Seed is a hugely ambitious in-development MMO that echoes EVE Online, Rimworld and The Sims

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"MMOs have come to a halt, so far as innovation is concerned," Klang Games co-founder Mundi Vondi tells me. "With Seed, we hope to change that."

To say Seed is ambitious is an understatement. Within minutes of booting up its pre-alpha demo, Vondi has namechecked The Sims, Dwarf Fortress and Facebook as just some of the driving forces behind its persistent simulation. Its universe is said to be "driven by real world emotion and aspiration", which in practice aims to one day craft an MMO world with, potentially, millions of residents. Building colonies from the ground up parallels the workings of Civilization, while the potential for story-generation echoes Rimworld. Within, characters will live out their virtual lives whether the player is present or not.   

"If you think about Facebook, imagine your profile was removed every time you logged off," says Vondi. "That's how most MMOs are today. I think this will add the network effect that the likes of Facebook has, so we're trying to learn from that."

Hailing from a fine art, production and filmmaking background, Seed marks Vondi's first professional videogame project. Klang's other cofounders, Oddur Snær Magnússon and Ívar Emilsson, though, are ex-CCP employees who both worked on EVE Online. It's this collective experience that informs Seed's goals—even if what I'm shown isn't quite as sophisticated as what's promised down the line.

Powered by Improbable's cloud-based SpatialOS tech, the hands-off demonstration I'm given kicks off with a group of humans touching down on a foreign planet 1,000 years after Earth has died. From here, a familiar colony sim-building routine unfolds, where the player issues their AI-controlled civilians with tasks and directives such as gathering vegetation for food, or foraging materials for base-building. It's all very management-heavy, but Vondi assures me variables such as player mood and emotion are at the forefront of every decision you'll make. 

"Even at this early stage in growing a colony, your civilians can get bad feelings that affect their behaviour—sleeping on the ground, for example—and these feelings can drive them towards certain traits," says Vondi. "If they're feeling great, they might become enthusiastic about the job, but on the other hand if their mental health gets really low, they might turn depressed or into alcoholics and other things like that." 

From the outset, Seed lets players choose whether they wish to join an established community, or if they'd rather go it alone in the wilderness. Vondi reckons the latter should only apply to veterans of the genre, however those entering active societies should be wary of player-formed governments, judicial systems and economic infrastructures. Conflict sounds inevitable within the latter, and while it's unclear how confrontation will be resolved (or, crucially, if it can be resolved), maintaining good relations with your neighbours is of utmost importance.   

"The sad part about most MMOs is when players enter the game, when they enter a player group or a clan, it takes a long time," explains Vondi. "A lot of players leave before they get that full social MMO experience. One of the things we do differently here is start you off in a community—you're immediately a part of a group from the get go. This should make everything easier, particularly for new players."

Speaking to Vondi's last point, I suggest that grind is something new MMO players tend to struggle with. With something so multifaceted, I ask what measures Seed has in place to combat this. 

"Players can control up to ten players," he replies. "A lot of game design that's usually very tricky—like sleeping, disease, mental issues, ageing—they're pretty difficult if you're one character. But when you have ten you can actually do something with it. One can be sleeping, one can be somewhere else and so on. A lot of grind gets solved with this, so they basically work autonomously. They set their routines, and so they look through that and work on what their priorities would be. 

"We're basically grouping together all these players and we can basically throw loads and loads of players into it. This means that we can hopefully, one day, have players building their own businesses and ultimately we want to see a world where people have furnished apartments, people are walking back and forth from their jobs."

Vondi returns to the idea of permanence in the player's absence by outlining a hypothetical scenario. Here, the player has signed out of the game and one of their characters has gone drinking in their local in-game pub. Inebriated, the character gets into a fight, gets into trouble with the law, and winds up in jail. By the time the player signs back in, their character is a few hours into an overnight stay, depressed and shunned by their peers. Vondi suggests real world notifications could alert the player to their characters' actions which they may or may not be in a position to respond to.

From here, the player might decide to rehabilitate their beleaguered pal or abandon them entirely. With nine other companions, perhaps it's best chalking this one off, or even swapping them out for a better behaved replacement. Substituting and maintaining multiple characters however raises the question: what sort of business model will Seed employ?

"We tie our payment model through our characters," says Vondi. "Because we're simulating our characters continuously, they take up a certain amount of the CPU. That's where we try to monetise: you basically pay per life, and you buy Seed implants. We want to open it up in a way that players sell these Seed implants on the player market. In theory, this should work well. But it could be a total disaster [laughs]. I can't confirm that either way. 

"That would allow players to play completely for free while others are buying perks or implants and then selling them through the player market. The price will obviously fluctuate, so if someone is overselling implants, someone will eventually undercut them and [stabilise] the market. That's how we try to balance that out. Players who have a good set up, who are making a lot of money in the game can actually use the soft currency to buy those implants."

Since first showcasing Seed to the press at Gamescom in August, Klang has grown the game's landing planet surface by "roughly 2,000 percent" and has applied a new AI system that allows its characters to behave more organically. 

Day-to-day, adding terrain and designing a new modular, streamlined building system takes priority, while long-term goals include the aforementioned player market and a character health system—which considers different forms of injuries and disease, and the knock-on effects these might have on colonies. "Once the health system is more structured," says Vondi, "we can focus on combat, as combat obviously affects health."

Again, Seed is a remarkably ambitious undertaking that, despite looking and sounding great at this stage has a very long way to go. If it can achieve half of what it hopes to, it will be onto something good—my main concern is that it's  reaching too high.

Klang Games is however aware of the pressure it's putting itself under, and is cautious to avoid becoming overwhelmed.     

"One of the biggest challenges of creating Seed is to make sure that we don't fall into that trap; this is something we have to constantly be mindful of," admits Vondi. "We're first focusing on the core systems in order to get them right. But, it's all about the balance between polishing the core experience and delivering on new features. 

"Throughout the development process, we're making new discoveries, which is extremely exciting! We're making sure that the core playing experience will be fun and functional as soon as possible, but at the same time, keeping an open, flexible mind to adapt to new findings."

As it stands, Seed hopes to enter beta testing in late 2018, and will pursue full release after that. 

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.

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!

 

'ReRunners' Gets New Multiplayer Features and Live Streaming

Rerunners: Race for the World [Free] is a very entertaining runner that we enjoy here at TouchArcade Towers (despite some monetization issues). The latest update lets players challenge friends and others to a 1v1 race, an attempt to make the game more social according to the developers. In this new mode, you get two options: you either race your in-game or Facebook friends in a Buddy Challenge or do a Quick Challenge that matches you against random players. In the Buddy Challenge you have to bet coins before entering and then the winner gets to collect them all. So, bragging rights and money, what more could you ask for? Since there's the betting side of it, this feature comes with a Fair Play option the equalizes skills and items.

The Quick Challenges mode comes with its own Daily Leaderboard, and players get rewarded on a daily basis based on their current position on the Leaderboards. So, a nice competitive boost that should make ReRunners even more fun. The update has also added one other major feature, although it's not currently working as far as I can tell. ReRunners will now take advantage of iOS 10 ReplayKit Live, which will allow you to stream your runs on Mobcrush and other similar apps with the touch of a button.

'ReRunners: Race for the World' Review – Massive Multiplayer Platforming Gold

Yeah, you read that right. ReRunners: Race for the World [Free] is a massive multiplayer online platformer. Kind of. You never actually see other live players, but the world is populated and alive regardless. And it is freaking outstanding. I have been utterly hooked by this game for the last week. Not only is the actual gameplay smooth, fun, and functional, but the crazy, vibrant, psychedelic world that you’ll explore is almost worth the price of admission alone. Or it would be, if this game even had a price tag. There is a ton of expressive, creative content, with loads of customization options for your character and upgrades. I implore you to read on, my friends, for this is one of the most original games I’ve had the good fortune to be completely addicted to this year.

ReRunners was developed by Klang Games and published by Tilting Point and Games Alliance. In it, you’ll compete in platforming races against the recorded ghosts of other players. Because of this random element to the matchmaking, every race is unique, but doesn’t suffer from lag and allows you to pause or use unique abilities that slow down time and such. Players can bring different items into the run with them, like mines and speed boosts and thrown bombs, and they can also pick up coins before you. I originally thought that while the races used ghost recordings, the over-world surely must have been populated by real players. It feels so alive, and at times it will seem like you’re directly interacting with people. Nope. Apparently they’re all ghost recordings according to what I’ve read. At the very least, this means you don’t have to worry about the world being empty and barren in the future, which is exactly why I was originally going to tell everyone to get in on this action now before it’s too late, because it’s kind of magical.

That little tangent aside, let me break this down for you. You are one of many runners in the weird and zany world of King Klang. You compete in races to prove your love and loyalty to him, or something. The story is as nonsensical as the entire world, which is full of strange creatures; humans, animal, and otherwise. Some of the NPC’s in the over-world will have dialogue for you, and any item shops that you can access from the menu can actually be found and entered in the over-world. You’ll also see fruit and coins in the over-world, which re-spawn from time to time. Collecting fruit gives you experience and reduces the recharge timer for your energy. Sadly, this is a freemium game with energy timers, but wait! Don’t get too upset about that. The recharge rates are way better than I’ve seen in some other games (*cough*The Blacklist*cough*), and while races take up energy, running around the over-world, exploring and finding hidden stars, is totally free.

In addition to coins and energy, you also have the premium currency gems to think about. Gems are used to instantly get more coins, skip upgrade timers, and buy cosmetic items. One of the best aspects of this game is the crazy amount of customization. Beside the dozens upon dozens of potential outfits, your head can be one of several human options, animal, mythical creature, alien, robot, or heck, even an ‘O.’ Your head can literally be a big 'O' shape. These items can be quite overpriced, but as purely cosmetic, I’m okay with that. The personality of your character is only enhanced by the fantastic emotes and pre-set messages available to you at any time. Your main use of coins is in the character upgrades and items. Upgrades affect your base abilities, like top speed, acceleration, jump, and double jump. You can also unlock and upgrade a glide and sprint ability. Once you’ve paid for an upgrade, a timer counts down to its completion. The items you buy and upgrade consist of boosts for use during races. While racing, these will constantly recharge, so you can use them several times per race.

Getting 3 stars in a race isn’t always as simple as being in first. It’s a score based affair. You’ll almost always need to be in first to get three stars, but you’ll also usually need a good time, good amount of coins, and possibly a player kill or two, as all of these boost your score. You might have a hard time at first, not just because you’re not very upgraded, but you won’t have all the items. Picking and choosing which items you take into which race is the main strategy you’ll use. Learning the fastest way through a map is always fun though. Despite facing down ghosts, the races still always feel competitive and exciting. Your overall stars are used to unlock new areas and secret areas with even more races. Once you make it through the first island, across the bridge, you’ll probably notice an influx in the amount of coins you can get. I found it much easier to upgrade stats and items at this point. This is also the point when the environments go from islands/forests/castles to crazy bubble gum and cotton candy colored wonderlands, with all new hazards finding their way to the tracks.

One of the initial drawbacks to this game is the sheer amount of stuff on screen. The interface comes off as very cluttered at first, but that’s just because there are so many aspects to the game. Once you take a couple minutes to try every button and learn the ins and outs of the game, it all makes perfect sense and is pretty simple. Every so often you’ll get a free chest, also via timer, and you can earn chests with accumulative score across all of your races. Bronze chests are the worst, but still appreciated, whereas gold chests will get you loads of coins, upgrade timer reductions, and even cosmetic items. Sometimes you can double your rewards after a race by watching an ad, or just get a couple free gems for doing so in the over-world.

There is a lot to this game, but I love almost all of it. The energy mechanic is the main drawback by a country mile, but it completely refills every hour. At the moment, there’s a bug that might keep your timer from refilling, but the developers have already sent the fix in to Apple. Regardless, the timer recharges pretty quickly. I’d love it if we could pay our way out of the bolt system entirely. The developers have been extremely active in our forums , and they’re listening to all the feedback, so drop on by and give them a line. With some tweaks to the freemium element, I could easily see this being a game of the year contender, and I mean that. The pixel art is universally detailed and gorgeous, the environments are unlike most I’ve seen, and racing has proven to be consistently enjoyable. The game is not only fun, but wonderfully, absolutely silly and unique.

Source: http://toucharcade.com/2016/07/29/rerunners-race-for-the-world-review-massive-multiplayer-platforming-gold/

Lightning-fast competitive racing game ReRunners launches on Android and iOS

ReRunners is an odd sort of game. Not only a total mouthful, this MMO platform racing game managed to bare itself in front of the App Army and survive more-or-less unscathed. This is definitely something to appeal to the more competitive of folks, allowing you to race at break-neck speed against friends or total strangers.

The main thing to take away from ReRunners is it's just mad and daft as a brush. With over 60 colourful levels, a multitude of characters to use/customise, a ton of items to use against your enemies, and so much more, this cracking racing game is well worth a go.

Nip over to iTunes or Google Play to pick up ReRunners for free.

TouchArcade Game of the Week: 'ReRunners: Race for the World'

The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn't necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable "best" thing. Instead, it's more just us picking out the single game out of the week's releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.

These picks might be controversial, and that's OK. If you disagree with what we've chosen, let's try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.

Without further ado…

ReRunners: Race for the World

This is kind of a strange Game of the Week post because, to be frank, I have a lot of criticism's about this week's pick ReRunners: Race for the World [Free] from Klang Games. The thing is the core concept and its execution are enough to look past the shortcomings in ReRunners, and this is the game that's been responsible for wiping my battery clean the most since its release earlier this week. I just can. Not. Stop. Playing.

 

ReRunners is a speedrunning platformer where the main hook is that you get to race against the recorded runs of players from around the world, whose ghost avatars are running and jumping through levels right alongside you. It's not in real-time, but that actually doesn't affect the fun of competition, and if anything it's a far better choice for devices that typically can have spotty connections. Racing against these ghosts works beautifully, and I've had so many exhilarating moments exchanging leads with other runners, making deft leaps and bounds through particularly tricky terrain, and having some extremely close finishes that have me leaping out of my seat when I finally cross the finish line. This game is capital F fun.

So what's the problem? Well, as fun as the game itself is, ReRunners is a convoluted beast. It's free to play so there's two currencies to learn the ins and outs of, there's an energy system that's got a confusing recharge system, there's an ability upgrading system which also has timers, and there is a ton of virtual buttons plastered all over the UI at any given time. This is a very overwhelming experience when you're first getting started, which can be a bad sign when you're aiming to hook new players within the first minute or two of trying out a new game.

The thing is, it's all not as scary as it seems at first. The currency works pretty much like any typical free to play game, and the game gives out more than enough to make the progression feel normal with lots of cosmetic in-game items for you to burn any real money on if you're feeling impatient. The energy system is confusing but generous, and I've yet to run into a stopping point during extremely frequent play the past few days. The UI is overwhelming at first, but actually highly functional and once you learn what everything does you actually admire how well the developers designed the flow of moving in and out of the different parts of the game.

It's a good thing the gameplay in ReRunners is so damn compelling, because it's not often a mobile gamer will put a lot of time into learning the ins and outs of a game before simply moving on to the next one. It's not even like I set out to learn how the game worked, it's that once I got a taste of actually playing the game I found myself compulsively coming back to it over and over again, and eventually, you just start figuring out anything that seemed confusing at first.

ReRunners definitely has some room for improvement in certain areas, and the developers seem more than open to the feedback they've been receiving in the forums, but this is truly a game that platforming fans shouldn't miss. Even if it feels overwhelming at first, stick with it, because it's a very rewarding experience and one game that I picture staying on my iPhone and becoming a daily habit for a long time to come.