Wham Bam, join this Berlin VR Game Jam

Attention, Berlin-based VR fans! Long time Klang-affiliate Joe Virskus, and Klanger Rachel Little, are holding this radical VR Game Jam between 11th and 13th August at Colonia Nova in Neukölln. And, we'll be there for sure!

Interested in finding out more? Keep on reading...

The main theme of the Game Jam is “Genesis", not the prog-rock band from the eighties, but “creation”. To quote the organisers:

The idea is to explore VR experiences that encapsulate the idea of creation, emergence, birth, and invention. Please feel free to interpret the theme as loosely or as literally as you like! It's meant to be a jumping off point, a little speck of dust to form your mental rain drops around, not a hard constraint.”

Klang team members will be there on Friday and during the weekend, so make sure to say hi!

If you're up for the challenge, join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1959326410980229/

And, make sure to sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSePvnXhwi2Pq-i9J6oeynL9tuVQH7AKXz5RS7UHKP5qivy5bQ/viewform

The timetable is as follows...

Thursday 10th August

6 PM: Registration and project brainstorming. This event is optional, but is a great way to hangout and meet fellow VR-loving people!

Friday 11th August

6 PM: The official kick-off!
7 PM – 8 PM: Project pitches!
8 PM and beyond: Join a group and commence jamming!

Sunday 13th August

8 PM – 12 AM: Game Jam showcase and party!

Note that from 11th 6 PM to 13th 8 PM, the event space will be open 24 hours, so there's enough time to complete projects and have a blast!

Hopefully see you there!

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Martin Maczkowski

For the latest instalment of our Who's this Klanger? series I sat down with Martin, Game Engineer, and mountain biker to talk about his experience and what he finds exciting about Seed...

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

Like most of us Klangers, I've always been interested in making computer games. I started programming early in high school, creating a bunch of prototypes. One thing lead to another and I enrolled at the University of Applied Science in Berlin where I studied International Media and Computing, and eventually, a Masters in Game Development.

During my studies, I was working at Neutron Games as a freelancer doing UI stuff and general gameplay programming for Handball Challenge. From then on, I've been working on numerous projects with companies across Berlin and Hamburg, most notably at InnoGames on Forge of Empires; porting it over to mobile, which was a very interesting project.

Actually, I previously worked at Exozet on the digital versions of Catan, alongside Rainer. Although, I'd also worked with him before at the University.

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

I remember Rainer telling me about this cool new project that he was working on, and he asked me if I wanted to join, so I said why not! That project is of course Seed...

Cool! So, what excites you most about Seed?

Well, Seed is the first MMO that I have ever worked on, so from a technical level, that's really exciting. It's a super complex project, with a lot to learn and discover.

From a game design level, I envision Seed as more of a social experiment. What excites me is, once we have players, how they will interact with one another. Will players in different colonies collaborate, or will there be a constant state of war?

Are there any games that have inspired you?

As a kid, I always played a lot of adventure games with my Dad, like Space Quest and King's Quest. That got me into games and problem-solving.

Also, Double Fine's Psychonauts is a game that has really stuck with me. I love the game's style and sense of humour.

So, in your personal time, you're quite the adrenaline junkie. What's your favourite way for getting your adrenaline fix?

I'm really into mountain biking and skateboarding, both I guess are adrenaline inducing sports. But, the thing I love more about mountain biking is being out in nature by myself. I do sometimes head down to Southern Germany to check out bike parks if I really need something more extreme than the Berlin surroundings have to offer.

But, if I'm honest, just cycling through Berlin is extreme enough and I do that every day. That keeps me awake!

I also have just rediscovered skateboarding, which I loved when I was a teenager. It's nice to go out after work for a little session and think of something else other than computer games.

What's your favourite thing to do in Berlin?

Hmmm... I'm not much of a party guy, but I do love to visit flea markets, which Berlin has a lot of. You always find a lot of cool stuff and meet interesting people. The best thing about Berlin is that it's a very green city, there are many parks and lakes to visit. There's always something interesting to do or see!

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

The Taming of the Mundi: An E3 2017 Monologue

American Mundi.png

A few weeks back, Mundi travelled to LA to attend a bunch of super confidential meetings – actually, do cocktails count as meetings? - and E3, plus all the madness that goes with it. I spoke with him and let him ramble on a little bit about his experiences. Of course, there will be some fictitious parts. Or are they fictitious?

Mundi, go for it!

“Man, it was great to be back in California. I've been there about three times over the past two years, and each trip was different. This time, it was slightly more 'trumpy', if you catch my drift? But, nah, that sounds too negative. I had a great time!

I was renting an apartment with PlayRaven's Robin Squire; shout out to him and Matt Wilson from Rovio...really great dudes. The three of us went to a bunch of parties, some exclusive, some not so. To be honest, I really can't remember who was hosting them – too many to remember – but I know that they were all smaller, industry-focused, rather than those big parties, like the Twitch one. I'm not too into going to these bigger parties as I end up losing my friends in a crowd of people, which isn't my idea of a good time.

A bunch of these parties have random, free food, mostly the size of rabbit pellets. So, in true American nature, I ate a bunch of absolute rubbish, which my body now regrets. The standout meal was a horrendously large Philly cheesesteak sandwich eaten at midnight, full of meat, cheese and onions. You know you're going to regret eating something when it's colour palette goes from yellow to brown. Not sure if it made my hangover better or worse?!

Enough about food, back to E3....

I spent the majority of E3 running from meeting-to-meeting, which is usual for me at these types of events. I'd say that I saw the interior of the JW Marriott Hotel way more than the inside of the LA Convention Center. I'm not trying to flex; this is where most of my meetings took place. So, I didn't get to see any of the big press events.

Having said that, I did get to walk around the show floor and check out some games. For me, Nintendo stole my heart, but, I'm a Nintendo fanboy! Wow, 'tendo has a bunch of fun and beautiful looking games. I can't wait for Super Mario Odyssey! Ummm...what else? I think Anthem looks amazing...almost too good to be true. I'm looking forward to A Way Out, especially as I really like unique co-op games.

Oh, and I must say that Odd Tales' cyberpunk gem, The Last Night, has the best pixel art that I've ever seen. Even better than ReRunners, if I dare say so. Such an amazing project coming from such an amazing team! Another honourable mention goes to Ni No Kuni II.

E3 is synonymous for strange and awkward moments...and this year didn't disappoint. There were a lot of very, very odd people in very odd cosplay, and to be fair, very odd people in general! No offence, it was like a circus, haha. AND, people really LOVE SWAG, no matter how ridiculous. If it's free, it's up for grabs.

Dang, I should have brought swag with me! Maybe signed pictures of my face? Do you think E3-goers would be into that? Yeah, of course they would.

Sega did have this huge dragon installation that looked, um, very phallic. It was totally unironic too. Impressive nonetheless.

Funny story, I almost forgot to mention was that Robin and I were on the same flight to LA. After convincing a couple of peeps to relocate, we were able to sit next to each other. And, I'm sure glad we did!

We spent over eight hours at 35,000ft drinking whiskey and playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Robin's Switch. We played until we could no longer keep our eyes open. We did try playing 1-2 Switch, but that didn't go down so well. Haha!

Unfortunately, I could only stay in LA for three nights as I had to head back to Iceland. I can't wait to head back to Cali at the end of the summer and meet up with all the people I couldn't meet this time around!!

Oh, I'd like to give big thanks to Alli Óttarsson for picking me up from the airport!

See you again soon!"

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Rainer Bernhardt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What excites you the most about Seed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your favourite thing about ReRunners?

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

What are your favourite games ever?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Ranyard: Immersive Interaction with AI through Virtual Reality

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

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

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

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

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

Image: develop-online.net

Who's this Klanger? An interview with Svenni Davíðsson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you end up working with Klang?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's your favourite game ever?

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

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

Watch: An insight into Seed and SpatialOS

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

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

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

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