Who's this Klanger? An interview with Ljubica Jovanovic

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Serbian native and radiating force majeure Ljubica Jovanovic lights up the Icelandic lava fields during a holiday break from her day-to-day as Technical Artist at Klang Games. Here, on the blackened shore of Dimmuborgir, Jovanovic finds inspiration for imagined exoplanets and her own personal new world order.

Are you planning any trips this summer?

Yes, I have the privilege to once again visit the most miraculous place in the world, Iceland, with the charming company of my boyfriend.

What inspired you to work in the gaming industry?

I come from a family of architects. At a very young age, I was introduced to both Andrea Palladio and Mies van der Rohe, and I was fascinated by the wonders of the ancient world. It was almost logical that I would become an architect as well. But architecture was missing a plot: You’re supposed to make buildings without any traps or danger inside! Archaeology will only get you so far. You can only recreate a building the same way it was built thousands of years ago. Even if I could have designed it better, no creative additions were allowed.

Discovering the Tomb Raider games set my imagination on fire. I realized there are actual people who do this for a living, who modify archaeological locations into fantastic places of danger and beauty, in which a brave and brilliant woman solves riddles, kills monsters, and finds treasures. I wanted to do that!

Did you?

No, it never happened. I graduated in 2008, “the year of the crisis.” Due to a general lack of work in Serbia, where I’m from, I worked as an architect on various buildings as well as with historians and archaeologists on reconstructing ancient Roman castra and medieval and Neolithic cities. I was very good at it, and my work was sincerely respected by senior polymaths. I loved it, and I was learning a lot, but a part of me knew I that something was missing: video games.

When I finally got my first video game job, as a 3D generalist, it was … quite different from what I expected. Although I was doing very similar things – creating 3D models and putting them into Unity – suddenly, I felt like a worthless nobody. I was being told that anyone could do what I was doing. Later, I realized that these naysayers were guys who had heard that video games make more money than Hollywood movies, and they wanted some of that money. It was difficult, but somehow I endured. I was constantly learning on my own. But I was never happy, never felt respected as a person, and my work was usually evaluated by my looks.

How do you feel about working in an industry that is still very male-dominated?

Berlin is way better than the Balkans, but still, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes, I like to compare it to an RPG setting from one of my favorite games: In the beginning, you are a low-level nobody and you walk into the majestic scene where a giant is fighting a dragon on a shore while thunders break the sky. But you don’t retreat, you continue playing the game. You level up so much that you end up not just killing the giant, but also slaying the dragon.

To quote my favorite architect, Zaha Hadid: “Men don’t listen to me, so I have to give them hell!”

How did you end up at Klang?

After working in a few horror-story gaming studios and even being a co-founder of my own studio, I decided I had had enough of video games and wanted to go back to architecture. I visited my sister, who is an architect here in Berlin, and I ended up presenting a game I was secretly working on alone at Femisphere, an event organized by Berlin’s wonderful indie game developers. There, I felt like I really belonged, and like I wanted to give video games another chance. One of the participants showed me an enchanting poster of a game by “a bunch of Icelanders who worked on Eve Online, who now have a studio in Berlin and are working on some space-colonizing game.” That poster was love at first sight! And now I’m here.

Tell me a bit about your role and responsibilities at Klang.

I’m a technical artist: a bridge between the artists and the engineers. It’s a two-faced role.

One part of it consists of being responsible for the assets coming from the Art Team that go into the game, which means that I annoy the artists with limitations and optimizations.

My other responsibility is prototyping all sorts of game-related objects, from how characters will look while crying rivers of tears to how to make machines look dirty or broken.

What excites you most about Seed?

I can’t say because it would be a spoiler. Apart from the secret stuff, I’m really hyped about our rich industry, machinery, and building systems, and the way it will influence politics. I really can’t say more!

What are your favorite games of all-time?

My first love was Lara Croft. All-time favorites are Mass Effect, Dragon Age, The Witcher, GTA, Saints Row, and Postal 2.

If the world were to end, would you want to migrate to a new planet?

I think Alpha Centauri would be a nice choice to start off with. Having two suns would heavily influence culture and mythology.

What would you want to change in the new world?

So many things. For starters, the hunters and warriors should not ask for taxes from the farmers. I would like to go for a Star-Trek-esque utopian model, but a bit more technocratic: with more social democracy and human rights, a strong emphasis on education, craftmanship, engineering, arts and culture, and no military.

I guess architecture would change completely. Our current layouts are mostly based on ancient Roman military camps. Depending on the degree of individuality, if every house would have its own power generator and water purifying systems, cities would look entirely different.

If you want to make your mark on Klang, visit our Careers page and see if there's a position for you: www.klang-games.com/careers

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Samet Kuru

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Samet Kuru, Klang's multifaceted visual designer and video editor, is here to talk about his background, Seed and Max Payne in the latest episode of Who's this Klanger?

So Samet, why don’t you start by telling our readers a little about your working background and experience?

Before moving to Berlin, I was living in Istanbul, Turkey, and working for several digital agencies on a variety of design projects. I actually don't have any educational background in design, I'm all self-taught and focused on learning as many design tools as I can. What I love is being curious about all aspects of design! I never really wanted to be a specialist in only one thing, say just web design or video production, because I love doing all of it! I just try to learn as much as I can and have fun with it. And what’s more, it’s helping me to make money!

So, how'd you end up becoming a member of the Klang Gang?

My girlfriend has been living in Berlin for a while, and I decided to join her. After a relatively long period of job searching, I found an ad on Glassdoor for a designer position at Klang. I checked out more about Klang and Seed and loved everything I saw, so I applied right away. And now, here I am!

What excites you most about Seed?

Everything about Seed is cool, from its premise to its design. I love the idea of being able to shape a new planet from scratch – providing players with a way to restart civilization and seeing how they affect this world, both the good and the bad. It's very exciting; there will be so many things to explore.

Which designers or games have inspired you throughout the years?

As a designer, I always try to get inspired by everything - from stuff I see on the Internet to found, real-life objects and nature. But, if I had to name one designer, I'd say Dieter Rams is a big inspiration. He believes in simplicity and ergonomic design, which I really identify with.

When it comes to games, I wouldn't say I'm much of a gamer. But, throughout my gaming years, I've been inspired by a lot of strategy games, like Starcraft and Age of Empires. Actually, Max Payne is one of my favourites. I've forgotten how many times I've played it through from start to finish.

What's your favourite thing about living in Berlin?

Berlin is a way greener city than Istanbul. I know that Berlin is very urban, but there are trees everywhere, beautiful parks and lakes to visit just outside of the city. There's so much to see and do. Visually, it's very dynamic. There's always something new to explore. Oh, and Berlin has cheap beer. Cheap, tasty beer!

If you want to make your mark on Klang, visit our Careers page and see if there's a position for you: www.klang-games.com/careers

New COO Alert! Ryan DeSanto becomes a Klanger

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We're incredibility happy to announce that Ryan DeSanto, business-master and bass player, has joined the Klang Gang as Chief Operating Officer.

Ryan will be steering the Klang train down the proverbial track to world domination. Or virtual world domination, depending on how you look at it. Basically, he'll be overseeing Klang's business procedures.

Ryan's experience is second to none and was previously the Head of Games at Improbable, as well as the Director of Business Development for North America at NetEase. Not only that, Ryan was the Founder of TinySpark and the Founder of Playhem. He also likes to slap the bass.

In his own words, “During my time at Improbable, I was fortunate to work with many amazing teams producing the next generation of multiplayer game content on SpatialOS. Out of them all, I was blown away by Klang's team and vision for Seed and am extremely proud to be a part of the gang.”

Welcome to the Gang, Ryan.

Who's this Klanger? An interview with John Holten

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Next up is Seed's narrative writer and editor, John Holten, in the spotlight for this edition of Who's this Klanger? Keep reading to find out more about his own novels, sci-fi, and a little insight into an upcoming podcast project...

How on Earth did an Irish novelist start working for a Berlin-based gaming studio?

Well, I've been living in Berlin for around ten years and have known Klang for five of those years, since ReRunners times. So when Seed started to go into production, I pitched a brief for the backstory and the guys loved it. Since then, I started to work on text-related endeavors and slowly the tasks have accumulated. Now things are getting hot and heavy!

You were doing lots of cool stuff before joining Klang full time. Tell our readers more about yourself!

After studying philosophy and literature, I moved around a little bit before settling in Berlin to write what would become my first novel The Readymades. Whilst I was deep in the writing process, I got a tad bored and isolated - as one tends to do when writing a novel - and so I started distracting myself and started to edit and curate what became an anthology of other people's art and writing, and that in turn gave rise to a publishing endeavor, which is called Broken Dimanche Press (BDP). It was a success. So we made some more books and a couple of years later I found myself then self-publishing my first novel The Readymades through BDP.

That was back in 2009, and since then, we've published over 50 titles. We've done a lot of projects including exhibitions, workshops and readings, both in Berlin and across Europe. It's an independent art press that allows us to do pretty cool things. So along with that, I've worked a lot with visual artists, often collaborating on text-related aspects to their work.

What is it you're currently working on at Klang?

I'm working closely with the Game Designers and developing all narrative aspects of the game from backstory and lore to world-building. There is a lot there to be fleshed out, researched and rounded out, so to speak. It's super exciting because it's world-building in its purest form.

On top of that, we're very deep in making a podcast, which is super cool because it's a whole production that we've built from the ground up. It's been a wild journey! Not only learning about all the subjects that we're looking at, which is, broadly speaking, the future of humanity (no less!), but it's also exciting to work as a writer and storyteller in a whole new medium - sound - and explore the potentials of podcasting.

What excites you most about Seed?

Seed is set in the future, but it has all the premises of sci-fi that I love the most: it can teach us something about and reflect on the present. It does so by starting its backstory in the past, and we've got a fascinating 'temporal arc'. So Seed, while set on an exoplanet, is going to be able to teach us a lot about our planet in the here and now.

One thing that I'm doing is to try and work the backstory so that it covers a large span of time into the game and make it relevant and enjoyable for the in-game experience. Seed will be a chance to explore the future, but in a way that's very recognizable, touching on present concerns.

I get to think about things like the Anthropocene, climate change, Transhumanism, Big Data, the Internet and AI. All these aspects that are happening quite quickly and the rate of change is accelerating all the time. Seed is an imaginative world that blends all these things, so it makes it really enjoyable to work on. Also the team at Klang is incredible, it’s really been a pleasure to be around so many smart and talented people and teams all working toward a shared goal.

Any books or sources of information that you'd recommend reading or find very inspiring in relation to Seed?

The cool thing about working on Seed is that because the story is so big, it's allowed my research and reading to go really far. So everything from the Holy Bible to The Three-Body Problem is relevant. What I've realized while working on Seed is that the Transhumanist movement can really be seen in a lot of popular culture. So the Blade Runner movies are of relevance for the way they tell their stories but also for the philosophical issues they touch upon. But then so is Leibniz, a philosopher from the 18th Century, who was a polymath and could straddle the scientific and philosophical disciplines.

In terms of book suggestions, I recommend: To Be a Machine by Mark McConnell, Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, and New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future by James Bridle. But also anything you can get your hands on related to Russian Cosmism, a whole movement dating from as far as 19th century Russia that has a lot to teach us about life, death, the planet and outer space...

Now, time to plug! Where can we read or buy your own work?

Well, I've just had an essay published in a UK-based journal called Hotel, issue number five. A massive thing for me recently was having an excerpt of my work in The Other Irish Tradition, published by Dalkey Archive Press. I joke that it's is my retirement card because I'm included with all my heroes. It was a big honor!

My first book, The Readymades, is sold out but will be published by gorse editions later this year while my second book, Oslo, Norway, is still available to purchase via Broken Dimanche Press.

Who's this Klanger? An interview with David Magnusson

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We're catching up with the man, the myth and the gosh-darn legend that is David Magnusson, Klang's Sound Designer and Media Producer, for this edition of Who's this Klanger?

WOW, it's been almost three years since we last spoke (for the blog, not in real life). What have you been up to?

"A lot of really great stuff has happened over the past three years! Once we were done working on ReRunners, I took a couple of years out to study Digital Management at Hyper Island in Stockholm. I was really inspired by what I'd learned during the ReRunners period and wanted to broaden my skill set. Last August, I started back full time at Klang to work on the sound design for Seed and a bunch of other cool Klang-related things, as well as finishing my Master's thesis, just before the end of 2018."

Not only are you Klang's Sound Designer, but you're also Klang's Media Producer. Can you give us an insight into what Klang is working on?

"Because of the vast scope of Seed, we have a lot of content to work with; we want to create a whole universe for our players to explore and to let people into what we're doing and how we're doing it. We're working on a lot of exciting things – videos, websites, and other top secret projects."

What excites you the most about creating the sound for Seed?

"As we're creating a whole new world, there is so much to explore when it comes to sound. There's no right or wrong, only experimentation. It's super exciting helping to complement and bring this awesome project to life through sound. We also have very interesting ideas to how we're going to present the music in Seed, but we can talk more about that in the future."

Do you have any tips for budding sound designers on how to get into an industry, be it film, games, advertising?

"When I finished Audio Engineering back in '98 at SAE Glasgow, I knew that I didn't want to work with recording musicians as I'd played in bands during my youth and I always felt sorry for the engineers that had to work with us. I made the conscious decision to go into post-production for TV and commercials as there was steady work with a steady income. I'd recommend for budding sound designers to go straight into studying sound for games as this industry is growing-and-growing. There's always a need for sound designers for gaming projects. In my opinion, it’s the most exciting field in the world of audio today!"

As a long-standing member of the Klang Gang, why would you recommend Klang as the best studio to work for?

"We have a very talented team, from a variety of backgrounds from all around the world. And, by starting to work for Klang now, you can become a part of actually molding the culture that we're in because every voice is heard. We want everyone to make their mark and be a part of creating the company culture. We're all on the same mission. It's awesome!"

If you want to make your mark on Klang, visit our Careers page and see if there's a position for you: www.klang-games.com/careers

Klang at PC Connects London '19: Next Generation of Multiplayer Games

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Klang bossman and bowling champion – his words not ours – will be talking about the Next Generation of Multiplayer Games at PC Connects London this coming Monday. We've already had a preview of the talk in the studio and it's pretty darn amazing.

As part of the talk, Mundi will be exploring the history of multiplayer games; how they began and where they're going. The session will also feature some info on Seed and how the game will be able to host hundreds of players at any given time.

The session, titled Next Generation of Multiplayer Games, will be taking place on Monday 21st January at 3:20pm (GMT) at PC Connects London, a part of PocketGamer Connects London. Find out more about the conference here: https://www.pgconnects.com/london/pc-connects/

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Matt Weichselbaum

Not sponsored by Nike

Not sponsored by Nike

It's time! Time for another episode of Who's this Klanger? for your eyeballs. This time around, Game Engineer, Matt Weichselbaum, is in the hot seat to talk about his background, Klang, and cowboys...

Matt, why don’t you start by telling our readers a little about your working background and experience.

I graduated with a BA in Computer Science doing front-end architecture and website stuff, but I was always coding games throughout college, especially around the end of my sophomore year. The first thing that I ever built was a Galaga clone, naturally. For one semester project, I built a Pokemon-esque game with a world editor feature, which was pretty intense. I loved the whole experience! I've always been a huge gaming nerd but I never thought game development was a realistic career path...until now!

My career after college began as a Software Engineer for an education company, then as a Software Engineer for a healthcare company back in the US. In 2017, I moved to Berlin to work for a startup accelerator as a Technical Advisor, then as a Senior Software Engineer at BCG Digital Ventures. After some needed self reflection, I knew I had to pursue game development, stuff that I've been passionately creating in my spare time for over six years - building space shooters and AI simulations.

So, how'd you end up becoming a member of the Klang Gang?

I'd known about Klang for probably around four years now, when the studio was still developing ReRunners. I thought about applying to Klang while I was still in the States, but never hit the submit button. But I knew that Klang was the only studio I wanted to pursue.

When I started to look for new job opportunities in Berlin, I went into full stalker mode, befriending everyone that I could on LinkedIn, trying to find a good connection to Mundi or Oddur. A friend of mine is an Icelander, so I reached out to them if they knew any of the Klang founders. She responded with, 'yeah, I'm sitting across from Oddur right now. I'll let him know.' Not too long after this, it was my first day as a Klanger.

What excites you most about Seed?

That the scale and the ambition of this project is enormous! It was always a dream to work on a huge project; I'm someone who likes tackling big problems. The scale of the tech is the most interesting thing ever for me. I'm also a big sci-fi fan, so that's an extra bonus.

Are there any games that have inspired you?

I've always loved space shooters. I played the Star Wars TIE Fighter and X-Wing games growing up in the mid-nineties, back when Windows 95 and joysticks were a thing. Those are still great games! Also Freelancer and Independence War 2 are my old favorites from around that time.

Born in Boston and raised in Texas, would you describe yourself as a Boston Terrier or a Texan Cowboy?

Well, I guess I'd have to say the Cowboy, although I don't really feel like I'm from Texas anymore; I haven't lived there in over 20 years. I do like the mystique of being a lone ranger. Maybe I also like wearing the leather chaps. Who knows?!

Stay tuned, readers, for the next part of Who's this Klanger? coming to you soon!


Happy Holidays & Thanks for 2018!

I know it's not nice to brag about your achievements, but it's our blog, so we'll do what we want!

We've put together a short video with a rundown of Klang's milestones throughout 2018 as a self-reminder of how far we've come, and that we couldn't have done it without your support!
Thank you so much!

See you in 2019!

- The Klang Gang