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.

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

Think The Government Is Doomed? See If You Can Build A Better One In ‘SEED’

Games are a potent way of looking at the world. We use the language of teams, scoring, plays, and counter-plays to describe warfare, politics, the law, and more. Dutch sociologist Johan Huizinga went so far as to say that games are the defining human activity in his 1938 classic, Homo Ludens.

But outside academia, games are rarely used as tools for understanding society. Berlin-based independent studio Klang aims to change that with its upcoming massively multiplayer simulation, Seed, which is early in development.

The whole idea is that we want the game to spin out of what the players decide to do and create

To add weight to Seed‘s intellectual ambitions, Klang brought on one heck of a ringer. Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig is a world-renowned scholar of constitutional law, a liberal political activist, and onetime presidential candidate. He’s spent a career studying governance in the abstract, and helping to shape it in the real world. Now he’s applying that experience to developing the in-game political framework for Seed.

We spoke to Lessig and Klang co-founder Mundi Vondi earlier this summer about Seed and the team’s ambitious goals for pushing the boundaries on what games can do and be.

PUTTING THE “SIMULATION” BACK IN THE SIMS

Describe any game as “massively multiplayer,” and most gamers will likely make a few assumptions. You run around killing things for experience points, gathering loot, and cooperate with teammates to kill a big enemy at the end. That’s weirdly specific description for a term that really only describes how many people can play, but that’s how dramatically World of Warcraft’s success has reshaped the industry.

Seed will look nothing like the MMORPGs you’re used to. In the game, You control several characters living in an upstart community as part of an effort to populate a new planet in a new solar system. You are responsible for your characters’ health and happiness. You have to make sure they have a roof over their head and food in their belly, such that they and their community can continue to grow and thrive.

Unlike conventional online games, Seed will keep running with all of its denizens 24/7, whether you’re actively playing or not. “This was essential to us,” Vondi explained, “because online communities tend to turn into ghost towns when players are offline — for more than 90 percent of their daily lives they’re not actually in the game.” For Seed to really work as a simulation, it can’t have only a fraction of its population present at any given moment. This is because absolutely everything in Seed, from the environment to every item bought and sold, is driven by players.

In practice, it’s a massively multiplayer take on The Sims. You only control the characters indirectly, however, setting tasks and schedules for when they should work, sleep, and enjoy free time (similar to systems in management sim games like RimWorld). Artificial intelligence, taking into account any number of mood-affecting factors, will determine what the characters actually do from moment to moment, which is why the player isn’t necessary for their continued existence.

“What we’re going for basically is that there’s a lot of Butterfly Effects that we’re building up,” Vondi said. “So you can imagine for instance a character that doesn’t sleep in a bed because the player didn’t give him one, so he doesn’t show up to his job the next day, and the restaurant where he works gets in trouble because they’re short-staffed, which might affect another person who’s eating there, and so on — it has a trickling effect.”

Other online games, such as EVE Online and Albion Online, have experimented with managing player-driven virtual societies before, allowing players to shape the in-game world through economics — production, supply, and demand. This allows for dynamic in-game systems, but within prescribed boundaries. What separates Seed is the extent of the control players will have over all the systems of governance and economics. Players within communities will collectively decide how they want to govern themselves, ranging from major decisions like whether to be a democracy or a monarchy, to more fine-grained policy-making like open carry laws and income taxation rates.

POLITICAL ANIMALS

As a world-renowned scholar of political science, this is where Lessig’s expertise comes to bear. He helped design the systems for how communities in Seed will make these collective decisions, mapped out a conceptual paper of these options and trade-offs earlier in the year, and spent the month of July embedded with the studio in Berlin to help flesh it out in practice.

More than just an interesting opportunity for experimentation, Lessig sees this a way to give players a direct hand in shaping their play experience into what they want:

“Obviously people don’t come to a game like this to practice model U.N., they come to play and build communities and I really think about the governance as a kind of utility that we offer them to make it so that their gaming experience will be more rewarding and more fruitful.”

Lessig and Vondi both said part of the impetus behind Seed is the tenuous state of many democracies around the world. Lessig recalled their first real meeting about the game the morning after President Trump’s election.

“I remember that morning feeling like things seemed so hopeless, and it was a wonderful escape to be at the Seed studios talking to developers about what we can do with it…

“We’ve got real challenges with democracy in the real world. At least in my country it’s not working well, if at all. So what was really intriguing to me was the idea that here we could create an environment where there could be many tens of thousands of experiments with different forms of governance. It might be that we can actually learn something about which forms work best in this context, and it might be that that helps us understand something about the same question in the real world.”

Using Seed as a tool to gain understanding about societies is built into the foundation of the project. Vondi explained how the game will launch with tools designed for collecting and modeling the huge amounts of data that Seed will produce.

“I would love to see people outside the game take all that data and build models to look at it more deeply than what we would think to do, and that’s the exciting part,” Vondi said. Social scientists and other researchers have already found ways to squeeze useful information out of existing online games, but Seed will be the first game built from the ground up with this in mind.

As a scholar, Lessig is particularly interested in building a game that “would help political scientists and constitutionalists think about what’s the relationship between these forms of governance and the kinds of activities it encourages.” Down the road, he road, he hopes data from the game could even be studied.

BLUE SKY THINKING, BIG TENT DEVELOPMENT

“Games aren’t anymore just these simple entertainments,” Vondi mused, “but they can be tools for understanding, which is an elevation from your average story- or action-driven experience.” He mentioned the famous Corrupted Blood Plague from World of Warcraft — when a boss’ contagious spell ended up accidentally escaping a dungeon and infecting the game in a way that epidemiologists found perfectly matched how real-world diseases spread — as an inspiration for Seed: “Obviously that was a mistake, but if that was to be the focus you could take it much further. It’s going to be a simulation, rather than a fully controlled game.”

Although Vondi’s co-founders came from EVE Online developer CCP, he himself has no professional gaming background. His background is in fine art, production, and filmmaking. He feels that bringing in more outside perspectives like his own and that of Lessig will be instrumental for helping games escape, “the stigma that they are all driven by nerds and male-oriented adventure-seekers.” While Vondi and Lessig are of course nerdy men themselves, their interests in Seed seem unrecognizable next to the power fantasies of typical, mainstream video games. Vondi hopes that bringing a high-profile intellectual like Lessig into gaming will set an example for others outside the field to come and add their voices.

For Lessig, the project extends beyond his professional interests and into the personal as well: “Frankly, my closest connection to games right now is the obsession of my sons. I’ve got a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old” – “Hello!” a young voice interjects into the call — “they’re here playing a game right now. Just watching the fascination and the way these games take over their whole perspective and their life has been both interesting and worrisome. I’m eager to get into a project that gives me a closer touch to that part of their life.”

Lessig is one of those rare academics willing to put his money where his mouth is, running for the Democratic nomination in the most recent primary on the platform of campaign finance reform he’d been developing through his scholarship. Seeing the powerful effect that games have on his children gives Seed compelling personal stakes for him, as he recognizes the immense potential for both growth and abuse in the flourishing, young medium.

Video games are at an exciting turning point as a medium. Seed is very early in development, but it presents a fascinating vision of gaming’s potential future, designed from the ground up as both entertainment and a tool for the social sciences. It will be available on PC in some form in 2018.

To view the article in full, visit: https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/seed-mmo-interview-democracy-lawrence-lessig/

Klang Games Partners with Tilting Point® to Launch and Operate ReRunners™

Venture Backed Indie Game Studio Adds Support from Leading Publishing Services Provider

Berlin and New York – October 28, 2015 Klang Games, a Berlin-based independent game development studio, today announced an agreement with publishing partner Tilting Point to support ReRunners, the upcoming multiplayer platform racer for mobile and tablet. Klang Games recently received an investment from the game-focused venture capital firm, London Venture Partners. The collaboration with Tilting Point will afford ReRunners a greater opportunity for success through a combination of funding, operational support, marketing, and live ops, while Klang Games retains full creative control and IP ownership.

ReRunners will be joining Tilting Point’s growing game roster, which includes the App Store Best of 2014 and Apple Design Award winning hit, Leo’s Fortune, the popular word and puzzle game hybrid, Languinis, and Beat Sports, the Apple TV exclusive game from developer Harmonix.

Tilting Point’s mission is to facilitate success for promising independent developers in the highly competitive mobile game market. The new agreement will see Tilting Point helping Klang with a range of fundamental services including marketing, user acquisition, analytics, quality assurance, and localization.

"Tilting Point sees the vision and potential in ReRunners and impressed us with their comprehensive in-house team and clear focus on their external developer partners,” commented Ívar Emilsson, game designer and co-founder of Klang Games.  “They also posted some outstanding race times during their testing of ReRunners so we decided to do the deal with them!"

Klang Games was founded in 2013 by Ívar Emilsson, Mundi Vondi, and Oddur Magnússon. Icelandic game developers Ívar Emilsson and Oddur Magnússon have collectively built up 20 years’ experience in developing online multiplayer games, working at game studio CCP Games – known for the popular MMO, EVE Online, and the FPS, Dust 514 – and artist Mundi Vondi has an extensive background in art and design.

Dan Sherman, president and co-founder of Tilting Point, commented on the new partnership agreement, “This deal marks a new era of collaboration between independent developers and the growing ecosystem of organizations that are designed to support them. Many consider the backing of a top tier game VC like LVP and the unique publishing services model of a partner like Tilting Point to be mutually exclusive. In fact, we bring very different and complementary strengths to the table, which when combined give Klang and ReRunners the best shot at success.”

David Gardner, co-founder of London Venture Partners, led the firm’s investment in Klang and explains meeting Klang and the Tilting Point partnership:

“I first heard of Klang through the Icelandic gaming community. I was made aware that a talented group of guys were building something fun and fast-paced in Berlin, expanding on their massively multiplayer experience gained from EVE Online. I had an initial Skype call and looked at the game there was something special, something brilliant about the way multiplayer showed up in the creative work. We continued to get to know them over the months that followed and just had to invest; we couldn’t get the game out of our heads. I’m excited to see that Tilting Point feels the same and will partner to bring this team to content hungry gamers everywhere!”

Currently in its Beta stage, ReRunners is an online, asynchronous multiplayer game for mobile and tablet that features an open world and fast-paced racing gameplay. The game is set to raise the bar of the 2D platformer genre, by combining adventure, racing, action, and RPG elements in a socially engaging environment. ReRunners is set to launch in early 2016.

 

London Venture Partners invests in Klang Games

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London, United Kingdom - 22nd July 2015 - It has been announced that leading VC in games, London Venture Partners (“LVP”), has signed an investment agreement with Klang Games, a Berlin-based independent game developer, to back its future projects, including the upcoming mobile and tablet game, ReRunners.

The agreement, which was officially signed on Friday 26th June, means that LVP will be financially investing in the game developer, as well as offering valuable knowledge of publishing within the gaming industry.

Oddur Magnússon, Developer and Co-Founder of Klang Games, comments, “We are extremely proud to have partnered with LVP. LVP's decades of experience and insight in both traditional and mobile gaming is a huge asset for Klang. We could not have a better partner to fulfill our vision of how to bring multiplayer games to new platforms."

Klang Games was founded in 2013 by Ívar Emilsson, Mundi Vondi, and Oddur Magnússon. Icelandic game developers Ívar Emilsson and Oddur Magnússon have collectively built up 15 years’ experience in developing online-multiplayer games, working at game studio CCP Games – known for the popular MMO, EVE Online, and the FPS, Dust 514 – and artist Mundi Vondi has an extensive background in art and design.

Now Berlin-based, Klang has expanded its team but is still sticking to its independent roots, believing that complete creative control is important for the studio’s vision.

“We believe that games should have the ability to bring people together through fun, engaging gameplay, and social interaction. Games must be able to appeal to the everyday gamer in an instantly accessible form, as well as help build a community of like-minded individuals,” explained Magnússon.

Klang is currently developing its first game ReRunners, which aims to raise the bar of the mobile/tablet platformer genre. The game, which is in its Beta stage, is an online, asynchronous multiplayer that features an open world and fast-paced racing gameplay.

LVP is known for its foresight into promising gaming start-ups, and for investing in teams with exceptional vision like Supercell.

“LVP prides itself in investing in promising up-and-coming gaming studios who have a clear vision, and potential of doing great things within the industry. Klang Games displays the traits that we look for in investments, especially in the studio’s approach to creativity and game design. We believe that this will be an exciting partnership,” explained David Lau-Kee, General Partner of LVP.