The Voxels Are Academic: TUG

TUG? “The Untitled Game”, of course. There are two parts to TUG‘s Kickstarter summary sentence: “TUG is a multiplayer open-world sandbox-RPG using new technology and social sciences to directly involve players in the game’s design.” That first part, with the open world and the sandbox, I say yay! The second part with the social sciences, I say huh? Indeed, developers Nerd Kingdom don’t really going in to that second part all that much in their pitch, sensibly dwelling on the first, and revealing that this is an academically-motivated happening with the job titles of their talking heads. And good thing too, because it looks mighty feisty and entirely intriguing. I recommend the videos, below.


  1. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    I’m using new techonology and social sciences to truly make you read my comment.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I used to work at a university with a bunch of behavioural science academics whose main claim to fame was that they were consultants on the development of Microsoft Bob.

      Yes, you can colour me cynical.

    • tumbleworld says:

      I have literally travelled here from the year 1969 to say to you: Exactly.

      (sorry, Randall)

    • Alien426 says:

      More puzzling than that “social” shebang is the use of “voxel” nowadays. Everything that uses blocks like Minecraft calls itself a voxel game. That is not true. They are still polygon games; as opposed to Comanche, Delta Force and Outcast that use real voxel engines.

      • Merlkir says:

        Or they could actually use an internal voxel engine with a transformation to polygons for visualization. (like what Procedural World does)

        • Alien426 says:

          Voxels are always visual. How you store information has nothing to do with it. If Procedural World claims to do what you said, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.

          • Doggy says:

            @Alien426 You don’t need to render voxels yourself pixel by pixel for it to be considered a voxel. Sure, things like minecraft stretch it a bit far but a common way of rendering voxels is to convert to polygons before rendering, whether it’s with cubes, screen-facing-quads or a smoothed polygonal mesh. This post prety much coincides with my use of the word: link to

      • spectone says:

        Minecraft doesn’t even use voxels.

  2. Nemon says:

    Anything developed with a guy named Moses Wolfenstein on the team must be great. Seriousality aside, it did look interesting.

  3. AngoraFish says:

    A game developed in someone’s LAN-party lounge room (0.11) by a bunch of university lecturers in fields mostly unrelated to game design, plus assorted misfits?

    I think that I might just wait for the Wot I Think on this one before taking the plunge.

    • Moses Wolfenstein says:

      @Jim Woot! Thanks for the coverage. As a long time RPS reader I’m stoked to see a project I’m affiliated with make it to these lofty pages.

      @Nemon Thanks! It’s true, my name does give me a bit of an unfair advantage in the game dev community.

      @AngoraFish I’d just like to clarify that our dev team is not just a bunch of academics. That’s the science side, and yes there is bleed through, but there really is a deep team working on this as opposed to a bunch of academics. Also personally, my research background is in games.

      @Montavious It’s true were over a year from full release, but alpha does start this summer.

      @DarkFarmer That’s an interesting point and it’s just one of the many things I’m curious about as a researcher (uptake of different styles of play among different demographic segments). I will note that we’re talking about a system that scales so that you’re not bound to building “minutia out of blocks” beyond the early game.


  4. Peter says:

    At first I was very skeptical when I backed a week or so ago, but after asking a few questions it became clear that the “social science” bit is basically just a team of behavioral scientists analyzing a load of statistics being generated by players playing the game to then suggest ways of improving the game.

  5. tumbleworld says:

    So all that blather appeared to boil down to “Pretty Minecraft”. Also, did they have to shoehorn like twenty people into the video and give them each one line to speak? It was like listening to one of those horrid charity records with a stack of celebrities all fighting to deliver their moment of glory as impressively as possible.

    • trinka00 says:

      i kept imagining them in the office, wondering if they get along with each other.

      they don’t seem to have much flair for naming things.
      i like that they’re avoiding a lot of typical RPG elements.
      but you’re new character is called a ‘seed’ and later on u get a companion called a ‘podling’.
      that does not bode well.

  6. Lobotomist says:

    It sounds very interesting. And basically is pretty close to what many new developments are trying to accomplish these days. Kind of advanced minecraft model.

    Really hope they reach kickstart goal

  7. Monkeh says:

    Bladiebla, lots of talk, but not much to show for.

  8. Derpentine says:

    Looks a lot like a rushed copy (well kinda, the world anyway) of the game being worked on by the author of link to ; Miguel Cepero.

    His work is at least far more interesting to follow, and the game aspect of it is becoming more established as time goes on. Worth going through his videos if you’re just looking for something pretty to watch. If you’re technically interested, his longer posts and technical vids are really interesting.

    • Merlkir says:

      Oh nice, someone else noticed that. That’s a good one, I wish the guy did a Kickstarter for it.

  9. BTAxis says:

    I’m hearing a looot of buzzwords and nothing concrete about about why I should care about this. Saying “crafting” a lot is not enough, I’m afraid.

    • Flammablezeus says:

      Dude, check out their Kickstarter update that talks about the crafting. It sounds a lot better than in most games. This game looks downright insanely cool if you read up on it.

  10. Terragot says:

    “We want the minecraft and facebook numbers”.

  11. Wurstwaffel says:

    Finally the non-blocky minecrafts are starting to trickle in. Looks nice. Don’t care for any of the sciency bs though.

  12. Montavious says:

    Looks pretty good, but i can never bring myself to fund something that’s like a year and some change away from release.

  13. DarkFarmer says:

    This is interesting because its obviously a very adult take on Minecraft, I wonder if the devs realize 90% of minecraft’s playerbase is maybe too young to appreciate this social science and emergent narrative stuff. I love me some sandbox gaming, but most of why Minecraft was a huge hit is its appeal to kids. None of that is a bad thing, but the grown up gamer in me does not want to build minutia out of blocks. I want to oversee the construction of cities, not houses.

  14. Enkinan says:

    Minecraft didn’t seem like it would appeal to kids in the least when it first came out. Kids will surprise you.

    As for TUG, it looks pretty neat. I’m not kickstarting anything else until I see how the current titles I have kickstarted go, but I wish them the best and will be keeping tabs on it’s progress.

  15. Strangerator says:

    This looks like one of those very neat games that I will enjoy reading articles about, but not necessarily playing. That upbeat chiptune music certainly TUGs at my heartstrings though.

  16. DXN says:

    Looks cool. I like their take on the minecraft-like formula (and really, I’d far rather it become a genre than just a game and a few knock-offs), and the stylised design is neat. I like the character-progression aspect a lot. I wonder if you can become old? It’d be neat to roam around the things you’ve wrought in the world, satisfied with what you’ve done and knowing your time is drawing near, but a new generation (or a new character) is just around the corner.

  17. MadMatty says:

    Game looks fine and all, but anyone else getting REALLY tired of the defacto disney/american 2000s comic style?
    Its like everyone draws exactly the same style of overexaggerated comic characters- Torchlight 2, SMC, any indie game from the USA. I used to read 80s issues of Heavy Metal Magazine, the comic one, and theres A LOT of other ways to draw things.
    I think this extremely boring comic period started around time the “witchblade comic” started comingh out

  18. waltC says:

    What’s with the PhD monikers? PhD’s…in what, exactly, and from where? I was instantly skeptical when they kept popping up like graffiti. Truth is I’ve known some PhD’s who were functional idiots, and some “idiots” who very easily could have been PhDs, so I’m not sold on that as a qualification. Trying too hard to impress. I have no idea what their game is going to consist of and from what they said, neither do they! “Sandbox/social rpg done partially in 2d voxels with real 3d models” tells me pretty much nothing. Very difficult for me to take seriously.

    • Moses Wolfenstein says:

      As one of the PhDs on this project I’d like to reassure you that we’re a pretty capable bunch with degrees from respectable institutions. Personally I got my PhD in education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied with the Games, Learning, & Society research group and did my dissertation on guild leadership in WoW while working on a variety of game based learning projects. Anyone affiliated with this project with a PhD at the back of their name is at least as qualified as I am in relation to games and their individual area of expertise.

  19. Richard Jones says:

    Jim Gee advising? Here, take my monies!!!

  20. KirbyEvan says:

    The game would look 10 times better without a crappy over-sized hand model over the screen.

    It’s like game developers actually think people walk around holding their hands 5 inches from their eyes without moving them :L

  21. Apocalypse says:

    The game looks so promising, but I got the strong impression that the sandbox will be very small and limited in space, and not something huge and immensive and immersive like the eve sandbox. Just hundreds and not hundreds of thousand players will play in the same sandbox.