Klang secures $5m investment to develop AI-driven MMO Seed

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Venture capital firm Makers Fund leads investment in “genre-breaking” title

Berlin-based developer Klang has secured $5 million in a second equity funding round to support the development of its AI-driven MMO, Seed.

The round - led by Makers Fund with additional funding from Firstminute Capital, Neoteny, Mosaic Ventures, and Novator - will be used to scale up the development team to work on the studio's upcoming "genre-breaking" title.

The new investors join existing backers from Reid Hoffman, David Helgason, Adalsteinn Ottarson, and London Venture Partners.

"We're extremely honoured to receive the backing from these prestigious investors who have the faith in us to realise a dream that began over a decade ago," said Mundi Vondi, CEO and co-founder of Klang.

"We believe Seed to be a vital part in the next generation of computer games, and it's exciting to have their trust that we can turn this concept into a reality."

Michael Cheung, partner at Makers Fund added: "Seed is a genre-breaking game in the making, developed by one of the most creative and technically accomplished teams in the industry.

The team at Klang has over 30 years' combined experience developing MMOs such as EVE Online and its first-person shooter counterpart, Dust 514.

Seed utilises cloud development platform SpatialOS, from London-based startup Improbable. It is a continuous, persistent simulation where players are tasked with colonising an alien planet through collaboration and conflict.

Klang Games Talk About The Mind-Boggling Depth and Complexity of Seed

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Despite not having a playable demo, one of the most interesting games at PC Gamer Weekender was Seed. This simulation MMO aims to give players the tools to do, pretty much whatever they want. Utilising the power of SpatialOS, this game is far from its release, nonetheless, Klang Games have some ambitious goals that are definitely worth reading about.

I had the opportunity to chat with Mundi Vondi, the CEO and Co-Founder of Klang Games. Read on to find out exactly what Seed is, how Klang Games are planning to support a large number of players online and what kinds of interactions we can expect in the game.

Can I get you to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your game, please?

I’m Mundi Vondi and I’m the CEO/Co-Founder of Klang Games.

What is Seed? I can see it and it looks cool, but like, what is it?

It’s an MMO. That’s a really weird area we are working on, a simulation-based MMO. Simulation games aren’t usually MMOs, there haven’t been any so far. Basically, each player controls like a family, they collaborate to build these communities. Each member of your family has an AI that tries to drive them towards their needs, for example: sleeping, eating, socializing, comfort and those sorts of things. It’s based on the Improbable backend, SpatialOS. That OS allows us to have it on the same planet. Until then you can use those characters to wage war, trade or go gather resources out in the wilderness and such.

Seed looks more like The Sims than an MMO. How many players will it be able to support?

We are still testing the scalability but we’ve been quite successful in running hundreds of characters in a very small area. In theory, we can take everyone into the same world because it’s basically a patchwork of servers, instead of your traditional single server, shared MMO, where everyone connects to the same server. These have a very obvious limit because a server can only handle so many players, but when you patch them together you can pretty much go as far as the cloud. In theory, we could have everyone on the same server, but we are yet to test that!

This seems like the next generation of games. Is that what you are going for?

Yeah. We started imagining this game probably ten years ago. That was when Oddur Magnússon, the co-founder was at CCP, and for us, the kind of the emergent MMO space is the future of games. We started thinking, what would be the truly ultimate form of that? There’s a number of issues with MMOs that keep popping up, the classic veteran versus newcomers, trying to build an online community where 90% players are offline most of the time where the server becomes a ghost town. These kinds of problems are somewhat how we started to look at how you make a full-on MMO, which is lively and fun at any given time of the day. We are reducing the logistical error of having to call up your friends and say “let’s play now”. Instead of doing that, we actually keep your characters simulated 24/7 in the game. There’s no way of pausing or quitting, the game is always running. You can jump in and adjust things because you want to optimize the life of your character by telling him to work more or less, or building a new room in your house so you can encumber more characters in your family. This means that when you come in, let’s say we are ten friends building a town together, they are all going to be there, whether or not they are actually sitting at the computer. We plan on doing a mobile app as well which allows you to chat to your friends on the go so even though they aren’t actually playing, you can still communicate with them through the game and warn them about someone attacking or stuff like that.

What kind of price point are you considering for Seed? Surely it cannot be free?

We are definitely trying to find ways to monetize Seed that won’t affect the economy, at least at the front end. What’s tricky is that we are running simulated characters 24/7 which means we have to somehow pay for it. Initially, we thought maybe we could charge per character, so you actually pay for a new character. That could be a bit brutal because they could get killed when you aren’t even there, but we are still trying to come up with ways to monetize softly in a way that doesn’t allow for the biggest wallet to ruin the fun for everyone else. Maybe there’s a way of community-driven monetization which kind of relies on somebody supporting the entire community, but yeah, it’s very early on when it comes to monetization!

How early on is “early on”? What kind of timeframe are we looking at for release here, like, 2020?

No comment!

This looks really high-tech, the concept hasn’t been done before. Is it somewhat worrying to be the pioneer of that?

Not at all, man… *laughs* Yeah, of course. That’s why we give ourselves a lot of leverage when it comes the time it takes to develop this beast. We don’t think this is going to be an easy task, there’s going to be a lot of challenges ahead, but that’s in our nature. Like I said earlier, our two co-founders are from EVE Online which is a unique game as well.

What do you expect people to do in Seed? Do you expect people to foster communities or do you expect warfare all the time?

I’ve thought about that a lot. My theory is that players will start very brutally, it’ll be a slaughterhouse. They will try to conquer quickly and rapidly in the beginning. Out of that chaos, more sophistication will arrive. Someone will build a really sophisticated society which has better defenses, more people apart of it and starts to show everybody that’s actually how you really win. You then create kind of a utopian scenario where players actually don’t have to gnaw their nails 24/7 because the nature of the game is running all the time, but rather you can relax and come back to it knowing you are going to be safe. At that point, people should see those as guiding lights towards building more and more sophisticated societies, ultimately collaborating between those societies.

Seems like the biggest social experiment as opposed to a game… It seems mad!

We definitely hope to go very far in the scientific approach. That’s why we’ve been very fortunate to work with people like Lawrence Lessig who’s an amazing political scientist. He’s a Harvard Law Professor who was actually one of the presidential candidates for the US last election. Sadly he didn’t win of course… I was actually at a dinner with him and I was sitting, talking about this game that we were about to build and he started asking about how we would run the governments and I was like, “well, we will have chat…”. He became fascinated with the idea of, like, could this be a platform for testing out governmental structures because there isn’t really a place where you can do that in any stable form? It’s very hard to simulate the effects of governmental choices, it’s obviously very hard to see it in real life because it is actually real life. Hopefully, at some point, we are going to be able to test out all kinds of variations of governmental structures in the game which will maybe give us insights into what it’s like to government this way or that way in the real world.

The scope of this game is insane. At what point do you put a limit on it?

We look at the three core loops as the citizens, the business owners and the government. These are kind of like part of the same core loop in a pyramid. At the top, you have the 10% of the players who are in the government, you have then 30% of players who are business owners, then the 60% who are citizens. We will develop the game continuously, even after it launches. That’s a model we are very familiar with – like EVE is still in development even though it is more than fifteen years old. Our approach to this is to try to get those three core loops working at somewhat of a primitive state but really plant them down in a way that we can see them growing over the course of multiple years. Reaching the full scope is not going to be the day we launch the game, but years away.

Could this come to consoles?

Traditionally RTS-style games are difficult on a console. The console is pretty much the only platform we look at and think maybe we can do something? We’ll see in the future.

Is there anything else you might want to tell us about Seed that I haven’t asked about?

We are really using the technology to its fullest extent. It is really good at simulating large quantities of entities that can actually have a real ripple effect on one another. We can simulate millions of characters, and each one of them can bounce off of one another. We can’t do it now, but we will hopefully be able to do it at some point. Imagine a butterfly effect where one character is kind of at the brink of his mood, he’s growing frustrated. There’s a pothole in the road which just triggers him. The pothole is there because the government aren’t taking care of the infrastructure of the town. Now, this guy is angry because he steps in this pothole. He goes to work and he insults somebody at work. Now that character is also frustrated, so he starts drinking more than normal. He goes to the bar and is becoming an alcoholic. This is happening on a scale of every single entity bouncing. We approached it with this anger, trigger, moods, needs and stuff like that but the real true complexity will come from the emergence of these real behavior patterns which are way greater than what we can imagine. It will go much further than what we actually will even have ideas about. Both by simulating that kind of true emergence at the same time throwing thousands of players into it, we hope to do the most emergent game ever created with Seed.

It’s starting to sound like that!

We totally know how nuts we are, but that’s what makes us excited about coming to work every morning.

Is Seed actually… fun?

It’s funny you say that because it is a slow game. Normally simulation games have that fast forward button where you can spin over to the next day so that you can then deal with an immediate problem. You can’t fast forward in an MMO because then you would be fast forwarding for everyone else. We do think it’s going to be fun in a unique way. It’s not going to be drop in, shoot’em up kind of fun, it’s going to be that slow, progressing, sense of accomplishment. A lot of details, a lot of little stories that you are witnessing happen. You are going to be able to follow your character around as he goes about his day. It might not sound fun but it is already, even in these primitive days. We did a playtest last week and it was just the little details that started spawning. One of my characters – Zoey – we were building this town together and she went to Oddur’s house and was sleeping in his bed. I’m like, “what are you doing?” I was trying to send her back home! I ordered her to go back to my house and go to sleep there, and she was walking back and had this thought, “what is freedom?” and I’m like, “it’s not that!”. We’ve now thrown in a bunch of these random thoughts that they get, but just that simple scenario or that simple gesture over that thought created this whole elaborate story for me. I knew that it wasn’t actually true to the game, it was just simple things coming together like that but you are going to have so many hundreds or even thousands of alignments which should give you a very interesting experience.

I don’t even know where to begin…

We are often boggled by where Seed will go and what it will end up like. It’s a big question to us on what to focus on, how to arrange the features and what to develop next. We are always challenging ourselves in a way. We can’t focus in on the game being a single thing. One thing can’t outweigh the other so we kind of develop it in a really horizontal, layering somehow, improving the depth of the features across the entire scope instead of honing in on a single thing. That’s really when it comes together, when all these multiple systems start to work together. Every single one of the systems is easy to dive into and we could spend lots of time working on a small aspect of the entire concept. However, that’s not going to work because we have to build it up across the entire thing, that’s when all these systems start to work together. It is a bit like fumbling in the dark sometimes. We are like, what is the true value we will get out of this feature right here, right now? We are very lucky to have this grand vision. We actually attract good, talented people who want to see this game become a reality. Working with people that can understand and see the vision is going to help us get there.

Let’s say a community of farmers just wanted to make a tonne of food. Then you’ve got a community of trolls who want to kill everybody. Are you preventing people from purely destroying the work of others?

We do not want to prevent this. We might be wrong, and we might have to come up with mechanics to protect the farmers, but what we want to see is that those farmers must build sophisticated fences and communities that can defend them from the griefers. If we were to nerf the trolls, we would never see the same level of dedication and sophistication when it comes to building up those communities. That’s what I mentioned earlier, it’s going to be a bloody mess at first. Food is going to get eaten over dead bodies, but hopefully, that will teach them to come back and stand up for that and think “how can we do this now without failure”? Seed is not a game where you just jump around the globe and attack whomever you like. It’s a vast landscape so it takes you a long time to travel and traverse the landscape. This, we hope, is another layer of a buffer which can inform you there is somebody approaching and give you a headstart. You will have to think about whether you should run away with your food because you know the trolls are all in that forest over there, or should you stand up and fight them with your pitchforks?

I can imagine even just one troll in a community will take all this food when no one is online.

I think it’s also so fascinating to think about the problems internally in the community. There might be one guy in your utopian community who, in the night, goes around and breaks into somebody’s house and steals or murders somebody. For me, that’s another challenge to add that layer of sophistication to the community. Say, within communities there is no combat then players wouldn’t have to come up with ways of defending themselves against that. Maybe they could have guards patrolling the community within its own walls, much like the police does in our community, and maybe the reason we are we aren’t so barbaric is because, in reality, we do come up with systems to defend ourselves against the ill-intended. We want to give players the tools to build those kinds of systems. If we nerf the bad, we also nerf the reason for good. It’s all about allowing for maximum brutality and evil because then we also give a reason for the answer to that. That should be a very interesting result!

See Exclusive Footage of Ambitious Simulation MMO Seed

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Seed has the kind of ambition that makes me sit up and take notice: it's  an MMO that aims to combine elements of colony sims like Rimworld, everything sims like Dwarf Fortress, life-management games such as The Sims, and persistent MMOs such as EVE Online. You're basically caring for and expanding a fledgling colony of humans, but when you log off from the game, the game will continue without you.

It's not entirely clear what our role is in all this—how we'll actually interact with Seed as players—so we asked Klang Games about that aspect at the PC Gamer Weekender. Here's Klang co-founder Mundi Vondi explaining how you'll order your colonists about—and how they won't always follow your directions to the letter.

As you can see in this exclusive Seed footage, your little villagers will leave important decisions, such as constructing buildings, up to you. When you're offline from the game, however, they'll be getting on with their daily routines, maintaining crops and so on, and interacting with one another, while their human overlord is down the pub or taking a nap.

You can watch our full interview with Vondi below, and it's worth it, as he goes into more detail about the game. There's plenty of new (early) footage of Seed as well, so you can see how all these grand ideas work out in practice.

There's a beta version of Seed expected late this year.

Ex-YAGER Game Director joins Klang for upcoming MMO Simulation

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It has been announced that Peter Holzapfel, ex-Game Director at YAGER, has joined the Berlin-based game development studio, Klang, as the Executive Producer for the studio's upcoming AI-driven MMO Simulation, Seed.

According to Klang, Holzapfel is helping the studio to expand its structure and is in charge of executing the vision of Seed across all areas of production.

“We're very excited to have Peter on board as an Executive Producer. Not only does Peter bring with him experience, but also a focused approach towards production, which is extremely vital to us as a team. Our goal is to create an MMO simulation which has never been done before in this shape or form, so focus and prioritization are of utmost importance. Peter's 15 years of experience in game development will help us to realize this ambitious goal,” explained Mundi Vondi, Klang CEO and Co-Founder.

Previous to joining Klang, Holzapfel was working in various creative production roles for companies like YAGER and Crytek, as well as his own company.

Holzapfel comments, “Seed is one of those rare opportunities that is so good that you have to drop your own plans and just roll with it and see where it takes you. A project so full of passion, enthusiasm and ambition that it reminds you again why we all joined this industry in the first place. I am proud to be a part of this project and will do whatever I can to help make this dream become a reality.”

Seed is a continuous, persistent MMO simulation where players are tasked with colonizing an exoplanet through collaboration, conflict, and other player-to-player interaction. Using unique gameplay based on managing multiple characters in real-time, communities are built even when players are logged off, allowing the world of Seed to be a living, breathing entity.

Seed is among the portfolio games utilizing Improbable's SpatialOS, a platform that can realize vast, complex virtual worlds on a single, continuously running server.

Discover more about Seed via the project's website: www.seed-project.io

Seed is a hugely ambitious in-development MMO that echoes EVE Online, Rimworld and The Sims

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"MMOs have come to a halt, so far as innovation is concerned," Klang Games co-founder Mundi Vondi tells me. "With Seed, we hope to change that."

To say Seed is ambitious is an understatement. Within minutes of booting up its pre-alpha demo, Vondi has namechecked The Sims, Dwarf Fortress and Facebook as just some of the driving forces behind its persistent simulation. Its universe is said to be "driven by real world emotion and aspiration", which in practice aims to one day craft an MMO world with, potentially, millions of residents. Building colonies from the ground up parallels the workings of Civilization, while the potential for story-generation echoes Rimworld. Within, characters will live out their virtual lives whether the player is present or not.   

"If you think about Facebook, imagine your profile was removed every time you logged off," says Vondi. "That's how most MMOs are today. I think this will add the network effect that the likes of Facebook has, so we're trying to learn from that."

Hailing from a fine art, production and filmmaking background, Seed marks Vondi's first professional videogame project. Klang's other cofounders, Oddur Snær Magnússon and Ívar Emilsson, though, are ex-CCP employees who both worked on EVE Online. It's this collective experience that informs Seed's goals—even if what I'm shown isn't quite as sophisticated as what's promised down the line.

Powered by Improbable's cloud-based SpatialOS tech, the hands-off demonstration I'm given kicks off with a group of humans touching down on a foreign planet 1,000 years after Earth has died. From here, a familiar colony sim-building routine unfolds, where the player issues their AI-controlled civilians with tasks and directives such as gathering vegetation for food, or foraging materials for base-building. It's all very management-heavy, but Vondi assures me variables such as player mood and emotion are at the forefront of every decision you'll make. 

"Even at this early stage in growing a colony, your civilians can get bad feelings that affect their behaviour—sleeping on the ground, for example—and these feelings can drive them towards certain traits," says Vondi. "If they're feeling great, they might become enthusiastic about the job, but on the other hand if their mental health gets really low, they might turn depressed or into alcoholics and other things like that." 

From the outset, Seed lets players choose whether they wish to join an established community, or if they'd rather go it alone in the wilderness. Vondi reckons the latter should only apply to veterans of the genre, however those entering active societies should be wary of player-formed governments, judicial systems and economic infrastructures. Conflict sounds inevitable within the latter, and while it's unclear how confrontation will be resolved (or, crucially, if it can be resolved), maintaining good relations with your neighbours is of utmost importance.   

"The sad part about most MMOs is when players enter the game, when they enter a player group or a clan, it takes a long time," explains Vondi. "A lot of players leave before they get that full social MMO experience. One of the things we do differently here is start you off in a community—you're immediately a part of a group from the get go. This should make everything easier, particularly for new players."

Speaking to Vondi's last point, I suggest that grind is something new MMO players tend to struggle with. With something so multifaceted, I ask what measures Seed has in place to combat this. 

"Players can control up to ten players," he replies. "A lot of game design that's usually very tricky—like sleeping, disease, mental issues, ageing—they're pretty difficult if you're one character. But when you have ten you can actually do something with it. One can be sleeping, one can be somewhere else and so on. A lot of grind gets solved with this, so they basically work autonomously. They set their routines, and so they look through that and work on what their priorities would be. 

"We're basically grouping together all these players and we can basically throw loads and loads of players into it. This means that we can hopefully, one day, have players building their own businesses and ultimately we want to see a world where people have furnished apartments, people are walking back and forth from their jobs."

Vondi returns to the idea of permanence in the player's absence by outlining a hypothetical scenario. Here, the player has signed out of the game and one of their characters has gone drinking in their local in-game pub. Inebriated, the character gets into a fight, gets into trouble with the law, and winds up in jail. By the time the player signs back in, their character is a few hours into an overnight stay, depressed and shunned by their peers. Vondi suggests real world notifications could alert the player to their characters' actions which they may or may not be in a position to respond to.

From here, the player might decide to rehabilitate their beleaguered pal or abandon them entirely. With nine other companions, perhaps it's best chalking this one off, or even swapping them out for a better behaved replacement. Substituting and maintaining multiple characters however raises the question: what sort of business model will Seed employ?

"We tie our payment model through our characters," says Vondi. "Because we're simulating our characters continuously, they take up a certain amount of the CPU. That's where we try to monetise: you basically pay per life, and you buy Seed implants. We want to open it up in a way that players sell these Seed implants on the player market. In theory, this should work well. But it could be a total disaster [laughs]. I can't confirm that either way. 

"That would allow players to play completely for free while others are buying perks or implants and then selling them through the player market. The price will obviously fluctuate, so if someone is overselling implants, someone will eventually undercut them and [stabilise] the market. That's how we try to balance that out. Players who have a good set up, who are making a lot of money in the game can actually use the soft currency to buy those implants."

Since first showcasing Seed to the press at Gamescom in August, Klang has grown the game's landing planet surface by "roughly 2,000 percent" and has applied a new AI system that allows its characters to behave more organically. 

Day-to-day, adding terrain and designing a new modular, streamlined building system takes priority, while long-term goals include the aforementioned player market and a character health system—which considers different forms of injuries and disease, and the knock-on effects these might have on colonies. "Once the health system is more structured," says Vondi, "we can focus on combat, as combat obviously affects health."

Again, Seed is a remarkably ambitious undertaking that, despite looking and sounding great at this stage has a very long way to go. If it can achieve half of what it hopes to, it will be onto something good—my main concern is that it's  reaching too high.

Klang Games is however aware of the pressure it's putting itself under, and is cautious to avoid becoming overwhelmed.     

"One of the biggest challenges of creating Seed is to make sure that we don't fall into that trap; this is something we have to constantly be mindful of," admits Vondi. "We're first focusing on the core systems in order to get them right. But, it's all about the balance between polishing the core experience and delivering on new features. 

"Throughout the development process, we're making new discoveries, which is extremely exciting! We're making sure that the core playing experience will be fun and functional as soon as possible, but at the same time, keeping an open, flexible mind to adapt to new findings."

As it stands, Seed hopes to enter beta testing in late 2018, and will pursue full release after that. 

Seed is a hugely ambitious in-development MMO that echoes EVE Online, Rimworld and The Sims

PC_Gamer_old_logo.jpg

"MMOs have come to a halt, so far as innovation is concerned," Klang Games co-founder Mundi Vondi tells me. "With Seed, we hope to change that."

To say Seed is ambitious is an understatement. Within minutes of booting up its pre-alpha demo, Vondi has namechecked The Sims, Dwarf Fortress and Facebook as just some of the driving forces behind its persistent simulation. Its universe is said to be "driven by real world emotion and aspiration", which in practice aims to one day craft an MMO world with, potentially, millions of residents. Building colonies from the ground up parallels the workings of Civilization, while the potential for story-generation echoes Rimworld. Within, characters will live out their virtual lives whether the player is present or not.   

"If you think about Facebook, imagine your profile was removed every time you logged off," says Vondi. "That's how most MMOs are today. I think this will add the network effect that the likes of Facebook has, so we're trying to learn from that."

Hailing from a fine art, production and filmmaking background, Seed marks Vondi's first professional videogame project. Klang's other cofounders, Oddur Snær Magnússon and Ívar Emilsson, though, are ex-CCP employees who both worked on EVE Online. It's this collective experience that informs Seed's goals—even if what I'm shown isn't quite as sophisticated as what's promised down the line.

Powered by Improbable's cloud-based SpatialOS tech, the hands-off demonstration I'm given kicks off with a group of humans touching down on a foreign planet 1,000 years after Earth has died. From here, a familiar colony sim-building routine unfolds, where the player issues their AI-controlled civilians with tasks and directives such as gathering vegetation for food, or foraging materials for base-building. It's all very management-heavy, but Vondi assures me variables such as player mood and emotion are at the forefront of every decision you'll make. 

"Even at this early stage in growing a colony, your civilians can get bad feelings that affect their behaviour—sleeping on the ground, for example—and these feelings can drive them towards certain traits," says Vondi. "If they're feeling great, they might become enthusiastic about the job, but on the other hand if their mental health gets really low, they might turn depressed or into alcoholics and other things like that."   

From the outset, Seed lets players choose whether they wish to join an established community, or if they'd rather go it alone in the wilderness. Vondi reckons the latter should only apply to veterans of the genre, however those entering active societies should be wary of player-formed governments, judicial systems and economic infrastructures. Conflict sounds inevitable within the latter, and while it's unclear how confrontation will be resolved (or, crucially, if it can be resolved), maintaining good relations with your neighbours is of utmost importance.   

"The sad part about most MMOs is when players enter the game, when they enter a player group or a clan, it takes a long time," explains Vondi. "A lot of players leave before they get that full social MMO experience. One of the things we do differently here is start you off in a community—you're immediately a part of a group from the get go. This should make everything easier, particularly for new players."

Speaking to Vondi's last point, I suggest that grind is something new MMO players tend to struggle with. With something so multifaceted, I ask what measures Seed has in place to combat this. 

"Players can control up to ten players," he replies. "A lot of game design that's usually very tricky—like sleeping, disease, mental issues, ageing—they're pretty difficult if you're one character. But when you have ten you can actually do something with it. One can be sleeping, one can be somewhere else and so on. A lot of grind gets solved with this, so they basically work autonomously. They set their routines, and so they look through that and work on what their priorities would be. 

"We're basically grouping together all these players and we can basically throw loads and loads of players into it. This means that we can hopefully, one day, have players building their own businesses and ultimately we want to see a world where people have furnished apartments, people are walking back and forth from their jobs." 

Vondi returns to the idea of permanence in the player's absence by outlining a hypothetical scenario. Here, the player has signed out of the game and one of their characters has gone drinking in their local in-game pub. Inebriated, the character gets into a fight, gets into trouble with the law, and winds up in jail. By the time the player signs back in, their character is a few hours into an overnight stay, depressed and shunned by their peers. Vondi suggests real world notifications could alert the player to their characters' actions which they may or may not be in a position to respond to.

From here, the player might decide to rehabilitate their beleaguered pal or abandon them entirely. With nine other companions, perhaps it's best chalking this one off, or even swapping them out for a better behaved replacement. Substituting and maintaining multiple characters however raises the question: what sort of business model will Seed employ?

"We tie our payment model through our characters," says Vondi. "Because we're simulating our characters continuously, they take up a certain amount of the CPU. That's where we try to monetise: you basically pay per life, and you buy Seed implants. We want to open it up in a way that players sell these Seed implants on the player market. In theory, this should work well. But it could be a total disaster [laughs]. I can't confirm that either way. 

"That would allow players to play completely for free while others are buying perks or implants and then selling them through the player market. The price will obviously fluctuate, so if someone is overselling implants, someone will eventually undercut them and [stabilise] the market. That's how we try to balance that out. Players who have a good set up, who are making a lot of money in the game can actually use the soft currency to buy those implants."

Since first showcasing Seed to the press at Gamescom in August, Klang has grown the game's landing planet surface by "roughly 2,000 percent" and has applied a new AI system that allows its characters to behave more organically. 

Day-to-day, adding terrain and designing a new modular, streamlined building system takes priority, while long-term goals include the aforementioned player market and a character health system—which considers different forms of injuries and disease, and the knock-on effects these might have on colonies. "Once the health system is more structured," says Vondi, "we can focus on combat, as combat obviously affects health."

Again, Seed is a remarkably ambitious undertaking that, despite looking and sounding great at this stage has a very long way to go. If it can achieve half of what it hopes to, it will be onto something good—my main concern is that it's  reaching too high.

Klang Games is however aware of the pressure it's putting itself under, and is cautious to avoid becoming overwhelmed.     

"One of the biggest challenges of creating Seed is to make sure that we don't fall into that trap; this is something we have to constantly be mindful of," admits Vondi. "We're first focusing on the core systems in order to get them right. But, it's all about the balance between polishing the core experience and delivering on new features. 

"Throughout the development process, we're making new discoveries, which is extremely exciting! We're making sure that the core playing experience will be fun and functional as soon as possible, but at the same time, keeping an open, flexible mind to adapt to new findings."

As it stands, Seed hopes to enter beta testing in late 2018, and will pursue full release after that. 

Read the article in full here: http://www.pcgamer.com/seed-is-a-hugely-ambitious-in-development-mmo-that-echoes-eve-online-rimworld-and-the-sims/

Is this our next great dystopia?

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For me, a humble denizen of the 21st century, I have developed a real interest in the dreariness permeating Earth in 2017. I think a lot more about nukes now for example, which is a fun addition to my usual suspect of bewildering fears. I think a lot about the movie Threads in which the Soviet Union attacks Sheffield and everybody dies from ultraviolet radiation. I imagine in my mind the world in isometric perspective and what a contender this timeline would be for a cosmic re-roll if this only were a session of Civilization.

But history has taught us this is an old sensation. That every so often, with a kind of ebb and flow regularity, it just looks like it's probably the end of the world. The Renaissance world viewed the planet as decaying. Poet John Donne notes that the lifespan of people had shortened considerably since the Adams and Methuselahs of Biblical times, who were said to have lived to the ripe old age of 930 and 969 years, respectively. Sir Walter Raleigh following his expedition up the Orinoco River concluded that the world was run down like a clock, and that men had lost sight of truth and were in descent "lower and lower, and shrink and slide downward."

How did we deal with impending doom then? Sir Thomas More imagined an alternative society on an island, laying down the framework for a community that could exist in response to the state of European society at the time. Francis Bacon believed in the possibility for progress in natural science to lead to better social conditions, imagining the scientifically advanced society of New Atlantis. At times when the present looks grim, utopian thought experiments can offer new perspectives.

God games like Black and White, resource games like Settlers of Catan and Civilization, or SimCity are another kind of prism through which to imagine a potential society. Can virtual worlds become a tool for visualizing alternative paths?

Seed is the kind of game that could feasibly answer a question like this. Currently in development by Berlin-based studio Klang, Seed is a complex MMO where players grow a civilization beginning with a team of two characters, then create a political and economic system, and decide to either collaborate with or go to war against their fellow players.

Studio co-founder Ivar Emilsson describes Seed to me as a colonialist story set on one vast planet with limited resources. In the game, a so-far ambiguous event has led to the downfall of your home planet and you are now tasked with colonising an exo-planet in a nearby solar system to re-form society from scratch.

"Each community starts off with the condition of anarchy, with no leader or head of the colony," says Emilsson. The colony grows over time, and eventually it becomes big enough and unlocks the ability to propose a constitution - what is essentially a customizable political framework where the player can decide on different societal laws, from taxation limits to the rights of characters. As progression happens organically, characters will grow, breed, and develop their social construct. Likewise, as the community eventually comes under threat, so does the physical and mental health of the individuals who make up the community.

"In essence, a colony is a collective of people trying to work together, to protect one another. But, a colony can become whatever it wants to become. It can become power hungry and aim to take over other colonies, or try to collaborate with surrounding colonies and create a friendly society. Ultimately, the goal of the colony is to improve the lives of the characters living in it."

Citizens of Seed live in geodesic domes, those strange, sort of polygonally elegant tents popularized by back-to-the-land communities of the 1970s. For the initial two characters, players can shuffle through randomly generated characters, each having their own random set of traits. But characters also start to develop new traits based on their surroundings and environment, as well as social pressures and lifestyle choices.

For example, say a character is being neglected or has a bad state of well-being. They may develop a depressive trait, which could lead to alcohol dependency or maybe something worse. These traits can then be passed down from one generation to the next.

Here's a possible scenario:

Let's say you have a character with a low happiness trait. She goes to work in a factory, day in, day out. Eventually her mood becomes very explosive. One day, after a long day she insults a fellow colleague who then also loses some of their happiness.

"Because of this encounter, this colleague sinks into depression," Vondi says. "Now in this depressive state, the character no longer goes into work, which then slows down the production in the factory. Now, the owner of the factory is also affected as they no longer receive any income. It can really spiral on forever. And that's the whole idea; it's a constant flow of events and simulations."

"There's a mix and match of several different systems: mental attributes, physical attributes, preferences, and traits," Emilsson continues. "But, at this stage, the exact number has not yet been determined. However, one could argue that once characters start adapting to their environment, developing skills, and building relationships, they'll almost all be unique."

Seed is built on SpatialOS, a platform that can realise a vast number of worlds on a network of continuously running servers. Funded in part by a $502 million investment from Japan's SoftBank last year, this platform is capable of creating an MMO universe of greater scale and complexity than previously possible. This will enable political systems made up of extremely large player groups, Emilsson tells me. "Colonies will be much broader than traditional MMO clans," he says. "We're aiming for bigger community simulations, something that has never before been seen in gaming."

That kind of size allows for a lot of variety in terms of experimental politics. So Klang is harnessing the brainpower of Harvard law professor and constitutional law expert Lawrence Lessig to help oversee the broader political framework in Seed, including the initially pre-programmed economy. This will eventually evolve as the community trades and grows, or even as some opt out of the whole system of global capitalist trade entirely.

The addition of Lessig to the team represents the point in our alternate Sliders universe where MMOs merges with real-world politics. You may recognize Lessig's name from his 2016 presidential campaign as a democratic candidate - the campaign motto "Fixing Democracy Can't Wait" didn't gain a lot of traction in but it's possible it can find a place in a virtual setting. After all, can't you also phrase it this way?: Build alternatives now.

Emilsson thinks the likelihood of a successful utopia being created in the game is pretty much nil. "Players won't be forced to wage wars," he says. "But they will undoubtedly happen." That's always encouraging. But then again while utopia is out of reach, perhaps virtual worlds like this can allow us to explore the alternatives, be they weird or chaotic, or on the off chance better.

Seed with SpatialOS – the MMO to Teach You Life

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Almost a month and half ago I spent a good couple of days at EGX. During this time I got to look at a number of games. A fair few of these I’ve covered, but with so many I haven’t yet had the chance to talk about. On my first day there I spoke to and looked at a number of titles linked to SpatialOS, an impressive platform from Improbable.

The first title I looked at was Seed, by Klang Games. Klang Games started an impressive five years ago and at that point was a labour of love by three developers who were working on EVE Online at the time. What’s incredibly interesting about this game is the plans it has in place on how you actually work in the world.

Seed was described to me as a colony based game in a similar vein to Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld. As such, rather than controlling the specific people within your colony, they are completely controlled by AI. You, of course, will be able to nudge them in a certain direction without giving direct orders.

One of the major features of Seed is the permanence of the world you inhabit. When you’re in-game you’ll be guiding your colony, setting things to build, setting up businesses and arranging production lines. You are, of course, not the only colony in the world. As you expand and the world expands with the number of people playing Seed, your colonies will merge with others. Much like how the real world developed, villages combine and merge into towns. These towns become cities.

This is the major USP of Seed. Unlike other colony builder games, it’s an MMO. As you merge and grow, your control will still be of a limited number of characters. More important is the fact that as you are logged off, your characters stay and function in the game world while you’re offline. While you’re offline, I was told by a member of Klang that you would have the ability to defer control of your characters to other players.

You’ll even have the ability to hire other players’ characters to man your factories, farms and such. These characters, as yours will be limited, will be the fuel of the economy and world. Your expertise may be in the gathering of resources. You will mine the stone and chop the wood. This can then be sold onto somebody who processes these raw resources and then sells them onto somebody who manufactures them into the components that make up the buildings in the world.

Klang also aim to give the ability to keep in touch with your characters while you’re not inside the game. The aim will be to interlink the PC title with a mobile application. This application will allow you to keep an eye on characters stats on your phone. In addition, there will be an aim to link to the in-game chat through the phone application.

Including these is one other incredibly interesting part of Seed. Klang aim to use seed as a tool for understand society as a whole. There will be a number of systems in place that control the communities that are created. Trade that has a direct impact on the world and the finances but where communities set their own prices. Furthermore, they can even completely remove themselves from the global trading system (think North Korea).

Of course there is a risk of conflict between communities. I directly asked this question when talking to Oddur Snær Magnússon, one of the co-founders of Klang. During the conversation he indicated that combat will of course be included, much like you would find in the real world. Combat and conflict will be slow and require a significant amount of effort and resources to mount an attack on another person’s colony. For defence, you will of course be safer in a group and larger community.

One other incredibly interesting part of Seed is the systems of governance that controls the world. Klang have been working with a Harvard law professor, Lawrence Lessig, on a way of setting virtual laws that these virtual characters will have to follow. Each community will have their own governance style. From a dictatorship to a monarchy, possibly even Democracy.

The scale of such a game is impressive to even think about. This is where SpatialOS comes in. SpatialOS allows the cheap and efficient use of processing power which scales to the size of the game. As more players play the game, the world will grow as needed. The more active a particular area of the game is, the more processing power is dedicated to it. Essentially, rather than having fixed costs for the developers, these will scale as needed.

At the time of writing, Seed was hoping to enter a closed beta early 2018. I, for one, am looking forward to it. The concept of effectively rebuilding civilization from the ground up, working with and against other players, sounds incredibly compelling.

Read the article here: https://wccftech.com/seed-with-spatialos-the-mmo-to-teach-you-life/