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David Dobson Exclusive Interview

Discussion in 'Entropia News' started by GeorgeSkywalker, Nov 9, 2010.

  1.  
    GeorgeSkywalker
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    George Ace Skywalker
    Planet Arkadia
    CEO David Dobson Exclusive Interview

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    Many of us sometimes dream of setting up a planet in Entropia Universe. Well, David Dobson has been a long-term player of Entropia Universe and has done exactly that. The following interview gives a peek inside the path that led to developing Planet Arkadia.

    On 3rd November 2010 Planet Arkadia was announced at EntropiaPlanets.com. It was not long before I asked Ozi for an interview and to my amazement, he agreed. I couldn’t help wondering if only everything in life was so simple. To those who may be unfamiliar with Ozi, he is an in game player whose real name is David Dobson.

    If I had a medal to give for planet announcements, I for one without hesitation would give it to Planet Arkadia, because I must confess, I was extremely impressed with their website, and impressed with the level of detail they were willing to share from storyline, concept art to video interviews.

    When this interview was conducted, it was in the early hours of the morning for Dave but evening for me here in England. I would firstly like to extend my appreciation to Dave for making such a sacrifice of his time for this interview.

    Naturally, given the circumstances, my first few questions were about time, and it was here that Dave mentioned, “Our Community Manager Cyrus is also still here working.” From here we got to talking about Cyrus, and I learned that “EwoK and Vantastic are also investors in Arkadia. Although Cyrus is also an Entropian (Cyrusley Cyrus Slayer), not an uber, has been around EU for about four years. He was in the society I ran, Global Alliance, and we connected on Facebook. I used to help him with his assignments when he was studying a Diploma of Mass Communication. We just stayed in touch; he was helpful when I was setting up the company in Singapore, one thing led to another and I offered him a job here.”

    I asked how he managed to keep his planet all a secret, “It has been very hard. It's so easy for information to slip out onto the internet, especially when recruiting staff, etc. I know one of our job adverts got posted on a forum that showed up on a Google search.” He shares that was lucky because there was no mention of Entropia with it and also that NDA’s helped too, as he smiles cheekily.

    Next I asked a series of random questions all too aware time was getting fairly late for Dave.

    When did you start work on Planet Arkadia?

    The Company was formed earlier this year; we have had the full team in place for less than three months. MA has been great to work with, and the team here has heaps of experience, so we are making incredible progress.

    Could your studio start helping to create other planets too like ND studios? Is this something that’s in the pipeline?

    Not at this point, we are very focused on building Arkadia to be amazing - although I'd never rule anything out. There is so much potential in a planet to keep developing it, would have to be something very interesting for us to develop for someone else, i.e. we'd probably need to be approached, we'll let the quality of Arkadia show just how good this team is.

    How did you come up with the name Arkadia?

    It actually took quite a long time to come up with the name. I was mainly looking for ancient names I guess. It's only after I chose the name I realized it was used in other games as Arcadia, both names originate from the same area. Ancient Greece has a few meanings, one is a region, but was also referring to a form of heaven, i.e. a beautiful place. That fit with Arkadia the planet, rich history, plentiful place.

    [​IMG]
    Planet Arkadia concept art by Feng Zhu of colony fort city

    Planet Arkadia uses a lot of Eastern influences, how did that come about?

    It suits our location in Singapore. Even more importantly, it just hasn't been explored that much, and there is just such an amazing variety throughout history. People will notice that the planet is extremely consistent in everything, from naming conventions, to story, to design - it was important for us to set the framework right from the start that we can hold to for years to come.

    Talking of storyline, I notice it mentions robots, so is it in the same timeframe as Calypso?

    Yes approximately the same, it's not connected per se, the story is totally independent, but people won't feel any clash between them. The theme of the planet is very much about Treasure Hunting, led by the Archaeological Society.

    At the mention of Archaeology this reporter got even more excited because I’ve worked in Archaeology in real life and space archaeology is just a joyous concept. After regaining composure I ask.

    Is it real life items or all virtual treasure?

    I can't reveal very much there, the story is big though, what you see on the website is only the first four installments. There will be about twelve installments per chapter. We will be releasing additional installments, roughly weekly right through until launch.

    Are they already written up or will they be written later?

    We have a great writing team, most of the story is already written, still polishing parts that aren't due for a while yet. The big thing I think players will love is that through the treasure hunting, they will play a big role in how and when the planet develops.

    How many writers do you have?

    We have four writers. I think Cyrus will do an interview with our lead writer at some stage in the next month or two.

    How many people do you have in the team as a whole?

    We have a mix of full-time and part-time/contractor, around 15 mostly full-time.

    How did you decide to base the studio in Singapore?

    Singapore has fantastic infrastructure and is very supportive of new media. It's also great for bringing together an international team. There is no way I could have brought together the team I have if I stayed in Australia. It's also beautiful and warm every day and I mean every day, 365.

    It also puts us in the heart of Asia, makes travel in this region super easy, but also quite easy to reach the rest of the world.

    What do you like most about Singapore apart from the weather?

    It’s incredibly clean and has almost zero crime. People are extremely friendly and welcoming of all cultures.

    How difficult was it to relocate from Australia?

    It was a big challenge actually, mainly because I was coming to set up a new company. It would be pretty easy if someone came to work for a big company here. There are around 100,000 expats here. Around 30k are Australian.

    What were the challenges in setting up a company?

    I had to convince the Singapore Government first, to get a visa that allowed me to operate a company here - they were very helpful actually, but still took some work and a few meetings. Just all the stuff you can imagine, where to live, where to open a bank account, where to have a baby. My wife was six months pregnant when we moved, she is Lady Missa Saint in game. So yeah, kind of normal year really, move countries, establish new company, have a baby. The challenges have been fun though.

    At this stage David excuses himself for some coffee. Maybe he needed it to stay awake so I double checked if it’s ok for him to continue with the interview. We wouldn’t want a casualty now would we ...

    When is the planet due for launch?

    It will be exactly......
    Ah can't say just yet…
    It will be first half next year.

    How much of the planet has been created so far?

    Well, we started with theme concepts from Feng Zhu then we moved into developing areas based off that. The team is working on different things at the same time, so it’s not really a linear progression, i.e., lots comes together all at once. Our team is comprised of specialists, so we have people who specialize in characters (mobs, etc.) and others who do environment, or items, or buildings, or organics.

    Do you have problems with things being "disjointed" or mismatched if different things don’t come together as they are supposed to?

    That's a really good question. It takes some good management to ensure this doesn't happen. Our Art Director guides the team at all times to ensure everything is consistent. It's also important that the team knows the grander vision of what we are creating. As I said earlier, we have gone to great lengths to ensure all that is clear before production gets underway.

    Perhaps opportunities arise after you have started something, new idea may come along after half or more work has been done. Have you ever been tempted to go along with the new idea at the expense of loosing work already created?

    We definitely tweak things as we go, almost every day guys on the team will find a better way to do something (i.e., use less polygons = faster frame rates) etc. That doesn't really change things to the point of scrapping stuff and it's the benefit of the experience in the team that they look for ways to make things better or lighter on the polygons. We are very focused on frame rates to ensure Arkadia isn't only for people with very high end machines.

    [​IMG]
    Planet Arkadia concept art by Feng Zhu of energy weapon

    How do you plan to market Arkadia?

    Although we will spread the word globally, we will be largely targeting Asia. The marketing I can't say exactly what we are doing. However, we are very focused on drawing in new players. Entropia Universe is largely unknown in Asia, so there is a massive market here.

    What are your projections for new players coming to Arkadia?

    We aren't saying any projections, they don't mean much anyway.

    With being a player in EU and now a planet developer is there a conflict of interest?

    No. Mindark controls all the loot, so I have no influence there, but beyond that, you won't see me doing anything that would suggest a conflict of interest, i.e., I won't be "playing" on Arkadia, although I will be in game to say good day.

    As a planet developer how much control do you have over how you set up loot on mobs – i.e., can you set up a mob and assign what items can be looted from it and what frequency?

    Not much at all really, quite sensibly, MA keeps that very close to themselves. I like to have the distance, because it helps to avoid any conflicts or even suggestion of such.

    Doesn't that make it difficult to develop - because how do you know which mob will be difficult, or where mobs are placed in the world?

    Well we design the mobs and their difficulty and their placement. MindArk then works out loot that suits the mobs. I guess the simple point is that MA does loot, we do most of the rest which is checked by MA.

    I think it's important that this is clear, same applies to all partner planets - it's a massive job for MA to ensure everything stays in balance.

    What’s the most difficult part in setting up a planet?

    It's actually surprisingly technical, it looks like it’s a lot of 3D design, but there is a lot that goes on behind that. Not any one thing really, just on a daily basis, we deal with quite a few different software packages, they all have to talk, servers need to link etc. This is where experience helps a lot.

    [​IMG]
    Planet Arkadia concept art by Feng Zhu of colony fort

    How "big" will Arkadia be on launch? How many areas (8x8km)?

    Good question, but can't answer 100% just yet.

    How many TPs, how many missions, how many creatures?

    I can say there will definitely be TP's, missions and creatures. It will actually be a surprise regarding creatures and TP's. Missions I imagine we will announce how many before launch, will certainly be a lot, we are actually working on some missions this week.

    By now it was extremely late for David, after 4am. So we said our thanks.

    I must also say it’s been a pleasure interviewing David as he’s been extremely helpful and went out of his way to help the staff at Entropia Planets. Very appreciated, and we wish him the best with Planet Arkadia.

    Watch out for a second exclusive interview with David on How to set up a planet in Entropia Universe.

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  2.  
    MindStar9
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    Great job on the interview Ace ... and thanks to Dave for taking the time to give more insight into Planet Arkadia. It's going to be an exciting journey to watch the evolution of this planet, and if what we have been privileged to see thus far is any indication, I have no doubt that we will be seeing a quality product.

    I have had opportunity to interact with Dave and staff, and there is a collective, organized mindset with where they are taking Planet Arkadia, as well as how they want to engage players within the environment. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this community will see elements introduced that cater to what we ourselves would like to experience in our universe. They invite, and listen to feedback, even solicit community input, as Dave has done here. It's nice as a player to have opportunity to be influential based on our own experiences in how a developer looks at their product.

    There is another exclusive article with content provided by Dave that will be shared with the community about the path from vision to signing on the dotted line and launching a planet. EP is grateful for the opportunity to be able to work in partnership with Dave and the Arkadia staff to make sure that the flow of information about Arkadia is as frequent as possible. This is what we do at EP ... support the efforts of planet partners in promoting their planets to the current community and beyond.

    Here's to a very long, productive, and successful partnership, and a most exciting planet Arkadia. :beerchug:
  3.  
    EwoK
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    EwoK Southern Fortress Engineering

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    Fantastic article Ace. Very nice job indeed. Easy to read and follow with plenty of info and some well placed humour. You are a real asset to the E-Team at Entropia Planets.
  4.  
    Manny
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    Thanks for the interview :D

    Is it just me or Arkadia just keeps on getting better and better? I better start packing...
  5.  
    Lykke - Cyrene
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    Lykke - Cyrene Community Manager - Cyrene

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    nope, that's not just you!

    I have to say though, that a LOT of the new Planets sounds too good to be true :D And right now I'm struggling about what new planet I wish to visit first (I know, depends on the relases, but seems they are going to be quite close ;) )
  6.  
    Jamira
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    Thank you Ace ... and Dave ofc!

    I guess this kind of PR is the reason for feeling cozy and make me bow-taut. I can't help ... Dave's words sounds much more solid to me than everything else I've heard so far from other developers of new planets. Well, we have no proof so far ;-) ... except Episode I to IV. When I read, that four of a 15 to 20 peeps team take care for the story, I got a glance in my eyes. Okay, it's probably not the interest of the majority to know the background. Some may simply want to kill mobs. (I know people at Calypso who never change their clothes (!) nor take a shower ... they run around in their favorite armor all days ...). But combined with a good start area for newbies at Arkadia it may help a lot to drag new players into the game.

    And hey! Cool background picture behind ya Dave!
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    Softhart
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    Great Article and its great to get some news about other planets where it doesn't fell like you have to beg to get it. But from past experiences, we have seen how long it has taken other planets to come online.........both the ones we have now have been delayed. David you mentioned that you have had the full team in place for less than three months. But plan on going live the beginning of 2011. This says to me that from start to finish its only going to take a year?

    I probably already know the answer to this, but who controls the fee to visit your planet? Is it going to be the same 40 peds it is now? And if MA controls that, do you have a voice in the matter? With all the new planets showing up maybe one day I want to see this one, and the next day I want to go somewhere else...........that adds up.
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    MindStar9
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    When I interviewed David Post from Next Island, he said in his interview that MindArk is mandating the current travel fee to other planets, and I believe Ed Robles from Cyrene may have said the same thing to me, so it looks like the planet partners don't have a choice, but ... David Post said that they would not make it higher than the mandated fee by MindArk. Perhaps Dave (Ozi) has more insight into this that he can share.
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    Bogger

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    Great interview and really looking forward to seeing and reading more. Great work Ozi/David :)
  10.  
    Ozi
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    All I can say on the development schedule is watch our progress over the coming months.

    As MS9 pointed out the fee is Universe wide for travel. We certainly won't be increasing it.
  11.  
    Softhart
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    Softhart

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    Maybe I wasn't that clear, I wanted to know if had any pull as to whether you could change that fee. In discussions with MA could/would you ever say we believe that fee is too much and request it be lowered?
  12.  
    Jamira
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    Jamira Samurai Girl

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    Maybe it can happen if a lot of player buy a oneway ticket ;-)
  13.  
    Ozi
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    Ozi Planet Arkadia - CEO

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    I think we need to wait and see what happens with space travel.
  14.  
    GeorgeSkywalker
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    Firstly thank you everyone for the positive replies. Always nice to read that.

    Space travel. So many questions pop into my mind about it. I doubt you'll be allowed to answer this one but I can't help asking ;) Are we likely to have space travel before Planet Arkadia is launched?

    I have my doubts but there is a very real possibility we'll have that soon.
  15.  
    Softhart
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    Interesting, didn't think about that. Maybe hanger owners will charge lower then 40 peds in order to retain business. That is of course if they can travel to other planets :)

    Thanks for answering the questions, appreciate that :)
  16.  
    Lazz

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    Very nice interview indeed :clap: Good job George, and big thx Ozi for the information.
    The progress of this planet is awesome, but with such a team i can understand how hehe

    I sure looking forward to this launch, i like the anicent idea and it all looks very nice to me :)
    I havent read all of the storry yet but so far its sound great i must say :clap:
  17.  
    malasuerte
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    malasuerte

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    The level of openness and enthusiasm of this guy makes me think this new planet has a very bright future.

    Is anyone else feeling a bit overwhelmed with how fast things are moving in the past months? all the announcements, new planets, new content. It seems Entropia is gaining momentum, I'm getting very excited about the future.
  18.  
    Davies Davies

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    Great Article ! And I am really impressed by the skills and level of professionalism of their design team. The best of all the planets I have seen sofar. Planet Arkadia will be a visual feast for sure. Now just have to gather enough sweat for the ticket ....

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