Daniel: There seems to be a natural way of things, where Indie Games have become popular due to the general need of fresh ideas in games. Big companies could not afford to do this kind of experiments, independent developers began to flourish. Now, that this has been achieved, people are slowly switching they’re interest from playing games to making them. Seems like an ideal moment to start building software which is not only meant to be a game, but also a platform for creating them. What was the idea behind the creation of the UemeU project though?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): The original idea behind UemeU came from two places. The project in its original form was born from David Kaskel (@DavidKaskel) in an effort to correct some of the things he didn’t like with the Second Life platform, particularly how ‘avatar centric’ Second Life was.
When I took over the UemeU project the project changed focus, and became about me wanting to take the best bits from all the sandbox games I loved, and at the same time leave out the limitations they each impose.
When I say the ‘best bits’ it is important to note that they are not just ‘mechanics’, but actual feelings and methodologies that people experience while playing those games, which I wanted to capture. For example we didn’t take the building ‘mechanics’ from Minecraft (it’s just too simple and limiting) however I have always been fixated with the Zen-like mind-set players get into while playing and building in it: Super focused, relaxed and absorbed. I and my team aim to capture that in UemeU’s build mode particularly. Play mode is meant to be more exciting and has influences elsewhere.
Daniel: What I like about UemeU is the fact, that even though you’re basically creating a game, you don’t feel like it. The general experience is much closer to the one of playing a game rather than working on one. This approach will surely find its fans, but at the same time others may be not so keen with it. What kind of people makes your target audience?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): I tend to segment our target audience up quite a bit with UemeU. It’s a very broad game with incredible potential and therefore by definition will attract many different types of people and players for many different reasons.
The way I like to think about it first splits Build Mode and Play Mode. Although these two modes occur simultaneously the reason why they are built to be separate is twofold. One, it gives us the ability to create far better and simpler building mechanics to make building faster, more fun, and not restricted by things such as a play mode camera or a locked mouse. However perhaps more importantly is the fact that it allows users to play UemeU how they like.
When you see a Minecraft build ‘contributed to by hundreds’ or even ‘thousands’, in reality most of the time only a handful of players are building; the rest of the players simply feel like they are a part of the build because they were there at the time, communicating with the builders themselves. Having run communities myself, this made me realize that it’s not about contribution, it’s not about actually doing the action, it’s about presence and relationships with other players (at least it was on the desktop versions of Minecraft). This made me think how I could make the game be what players want it to be but at the same time make them feel like they are all together – so we split it but within one whole, two simultaneous modes.
All powerful building tools for those who love to get creative and build incredible things alone and together, and a fun, immersive, agile and exciting play mode for those who love to experience, compete, achieve and be a part of other’s creations, something closer to what one would describe as a “typical game” if that term really has to be used anymore these days. That was and still is my and now my teams fundamental goal… there’s something for all types of gamers to do, but they can do it all together and therefore all feel part of one whole… the crux behind that of any passionate and deeply attached community.
So going back to the original question: UemeU, when it is complete will be for everyone, no matter your gaming interests, if you love games you will love UemeU, if you love community you will love UemeU, if you love games and its industry you will love UemeU. It’s something I, and everyone in the team, is very passionate about. Right now I’m personally most excited to see Minecraft, Garry’s Mod and Second Life veterans come in and help us build the best creative sandbox ever, what with our ever pivoting to community requests development cycle! Nevertheless we need a blend of everything over time if we are to achieve our ultimate goal. If there was ever a game which fitted early access and early involvement and collaboration with its community, it is UemeU.
Daniel: What’s the story behind the name UemeU itself?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Some people love the name UemeU, some people hate it. However what I can say is that, players once they start saying it, or talking about it tend to like it a lot. We get so many more comments about how people think the name is “cool” or “weird, but cool now I get it” or, “Oh! It’s a palindrome!? That’s kinda cool!” than negative comments. If we do get negative comments we can understand why, however to be honest, it’s a name, we like it, and it’s not something you forget once you get it ‘You-Me-You’.
The name was born very, very early on in pre-alpha development, when UemeU was in more of a prototype state. That was when I was first was looking at the project, around the time I took over its direction. At that point UemeU was rather more niche than it is now. It had no avatars, no building hand, no humanoids, no nothing, it was simply shapes which you could build with. These shapes were ‘possessable’ and you could take control of them. For example, you could build a marble, or a fly, or a chess piece and then “become it”. The “You-Me-You” part came from the fact that for a short while, when you jumped from one object to becoming another, if someone else was in that object, they would be put in the object you came from, therefore switching your roles and objects. It was a fun and silly thing which was a part of a very niche prototype. It just ended up sticking.
Daniel: UemeU makes your first steps very simple. Without any tutorials or documentation you can get a fairly good grasp of it within hours. This simplistic approach has its limitations though. How much freedom will the final product give to the users, for example – will we be able to import external 3d models, go in to do some coding, stuff like that.
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Yes, UemeU makes what you are actually doing (collaborative 3D modelling with functionality) incredibly simple for what it is already. It’s worth noting at this point we want to make that first experience even simpler. Right now we know it takes a person who generally plays games about 40 minutes to get to a point where they can build meaningful things quickly (platformers, mazes, etc). We want to get that down to 20 minutes, and on top of that make a way for builders who don’t even have the time to learn to get a taste for what it is like in their first five minutes. We know how we are going to do this and are excited about it, but that’s all I can say regarding that at the moment. It still needs a lot of work.
You mention in your question that it will have its limitations. I disagree wholeheartedly. The user experience, the ease of use, all of that sits in the top layer of what UemeU is, the User Interface. Now UemeU, my team, and I have a core ethos that, if we can give that to a player, if they can change that values, we will put it in somewhere. We want to ‘empower’ users. We believe in the talent of gamers and have huge faith in them. The complexity has to be there at the end if they want it (and they will).
Answering your specific questions is probably the best way to exemplify how we will include complexity for users and still keep it easy to use or in the least give a smooth easy to complete learning process.
Both of what you are suggesting, 3D Model import and in game scripting, is already on our roadmap, and in fact we might be able to go even one step further! At the simple level, you put your models in a folder on UemeU server. When you connect to that server your client will download the information it needs to run the map. Once connected, your UI will have some new shapes in it, allowing for you to place them like any other object you might normally have in UemeU. This same concept can be applied to custom materials, textures etc. The exciting bit, on top of all this is that since we use Unity3D, there could be potential for people to add their own gadgets, with their own scripting, their own models, their own little Unity3D creations (via asset bundles and Unity3D packages) inside of UemeU, in multiplayer, etc and for that we will be creating our modding API, which will, in essence of how we at Omnigon Games work, give access to everything players need to make awesome stuff. I’d personally like to eventually add some in game scripting too. I was a massive fan of ComputerCraft for Minecraft after all.
Daniel: Full version of UemeU as of now costs £10.99. Is this the only payment users might expect, or will there be a more expensive, developer version of the software, or subscription payments?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): £10.99 is a generous Alpha pricing which we believe should relieve some of the early access stigma which has been caused by other games recently. The end RRP of UemeU when it hits full version will likely be around £35 -> £40 with cheaper versions available under certain situations (education, etc). The price will increase as we add features which warrant the increase, it’s likely that the price will increase to £14.50 ish when we add the new user interface and updated Avatar appearances in the next few weeks.
Although we have not completely solidified our monetisation strategy our current plans are as follows. When you buy UemeU for its base price you get the whole game, including all its updates forever. If we add a new shape, you get it, if we add a gadget, you get it etc etc. You’re buying the whole base game.
However UemeU is obviously a game which will be developed for years to come while people are playing. That’s kind of the point. To do that we required consistent income over that time period so we will need microtransactions somewhere, or another revenue stream. Something I can say at this point for sure is that we will NOT monetise the creative side of the game. We won’t charge for new shapes, gadgets, world size etc etc. It goes against our ethos and it would, in our opinion, stifle creativity and will damage the community.
So how will be monetise after the initial purchase? Here are a few ideas:
- Selling skins and special items for play mode avatars.
- Selling aesthetics which sit over the top of core gameplay (changing room / spawn animations etc)
- Third party monetisation, eg, 3D print your creations as keychains, or just small models.
- Cloud server hosting. UemeU can be run as a server wherever you like, locally or on your own host. However we could monetise the ability to set up “instant” multiplayer experiences / rooms on a very low subscription / flat purchase for time period options for those who want the convenience, or are unable to host for other reasons (poor internet connection, weaker computer hardware). It’d use exactly what we give to users but we’d offer it there as a convenience and we’d be able to offer it more cheaply in theory as we could balance server usage amongst our users rather than buy one ‘machine’ per user.
Daniel: What are the things to be most excited for in the near future in terms of new additions to the program?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Plenty of things. I tend to almost get excited about everything we update… except typos, they are just boring haha!
- New User Interface
- It will improve usability.
- Add awareness to the community about what is going on.
- Add to the whole feel of the game
- The groundwork for this is in and people will start seeing changes from the next update.
- Updated avatars
- The Avatars have had revamp on their base appearance.
- More customisation options (shininess, glow, glossiness of sections etc).
- New avatar types (Hulk, Mini, Femina).
- Having multiple avatar outfits which you choose from when you join a world for the first time. Allowing character switching etc for Role Players etc.
- More abilities.
- This was put on hold a bit for the UI rework (it needed it for us to be able to do it as it needs a pretty awesome UI).
- More abilities mean players can make more game mechanics.
- They look cool 😉
- Bug fixing
- Yes I get excited about bug fixing.
- Bug fixing in our game unleashes player creativity and that excites me. There’s a really important one to do with reflections being too bright (bright like looking at the sun) which we are very excited about fixing so people can start making cool futuristic glass worlds again.
Daniel: It was mentioned that UemeU will be very open to modders and expects the best content to come from this very source. Will all of this content be free, or will the creators be able to put up their assets for sale in some kind of a UemeU marketplace?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): People can do what they like with their mods. If there is a need for a store (which I imagine there will be) we will build one, or if we go on Steam we will likely utilize Steam Workshop or perhaps a hybrid of the two.
I’d love something like Minecraft’s Hmod, Bukkit, Canary, Spout etc etc to exist… but with more organisation and better recognition for plugin / modders who deserve it. There are a lot of unsung heros for Minecraft who I like to tout at every corner. The first who always come to mind for me are Albert Pham (@Sk89q) who built the incredible WorldEdit and WorldGuard amongst other things and Nijiko Yonskai (@nijikokun) who was pretty darn instrumental in multiplayer Permission systems for Minecraft servers back in the day. I’d argue they are both partly responsible for Minecraft’s huge success, all those plugins were requirement for any bigger MC communities to run. I’ve had the pleasure of talking plenty with Nijiko but I’d love to have the opportunity to meet (and thank) Albert.
If there isn’t a need for the store and people want to sell mods and plugins separately we won’t stop them (we’d likely have to build in some protection mechanism to help protect people’s work through if they wanted it). We want to help, nurture and educate modders, they are first class citizens to us and we will do whatever we can to support them – we’re not going to be arseholes and treat them badly like modders have been so many times in the past.
Theres also the option of open sourcing some of our code (like our API for example) and then including people plugins directly though git repositories and git powered package managers. I’ve got a lot of experience in open source web and application development and there is definitely potential for some seriously cool crossover for developers! Would love to do some stuff with Node.js. I already play around with some stuff for UemeU with it in my spare time, mostly map sharing and detail editing applications.
It’s worth noting I definitely see there being a high possibility of the best modders and developers being offered employment opportunities etc as well if they would like. Talent, passion and personality are far more important than qualifications at Omnigon Games.
Daniel: What’s the end goal here? Do you want to build the most comprehensive sandbox building game/engine or are your targets more narrowed, but more focused?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Well this is best explained by how we develop. Each thing we add is insular and compartmented and can be added and removed with relative ease. What this means is that we can set our sights on being “the most comprehensive sandbox game ever” whilst still offering the focus on areas which require it along the way.
Everything works in our favor in this regard:
- Unity3D allows us a very slick, fast moving and flexible structure to work around allowing us to stretch wide with our feature set without disregard for quality.
- Our development team is small and talented. We know our codebase backwards and therefore can pivot, update and tweak things as we need to far faster than large monolithic teams.
- Our code itself has been written in a truly modular way allowing us to build big ambitious things without losing the ability to focus if necessary.
- We’re working in a day and age where if you can learn fast as a developer you can make incredible things. Information is freely available everywhere on the internet… how do I build a large scalable file syncing application… oh hey there Google. Learn it, build it separate to UemeU, test it, implement it in UemeU, test it, and release it. What is even better is that using this methodology… our team become very good at a broad range of things and themselves gain experience extremely quickly.
In short: We can develop UemeU to be the most comprehensive sandbox game ever as well as targeting specific things and being more focused along the way. Maybe we will work on the combat system for the next 3 months and end up with a fun beat-em-up all on its own. After that we carry on with something else. UemeU doesn’t just release with a feature set, it will grow alongside and to the will of its users with my team as the crux.
Daniel: What would you say are the biggest strengths of UemeU when compared to the competitors? What are the biggest selling points for the potential user to choose this platform over other available choices?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Well all our competitors have their strengths and weaknesses, and obviously I need to be quite careful about what I say as far as negatives towards other franchises. The points I tend to bear in mind are:
- We aren’t bound to a brand.
- We can build what we want, add what we want, have avatars which look like and perform how we want. We are the only ones who are truly free to make whatever we want without constraints, and as such are able to give the most freedom and power to the end user.
- We’re not constrained by less innovative and recycled gaming mechanics and corporate gaming structure aka we’re a real Indie!
- UemeU doesn’t stop you building with objects until you unlock them (for example) by jumping through a bunch of hoops. (unless you want a mod which does that). In UemeU your characters don’t have set abilities which you can’t change (again, unless you want to set it up that way)
- UemeU won’t limit your building, we want players to be free and empowered
- We can be community driven.
- Due to the above two points we can do what the others cannot. We can do what our community actually wants. Not at the high level like… “can you please make it so I don’t need to gather so much of x resource” kind of thing (we can do that too but that isn’t special).
- What I mean is stuff like:
- Wouldn’t it be cool if you could set it so that if you fly really high you go to another world?
- Wouldn’t it be cool if we could build dinosaurs?!?
- Could I maybe use my microphone to talk out of something I’ve made?
- Can we add character sheets so that I can do Dungeons and Dragons in all the worlds which people have made?
- Yup… sure we can. It’ll take x weeks time… and you’ll need to enable the following options when its done…x, y , z.
- No-one can do that. Just us. Just UemeU.
- Oh and I won’t forget to mention that we’re darn friendly. I drop into random games of league with UemeU players, chat with them on Skype. We’re not huge, we’re an indie who loves gamers and our player base. It’s one thing saying it, and another thing doing it.
- It really comes down to whether you think a small, talented passionate team engrossed in gaming and passionate about sandbox games who are all building a game they yearn to play, will create something better than a large team were certain team members don’t even know if their code will be used and have no clue (or care for) what the person four desks down is even working on that day. That might be a bit extreme of an example…or maybe it’s not.
Daniel: How much time do you estimate has to come to pass before UemeU sees its full-fledged release, leaving Beta and becoming the project you aim for it to be?
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Well, UemeU is playable right now and is already more than enjoyable and in all honesty it’s worth the purchase as it is. That’s the point of the pricing structure, and it’s honestly a really good deal for what you get right now, not even considering all the future updates and the fact that saved objects are future compatible. The roadmap target for UemeU hitting a full on release is some time next summer with full Beta in about May in the lead up to it.
It’s extremely important to note though that due to the nature of UemeU and how it will be developed with the community behind it over the years it is played, full release is really just a line in the sand. It doesn’t mean much more major features will come out after that, other mechanics will still be fleshed out continuously. Being a player in UemeU will be like being part of a constantly evolving world with new features exposing players’ creativity every time you log in. It’s an extremely exciting broad concept and what’s nuts is we are actually doing it! It’s going to be amazing!
Daniel: Thank you very much for your time and I wish you all much success from all of us at 1ndie World. We’re very eager to see results of your work and we will be sure to keep tabs on the project.
Jeremy (@Mentioum): Cheers buddy! Looking forward to seeing your stuff and what your community has to say. 🙂