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!


Who's this Klanger? An interview with Sabrina Seltenreich

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It's been a while, but we thought we should drop a surprise episode of Who's this Klanger? just before the holidays! This time, I sat down with QA legend, Sabrina, to talk about her background, cats, and big rocks...

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

“When I finished school, I felt very lost and directionless. I truly felt like there was not a single job in the world that I would like, that I’d be good at, and that I’d ever be given a chance to try out and prove myself in. After some needed self-reflection, I ended up moving to Berlin more or less overnight, crashing at friends’ places, and through one of them finally ended up with an internship at an animation studio, which eventually led to my first real job.

Some time had passed, and a friend suggested checking out a QA role for a company that made databases; said company also shared an office (and management) with ZeroScale Games. It wasn’t long until I was asked to help them out with QA for their game projects, which basically meant doing all their QA work, as it was a pretty tiny studio. I felt very thrown into the cold water and had to learn a lot very fast, but I really loved being part of game creation. Because the studio was so small, I got a lot of insight into the production of video games as a whole and I was loving it!

My next job was in localization QA, but being so far removed from the actual process of creating games, it wasn't for me. I love working alongside devs and feeling embedded into the team, rather than communicating only through tickets. Luckily,  a former colleague (and by now one of my best friends) from Zeroscale told me about Yager Development looking for QA Technicians, and even more luckily they decided to hire me. I was working on Dead Island 2 until it was canceled. That was a hard day!

After Yager came Sandbox Interactive. I was excited to join as Albion reminded me of my Ultima Online days, and it was great to work closely with the community, as Albion was already in open beta when I joined the team.

Now I’m at Klang, working on the most exciting title of my career yet!”

And with that in mind, how'd you end up becoming a member of the Klang Gang?

“I was told about the position by a former colleague. Klang hadn’t really been on my radar before, but the more I learned about Seed and the more I heard about the team, the more I wanted to be in. My first week at Klang I was walking on air! Four months in, I’m still very much in the honeymoon phase.”

Amazing to hear! So, what excites you most about Seed?

“Initially I was just taken by the beautiful art style, it’s so unique and fresh and cool. I still take screenshots all the time just because it’s so pretty. But by now, I’m much more intrigued by the sheer scale and the strong vision behind it. I keep hearing that we have to be crazy to undertake such an ambitious project, but I think I’d rather work on something crazy than on something boring any day.

Personally, I can’t wait to see the first players breathe life into the game. What they're gonna come up with, how they're gonna shape the world, and how they're gonna use the tools we’re providing. And, from a QA standpoint, how are they gonna break it, of course.

I also love science fiction, so working on a game with this kind of lore is just a dream come true!”

Are there any games that have inspired you?

“I love Monkey Island, Loom and all those old point-and-click adventures. Humor and storytelling are essential to me. I was very much a Nintendo kid, and the Zelda and Metroid games hold a special place in my heart. Even before I knew enough English to understand what’s going on in the game, putting in that golden cartridge was just something magical. And later, Ocarina of Time made me daydream about making my own games (which mostly looked suspiciously like OoT reskins).

Donkey Kong Country was one of the most fun games series of my childhood. Mario was a big part of my childhood as well, so I have to mention those. Then there was Final Fantasy VII, which just has the best atmosphere.

I got into Ultima Online for a bit, and loved exploring the world and having fun with my friends.

And The Sims, which brought out my inner interior designer and inner psychopath in equal measures. It’s very hard to stop listing things so I’ll just do it now.”

Enough of this video game nonsense, tell us more about your cats!

“Haha! I have too many cats, which means three, since a sane person has two cat slots. Mütze is 16, thinks my face is a perfectly fine surface for walking on, and wants your food, my food, that lady-over-there’s food, and could you order him a pizza? Strangely enough, he’s pretty skinny.

Merle, 13, is the neglected middle child and the friendliest cat in the world. Persian-Maine Coon mix, shakes your hand in exchange for a treat. She also likes brushies.

Schmu, 7, is afraid of everything, but wants your attention in the form of tummy rubs. There’s a lot of tummy, and there are never enough tummy rubs. She’s also a bully.

As a team, they like to sit on the comics I try to read, walk over my keyboard and drink from my water glasses.”

Your also an avid boulderer, what's your favorite rock of all time?

“You mean, like, Dwayne Johnson? I’ve only started bouldering last year, and I only do it inside. There are a few bouldering halls in Berlin that I go to in a rotation, that way you always get fresh routes. When I started last year I was very afraid of heights, and would sometimes start crying when up on a wall. Now I’m pretty much over that, and only cry when I run out of snacks or adventure times ends, like a normal person. I can really recommend bouldering, it’s a great mix of puzzle and exercise, and the atmosphere in most bouldering halls is great.

Basically, a group of people taking turns in failing at getting up a wall, but sticking with it, and being happy for each other when they succeed. So if you’re afraid of heights or performing/failing in front of people, give it a try, you’ll get over those fears in no time. It’s also just a lot of fun!”

Thanks, Sabrina. That was a great one! We'll be bringing back this series next year, featuring the latest members of the Klang Gang.

And, while you're here, we're hiring! Be sure to check out our vacancies here. Are you the next member of the Gang?

Come and Unite at Klang's Unite Berlin Party!

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As Klang is known for its raging parties (trust me, it's true), we're throwing a party to coincide with Unite Berlin to celebrate the event, and well, any excuse for a party.

After an action-packed day of workshops, presentations, and networking, come and let your hair down with Klang, including free drinks and music all night long (well, until 1 am).

The party will be located a stone's throw from the main Unite Berlin venue, STATION-BERLIN, which means you can easily pop over for a drink, or two, or three.

So, here are the details:

When? Tuesday 19th June

Time? 7 pm, straight after the Keynote session, until 1 am

Where? Tor Eins, Möckernstraße 26, a 5-minute walk from STATION-BERLIN and U-Bahn Gleisdreieck

Let's Unite! Let's Klang! Let's Party!

Be sure to RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/klangs-unite-berlin-party-2018-tickets-46970941350

Join the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/241384383300331/

See ya there!

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Artem “Archie” Dyadichkin

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We're back with another episode of Who's this Klanger?! This time, I sat down with Engineer, Archie, to discuss his background, favourite games, and rock music...

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

“I recently graduated with a B.Sc. in Media and Computer Science from HTW Dresden and was lucky enough to find a position as a Game Engineer here at Klang. But, working on Seed isn't my first project, oh no! During my time at university, I was working as a freelancer for various projects as a gameplay-developer and programmer, most-notably the VR project, Cosmotic.”

With that in mind, how'd you end up working at Klang?

“After graduating, I really wanted to realise my dream of becoming a game developer as I've been a huge gamer since I was a kid. I was looking online at game studios across Germany and Klang really stood out. In fact, Klang was the first studio to actually respond to my speculative application, so it was meant to be!”

So, what excites you most about Seed?

“It's funny because I originally thought that Seed was going to be a small, cute indie project. But now that I'm a part of the madness, the scope of the project is so much bigger than I was expecting...and way more ambitious.

There are so many cool concepts with interesting gameplay mechanics in Seed, it gets me super excited as a gamer.”

Are there any games that have inspired you?

“Well, this could be a long list, but it's probably best that I keep it short...

I love the games developed by Naughty Dog, such as the Uncharted series and The Last of Us. I'd say that my favourite game of the past few years is The Witcher 3. I love games that have an emphasis on player choice allowing you to feel like you're the character you're playing.”

You're a guitarist, right? Do you play in any bands or have any music projects that you'd like to plug?

“I'm still looking for other musicians in Berlin to play with, and I've posted in a few forums. Back in Dresden, I was in an instrumental progressive metal band called Devio Hail, but we never released a record. Those guys are still playing, though.

I'd love to have a band here in Berlin and be able to dust off the guitar!”

What are your favourite bands or musicians of all time?

“I'm really open to a lot of music, but I'm mostly into rock and metal. I like a lot of the music coming out of the 80s and 90s, especially grunge. I love a band called Failure, one of the more obscure bands coming out of the grunge scene. Their album Fantastic Planet is one that I'd totally recommend. It's iconic!

There's a band from back in Dresden called CEDRIC that I really like. They've just released a new album that is really killer!”

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

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Otto Bruno Rivera

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For the first instalment of our Who's this Klanger? Series for 2018, I sat down with QA Manager, Otto, to discuss his background, favourite games, Star Wars, and blends of tea...

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

“My introducing into the gaming industry was quite random! Back in 2007, my Aunt found a job ad in a local newspaper that was searching for multilingual people who were interested in video games...it turned out that the ad came from EA Madrid! I initially took it on as a summer job and it ended up turning into a full-blown career.

From then on, I've worked for a bunch of gaming studios, especially for Ubisoft in Germany, outsourcing localization QA for Skyrim. But, originally, I studied history, which is totally unrelated.”

With that in mind, how'd you end up working at Klang?

“It's partly by chance, partly by luck. A while back, I left my previous company to seek out new working experiences, but I really wanted to stay in Berlin; I ended up turning down a bunch of offers that were not Berlin-based.

I sent a speculative application to Klang and when I finally got the answer, Seed had gained a bunch of exposure online, and I was like, 'wow, that sounds interesting!'”

So, what excites you most about Seed?

“What sold me was the political system. During my second or third interview, Mundi showed me a mock-up of the political framework. The possibilities of creating a 'fill-in-the-blanks' political system, allowing players to create a system that works for them, just blew my mind. I knew I wanted to play this game. Now, I'm in-charge of QA for it.”

Are there any games that have inspired you?

“I'm a big fan of all kinds of management and strategy games. To be honest, I'm a huge fanboy of Alisdair's work, Klang's new Game Designer. He played an integral part in the development of Total War: WARHAMMER II, which I just love playing - from the gameplay to the lore.

I'd say that my all-time favourite games are Masters of Orion II and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. I've spent countless hours playing both games...I just can't get enough of them!

I loved working on Skyrim, that's for sure. Working on an AAA game, on that size, was great. Seeing the game being produced, even from the perspective of the fringes of development, was an incredible experience.”

Speaking of being a fanboy, you're also a bit of a Star Wars fanatic. What's your favourite film in the franchise and why?

“Do you have several hours to spare? Because that's not an easy answer! But, I'd say, from over the past 10 years, my favourite Star Wars film is Rogue One. It's set in the same universe but doesn't have the same, traditional heroes. It's a movie about terrorism...in space! How gritty is that!

Of course, The Empire Strikes Back cannot be beaten. The Empire can be beaten (with a bit of luck), but the film, nope, that can't be beaten.

You're known for your love of tea. What's your favourite blend for a good cuppa?

“This is a very funny question to ask a Spaniard! Since I was a kid, tea has always been around my house. Out of my friends and family, it was only me and my parents who enjoyed a good brew.

I would say definitely a dark blend. Something that hits hard. Either Yorkshire Tea or Barry's Tea, an Irish tea that's like a punch to the face.”

Stay tuned, readers, for the next part of Who's this Klanger? coming to you in a galaxy far, far away!

Happy New Year from the Klang Gang!

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A huge thank you from us Klangers for supporting us throughout 2017! It's been a wild ride, filled with tears, fears, cheers, and plenty of beers!

But, seriously, thanks for your love and interest in what we're doing. We've had some brilliant achievements this year and couldn't have done it without you.

I'm not going to bore you any further, so instead, here are some embarrassing photos from the Klang Xmas party:

The Klang Gang!

The Klang Gang!

Still (relativity) civilised.

Still (relativity) civilised.

Getting merrier!

Getting merrier!

Then...it..went...downhill...

Then...it..went...downhill...

Drunken santa - aka. Poop Self - and his merry elf.

Drunken santa - aka. Poop Self - and his merry elf.

But, there's still love!

But, there's still love!

See you all in 2018!

- The Klang Gang

Is Gaming Good for You?

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There's a familiar narrative that divides public opinion, whether video games, as a whole, have a positive or negative effect on society. And when it comes to mental health, video games are, the majority of the time, mentioned as either potential causes or cures for health-related issues. But, for the sake of this post, let's instead talk about the idea of using games for good.

In a recent article published in The Big Issue, Lead Content Editor at Improbable, Dan Griliopoulos, looks into just that; how games have been made for good.

First, let's mention the adaptation of games for the educational environment. Dan notes that, despite the skepticism of using games within the classroom, it was found that 71 percent of teachers in the U.S. stated that digital games had been effective in improving their students’ mathematics learning, according to a nationwide survey.

For example, Minecraft, the hugely popular sandbox game, released an Educational Edition, which can be used as an immersive platform to develop new skills in geometry and learn more about the environment and climate change, among a bunch of other really great things.

Testing the Millennial Moral Code

Dan comments that, “games are a form of media that have become a moral guide to the millennial generation,” and I couldn't agree more. It's certainly become a more prolific gameplay mechanic in recent years. And for me, I personally love my morals being challenged as part of my playing experience.

Of course, I'm not the only one. Dan points out that video games have even provided Edward Snowden with a moral structure that informed his actions: “they taught him that anyone, no matter how weak, is capable of confronting huge injustice,” which is more profound than my own actions. Never harm animals. That's my rule.

Now, with all of this in mind, the idea of testing one's moral code is something that'll become apparent in Seed, especially as the player becomes more committed. Although, I can't say much more at the moment...

As somewhat of a conclusion, I do believe that developers have a great social responsibility to create games that can challenge the player's morals or ethics as a virtual test or trial for real life. But, after this is said and done, if you act like a tool, then you're just a tool.

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Rachel Little

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For this instalment of our Who's this Klanger? series, I sat down with 3D Animator, Rachel, to discuss her obsession with Sonic the Hedgehog, what games have influenced her, and her opinions on the gaming industry.

Rachel, tell our readers about your background in animation...

To be honest, I'd never even opened up animation software until two years ago. One day, I made the decision to change my path in life and become an animator. I signed up for the online school, Animation Mentor, and within a year and a half, I'd gone from having literally no knowledge of animation to being a pretty competent animator.

What led you down the proverbial path of the gaming industry?

When I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog. I used to spend a good amount of time doodling Sonic in my notebooks, designing my own levels. So, I guess that was somewhat me venturing down the path, even if I didn't know it at the time.

While we're talking about the gaming industry, it would be great to get your opinion on the industry, one that is known as being mostly male-dominated.

Luckily at Klang, I’m shielded somewhat from the issues non-males face elsewhere in the industry. But in general, it feels like there's a shift going on. Especially in recent fields, like AR and VR. It's almost like there's more of a level playing field, which is great to see!

So, how'd you first meet the Klang Gang?

I first got to know about Klang during the super early stages of the studio, as my boyfriend was part of the team back then. But, I finally met Mundi face-to-face at a party in Reykjavík, and we've been buds ever since.

You were part of the team during the launch of ReRunners, and now, you've returned for Seed. How does it feel to be back?

It's great to be back! I first joined Klang right at the point ReRunners launched, in the middle of all the mania that came with it. But now, it's incredible to be at the very beginning of the Seed journey, and be a part of the development process. It's really interesting for me, especially as this is my first ever video game job.

What excites you most about Seed?

I was a massive Sims fan growing up. I always saw the game as more of a deep social experiment; I feel exactly the same way about Seed.

It's a really exciting concept to think about what player-driven stories will be created, as we have no idea of how far we can go at this point.

It's going be a microcosm of ideas. What societies will be made? Will players be at constant war? Will players be collaborative? The game can even work as a soundboard for various political models and whether they could actually work in the real world.

Are there any games that have inspired you?

Ironically, I wasn’t really allowed to play video games when I was a kid! Eventually, my parents caved and bought us The Sims, so that was the first game that I really got into.

It wasn't until years later that I got myself a PS3 and aimed to play all the games that I could get my hands on. I'm really into sandbox RPG games that you can get lost in, like Fallout and Skyrim.

Visually, games like Journey, Limbo, and Firewatch have all been a big inspiration. I'm currently making my way through the whole Double Fine back catalog. 

Also, I'm super into games with strong female protagonists, for example, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

As you're Klang's reigning board gaming champion, what is your secret for success?!

Mind reading! Spooky.

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