New Worlds Project – An Interview With Kim Smouter

Some of you may recall that earlier in the year we talked a little about something called the New Worlds Project – a reboot of an interactive sci-fi experience which is promising big things. It’s an RPG, a community driven world-building project, and even a publishing opportunity for some of its community members.

Back in February we shared details of some of the locations that exist in the NWP universe, and we promised to keep you informed as the revamped New World Project approaches its planned launch date. Well, that date draws near, so I decided it was time to check in and see how work was progressing.

It turns out there has been a whole heap of progress. The NWP YouTube channel is showing some impressive and enticing new trailers, and a clock on the website is counting down to a new official launch date just weeks from now!

I caught up with Kim Smouter – one of the humans responsible for both the original New Worlds Project and its shiny new reincarnation – to ask him what we can expect from this new RPG and to find out more about its rich heritage.

So what is the New Worlds Project and what is this reboot you guys have been talking about?

New Worlds Project was founded in 2003 originally as a forum-based free-form role-playing game with an emphasis on creative writing. It had a great run for nearly a decade attracting about hundred creative writers in its hey days. It was founded by Britishman Alex Perry and myself when we were teens. As we grew older we had to put New Worlds Project to the side and concentrate on our careers. A couple of years ago, we looked at the tired website, thought about the great stories that had been written, and decided that the site deserved a second chance. So we put some money behind the site, talked to the members about how to revitalise the concept and decided to reboot the initiative, since that’s the trendy thing to do!

Wow. So this is as much a publishing opportunity as much as it is a role-playing game?

Exactly, as part of our reflection we wanted to see if there were things that we could do to motivate people to finish their creative projects, a lot of stories were getting started and just as they were getting great the writers had a tendency to drop off. We also wanted to find ways to make our content more accessible to the fans in particular, a lot of our stories were getting thousands of views which we reckon can get converted into a captive audience for writers (and artists alike). So that’s why we’ve invested a lot of time in getting all the ducks in a row to allow us to publish on behalf of all the creatives who will be contributing to the setting. It’s taken a lot of time but we think we’re taking a lot of work away for our contributors and delivering a professionally rendered end-product. Our idea is also to make sure that as much of the royalties as possible goes back to the authors. We’re taking a much lower royalty figure than most publishes just to keep the community resources flowing and developing so that we achieve a virtuous creative circle.

In the promo videos and trailers you guys are talking about a “360⁰ creativity concept”, what is that?

One of the things we encountered when we were a forum-based role-playing game was that people ran out of steam and we wanted to find a way to make people motivated to stay on. We also as a non-profit explored other applications of the methods of role-playing to be applied in a learning environment. That reflection led us down the path of 360⁰ Creativity which posits that we establish a creativity community, feed it with lots of baseline resources: the setting that’s been enriched over the last decade, the website that we’ve been building, tutorials, but also the contributions of everyone. That feeds the inspiration process that will allow people to come up with their stories, their artwork, their music ideas tied to that common inspiration source. To help them finish their project we’ve got a couple of incentives, one of them is that their works gets seen by the whole community and they get a lot of instant feedback, the second is that their projects will become the inspiration for others and will be interconnected with the meta universe, but also, and this is the part we’re really excited about: we take it upon ourselves to get these projects published and sold using a variety of sales channels we’ve been working on over the last few years and we provide royalties to contributors. Our hope is to be able to give royalties of upwards of 80% back and this is something we think really sets us apart from similar creative communities.

You guys are pinning a lot of hopes on the inspiration provided by the setting, can you tell us more about it?

Sure! The original setting was developed by Alex and myself over a two-year period, both of us had been part of Star Trek-based role-playing games for years and we just wanted to take the challenge of going all-original and that’s essentially what we did. We came up with this setting involving the struggle for galactic influence of 5 major factions, each with their own set of values, challenges, and opportunities. These factions have been able to co-exist peacefully for a century, supported by an Organisation for Interstellar Peace, but tensions have been brewing underneath the façade. The tensions explode in extraordinary fashion at the turn of the 26th Century, and the factions now have to rediscover the horrors of war, each faction being drawn, some more willingly than others into the maelstrom of war. The stories of New Worlds Project are all about the soldiers, the civilians, the leaders and their struggle to survive and bring back the peace. The setting has tons of goodies for writers to explore, threads which are all waiting to be taken to the next level by writers. It inspired people for a good decade, and we’re just excited to bring it back for more writers, musicians, and artists to discover.

So did the previous incarnation of the game inform the history of the universe, or are you planning to go back and start from scratch?

What we did was essentially look at everything we had from a setting perspective and refreshed where we needed. It’s essentially the same storyline although we’ve updated things where upon reflection they didn’t make much sense or weren’t being applied in a consistent way. I think those who knew New Worlds Project will find a more polished setting to work with. With 10 years of development it seemed a shame to throw all of that away, most of it was more than capable of surviving the test of time and I think that reflects on the good work that was done in the early 2000s to get it to where it was at, and where it will be.

Will all five of the major factions be playable?

Absolutely, all of the factions and alien species are playable – within the definitions of them of course – and we also welcome additional minor factions or alien species that people want to dream up to enrich the setting. One of the criticisms that I think could have been levied in the past was that it was quite difficult to get one’s head around the different factions without reading tons and tons of pages, we’ve worked quite a lot on that to make the setting more accessible and more playable without having to invest an inordinate amount of time at the start.

When will the New Worlds Project launch (or rather re-launch) and how can people get involved?

We’ve set the launch date for 2nd January 2016. And this time it’s final, it’s taken us a long time to get the website platform and content to a place where we felt people weren’t going to be hitting “under construction” notices too often. In the meantime a lot of content is still available for study at http://legacy.nwproject.org. The only website is still a place where people can still get to know the setting and can even pre-write projects that they will be able to post on our new platform.

We’re going to be organising activities on the 2nd and will likely be running a contest for those who give us a test drive the opening weeks with some nice goodies for the winners foreseen.

We’re present on Facebook and Google+ as well so people can participate and follow our progress there, and there’s a newsletter people can sign up to by going to http://community.nwproject.org. The other way to participate is to join our weekly Skype sessions where the Support Team meet and chat about the launch activities. There’s a whole community to rebuild so there’s plenty of tasks to divvy up and share amongst motivated people who want to help us create the next sci-fi saga!

Thanks Kim. This all sounds very exciting. Good luck with the launch!

Thanks Mark!

NWP 2 january

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    I read a bit of the old material… the setting of this RPG did not interest me. 🙁

    • What RPGs do you think have a more interesting setting?

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        IMO, I think that the setting of Mindjammer far more interesting than the setting of the New Worlds Project. I mean, I don’t know, but the description of some of the Major Powers in TNWP sounded a bit too silly to me… but what really make me lose interesting in this setting was the Gohorn species – they are too humanoids in appearance to a alien reptilian species… :/

  • @Marquoose:disqus hey mark, I just remembered another scifi game, X COM enemy unknown, which is about to have a sequel made!

    • Yeh. I love that game! There’s gonna be soooo much for me to play next year. Can’t wait.
      I’ve started a survival challenge on Space Engineers, and I’ll be publishing a diary of my progress/failures soon. Sort of like a “let’s play” but with words and pictures instead of video.

    • Love it!