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/

The games chasing EVE’s vision of a single shard MMO

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Taken from the full article: The camp is full of little people. They wander to and fro, doing their allotted tasks. This is Seed, an MMO colony builder that’s still very early in development (and no connection to the 2006 game of the same name). It could be described as “Rimworld but multiplayer” or maybe “The Sims but on another planet where the other Sims families don’t like you”. I’m only presented with a video demo for now. The tiny polygonal folk move robotically, just like the testbots of Dual Universe, but they aren’t aimless.

“These characters should wake up soon,” says Mundi Vondi, one of the co-founders of Klang, the studio behind the game. “So yeah now he’s set up a little camp, she’s doing some farming, he’s lighting a fire…”

As the player, you’ll have a family of up to ten characters – a Crusoe-like clan who crash down on a fresh and habitable planet 1000 years after Earth’s demise. Each AI-controlled family member can be given priorities or directly tasked with something, like cutting down all the trees in an area or painting a house. You can band together with other families – players, in other words – to form large colonies, where groups can form their own small governments, make rules or set taxes. Or you can start off in the wilderness of this planet by yourself, although Vondi says this is “not reccommended for new players”. Because conflict is again part of this new frontier, and once again, it is all happening on a single shard.

“I think to begin with it will be very chaotic and bloody and people are going to be just like… burning everything down and destroying each other,” he says. “But then out of those… out of that chaos… that’s the hole that a more sophisticated civilised community arises, that benefits from the order and kind of like… ultimately calms down a lot of that chaos.”

Exactly how combat or warring will work isn’t fully explained. From the demo it looks to be firmly a managerial game. The family is crowding around a ghostly outline of a planned house, slowly building the walls and windows and door frames and floor. Each of these people will have needs and relationships, says Vondi. Some of them might be unhappy because they have had their heart broken by a character from another player’s family. Some of them might go to the bar and get into a fight with someone from their own colony. Klang don’t just want the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – food, shelter and safety – they want discord and challenge to arise from a lack of love or entertainment too.

“Rimworld and Dwarf Fortress are kind of like the games in this genre that are most noticeable. I guess Oxygen Not Included as well. But it’s like a very exciting genre and there isn’t really… There’s no multiplayer version of it, so that’s where we’re kind of coming from.”

But EVE Online is also (once again) a talking point. This time, two of Vondi’s co-founders have actually worked on the infamous interstellar war simulator, each of them with CCP for eight years.

“So in EVE obviously they had wars with thousands of players fighting and whenever that would happen it would just ripple across the entire games industry and game world and you’d hear about it… EVE is very hardcore, but it offers an amazing experience, and amazing stories come out of that, and I think we can all agree we’d love to be a part of that but we just can’t all afford the time to be there. So we’re trying to open that up and offer that experience to a wider audience, is one of the goals. So we’ve got also some inspiration from Sims…”

They’re hoping to make the tribal disagreements of Seed more noob-friendly, in other words. Unless you aim to start off your own colony (again: not recommended) you’ll be asked to pick from an existing band of players right at the start, to throw your lot in with a crowd of players who may already be veterans of the planet. Those colonies might have loops of activity in place to ensure everyone is supplied with food and so on – an advantage in a world where your family members will continue to go about their day even if you as the overseer haven’t logged in.

“I mean if you leave them with nothing in the forest and you go away for a week,” says Vondi, “you’re probably going to come back to them being dead, but if you have a nice house and you’re collaborating with other players who are all building this cute little village together, your characters are working and you’ve kind of made sure that there’s a loop in there which completes their food needs and where they sleep and all that, you might come back and they’re just super happy and fine.”

Seed is being built with something called Spatial OS. It’s the same technology behind Worlds Adrift, another MMO of airships and grappling hooks (something I’ve previously written about). Like the crowd behind Dual Universe these developers are not shy of hyperbole. One of the lines on Seed’s website says: “Every move, thought, or decision made by a player will have a knock-on effect and impact the colonization and overall structure of the planet.” It’s unusual to see a game’s promotional material claiming that their town-planning sim can be affected by mere thoughts. But what they mean, Vondi tells me, is that the game will hit player colonies with sizeable environmental problems, should the humans start to harvest resources and become industrially unsustainable. I ask him if maybe, just maybe, they are being a little too ambitious. He laughs.

“To start off with – probably yeah, too ambitious. And a lot of these things, a lot of these features that we want to do, come after we launch so… on launch it’s very focused on basic survival, building small little towns, making them function and then as the game grows, we will add mass transit and rockets to harvest meteors or whatever – we have an infinite scope, and that’s the kind of landscape that we’re coming from of course, that me and my colleagues have come, from EVE – still in development after fifteen years.

“How far we go into global warming or whatever is yet to be seen; I think maybe those kind of elements don’t necessarily have to be there on launch because those are like really grand scale effects and we can add that in as an update down the line.”

These are familiar sounding goals. As far back as 2003, Wurm Online promised that its settlers would have finite resources and that problems would arise for any server population that over-farmed. Seed doesn’t go that far. Resources will regenerate, trees regrow and mines may offer rock or fossil fuels at a similarly regenerative rate. But that pitch remains – “grand scale” effects, self-policing communities, thousands of players on the same world.

Klang (and others) have faith that the technology they’re using can handle that load. As with Dual Universe, it’s big talk. But the fact remains: I still haven’t seen a finished product with masses of players putting significant stress on a game like this without causing problems. Even in Worlds Adrift – the airship MMO running on the same technology – the physics janks out, it chugs to a grinding FPS rate, and crashes frequently occur. That’s maybe to be expected in any early access game but it does demonstrate that this particular recurring boast – thousands of players interacting in a continuous single shard – still needs to be proven.

Like Dual Universe, the greener, brighter Seed is also pre-Greek alphabet. Klang’s video of a skeletal management game with work-in-progress models and UI may be a good pitch (it’s certainly interesting to a Rimworld fan such as myself) but you can’t prove the potential of an MMO when the whole world is devoid of players and instead populated with robots. You can talk about farms, colonies, attacks, defences, trade deals, resource grabs, monopolies, cold wars and the simulation of any other kind of industrial revolution or societal collapse, but as promising and intriguing as the technology looks, it remains largely unproven.

And that pre-release criticism extends to any other game that blurted out its own praises in the halls of Gamescom last week. In this post-N* M*** S** era, when many other developers seem to be toning down their rhetoric (if only a smidgen), huge promises like “every thought simulated” or “you can make a space station thousands of kilometres large” almost seem designed to court skepticism. I look at the mingling robots of Dual Universe and Seed and want to think: cool, this is something people should get into. But all that comes is a desire for perspective and calm, for less boundless enthusiasm and more explanation of a game’s likely limits. Ambition is good, and without it, it’s unlikely EVE Online would have been made. But even EVE Online knows when to slow things down.

Read the full article here: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/08/30/the-games-chasing-eves-vision-of-a-single-shard-mmo/

'Governance in the Real World Is So Fucked:' Lawrence Lessig Is Working on an MMO

‘Seed’ will allow players to build a society together, from the ground up.

Robinson Crusoe is an instructive fable for politics. Not because Crusoe forged a utopian world for himself using a few tools that survived a shipwreck, but because, as Marxist economists have noted, most retellings of the story ignore where the tools came from. Crusoe was a slaver, and political-economy tends to ignore its spoiled seed. Utopias are rarely what they seem on the surface.

An upcoming online multiplayer game called, coincidentally, Seed , will cast players as so many Robinson Crusoes, thrown into a virtual world with few pre-set parameters where they are tasked with forging a robust political system. The game's political mechanisms are being designed by none other than Lawrence Lessig, the legendary constitutional scholar who unsuccessfully ran for president last year.

Lessig isn't chasing utopia with Seed, but he is intensely interested in finding out what happens when people are given the skeleton of a trade economy and left to their own devices. Maybe, just maybe, something better than what we have now in the real world will emerge. Or maybe not.

Seed is still in the works and won't be released until 2018, but the idea is to have players control in-game characters that exist in communities with other players. These avatars live out their lives in simulation even when players aren't online, and each real-world week is a year in the game. These communities will be given immense latitude to determine the terms of their political existence, from monarchy to direct democracy.

These communities will also trade with each other within an economy that will be initially pre-programmed, but will eventually give way to player rules as communities trade with each other and set their own prices. Some communities may even opt out of this global capitalist trade regime entirely. It's worth noting that several of the co-founders and staff of the game company behind SeedBerlin-based studio Klang, also worked on EVE Online , an interstellar multiplayer game that features a robust in-game economy.

To find out what it means for Lessig to work on this project in the age of Trump and fascism on the march, and how Seed can give us insights into real-world politics, I chatted with Lessig and Klang CEO Mundi Vondi over Skype.

Motherboard: We're in a very tense and tumultuous political moment. What does it mean for you to design a game like this in the age of Trump, and after your own presidential bid?

Lawrence Lessig: The evolution of this project is quite funny. I was actually in Berlin the day after the election. I woke up that morning to see the results, and had this meeting set up with Mundi and his team to talk about the game. And it was a surreal feeling, like, governance in the real world is so fucked. We have to start thinking about how to build it in the virtual world.

Obviously, I have strong views in the real world about how to build democracy. But in the virtual world, I'm not interested in pushing my personal views. I am really interested in creating a platform where people can choose these very different forms of governance, and my hope is we can step back and see what works. If we have 100,000 game communities out there all choosing their own forms of government, and we have five stable forms that they were choosing between, data scientists could say, "Jeez, democracy with randomly elected leaders is killing every other form of governance!" That would be very interesting and valuable, I think.

Will the Seed community be moderated if, say, it gets brigaded by 4chan and anti-semitic or explicitly Nazi imagery makes it into the game? 

Mundi Vondi: I think we need to stay open to the trolls and all that grief. Obviously, with anything super brutal like Nazi or racist propaganda, we can remove those players from the game. But when it comes to them playing as brutally as those dictators acted, we need to allow that to see the results and effects. It's important to allow really harsh gameplay. I'd imagine that it will start off very chaotic, and players will be on a rampage, and out of these ashes a more civilized community will arise because the benefits are always going to be greater—you naturally gain by being more organized. As the game grows we'll see more reasonable communities.

Lawrence, in an op-ed explaining your presidential run , you wrote that democracy is not a utopia. There are concrete antagonisms to address and steps to be taken in order to dig ourselves out of the hole we're in. Is Seed a game about political utopias, or political fantasies?
 

LL: I don't think it's utopian in any sense. The effort in creating and maintaining communities in Seed is real effort—it's not a simple gift. But I think we can learn a lot about what sorts of governance structures help people to flourish in these spaces. Maybe that doesn't translate to the real world, but maybe it does. I think that the opportunity to have this massive experiment in different forms of governance, simultaneous and real, is pushing us in the direction of improving our forms of governance or at least giving us a map of how to improve them. That's what's most interesting to me.

So, Seed focuses on collective decision-making. In politics, laws are a form of collective decision-making, but we often don't think of collectivism with regards to that and many people actively reject ideas of collectivism when it comes to governance. What do you hope players will take away from being forced, basically, to consider their political choices as being part of a larger collective? 

LL: The extent to which collective decision-making affects your day-to-day living inside of Seed depends fundamentally on what the political structure of your community is. If you decide to have a monarch, then all the decisions are made by the monarch and you don't have any ongoing daily decisions. You could live in a representative democracy like Germany or the US, where you spend time deciding on your representatives and then they make decisions for you. But that might seem burdensome to some people, so they might choose a different form of representative democracy.

One of the options that I hope we implement is a representative democracy, but like in ancient Athens, all the leaders are randomly selected and they have to spend a cycle making decisions for everybody. That way, there's no politicking but it is representative. These are the kind of trade-offs that we want to enable so the community can decide how many cycles they want to spend on collective governance versus the other cool parts of the game.

MV: We're putting a lot of weight into how these decisions affect your gameplay. You don't just buy a new character and they pop into existence; you have to breed and raise them, and send them to school. As a player you should feel close to your character, so if they're being pushed around by some asshole who's governing, you'll get mad about that. There's all kinds of things you'll be able to find out—even if a monarchy is successful, you might have very low happiness. "Playing with fire" is one way to look at it, but having a tool where we can pick out some of this information is very valuable.

How optimistic are you about the politics of Seed , versus real-world politics right now? 

LL: I'm more optimistic about the politics of Seed than the real world, because the interests that have corrupted the real world are entrenched and powerful. But they haven't had a chance to develop in Seed. i think it starts with a little bit of a blank slate. But, it's not a guarantee, and who knows how things will develop over time? But my expectation is that we'll start in a better place.

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/lawrence-lessig-is-working-on-an-mmo-game-seed?utm_source=mbfb

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig will design the politics in online game Seed

Lawrence Lessig has spent his career studying constitutional law, and he has been helping new democracies to form the legal frameworks for governance. Now he is lending his expertise to Berlin-based independent game developer Klang to build the political framework for the upcoming massively multiplayer online game Seed.

While many games pay special attention to in-game economics, the politics, or a system that enables players and developers to govern the virtual world, have often been ignored. Klang hopes to differentiate its game through the political system, and that’s why it tapped a top legal mind to design the game’s political framework.

Seed is an online multiplayer world that will also have a lot of artificial intelligence, and it uses the SpatialOS for cloud games from Improbable, an online games infrastructure company that recently raised $502 million from Japan’s SoftBank. Klang itself has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Greylock Partners, MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, and Unity founder David Helgason.

Lessig happened to meet Mundi Vondi, CEO of Klang, and start talking about games.

“After talking for a while, we moved on to how they were going to govern these places, the structure for governing,” Lessig said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It was clear that no one had really thought through that much. That’s what began our conversation about whether there was something fun to experiment with here.”

Seed is a continuous, persistent 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.

“We’re building a virtual world filled with vast, player-created communities where every player-action has a repercussion in the game world,” Vondi said in a statement. “For example, a player might chop down a tree, which affects the planet’s ecosystem. This wood can then be sold on, which has an impact on the economy, and if the player chooses to, use the money to bribe another player, which affects the balance of power. We create and provide the tools and incentives to build these communities…the rest is up to the players.”

Also joining Klang and Lessig on the project is the renowned 3D animator, Eran Hilleli, who will be leading the art direction of Seed. Working on a variety of projects, Hilleli has earned acclaim for his signature art and elegant animation style.

Klang will use the money to grow the studio and complete the development of the first internal release of Seed. The previously mentioned investors also join Klang backers London Venture Partners (LVP), and Adalsteinn Ottarson (Riot Games).

“We’re extremely proud to have the backing from some of the best investors. This funding, along with their valuable experience, will be crucial to making this project a reality,” said Vondi.

Klang can build Seed to accommodate a massive number of players because it leverages Improbable‘s SpatialOS, an operating system for cloud games that enables massive simulations such as virtual worlds at a far greater level of scale and complexity than previously possible.

Along with that, the game will have a unique political structure.

“Obviously the game they’re building isn’t a governance game, but what everyone realizes is that, especially when you invest such an incredible amount of your time and energy into building places for playing a game like this, you need some confidence about how the place will evolve,” Lessig said.

He added, “What we’ve been talking about are ways to give people in the game options for how they’d like that governance to happen. The options range from the simplest, most minimal—basically, from as little government as possible, to things like monarchy or different forms of democracy. You can randomly select people for office. We want to enable, in the lowest-cost way possible, the lowest number of cycles, to enable these different options, and see how these worlds evolve. Which ones work well? Which ones cohere with the kind of gaming that’s happening?”

Klang plans to start opening up an external playable version of Seed in early 2018. In the meantime, MMO fans candiscover more about Seed via the project’s website: seed-project.io.

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.

Vondi founded Klang in 2013 as an independent game development studio in Reykjavík, Iceland. The company moved to Berlin. Its other founders include ex-CCP Games developers Oddur Magnússon and Ívar Emilsson. In 2016, the company launched the mobile game ReRunners: Race For the World for iOS and Android.

Source: https://venturebeat.com/2017/05/31/harvard-law-professor-lawrence-lessig-will-design-the-politics-in-online-game-seed/

Klang receives additional funding, strikes a deal with Harvard Law professor

Unity founder David Helgason among backers for studio behind SpatialOS-powered MMO Seed.

Berlin-based developer Klang has announced a flurry of updates and additions to its current project, including new funding and an unusual partnership.

Firstly, the studio has received "additional funding" of an undisclosed amount. Backers include Unity founder David Helgason, Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners, and entrepreneurial investor Joi Ito. They join London Venture Partners and Riot Games' Adalsteinn Ottarson.

While the figures behind this finance have not been shared, Klang has said it is enough to "grow the studio and complete the development of the first internal release of Seed.

Seed is a simulation MMO build with Improbable's SpatialOS. The game challenges players to create a civilisation, much in the same vein as real-time strategy games, and help it to grow until it takes over an entire planet. The nature of SpatialOS means every decision or action has a persistent consequence, and the presence of other players on the planet further complicates their tasks.

To add an extra level of depth, Klang has teamed up with Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig to "construct the political framework" of Seed. The in-game political structure he helps to create is being positioned as "a defining moment in online multiplayer gaming."

The studio has also brought in 3D animator Eran Hilleli to lead the game's art direction.

"“We're building a virtual world filled with vast, player-created communities where every player-action has a repercussion in the game world," said CEO Mundi Vondi. For example, a player might chop down a tree, which affects the planet's ecosystem. This wood can then be sold on, which has an impact on the economy, and if the player chooses to, use the money to bribe another player, which affects the balance of power. We create and provide the tools and incentives to build these communities…the rest is up to the players.”

Klang was originally an Icelandic developer founded by ex-CCP devs drawing on their experience of persistent worlds from time spent working on Eve Online. The team hopes to release a playable version of Seed in early 2018.

Source: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-06-01-klang-receives-additional-funding-strikes-a-deal-with-harvard-law-professor

Klang, Spilt Milk in first wave of Improbable's Innovation Program

Improbable has revealed the first partners in the SpatialOS Games Innovation Program, including Spilt Milk Studios and the Berlin-based startup Klang Games.

The Innovation Program was announced in December last year, with Improbable stating its interest in what smaller dev teams might accomplish using its world-building technology. This is clear from the first round of selected partners, which were announced at GDC today.

  • Seed by Klang Games - A game of planetary settlement set in a shared, persistent world, created by a team including former employees of CCP Games.
     
  • Lazarus by Spilt Milk Studios - a multiplayer, top-down 2D shooter set in a huge galaxy populated by artificially intelligent alien factions locked in a war for territory.
     
  • Chronicles of Elyria by Soulbound Studios - an MMORPG built with the Unreal engine, running on SpatialOS and set in a world where characters age, die, and shape their legacy through multiple lifetimes as different characters.
     
  • Vanishing Stars: Colony Wars by Ninpo Game Studio - a new type of massively multiplayer real-time strategy game, played across thousands of star systems, each with their own planets to battle on.
     

    All developers selected for the Games Innovation Program, which is run in partnership with Google Cloud services, can use SpatialOS to create and test their games until commercial release at a "significantly reduced, and in many cases completely eliminated" cost. That includes the cloud computing fees that are essential to what SpatialOS is designed to achieve.

    "These are just the first of many innovative game projects we will be supporting through subsidised access to SpatialOS and cloud computing," said CEO Herman Narula. "We win by showing the many possibilities SpatialOS opens up to game developers, so we will be aggressively supporting innovative projects like these."

    Improbable is also using GDC as the platform to showcase integration with the Epic's Unreal Engine. A custom-built demo will be used at the show itself, which Nerula described as an "experimental" step on the way to an alpha-level SDK. "This is a huge step for our platform," he said.

Best Indie Games Announced at the 16th Indie Prize Awards During Casual Connect in Tel Aviv

The 16th Indie Prize Awards Ceremony took place at Casual Connect Tel Aviv 2016. Casual Connect is a place where developers can foster relationships with other developers, gain exposure for your professional development team and beautiful games, and learn how to succeed in the new games ecosystem. The Indie Prize Showcase was bustling with developers from around the world competing and showing off their games. Find out who won and more information about their development process.

BEST GAME DESIGN AND BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME: RERUNNERS

Collectively, Klang Games wanted to create an MMO experience accessible anywhere, which is why they went with creating a game specifically for mobile devices. Klang Co-Founders Ívar and Oddur both worked on EVE Online, so they understand how rewarding MMOs can be, and, at the same time, how intense they can be. The main inspiration for ReRunners was to create an MMO that anyone can play. Individually, each team member brought their own inspirations, making the game very unique – from the art style to game mechanics. Mundi, fellow Co-Founder, is responsible for the game’s art direction; he wanted to create a game in pixel art, as it is recognisable and timeless. Early Sega and Nintendo platformers were an inspiration, like Sonic and Mario, especially for art direction.

"Getting the balance for an F2P game to include monetization mechanics was the biggest challenge. It’s an aspect that we’re always developing." – Jonathan Baker, Klang Games

ReRunners allows the player to create their own experience based on their playing style – they can explore the Overworld and challenge their friends at their own pace, or immerse themselves in the game, and fight to become the greatest Runner of all time!