Who's this Klanger? An interview with Rainer Bernhardt

For the eighth instalment of our Who's this Klanger? series I sat down with Klang's Game Engineer, frozen pizza connoisseur, and native Berliner, Rainer, to talk about his experience and what it's like working with Icelanders...

Rainer, tell our readers about your working background and experience.

My first Developer job was as an intern at Spellborn International in the Netherlands - the studio behind The Chronicles of Spellborn - where I was in charge of rewriting the text rendering system in Unreal 2.5, among other cool things.

At the same time, I was working on several game projects for the University of Applied Science in Berlin, including building and maintaining a motion capture studio.

Then, sometime in 2011, I joined the digital agency, Exozet. I was working as a Lead Developer on the digital versions of Catan, the board game, for both mobile and desktop. After that, I joined Klang in 2015 to work on ReRunners.

You were at Klang for ReRunners and now for Seed. What's the transition like moving from a casual mobile game to a large-scale project?

I've spent the majority of my career working on large-scale projects, so I don't find it daunting. Actually, I prefer it!

Having said that, it's still a challenge, especially the technical aspects. It's opened up a lot of territory for me, which I've previously unexplored; I find it super exciting!

For Seed, Klang is using SpatialOS. How are you finding the software?

We want to create a game, and at the same time, not have to worry about creating the tech to get it running. That's why SpatialOS is extremely valuable for us.

We're working closely with Improbable to get the most out of the software, which is a great process. For us, SpatialOS is another piece that fits into the overall puzzle that is Seed.

What excites you the most about Seed?

The amount of potential Seed holds! It's huge! Plus, I personally really like these types of games.

What I really like about the project, from a developer point-of-view, is that the game is being shaped by the whole team. I mean, we're not 100% sure how the game will look, in say, two years time, but being able to shape it is really important to me.

Being German, what's it like working with mainly Icelanders? They're an unruly bunch, no?

Well, it's way easier now, since my German friend [Martin] is now working here. Haha!

But, in all seriousness, I feel it makes no difference. I've heard various rumours about the Icelandic way of working, but, I've not noticed any difference. We're just like any start up company.

The three founders have known each other for years and have a strong bond. I think that it's super important!

When it comes to language, I like that it's an English-speaking environment. In fact, it was one of the many reasons why I took the position...seriously!

What was your favourite thing about ReRunners?

That fact that we did it! We finished a game, launched it, and people played it! It was really interesting technically; I had to do all the optimizations to get the game running on older iPhones, which was very interesting as the game is very texture heavy.

What are your favourite games ever?

To be honest, it really changes. Right now, I'm playing Master of Orion like crazy because I really like 4x strategy games. I used to play Dota a lot, but this was before I had kids, haha. With Master of Orion, I can save the game then go and do something else.

There was no specific game or games that influenced me to go into game development specifically, but my older brothers were always playing games, so I grew up with having games around me. But, mainly I enjoy programming, it just so happens that I love playing games too!

Stay tuned, readers, for the next part of Who's this Klanger?

It's official! Prof. Lawrence Lessig is working on Seed!

As you may or may not have heard, Harvard Law Professor and activist Prof. Lawrence Lessig has joined us to work on Seed...and we're super honoured / excited / overwhelmed to have him on board!

Prof. Lessig has spent his career studying constitutional law, and he has been helping new democracies to form the legal frameworks for governance. Now, he's working with us!

Saying it's an honour barely scrapes the surface of how we're feeling right now. But, before I get too melodramatic, here's a very brief overview of what will make this collaboration interesting:

In 1999, Prof. Lawrence Lessig published CODE and Other Laws of Cyberspace, the first comprehensive book about "cyberlaw". The book also works as a blueprint for the main framework of Seed's political structure.

In brief, the idea is that CODE functions as a law in "cyberspace", with the hard questions for the future of digital technology dependent on the tradeoffs between LAW and CODE; CODE being the architecture of "cyberspace" or a regulator.

You can learn more about CODE and Other Laws of Cyberspace here: http://www.code-is-law.org/

VentureBeat also published an in-depth interview about our collaboration with Prof. Lessig, which is extremely interesting to read. I very much recommend checking it out: https://venturebeat.com/2017/05/31/law-professor-lawrence-lessig-vast-online-games-need-a-political-structure/

Oh, and here's a quick overview of his background:

Prof. Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation’s Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American’s Top 50 Visionaries.

We're extremely excited for this collaboration and for the future of Seed. Just watch this space!

Dave Ranyard: Immersive Interaction with AI through Virtual Reality

At this week's Nordic Game Conference in Malmö, Sweden, Virtual Reality Developer and CEO at Dream Reality Interactive, Dave Ranyard spoke on the importance of ensuring that players feel like they have a presence in a VR story. This thought-provoking opinion brings up the topic of immersion and the value it brings to the player's experience.

In an article recently published by gamesindustry.biz, Ranyard stated that he believes both VR and AR are going to be important for interacting with artificial intelligence and immersing the player within the storyline of a game. “Instead of having a cutscene, imagine having a conversation with a character. I think that's where games are going, and that's really fascinating,” comments Ranyard.

Moreover, Ranyard states that persistent worlds will also be vital in expanding how the player immerses themselves in the gaming experience, with non-linear gameplay and player-driven storylines. 

It was really gratifying to see him name-drop our partners in crime, Improbable, citing that SpatialOS is a promising start for this concept...if you've not heard us mention SpatialOS before, where have you been? 

At Klang, we certainly agree that immersive gameplay is important! With our latest project, Seed, we're creating a persistent virtual world, filled with vast, player-created colonies. Our aim is to create an AI world driven completely by the players, resulting in a truly immersive experience.

Image: develop-online.net

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Svenni Davíðsson

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After a long break, we're back with the seventh instalment of our Who's this Klanger? series! This time, I sat down with Klang's Lead Designer for Seed, Svenni, about QuizUp, typography, and how he joined the Klang Gang...

Svenni, tell our readers about your background in graphic design and your affection for typography.

“During my time studying at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, I got really into typography. In fact, my graduation project was a typeface.

There's something about only using text that I find fascinating; it's the restrictions that it brings to design, I think. Plus, it's also about the hierarchy of the information. How will other people read it? Will the placement of the text affect the message? It's really interesting stuff!

But, to be honest, I enjoy exploring the whole scope of graphic design. There's always something new that takes my interest.”

Before Klang, you were the CDO for QuizUp. How did you end up working at Plain Vanilla?

“During the early stages of QuizUp, when Plain Vanilla was still operating out of San Francisco, I was working as a designer for the advertising agency, Jónsson and Le'Macks. At the time, Plain Vanilla was a client of ours and, seeing as I was really interested in the digital side of design rather than print, I took the lead on the QuizUp project. I eventually ended up joining Plain Vanilla not that long after.”

How did you end up working with Klang?

“I've known Mundi and Ívar for a looonnngg time; they've been nagging me to join Klang ever since they relocated to Berlin, but, the QuizUp project was too good of an opportunity to give up at the time. Once the QuizUp team disbanded, the Klang guys snapped me up! Plus, I've previously lived in Berlin, so it was an easy move.

I remember them spending endless hours throwing ideas around for a concept that could be game-changing, if you pardon the pun. It seemed like a cool idea at the time – this was about 10 years ago – and now it's becoming a reality as Seed!”

So, you've had your ears chewed off about Seed for a while. What's it like to now be a part of the project since you've known of it for about a decade?

“Well, previously, the project was very complex, with lots of different UI ideas and references. But, at some point, everything just clicked and seemed very doable, although I had no clue how to realise some of their ideas.

It wasn't until I delved into colonization simulation games like RimWorld and Prison Architect that I could envision the concepts laid out by Mundi and Ívar.”

Who or what would you say is your biggest design inspiration?

“I'd say, Paul Rand, because he's such a bad ass. Take the story behind the NeXT logo, for example. His confidence in and the passion behind his work is super admirable.”

What's your favourite game ever?

It's a hard choice between Super Mario World for the SNES or Quake 3. Both are quite different, but I certainly spent many hours playing both!”

Stay tuned, readers, for the next part of Who's this Klanger?

Watch: An insight into Seed and SpatialOS

Seed Improbable Video.jpg

As we've previously mentioned (here and here), we premiered our latest project, Seed, to the world during GDC '17 in March. But for those of you who couldn't attend, you can watch Mundi's talk in full, courtesy of Improbable's YouTube channel.

The session, Building Worlds with SpatialOS: Developers Discuss Next-Generation Online Gaming, delves into the latest projects from Bossa Studios, NINPO, Spilt Milk Studios, Soulbound Studios, and of course, Klang.

Each studio is doing amazing things with SpatialOS, so it's certainly a worthwhile watch. Seed begins at 20:15:

You can also watch an edited version focusing specifically on Seed via our Facebook page.

Seed and The Golden City: A GDC 17 Retrospective with Mundi Vondi

GDC is kind of a big deal, to say the least. What's more of a big deal is that this was Klang's first ever trip to GDC. What's even more of a bigger deal is that we were there to premiere our latest project, Seed! Cue the air horn sound effects.

Now that the jet lag and euphoric haze has finally worn off, I caught up with Klang's CEO, Mundi Vondi, to find out what went down in The Golden City.

Wow, you've been to San Francisco twice in the space of 10 months. Was is good to be back?

“Totally! Even though we had fun last time, it was nice to be there for an extended period rather than a few days feeling jet-lagged. No offence, though. We had a blast last time!”

(Mundi and I went to San Francisco last June for a ReRunners trip; he's trying his best not to offend me.)

“This time around, it was so good to stay longer, especially with GDC taking place. Let's just say that we took FULL ADVANTAGE of all the parties going on. It was good to be back!”

So, tell our readers why you Klangers were there.

“We were in SF for GDC and to announce Seed, our brand-spanking new project in partnership with Improbable. It was borderline overwhelming to get so much great feedback.

Side note, Seed is the reason we started Klang in the first place.”

How does it feel to finally show off Seed to the world?

“It's like lifting a heavy, yet-rewarding, boulder off from my shoulders. We've been working on this project for so long that it's great to be pushing this amazing boulder forward.”

How many years in the making?

“Hmm...probably around 10 years or so now. We started planning this project when I was still at art school, when I was about 19. Nothing really materialised until a couple of years later. Seed has been a long time coming.”

Maybe you could say it's like being in a simulation? Sorry, terrible Seed-related joke.

“Yeah, that was a terrible joke.”

Moving on. How did Klang end up working with Improbable?

“Roughly a year ago, Improbable had just landed a big funding round and were doing some hot things. While at Slush, I met up with them and introduced them to the blueprints of Seed. Now, we've started a partnership...and the rest is history.”

What does joining the Games Innovation Program mean to you?

“It's awesome! We basically get a bunch of free services from Google, which will make development a lot easier.”

On the scale of 1 to holy moly, how excited are you right now?

“Is there something above holy moly?”

Back to the topic of GDC. How was your first time?

“It was super nice. To be honest, I wish I would have had more time to have been able to attend some of the talks. Instead, I was running from meeting-to-meeting. But, at least I got to work on my cardio.

But, all in all, it was a really nice event, with lots of nice people. In fact, this was probably my favourite gaming event so far. It has a great vibe, plus, I met so many familiar faces there. GDC is more industry/B2B-focused, with various niche studios showcasing their unique ideas, which makes a nice change from AAA studios blasting our their trailers.”

What else did you see at GDC that gave you a nerdgasm?

“Like I mentioned, there was a lot of running between meetings. But, I did see a lot of interesting VR stuff. Personally, I think that VR is still in its early stages, but there's a lot of very exciting projects going on at the moment.

Oh, the Star Citizen flight demo at the Unity booth was really exciting...but, I wonder what kind of multiplayer it's supposed to be.”

What other cool stuff did you and Klang get up to in SF?

“There's too much to recall at this exact moment. We did check out a bunch of the city and ate some really great, uber American food. One thing that sticks in my mind was exploring the Castro District; we found a manicure salon called Hand Job. I wonder how I remember that.

We did have the opportunity to visit (and have a bunch of cocktails at) the very, very impressive Supercell office located at the top of the 555 California Street skyscraper. The view there, overlooking the city, was mind-blowing. Give it a Google.”

Anyone you'd like to give a shout out to?

“Yeah, to all of my friends that I didn't have time to meet up with. I'll make it up to you, I promise.

Shout out to Improbable for making the booth at GDC look amazing and for inviting us over!”

It's Official! We've Joined Improbable's SpatialOS Games Innovation Program

Improbable has recently announced the first round of partners for its SpatialOS Games Innovation Program...and, we're one of them! Oh, this is probably a good point to introduce you to our next project, Seed.

The news was officially announced a few days ago at GDC, but, seeing as Mundi has just finished up discussing SpatialOS as part of the session, Building Worlds with SpatialOS, this would be a great time to let ya'll know here, too.

What is SpatialOS?

SpatialOS is a platform that allows Devs to create seamless-yet-vast simulated worlds that are able to host thousands of users at the same time, without compromising performance. This allows studios to build worlds with permanent consequences for the player, and allows for interaction with AI entities even when the player is offline.

What is the Games Innovation Program?

The program will allow us to use SpatialOS to create and test Seed up until launch, with reduced cloud computing costs. Or as we call it, “mates' rates”.

Furthermore, we'll be joining the roster with a bunch of other awesome projects, including Lazarus by Spilt Milk Studios, Chronicles of Elyria by Soulbound Studios, and Vanishing Stars: Colony Wars by Ninpo Game Studio.

What is Seed?

In a nutshell: Seed is a continuous persistent simulation where the player's goal is to take over a vast planet to ensure the survival of humanity. Using unique gameplay based on managing multiple characters, players collaborate to create a world driven by real emotion and ambition.

Watch this space!

GDC 2017: Klang Gang Does San Fran Part II

We're finally going to pop our GDC cherry next week and we can't wait! In fact, not only will it be our first time at the event, it'll be the first time that we show off our latest project outside of the confinements of our studio in Berlin!

For those who don't know, GDC is the world's largest professional game industry event. Normal attendance of the event is around 30,000 people; that's basically a tenth of the population of Iceland. Imagine that many professional nerds in one place.

So, why will we be there, again? Oh yeah, we're going to be exclusively demoing the latest prototype of our new, upcoming project! Without giving too much info away just yet, it's a MMO simulation that will knock your socks off. But, that'll come in due course, dear friend.

On top of that, Mundi will be speaking during the session, Building Worlds with SpatialOS: Developers Discuss Next-Generation Online Gaming, hosted by Improbable. He'll join a bunch of great speakers to talk about Improbable's SpatialOS, the platform we're utilising to run this ambitious project. It's going to be a good one!

To see the world exclusive demo of our MMO simulation, make sure to be at Room 2014 in the West Hall at 10am on Thursday, 2nd March.

If that's not all, we'll be offering an exclusive, press-only, demo to play the game for yourself. Be sure to reach out to me, jonathan@klang-games.com, to arrange meeting times.

See you there!

#KlangOnTour