by BONZO, HSM Editor
You’ve seen it, and no, you aren’t dreaming. It isn’t just amazing; it is as if Juggernaut is the genie that’s made all those wishlist items since the beginning of time – at least in Home – come true.
There’s so much going on in this space that it’s hard to know where to begin. The multi-platform design of this space, the interactive djinns, the shop with themed content with an inventory of giftable items. Oh and the ability to fly around the space. There’s so much custom goodness in this space that I am having a difficult time accepting its awesomeness. I am looking for flaws, and I want to see flaws because part of me refuses to accept a personal space in Home could actually be this near to perfection. Custom pool dive emote, swim emote, custom poses, and — oh yeah — a flying emote.
Did I mention you can fly?
The superlative nature of this apartment isn’t limited to this space, and that is even more mindblowing. Several active items which you can acquire without having to own the space have some very cool features. But seriously, why wouldn’t you want this space? It is amazing, expansive — and you can fly.
So let’s break it down here. Several active items each have specific abilities you can activate in any personal space. Among these, there’s a lounger rug which lets you lounge in five different poses and take pictures, and lets you chose to hide it so you can turn any bed or floor into an active lounger. There’s a lamp which sets you on fire — not sure why you would want that, but it sounds really cool. A lamp which sprouts tropical plants around your apartment. A lamp which causes rain in your personal space. And, best of all, an active item which lets you fly, in any personal space.
It didn’t seem possible to be able to pull so much win out of one developer’s project, and so many different questions floated around in our minds. Fortunately the folks at Juggernaut are incredibly awesome people whom we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing before, and Elena Consacro, Product Manager for Juggernaut Games, took the time to answer a few questions for us.
HSM: You have a set of floating platforms in the sky; what led to that decision rather than placing the space in a desert setting? Was it easier to implement the flying ability over incorporating that function into a desert background, or did Juggernaut just want to delve deeper into a middle eastern/Indian fantasy theme and avoid a cliche?
Juggernaut Games: Once we decided we wanted to incorporate flying into the space, we knew we wanted to give people a reason to fly. This organically led us to the idea the space should consist of multiple platforms that you would access through flight. We also wanted to open up a lot of space for people to fly around and have a very limited number of barriers and obstacles. It seemed like getting rid of the ground would open up the most room and would also allow people to experience the space from some unique viewpoints. It feels very liberating to be able to just jump off any platform and start flying. I think that sense of freedom would have been significantly constrained had the Palace been earthbound.
HSM: What was your main inspiration for the Palace? There are multiple themes here; you reference Arabian Nights in the press release, and that’s a collection of stories which range from southern, central and west Asia to north Africa. That encompasses a lot of cultures, sometimes with very different aesthetics, from Hindu, Sumerian, Persian to Egyptian. Some of those themes are evident, and in some you obviously took liberties, understandably, but the back story of the place — where did that come from? Is there any reference from Tripura, the three flying cities in Hindu mythology?
JG: We wanted to create a unique architectural and aesthetic profile with Seven Winds. In doing so, we pulled elements from a variety of different architectural styles, including Islamic, Ottoman and Mughal, and combined them in ways that are not necessarily historically or culturally accurate. We wanted to create a fantasy universe and we intentionally tried to avoid sticking too closely to any one existing style of architecture. We also added elements that were more unrealistic or asymmetrical to help give the area a more “otherworldly” feel.
As for the mythological back story of Seven Winds, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to include some form of djinn or genie, but also that we wanted to incorporate the four elements as part of the magical world of Seven Winds. We wanted to create a universe where the four classical elements (fire, water, earth and air) were the source of all magic and the powers of the each djinn revolved around manipulation of one of these elements. In this mythos, certain djinn are constructed from and control the power of a particular element. The Palace is in the realm of wind, and wind is responsible for giving the player the power of flight. Beyond that, we leave it open for players to construct their own story.
HSM: What is the significance behind the Palace of the Seven Winds name? Why seven? Seven is a very symbolic number in many theologies, representing completion, totality, unity and a number of other symbolic meanings; were any of these taken into account when the name was conceptualized, or is it merely coincidence?
JG: Seven is one of those meaningful numbers that has numerous associations touching many areas of human culture. Seven “sounded” right to us, and I think that is due to the large number of positive associations everyone has with that number. It’s also a number that is heavily associated with magic and luck, which seemed appropriate.
HSM: Most westerners only associate Persian themes with Aladdin, and perhaps to some degree Sinbad and Ali Baba — but very few know of the great epics from Hindu mythology like the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, or the Sumerian myths, do you think there is any cultural significance to introducing a theme most of the western world is still very unfamiliar with?
JG: We wanted Seven Winds to be unique, so we chose to take inspiration from some cultures and themes that have had a limited exposure in Home. Our main goal was to create something that was aesthetically pleasing and fun. That said, I’d certainly love it if the space actually inspired people to learn more about a culture or history that they had previously not been exposed to. I think that exposure to new ideas inevitably leads us on the path towards openness and tolerance, which are always important qualities – and frankly sometimes in short supply these days.
HSM: Certain themes lend themselves to certain expectations, and animals often fall into themes. Will there be any camels, elephants, or tigers involved in the space? Two of those exist as companions already, but camels haven’t been created yet; will there be any occupants other than the djinns? Perhaps wildlife, like birds or some of the aforementioned animals?
JG: At this point, there aren’t any animals in the Palace, apart from some flying insects. We avoided doing tigers and elephants simply because they had already been done. Camels are definitely something we would consider adding in an update!
HSM: Undoubtedly, the community will ask if there will be themed weapons or a flying carpet? Even with the power to fly, the theme will almost surely stamp the concept of a flying carpet into their psyche; did you consider a flying carpet and opt against it, or were you dead set on avatar flying from the start?
JG: We briefly considered the flying carpet idea, but we decided we wanted flying to feel more natural to the player. Rather then feel like you were controlling an object, we felt it was important to give you that free feeling of actually soaring through the air. After we tried it, we knew it was the right way to go. As for weapons, there are none right now. We would love to add additional content as time goes on, and Persian or eastern-style daggers, scimitars and tabarzin are some of the items on our list of possible additions.
HSM: The ability to fly is phenomenal, and long desired by the community; was it more difficult to give avatars the power to fly over a flying carpet item? Did you feel perhaps the flying carpet concept would be a cliche?
JG: It was a bit more difficult to create a very natural feeling with avatar flight as opposed to flying via a carpet. The camera had to be customized to move in a way that felt natural. If we had used a carpet, the avatar’s upper body would have had a smaller range of movement since he would always be sitting upright on the carpet, which would have simplified it some. However, I think it was worth it for the end result – flight that feels natural and fun!
HSM: Juggernaut Games has been mostly associated with MiniBots and the robot companions — basically tech/ sci-fi. Why deviate into something so fantasy-oriented, as opposed to going deeper into sci-fi? The platforms could have easily worked with asteroids, and flying could have worked with space suits or jet packs. Did you just want to break away from the robot theme?
JG: We loved working on Minibots, but we wanted to do something different and more fantasy oriented. We also wanted to venture in a different direction than the typical European-based norse/Arthurian magical fantasy realms. We loved the idea of an Arabian Nights palace, especially since the architecture of that region is so distinctive and beautiful.
HSM: Robots tend to hold a very masculine appeal; did you find your previous products weren’t appealing to Home’s female market? Do you feel the fantasy theme of the Palace of the Seven Winds will appeal more to Home’s females, or do you anticipate a good balance?
JG: Our intent was to appeal to a good balance of Home users, and hopefully we will find that we did just that. There is a significant amount of content associated with this space, and I really think there is something for everyone. One of the items I’m sure almost anyone could benefit from owning is the Essence of the Seven Winds active item. The Essence takes up only six furniture slots and allows you to fly in any personal space.
HSM: The Cutteridge estate was one of the first estates in Home to introduce weather, with a controllable downpour. The Lamp of the Deluge will allow you to introduce rain into any space you own, but will it be spread out all over the space or just a specific area? How difficult is it to introduce dynamic weather into a space, and is that something you’ve thought about doing?
JG: We would love to expand more on that idea, and add other types of variations to the weather in other spaces. Due to the memory limits of personal spaces, however, putting in a fully detailed dynamic weather system would definitely put limits on what else you could do with the space. The nice thing about the Lamp of the Deluge is that it allows users to create a rainstorm pretty much anywhere. It creates a large area of rain that will cover most personal spaces.
HSM: Gifting is still very limited in Home, and we are seeing only a little expansion of that; Juggernaut implemented some of that into the Minibots Training Facility, and with the Palace this makes the second Juggernaut space with items to gift. Will the themed gift items be exclusively available only through the gift store in Palace of the Seven Winds, or will all Juggernaut gift items be available in both stores and updated periodically?
JG: At this time, the Seven Winds merchant will only sell Seven Winds items and the same with MiniBots. We implemented a new feature with the Seven Winds store that allows you to view the item in 3D before you purchase, so combining them would have been difficult. We plan on updating both stores with new items in the future, and we might also decide to combine them into one store that you can access from both locations.
HSM: Are you looking to expand further on gifting? What sort of obstacles have you faced with that function? Why not just introduce a gifting active item like a gift machine, which would have both the inventories of the MiniBots and the Palace of the Seven Winds, plus any future items you may introduce for gifting?
JG: We’d love to introduce a gifting active item – but, unfortunately, there are still some licensing hurdles we would have to jump through in order to make that happen. Gifting is a great feature to have that is beneficial both to the users and to the developers. Ideally it would be available as an option in the Home store and not require an additional system and virtual currency. That said,we had all the tools necessary to create our own system and we’d love to expand on it in the future!
Home has grown, and if the previous updates in personal spaces, public games and avatar capabilities weren’t enough to prove it, just take a gander at this space. Take note of all its amazing features, detailed in this interview, and in the announcement video. There is so much content to get excited about from this new Juggernaut estate alone that if you can’t enjoy Home with what it has…there’s just no pleasing you.
Home is a melting pot of cultures and ideas, and those elements are being featured in the content of the development itself. There is no direct representation of any specific culture in Palace of the Seven Winds, but the plethora of influences is evident and unique in the Home platform. This new addition from Juggernaut breaks through limitations, expands the ambitious desires of the Home user, and tears down the limited exposure we have had in this virtual bubble. Once again, Juggernaut dares to think outside the box — beyond our western borders, as well — to create something new and yet familiar — and completely unexpected.