to be massive. The next few months should be very exciting, and we have a number of games that form part of the 1.55 update so we’re closely involved. Jack Buser talked about Bootleggers ’29 recently – it’s a multiplayer FPS game which forms part of the update. We really enjoyed creating Bootleggers, and I believe it’s the best game we’ve created in Home so far.
PSHG : What has been the biggest challenge creating for Home?
Patrick: It’s an evolving and technically challenging platform. Bugs and issues that crop up on a system like Home when there is a big update are the most frustrating and difficult things to deal with (and the PSN outage wasn’t much fun for us either!), but that’s to be expected from a platform in Beta that is evolving so quickly.
PSHG : Do any of you use Home personally?
Patrick: Yes – I’m normally in Home at least once a week, and many of the guys use Home in the evenings or at lunchtime. We recently hired a fairly well-known member of the Home Community at nDreams – he’s writing an article about his experiences in our next monthly ‘nDreamers’ newsletter (sign up at www.facebook.com/ndreamers).
PSHG : What would you like to see changed about Home that would possibly make it easier for you to develop?
Patrick: More memory, the ability to create active items (like the bubble machine) and to build more advanced companions with clever behaviour. And I’d like Sony to promote Home more; the amount of variety in Home is incredible with some amazing publishers, games and spaces. If only more PS3 owners realised just how great Home has become!
PSHG : What’s your favorite thing about Home?
Patrick: The possibilities. We’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible in Home. The next few years are going to be incredibly exciting.
I would like to thank Patrick for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.