Yes folks, I just quoted Semisonic’s now famous 90s hit Closing Time. So what is with the metaphors? Well, just like the song Closing Time, its PlayStation Home asking its residents to “Gather up their jackets, move it to the exits and they hope you have found your friends”. With the closure of Home, “Every New Beginning Starts with Some other Beginning’s End”. In that case, one of those new beginnings is Atom Republic’s shiny new and upcoming Virtual Theme Park Social Gaming Network for PC and PS4, Atom Universe.
Recently, Atom Republic has been releasing some small demos on PC to show us periodically how the project has been progressing. Last night, I had the opportunity to try out demo 5.
Immediately, upon start up, I found myself in a shiny new, neon lit theme park that has that next gen coat of paint that the Unreal Engine 4 gives it. A blimp was flying around the area broadcasting old videos from Director On Duty’s company, PSTalent. As I ran around in this bold, futuristic new world, I found myself at a shooting gallery with a really cool looking rifle shooting away at neon green targets that looked like it belonged in a sci-fi thriller than a carnival.
Its inhabitants were dressed in various costumes just like you would find in PSHome. You had your cool guys, military and security guard types, fantasy girls straight out of any Western RPG, dancers, you name it. Although the program started me out with a basic avatar bearing a t-shirt with Atom Republic’s signature logo, I had a new ability that I never had in PlayStation Home. I was able to actually possess any character in the game world and run around as them. Did you ever want to mess around with the NPCs selling Sushi in The Great Edo of Nippon? Ever want to make Vickie load up into a hovercraft or stomp of scorpions? With the features that Atom has put into Universe, These are all very real possibilities if they decide to keep this unique feature in the final version.
Speaking of dancing, nDreams provided Atom with some motion captured rigs for Gungnam Style and the Samba. The theme park has two areas for dancing. One is a stage where a bunch of avatars were performing a line dance. This stage is very reminiscent of the music player in Central Plaza. Two is a night club type area that is under a tent in back of the Ferris Wheel (And yes, you can also ride the Ferris Wheel just like you could in Home.)
Another thing I like that is immediate is the fact that avatar interaction is built into the engine from the get go. In the interaction menu, so far you can shake hands with other characters, give them piggy back rides and like I said previously or possess their souls and make them do your bidding, MUHAHAHAHA… (Ooops, did I just say that. No I mean “borrow” them for a while, just for a little bit…)
While the project is still very new and there is still a lot of work to be done, its clear that Atom Universe has a lot of heart and pays respect to the community we will soon say goodbye to while introducing us to their new and unique sense of style. For a small indie studio to attempt a project this massive, I give them a ton of credit and respect for carrying the torch into the next generation onto the PS4. Seeing that PSTalent, nDreams and more recently, Game Mechanics signed on to develop for Atom Universe and lend some more credibility to this world, it looks very promising.
As you can see after the first paragraph of this article, I made a brief video showing a preview of what I experienced while I was playing their latest demo. If you like what you see, feel free to go to http://atomuniverse.net/AU/index.php?%2Ftopic%2F321-kickstarter-demo-5%2F to download it. Afterwards, if you want to see this come out on the PS4 and PC faster, head over to their Kickstarter Page and support the development of Atom Universe.
Finally, as Semisonic once said “I know who would want to take me Home”, and Atom Universe is one of those projects that will.