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An Interview With Jose Sanchez, CEO at Plethora-Project

A design studio with a mission to accelerate computational literacy in the frame of Architecture and Design, Plethora-Project has released the city building sim Block’hood and is working on the habitat-building title Common’hood. Gamers Heroes spoke with CEO Jose Sanchez to learn more.

Gamers Heroes
Plethora Project stated that it has a humanistic approach to design, placing humans as responsible for decisions. How has this approach grown and evolved within the studio since its inception in 2011?

Jose Sanchez
Over the years we have insisted on developing projects that invite players to craft with sandboxes that touch upon ecological and social issues. We try hard to make games that are both fun and that make you think about the possibilities of how we consider cities, like in the case of Block’hood, or how we develop communities and neighborhoods, like in the case of Common’hood. In both games, the player is free to experiment with the positive and sometimes negative consequences of their choices. In our games, not all the metrics of success are imposed by the game, but there is an expectation that players will bring something to the table. This makes things interesting for us as we are never sure what to expect, and therefore the creations of players are always something that we consider worth contemplating.

Gamers Heroes
My wife has been a drafter in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 10 years, so I can definitely respect Plethora Project’s mission statement! She lives and breathes AutoCAD, but how can titles like Block’hood – and Common’hood for that matter – be used by somebody with her level of experience?

Jose Sanchez
I’m sure that people with knowledge of architecture, planning, or even 3D modeling will see an opportunity with our games. While Block’hood was more of a diagram of the ecology of a city, Common’hood tries to make things a lot more realistic. We want to be able to construct architecture that has been designed in Common’hood. So we are aiming to continue creating tools that make it easier for people to jump in with friends, as we are currently doing with online multiplayer, and design houses or homestead projects. We are really excited for this to become a reality over time.

Gamers Heroes
VR is the new hotness right now. What was it like working in this realm for Block’hood VR, and are there any plans to venture into the medium with Common’hood?

Jose Sanchez
As a small studio, we want to make sure we develop well the promise that we are offering with Common’hood especially as we have been adding online multiplayer to the game. This is our main challenge at the moment. We do not discard expanding towards VR eventually, but our roadmap has our PC release as a priority.

Gamers Heroes
What were some of the real-world events that inspired Common’hood? When it comes to the world of video games, The Sims and Harvest Moon have covered (somewhat) similar styles of play. What particular titles have inspired you and your team?

Jose Sanchez
Certainly, games such as The Sims and Rimworld have been games that have inspired us, but also Fallout 4 in the development of settlements. We wanted to develop a game that, while facing you with the conflict of falling at the edge of homelessness and becoming a squatter, you could still aspire to construct a utopian society at the edge of the law. In this, we love the tone of games such as This War of Mine and Firewatch that are able to convey messaging through narrative and presentation. In Common’hood we have placed a lot of attention to the atmospheric feel of the place, as well as the score that helps us convey an optimistic tone. I think this helps provide a sense of purpose to the community you are building.

In terms of real-world events, Common’hood has been inspired in the city of Detroit and the post-industrial landscapes of the midwest. The game also has been inspired by the amazing initiatives all over the world where people have managed to create communities as they are portrayed in the game. The work of Santiago Cirugeda (recetasurbanas.net) or R-Urban (http://r-urban.net/) and many others have been not only inspiration but real-world case studies to make a game that can share these ideas with a wider audience.

Gamers Heroes
We saw that Common’hood will have an in-game online database. What type of work do you hope to see post-launch?

Jose Sanchez
All the creations you design in Common’hood can be saved as Blueprints which can be uploaded to our online database. We expect to continue updating the building tools to allow for more complex blueprints over time, and also improve the way in which you can sort, tag, and rank the creations of others. This online sharing system allows the game to continue growing over time. We want players to be able to search for different designs for chairs, tables, houses, etc. Anything that players decide to create. This is fully integrated into the game both in the sandbox and the campaign. This is our plan to create an ‘online commons’ of do-it-yourself recipes. Here is where we will ultimately be able to tag some designs that will be able to be built in real life. We also anticipate the creation of ‘families’ of blueprints that work well together as modules. Our development team has already designed several families of blueprints that work well together but the possibilities are endless, as the modeling tools are completely open to players.

Gamers Heroes
What has it been like working with Kowloon Nights on Common’hood? How has the game grown and evolved since its two beta sessions?

Jose Sanchez
The support of Kowloon Nights has been remarkable. They have given us great freedom to develop a game we love and continue to be passionate about the project. Their expertise and support have been key during critical moments in development. With their support, we have seen our discord grow several thousands of users allowing us to work directly with players that are interested and care for the ideas that the game is putting forward. If you are interested in joining, you can do so with this link:
https://discord.gg/44zMRbNasP

We are still running private betas hoping to deliver a game that is polished and true to the expectations that we are putting out there.

Gamers Heroes
Outside of Common’hood, what titles have you and your team been playing lately?

Jose Sanchez
Outside Common’hood, I have been enjoying games such as ‘Democratic Socialism Simulator’, ‘Unpacking’, ‘Satisfactory’ & ‘Ooblets’.

You can learn more about Plethora-Project here.

Additionally, you can find Common’hood on Steam here and Block’hood on Steam here.

Casey Scheld

Casey Scheld has more than 15 years of experience in the gaming industry as a community manager, social media director, event specialist, and (of course) gaming editor. He has previously worked with gaming start-ups like Raptr, publishers like Konami, and roller derby girls at PAX West (check out Jam City Rollergirls)! Gamers Heroes is a passion project for him, giving him a chance to tap into the underground side of gaming. He is all too eager to give these lesser-known heroes of the indie space the attention they so rightly deserve, seeking out the next gem and sharing it with the world. Previously making appearances at events like CES, GDC, and (the late) E3, he is all too happy to seek out the next big thing. For those that want to talk shop, send over a tip, or get an easy win in a fighting game of their choosing, be sure to check out his social media channels below.

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