Nowhere Might Be The Most Ambitious Pitch

By Jim Rossignol on September 20th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.


Developer Duangle have set up a crowd-funding effort – via Humble Store – for their extraordinary first-person abstract life sim, Nowhere. I implore you to go and watch the pitch video, which I’ve put below. Even if it doesn’t convince you to back the project, you have to see this. I won’t say any more, because this is one of those moments where a developer does something that speaks entirely for itself, and you just have to know about it. Go look.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Qwallath says:

    Yep, this is hugely ambitious, but since the world is abstracted to a certain degree, they might just be able to incorporate the cultural elements they want into a truly emergent whole. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one!

    • tanith says:

      That’s also what I thought.
      It sounds amazing but I’ve heard it all before, even quite often. Not that particulat concept mind you but a small development studio (who doesn’t even in this case, at least that is how it seems to me, have any previous experience – I may be wrong) trying to make such an ambitious project happen.
      My first urge also was to get this thing but after I saw the dev video for alpha 75 I hesitated because it seems like there really is not a lot to do in this game at the moment.
      I will definitely keep an eye on this but I am really unsure whether I should be spending money on it already.

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        Qwallath says:

        I think it all depends on how familiar they are with agent-based interactions. It’s quite a challenge to create a world populated by a multitude of autonomous agents without resorting to a few overarching AI groups like in strategy games, for example. Or maybe I misunderstood the pitch?

        • tanith says:

          Well, coding a believable artificial intelligence will be definitely one of the main challenges. Unfortunately this particular branch doesn’t seem to have progressed much in the last ten years or so, at least concerning video games. I really like the AI in Stalker but I think this is also one of the most advanced ones I have seen.
          To make a believable AI it’s not enough to just have a few programmers, you first need the theoretical foundations for cybernetics, complex algorithms etc. I don’t think they can really pull that off but I am most likely misjudging the extent to which they want to make the creatures in this world autonomous.
          The other part is the multitude of tasks you can experience and things you can do in this game. Can they really do it until 2015? It seems like a huge amount of work and I think we will see more than one or two pushbacks.

          • lritter says:

            Don’t know if I’m allowed to barge in on a discussion about our game. It worked so great for Jon, let’s try this! ;)

            I could have pitched for something way easier to do but this was the only proposal that felt exciting enough to work on. I really love to work on demanding problems that produce entertaining experiences (there’s a lot of cursing and setbacks in-between, but it’s worth it).

            As to AI in games. I remember that we used to have at least one rather complex game, “Creatures”, which, according to its Wiki page, allowed players to teach their creatures stuff. There is enough prior art to draw from if only one cares to look. But the current landscape of genres often doesn’t really call for anything more demanding than enemies which take cover or surprise you from behind. Anything you could have a meaningful relationship to in a game is dead within ten seconds.

            Maybe the reason why we don’t see AI that is more fun in games is truly, as you say, that we’re all too dumb to cover this problem. But my suspicion is that this is mostly caused by laziness and settling for the established status quo for the sake of “commercial viability”. No other way to find out but to try it.

          • vivlo says:

            If you look at conway’s game of lide, you’ll see very simple rules leading to incredibly complex structures. It really seems like a path this could be headed to ? !
            Although – since it seems at least one of the developpers is reading those commentaries, i might as well ask here – i’m curious : in a world of ethereal, quasi cellular, grouped-in-superorganisms beeings, why keeping a kindof sexual reproduciton with a traditional male-and-female setup ? Maybe it’s to help having some rules that allow for emergence of interesting shapes ?

          • tanith says:

            My most favourite game of all time is Gothic and I really loved the world of Gothic 1 and 2. It was believable, it was big and it was alive. But it was also heavily scripted.
            It would be really awesome if you could create something like that in an abstract version with a dynamic AI. It’s just really difficult for me to imagine how very difficult this would be.

            This and also the myriad of roles you can take on. I really hope you can pull it off.

            It also seems to me that people might actually be afraid of how amibitious of a project this is.

          • tanith says:

            But Conway’s game of life is not really… intelligent, is it?

          • lritter says:

            vivlo: reproduction isn’t male-female. there is only one kind of sex, but you need two of them; two eggs merge into one. The gameplay reason for this is, among from creating more variety in appearances, to evade viral infections by mutation. It’s speculated that this is the reason why sexual reproduction exists in real life.

          • vivlo says:

            oh… okay-interesting.

          • dagudman says:

            Or it is because of the weird censorship in Germany they couldn’t have sex in the game. (Just kidding guys)

  2. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    OK, you’ve piqued my interest enough that I’m downloading the HD version and watching it on the big TV, lights out and everything.

    EDIT: And it seems that Vimeo throttle their downloads so it’s going to take half an hour to get here. OH, THE ANTICIPATION.

  3. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Watched the video and instantly threw all my money at the screen. Thankfully I’m broke so no damage was done.

  4. bit_crusherrr says:

    Oh my dog, take all my money.

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    stahlwerk says:

    I like the art style, and a bit of ambition never hurt anyone.
    Is there a set end-date for this fundraiser or is it pre-order style?

    (Huh, I live two blocks from them, apparently. Go Pieschen!)

    • jonahcutter says:

      It’s alpha-funding in the Prison Architect-mode.

      Give them money. Get the alpha immediately, and all future builds.

  6. NailBombed says:

    This looks like it could be incredible. Like Spore – if the game had better ideas behind it. Will keep both eyes out for this.

  7. Snargelfargen says:

    So what happens when the player encounters a past-life? Can they alter the course of history?

    • Mashakosha says:

      This is a thought I had while watching as well. No matter how unlikely the chances of crossing paths with yourself is, it’s going to happen eventually.

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        golem09 says:

        And they even encourage it as it seems. So how exactly are you suppoed to relive your life as your loved one?

        • realitysconcierge says:

          My theory is that you do what you want and your past life will do its best to repeat what you did with it before, lest you interrupt it in some way, by reacting to something you do differently. It’s like you’ll have given it a prescribed path to take, that it will want to take, but there isn’t anything stopping you from indirectly influencing it with your current relationship and avatar. Sort of like real life, except you already know what your partner wants because you lived their life. You could even leave them in the middle of your relationship and they’d probably, as one aspect of their lives, pine over you until someone else might or might not come along to fill the void of their heart. Of course this is all just conjecture on my part.

          • lritter says:

            It’s pretty much like you described. When you break the causality of the existing timeline, the affected AI uses a learning graph built of its behavioral data (atm i’m going for markov chains) to match its most typical behavior as best as it can. The world derails from its original timeline from this point on, as the butterfly effect unfolds. I have no idea how much influence your local changes will have on the overall state. It will be exciting to find out! :)

          • realitysconcierge says:

            @lritter I’m a winner! :D

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            particlese says:

            That sounds like an excellent solution — a “why didn’t I think of that?!” one, even. And hooray for Markov chains! I’ll be interested to see how that works out, if nothing else.

  8. Mbaya says:

    Sounds lovely and ambitious and I’m quite blown away by the art used in that video.

    I think I’d like to know more about how the game will play and what variation to expect, but they’ve certainly got my interest moving forward (if not my money quite yet).

    Best of luck to them!

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    grobitbox says:

    The most ambitious game ever attempted, being developed by two people.

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      stahlwerk says:

      My Ambitiotron pegs it at about 1.35 MU (Minecraft-Units) of ambition. Not too much for 4 Person-years.

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        Devan says:

        Yes, but Minecraft was built with Persson-years, which don’t convert 1:1 :P

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      Hodge says:

      Yeah, I’d agree with that reading. The lack of scripted narrative and super-minimalist graphic style means that they’ll avoid a lot all of the asset-creation stuff which can trip people up (*cough*schafer*cough*) and can concentrate on the game proper.

      The difficult thing will be testing all those different systems and how they interact with each other.

    • Jorum says:

      Dwarf Fortress is one dude making entire world where every tree is procedurally generated unique entity and there’s probably a variable somewhere for total number of stitches on dwarven socks.

  10. Felixader says:

    Germany represent! ^_^

    Makes me proud that there is still more to our gamingscene than Crysis, Gothik (and subsequent Successors real and spiritual) and Sacred. ^_^

    • Hawkseraph says:

      I miss Sacred. The real, open-world one, not whatever sacred 3 is turning out to be. :/

  11. PopeRatzo says:

    So, it’s a third-person shooter?

    I watched the video and didn’t understand much, but I heard the words, “procedurally generated”, which is German for, “This game will never exist”.

    Actually, it sounds like Pixeljunk Eden meets The Sims and they get together at Spore’s house to smoke some DMT.

  12. TheGrinningMan says:

    I’m not going to lie, my experiences with Molyneaux and Spore leave me very cynical and skeptical.

    …but then I remember there’s also Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft. So fuck it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; have my $21.

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      Cinek says:

      TBH: I had better, and less ‘tedious’ experience with Spore than Minecraft.

      Minecraft felt like a funny work. Spore felt like unfinished game. I prefer unfinished game over funny, but still: work any time night or day.

      • P.Funk says:

        You never had legos or a sandbox as a child did you.

        • rightyeauhuh says:

          Or maybe he did and simply didn’t like Minecraft. Liking one doesn’t necessarily mean you like the other.

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          drewski says:

          I had and loved lego, but Minecraft left me cold. I eventually determined that this was because for me, lego was a way of constructing a world in which I could create a story, and that the actual constructions were at best minimal and at worst completely abstract – which didn’t matter, because my narrative was what interested me.

          I had friends which had their elaborate sets perfectly made, and other friends who had deconstructed their sets and turned them into other elaborate creations, but my sets were lucky to be constructed once before being turned into creations that only I could see any reason in.

          So Minecraft sucked because it was all of the busy work of lego, without any of the ability to construct a narrative payoff. And of course I had to “work” to create anything in Minecraft – I had to mine, I had to find the right types of block, I had to create them in the right way, I had to combine them in the right order, I had to read FAQs to learn what combinations were.

          Lego? Here’s some blocks, they can represent whatever you want, go nuts.

          So no. Lego is nothing like Minecraft. Not for me.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Did you not try creative mode? Multiplayer? If you want to see a fine example of a narrative being created in minecraft, you only need to look as far as the yogscast

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            drewski says:

            I’m not arguing that Minecraft doesn’t allow the creation of narrative, simply that it doesn’t suit the kind of narrative I am interested in telling myself. My point is simply that being uninterested in Minecraft does not mean you “didn’t enjoy lego or sandpits”, with all the inherent arrogance that statement implies – but rather that different people use different toolsets in different ways, and not every toolset suits every creator.

  13. Urthman says:

    I like the idea of approaching doing a social game in a completely alien environment so you can actually focus on the social interactions instead of spending all your effort trying to model the physical world of a town or city.

    But that pitch is amusingly bonkers in it’s ambition.

  14. wodin says:

    No idea what the gameplay mechanics will be…

    Though at the start of the pitch it said they didn’t speak…yet then later they say you have to learn how to speak….me thinks they have taken to much LSD.

    • lritter says:

      it says they don’t speak – in the way that we do.

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      Cinek says:

      Me either. Game explains quite a bit in a way where I can imagine it being very ambitious, complex title, but still have no slightest idea how the heck will it play.

  15. Frank says:

    Like Utopia, amirite?

    ref: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/utopia#Etymology

    Sounds like something I’d be interested in, though.

  16. Fenix says:

    I wish there was somewhere where I could read about this game and what’s it about, as I’m very intrigued but can’t watch the video :(

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      lhzr says:

      check out the about and faq pages on their site. the short description they’ve got there isn’t as impressive as their video, but it should be enough to get you interested, if you’re into this sort of thing.

  17. Metalmickey says:

    I find the combination of their German accents, their genuine and sincere enthusiasm, and the fact that they’re a cute couple to be very endearing. Of course, that should in no way influence my financial decis… TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY!!

    • iridescence says:

      There’s these factors and the fact that they seem to be making my dream sim game…but I don’t like backing alpha—…..Fuck it! Take my money!

  18. Turin Turambar says:

    This is… uggh.

    Look, even if we forget for a moment the whole out of this world alien concept where beings live inside other beings and the alternative timelines mindfuck, we still have a proposal of a game where you can live, do several jobs, love, make friends, trade, compete, make war, do laws, etc. So you need gameplay systems for all that (and it has to be interesting gameplay, not push a button to abstract it), and not only that, the AI has to also do all that. And they want to do it with a 2 persons team.

    Over-ambitious doesn’t describe this enough.

    I mean, the concept is lovely, I’ dying to try something like this… in 30 years.

    • P.Funk says:

      Oh ye of little faith.

      Even if its a nominal failure, its work in the right direction. If nobody ever makes the attempt then the progress is never made towards success. For every dissertation that changed science how many were half finished or flawed or wholly wrong?

      This is where the business of production versus the nebulous shared ambition of attempting and learning through partial success or wholesale failure clashes on a philosophical level. In the end, the attempt is enough to justify it in my mind. To see what 2 people could do in 2 years could show exactly whats possible or needs to be done with more people with a bigger budget or more time.

      This isn’t just game development. Its exploration. Conceptually we get stuck in what works. It will take 30 years to get something like this if nobody tries until computers are so powerful that its not even surprising to accomplish this.

      I respect the attempt, and heartily await the result.

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        DrollRemark says:

        Which is absolutely fine, in and of itself. But when you start trying to sell pre-orders to a finished product that sounds ridiculously speculative and unlikely, that’s when I start to take issue.

        • lritter says:

          We had this concept largely pinned down in January already, after several years of prototyping and trying out all kinds of stuff. I would have loved to stay quiet and surprise you after a decade of hard work with something astounding. Doing this only in evenings and on the weekend, progress was crawling. Looking for a more demanding challenge, I quit my job this summer to devote time to NOWHERE full time. July-September, we put our last savings and all we had learned so far into our work to prepare a last great alpha and build this pitch video. I really didn’t feel great having to build anticipations that way and risk looking like a quack, but this was the only way we didn’t have to pull in traditional investors and run danger of losing our life’s work at some point in the future. Sometimes you have to put yourself into a corner and up the stakes.

          Now that we have so much trust by our alpha-founders, we have to give it our best. The funds collected until now (you have to subtract the initial ~$3.8k, those were spent in the past two years) are enough to improve the alphas and build a new case for the next two months. I would prefer focusing on the game entirely and not being distracted by having to edit elaborate videos instead, but if this is the way it needs to be, then fine.

          Based on the experience I’ve made so far I fully believe that we’ll have something closely matching what I described in this pitch by 2015, and on the way there, enough fun to be had in the alphas.

          Again, I’m sorry it had to be this way. I promise that we’ll make up for it.

    • Thrippy says:

      Would you believe a very similar concept is almost 30 years old?

      Independently, Clifford Pickover and Richard Dawkins both borrowed Desmond Morris’s term “biomorph” when they conceived of computer biomorphs. Pickover’s discovery was an accidental mistake in a fractal formula that produced weird freaky organic shapes with detailed cilia, organelles, celluar stuff inside stuff. Dawkins wrote a program where biomorphs with genes evolved over generations through asexual reproduction – a genre that would be later called genetic algorithms. Very simple rules producing endless complexity that seems alive, like Conway’s Life.

      I always thought that somehow these algorithms would make a fantastic environment for a revolutionary computer game. I’M STILL WAITING. You get a base line AI behavior and prodcedurally generated detail for free, because that is the output. That was back when cpu power was all of 4.77 Mhz. You could create a world populated by generations of biomorphs today, instead of struggling for hours to render just one.

      And I’m thinking the Nowhere team is already well aware of Dawkin’s work he described in The Blind Watchmaker,. but maybe not of Pickover’s fractal creations.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Okami says:

    “..we are creating our own custom game engine..:”

    Of course you do, you are germans :)

    • P.Funk says:

      I feel like we need Jeremy Clarkson to do game blogging, that is if he understood a single thing about computers.

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    lhzr says:

    this sounds (and looks) amazing. you got my money, you crazy people.

  21. Shazbut says:

    This would probably still be worth it if they get it even half right. Best of luck to them

  22. CaBBagE says:

    So it’s Fri afternoon here and I’m feeling generous so I just bought in. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE GIVE US INVERTED MOUSE… *ahem* that is all ;)

    • lritter says:

      Yes. We got a few complaints. ;) Next alpha, along with configurable keys.

  23. realitysconcierge says:

    This does look amazing. On a different note, I can’t imagine getting my salary all at once like that. I’d totally blow it and lose my motivation halfway through. SIgh.

    I wonder if this will be the world’s first butterfly effect simulator???

  24. Lev Astov says:

    Their funding levels are too high. This is something a very large number of people might throw $10-15 at, but starting at $21 (soon $35) is going to be very limiting, I think. I’m still in, but not everyone is in the position to afford this.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      It’s not cheap, that and given the abition, there’s a significant risk it won’t exactly turn out as planned. Also, I was rather surprised that cheat codes are apparently a reward for high level backers. I’m scratching my head at that one.

      • lritter says:

        they’ll get to _name_ cheat codes / easter eggs. whether someone names them or not, they will always be there for everyone.

        • Premium User Badge

          cpt_freakout says:

          For how long will the funding be open? I’m asking because of what Lev says, so if people have the option to fund next month, for example, maybe it’ll be worth to save the 21 bucks someone might not have now.

  25. DanMan says:

    Would.

  26. Sirico says:

    Give him back his bow tie you monsters!

  27. jellydonut says:

    I remember this pitch.

    You know, when Spore was going to be the next big thing.

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    strangeloup says:

    I saw this, and I was thinking “holy crap, this looks amazing, I need to give these guys money as soon as I can”.

    But something about the name Duangle seemed familiar, and I realised that I’d already backed this five months ago, and sort of mostly forgotten about it. I guess I’ll have a whole bunch more new stuff to download then…

    ETA: It looks like they’re migrating previous backers to the Humble Store version, where (if desired) you can upgrade to the next tier. I’m very tempted to put another $30 down for the sake of an album, game soundtrack, and an art book.

  29. crinkles esq. says:

    I don’t know anything about the programming prowess on this team, so maybe it’s possible. I mean, that other guy on Kickstarter who is making a space combat game by himself blew me away, so perhaps lightning can strike twice, so to speak. They seem really passionate about this project, and have thought about it a lot, so if they have the talent and are willing to work very hard, perhaps they can surprise us. The ideas are intriguing, and the visuals look fresh.

    And if nothing else, it’s the best pitch video I’ve seen. The graphic treatments almost remind me of something Valve would create.

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      DrollRemark says:

      A space combat game is several magnitudes of complexity less than what is being promised in Nowhere.

  30. JuliaPeterson32 says:

    my classmate’s ex-wife makes $65/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 9 months but last month her check was $12932 just working on the computer for a few hours. additional reading…………….. http://tinyurl.com/n3ccbnk

  31. mwoody says:

    I wasn’t impressed at first due to the small team size, but you’re missing a crucial aspect of the game: it already supports the Oculus Rift. From their FAQ:

    “We consider NOWHERE a native title for the Oculus Rift. The game is currently best controlled by Keyboard and Mouse, early Gamepad support has been added. Support for Razer Hydra and Leap Motion controllers is planned.”

    …still too expensive, though.

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    drewski says:

    Love the pitch. Not really my style of game so not going to back it, but it’s a really cool idea.

  33. Muzman says:

    Looks interesting. But what’s the transcendent, unmissable moment Jim is talking about?

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    DrollRemark says:

    I can’t see this ever being completed.