…. and we’re live!

We’re now 48 hours into our Kickstarter campaign. If you haven’t seen the page yet, you can click here to visit it.

Early signs have been good: we’re a whisker away from being 5% funded at the time of writing. We’ve also been selected by Kickstarter themselves as a “Project We Love”, which is really positive news.

There’s still a long way to go, though, and we’ll need every bit of help and support we can get to succeed in our goals.

Backing us with a pledge is of course the most direct way to support us, but just as valuable is helping us to spread awareness of the game and the campaign.

Every share, mention, like, retweet, and compliment helps us build confidence and momentum in our campaign, and will allow us to deliver you a truly special game about climate change and its impact on humanity.

There are 31 more days before our campaign ends, and we’ll be working hard on every single one of them to ensure we succeed.

Any thoughts, tips, or insights you have to share with us during that time will be gratefully received.

Feel free to contact us at info@soothsayergames.com, or come find us on social media: we’re active on Twitter, Facebook, and our Discussion Group.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Klaude and Matt

Soothsayer Games

Conference plan

 

It’s just over a week until our Kickstarter campaign launches, and the excitement at Soothsayer is mounting.

Most of the necessary work is already complete, but there are still a few campaign materials that need finalising… not to mention a very long list of PR and administrative tasks to be done. Overall, though, the mood is positive and optimistic, and we can’t wait to get going.

In the meantime, we thought we’d take a quick break to share with you something rather special: the first view of our Climate Conference mini-game, which is the main new game feature we’re adding to FOTWO.

As with our previous reveals, we stress that we’re showing you the first-pass working version; many improvements are planned once the Kickstarter has finished. This is the worst it will ever look.

But, with that said: behold the Conference Screen!

There’s quite a lot of different things going on here, so we’ll break it down piece-by-piece for you.

First of all, you’ll notice that the screen-bordering Arch element we talked about last week is still very much present. It’s designed to be a constant reminder to you of Earth’s atmospheric situation, and what you’ve pledged to do about it.

Beneath that is the current conference name, and where it is located. For now, all the conferences represent the UNFCCC Conference of Parties, but we’re also exploring using this mechanic to handle other types of diplomatic function as well.

Each conference has a specific location and date; in the current game cycle, these occur every five years (i.e. once every five game turns).

Each conference has a set number of agenda points to discuss: players can vote on the issues they want raised as a side-task in the normal game turn. These agenda points are listed in the bar on the left-hand side of the screen.

Each agenda point must be discussed and voted on by the conference attendees within a set number of rounds. For a motion to pass, a quorum of votes must be achieved – usually, unanimous consent is required.

Attendees discuss the motion using what we call the “argument panel”, which lives at the bottom of the screen. It represents the current wording of the motion, and can have one or more clauses which can be amended by attendees. In the example below, we see that the motion is to agree a maximum global temperature raise, much like that agreed in Paris in 2015.

Clearly, though, this is not to the liking of the active player, and they are considering changing it. Going down to 1.5 degrees would be an ambitious target, but one which requires much more stringent emissions limits… is this a motion that the group could accept? Or would they rather risk the health of the atmosphere over that of their economy?

Maybe your fellow leaders might be persuaded if you were to put some cash on the table. The “add” and “deduct” buttons allow you to offer aid to other attendees. They can also be used to request a donation, if you find other players’ proposals rather unenticing.

Every time the terms of the deal are changed, all participants gets to vote on the new wording. The active player is indicated by a red marker (seen above in an early state: it’s intended to have a timer incorporated, showing how long you have before you automatically pass the round to the next player).

As you see, we currently plan on 7 attendees. Of these, the first five from left to right are intended to be the “Player” characters , while the Umbrella group and the G-77 are voting blocs that together account for all the other countries in the world.

The remaining elements are the basic game controls: the Commit button transmits your proposal to the rest of the table, while the Home button allows you to visit your domestic interface if you need to check up on any information.

Finally, there is the chat/log window, which records a full event history of the proceedings, as well as being the place you can text chat with other players.

Overall, our goal was to build a tool that could handle multiple-party diplomacy in a way that permitted complex negotiations, but was also swift to resolve. So far, we’re pretty pleased with how it’s worked out.

With that all said, it’s time for us to get back to our Kickstarter duties, to make sure as many people as possible know it’s happening.

Similarly, if there’s anyone you know who you think might be interested in what we’re doing, please do let them know what our plans are: to create a game that’s the most effective and enjoyable way to understand climate change.

We’ll be back with another dev blog later on in the week, where we’ll be showing you some of the work we’ve been doing on the Event screen. In the meantime, you can always find us on Twitter at @fateoftheworld, or join the discussion in our  FOTW Online Facebook Group.

Oh, and remember: newsletter subscribers always get the reveals first, so be sure to sign up if you haven’t already – just use the widget on the right of this screen.

Thanks for reading!

Klaude & Matt,

Soothsayer Games.

Kickstarter launch is 26th September!

This dev blog, the big news is that our revised Kickstarter campaign will be going live on the 26th September 2017.

This is just over two weeks away, and we’ll be revealing more and more of our plans as we get closer to the start date.

As we revealed on Facebook earlier this week, we’re aiming to raise a minimum of £60,000. This will be sufficient to create the first playable version of the game, which is the first step on our journey to make the best game ever made about climate change.

Once the campaign goes live, we’ll only have four weeks to hit our funding target…. so your support during that time will be critical to our success.

Backing the Kickstarter personally is the obvious way to help us – whatever size donation you can make is greatly appreciated, and we have a host of different rewards to show you our gratitude.

Beyond that, anything you can do to make people aware of our campaign is extremely helpful. Retweeting or sharing links to the Kickstarter page, or mentioning the campaign to someone you think might be interested, will all greatly assist us reaching our funding goal, and continuing development.

It’s a really exciting time for everyone at Soothsayer, the culmination of over two years’ hard work, and hopefully the start of a completely new phase for the Fate of the World project.

Also this dev blog, we’re revealing the first full screenshot from Fate of the World.

As we’ve said before, this is all work-in-progress, there are lots of placeholders, and the worst it’s ever going to look…. but with that said, here’s what the game’s main display is currently looking like:

The goal of this screen is bring all the most important information about your nation into one place, so you can quickly assess and compare its economic, environmental, industrial, technological, and political situations.

Let’s take a closer look at the Main Dashboard’s component parts. First of all, there’s the element we call the Arch:

The Arch is intended to be a near-constant element, always reminding you of the global atmospheric situation.

The two vertical bars are the “thermometers”, showing atmospheric parts per million of CO2E on the left, and average global temperature on the right. They’re much like the ones seen in the End of Turn screen

The marks you can see on each bar are the goals you’ve pledged to observe, with their numerical value displayed on the horizontal bar above. Here, we see that the USA has joined a pledge to achieve no greater than a 2 degree temperature increase, which requires global emissions not exceed 510 gigatons.

Below the arch, there are six panels, each summarising a specific topic of national interest:

Each of these panels is buttonised, meaning that you can tap/click on them to reveal a sub-screen where the summarised information is broken out into full detail.

The top panel shows your core game stats: what nation you’re playing; how polically stable it is (your game ends if your nation ceases to function as such); whether your populace are more politically motivated by the economy or the environment; how much money you’ve got to spend on your initiatives; the maximum emissions level you’ve pledged to observe; and a score reflecting how well you’re playing.

Below that is the Economic panel, while to the right is the Demographic. Both of those we’ve discussed in previous newsletters, and on the dev blog here and here.

Bottom left is the Environmental panel, showing you the most important ecological metrics. How abundant and healthy wildlife is in your country and its surrounding waters; how stressed your fresh water cycle is; how much viable land there is for farming or reforestation; and how many waste products your economy is releasing into it.

On the right of the screen, we’ve already talked about the Fuel Use panel here. Beside it is the Technology panel, which shows your nation’s relative sophistication in five areas of science.

Finally, at the bottom of the screen are the game controls:

The “Back” button is used to bring you out of the various sub-screens, while End Turn commits your current policies for play, advancing the game one year.

Between those controls are the Policy buttons. Each one brings up a specific menu of policy cards to address a particular area of government.

The colour scheme is very similar to the original FOTW deck colours: yellow is energy/industry, green is environmental, red is public welfare. There’s also a completely new deck: gold cards will focus specifically on policies affecting wealth and finance.

That’s about all we have for you right now, but we’ll be back with another newsletter next week. Meanwhile, if you want to keep tabs on what we’re at, come find us on Twitter at @fateoftheworld, or join the discussion in our  FOTW Online Facebook Group.

Hope to see you there!

Klaude & Matt,

Soothsayer Games.

Power and People

This dev blog, we’re sharing the latest batch of screenshots from the new game, following the first reveal back in August.

These screenshots all featured first in our newsletter, which went out last Friday – so if you want to be at the front of the queue for the latest FOTWO news, be sure to sign up using the red widget on the right.

As we’ve mentioned before, what we’re showing right now is very much “first working version” – there’s a lot more work to be done and improvements to be made.

To do all the things we want, though, we’re going to need help – why is why we’ll be launching our Kickstarter campaign very soon!

Back to today’s business: the first element we’re showing today is what we call Fuel Use. It shows you all your nation’s fossil fuel needs aggregated together, in both numerical and bar chart form.

As with the Economy panel, it gives you an at-a-glance understanding of the situation, allowing you to plan your environmental and economic strategies accordingly.

The Fuel Use panel underwent a very interesting change this week. Until a couple of days ago, it looked like this:

You’ll notice that the name was different (Energy Mix), as were the energy generated, and the proportional mix was very different. Why was this?

The fact is, this panel used to show just electricity generation, hence the different name. The USA (whose game data this is) generates only a very tiny amount of electricity using oil, with the bulk coming from natural gas and coal. Transportation, however, uses pretty much nothing but oil – and these stats were being recorded elsewhere. The reason? It’s the way we did things last time round, as this screenshot of the old game shows:

Looking at the energy stats, you would never think that oil consumption was the biggest fossil fuel issue. By including transport uses in the Fuel Use panel, it becomes very clear where the issues lie, and which fossil fuel usages need addressing most urgently.

Moving on, the next screenshot is of the Demographics panel, which is all about the people who live in your nation.

The Population number is self-explanatory, while the row of meeples (stick men) gives you a proportional breakdown of your society by activity.

White meeples are your Dependent population (the old, the young, the sick) who rely on the support of others.

The blue meeples are people who work in the Public Sector, black meeples are people working in the Private Sector, and purple meeples are unemployed people of workforce age.

We anticipate all of these things being of great significance in the years ahead, especially as robots, AIs, and automation enter the workplace.

Moving onto the second row, HDI (Human Development Index) featured in the last game, and is a reflection of your nation’s health, education, and welfare systems.

The GINI co-efficient is reflection of how equal or unequal the distribution of wealth is in your nation. 1 is the maximum value (total inequality), so 0.81 is pretty high here.

The line of dollar icons gives a visual representation of why this is. The black dollars represent the wealth of the richest 10% of your citizens. The white dollars (barely visible at the left-hand edge) represent the poorest 50%. The blue dollars are the middle 40%. Scarily, these proportions are very close to real life.

In terms of appearance, there’s still a lot to be done. The icons are very much first pass, as is the colour scheme – but overall we think the panel is doing a good job of showing a lot of very relevant information in a clear and understandable manner.

That’s about all we have time for now. We’ll be back next week with another newsletter, where the remaining elements of the Main Dashboard will be revealed.

In the meantime, you can join in the design conversations taking place on our FOTW Online Facebook Group, or let us know what you think on Twitter at @fateoftheworld

Hope to see you there!

Klaude & Matt,

Soothsayer Games.

Coming of the storm

At the time of writing, we’re watching distressing scenes coming in from Houston. Hurricane Harvey has brought over four feet of rainfall (1.2 metres) to America’s fourth-largest city, causing extensive floods that have already killed at least one person, and rendered thousands more homeless.

Already it is the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Texas, with reports that it could get even worse, should the storm return again.

Was global warming implicated in the severity of this disaster? Climate scientist Michael Mann certainly thinks so, and explains why in detail here.

All the science suggests that incidents like this are going to become more common, and more severe, as the climate of our planet heats up. The conditions humanity has grown accustomed to for thousands of years will see dramatic change, and may never return to their original state.

It’s this knowledge which keeps us working away on the sequel, as we try to comprehend all the complexities of this situation, and then model them in a way that makes them easily understandable to a wide audience. These matters are so important to all of humanity, it’s critical that we can educate ourselves and others about them. It’s true that we want to make a really good game too… but it would be hard not to if we can capture even a fraction of our vicious predicament.

Development-wise, progress towards the Kickstarter launch is good. The first gameplay tranche is pretty much complete now, and we’ll be recording gameplay footage later this week, for use in our campaign video.

We’ll also be releasing the next screenshot of the new game this week. Once again, newsletter subscribers will get the news first, so please do subscribe if you want to stay abreast of what’s happening.

We’ll be around on Facebook and Twitter all week, where we’ll be sharing updates,, insights and other items of interest. Hope to see you there!

Klaude and Matt
Soothsayer Games

First glance

We’re finally ready to give you a look at what we’ve been working on for the last few months.

To be very clear – what we’ve got so far is very much our first ‘working solution’. All the artwork has been generated internally – not by an artist – and is one of the first things we hope to attend to once our Kickstarter has succeeded.

This is the worst it’s ever going to look, and pretty much everything is subject to change…

But with that said, here is the first glimpse of the Main Screen ever released:

economypanel.PNG.png

This is the Economy Panel; one of six panels on the Main Screen, each with it’s own unique display and each covering a specific area of the game model.

For those of you who have played FOTW, you’ll notice the panel covers off some several very familiar key stats. Here’s what the Economy UI looked like in the old game.

We’ve retained the three key economic sectors of Agriculture, Industry, and Services – the latter has been renamed from Commerce, to reflect its broader reach (for example, transport is now included here, rather than as an external resource).

One thing to bear in mind with this element and the ones like it, is that they represent the most concise summary of the game system beneath them. Each of those economic sectors has multiple sub-divisions: for example, Agriculture is broken down further into subsections like Arable, Pastoral and Livestock, and Mariculture and Fishing.

If a player wants to know more info, then these panels also act as buttons: clicking or tapping on a panel will open up its specific sub-screen, so you can examine the subject in depth.

Overall, though, our intent is that you only have to dive deep down into the model if you really want to. We’ve really tried to make it so that all the most important information you need is there, ready to hand.

A good example of this is the Emissions part of the panel. Beforehand, the breakdown emissions was on a completely separate screen from the Economy, as you can see here:

To make a sensible choice, you’d need to flip back and forth between the two screens, and then go find the card you wanted to play. Now it’s all one one at-a-glance panel, meaning you can spend less time searching around for information, and more time figuring out a solution.

One final thing: you may have noticed a new stat called “Wealth”. For the first time, we’ll be modelling in-game the accumulation of wealth throughout the world, and how inequalities in ownership can exacerbate the problems of climate change.

This is just one of the new features we’re adding to the game, which will make it not only more fun, and easier to play, but also deeper and broader in the issues it ponders. It’s all very exciting, to be honest.

We’re going to be sharing more and more screenshots of the new version as we get closer to the Kickstarter launch, with mailing list subscribers always getting the first view… so please sign up if you want to be keep up-to-date with what’s going on.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back with more updates very soon.

Klaude & Matt,

Soothsayer Games.

PS. If you are on Facebook, join us for regular dev discussions in the “FOTW Online Facebook Group

Open to Discussion

There’s been plenty going on since the last devblog, with one of the most prominent events being the launch of our Facebook discussion group. It’s given us a place to talk through with the community some of the points being raised by the current stage of development.

If you want to see what’s been discussed, and maybe even join in, then just click here.

With the main front-end screen hitting its milestone, we’ve moved onto the first functional iteration of the conference screen. As we’ve mentioned before, this is the main new feature we’re adding to FOTWO: the chance to interact diplomatically with other nations, and try to form a consensus on how best to address the looming perils of climate change.

Many thanks to all of you who have participated in discussions so far: your input on subjects from the colour of national panels to the phrasing on conference agenda points has all been very welcome, and we look forward to more of the same over the coming weeks.

Alongside the conference screen, we’re pressing on with core development tasks, like filling out the data model, and readying the specification for the next development sprint – the events screen.

We’ll be back with a fresh update soon to tell you all about that – in the meantime, if you’d like to know more, just come find us on the discussion forums, and join the debate.

The Fate team

Beginning of the Front End

Last week saw us hard at work, trying to complete the current development “sprint” on schedule. We have only a few weeks to pull together the first working game code if we’re to make the September launch date for our Kickstarter.

The main focus of the sprint has been on what we call the Main screen, the top-level of the interface, which summarises all the economic, demographic, political, and environmental data of the player nation into a single place.

The goal is an interface that informs the player, clearly and precisely, of the nation’s current situation, allowing them to assess with a single glance what the key issues are that the country faces.

Which economic sector is emitting the most greenhouse gases? How capable is the local environment of absorbing these emissions via vegetation? How are you doing in meeting your climate conference obligations?

Is the nation politically stable? If not, what might be the reason? What is the state of healthcare, and education? Do people have enough work, and is that work well enough rewarded?

How does your nation power itself? How does its technology compare to the rest of the world? How much wealth does it have, and what is its GDP? What does that mean in terms of your budget?

The data set we are implementing into the game is vast in scope, and made all the more engaging by the fact that it is as close the the real-world data as we can make it. We have a wealth of statistics, data, and research to draw upon in every field we touch upon, drawn from many of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

Making this data accessible and understandable to people, structuring interrelationships so that hard facts and numbers become dynamic game elements, is at the very heart of Fate of the World. What we aspire to is a game that explores what it means to be a member of humanity in the 21st Century.

As always, thanks for reading. We’ll be back with more news very soon.

The Fate team

Forging ahead

First, here’s the most recent piece from concept artist Joe Knight, and subject of our most recent Newsletter competition.

We wanted an image showing the despoliation of the Amazon rainforest by tree-felling robots, and the reaction of the people whose homelands are being destroyed.

It has all the haunting beauty we’ve come to expect from Joe’s work, and we think it’s a fitting endpiece to his current sequence.

Many thanks to everyone who sent in entries. After much deliberation, we’ve picked  five winners, so well done Lucas, Travis, Charilaos, Mart, and Andrew: we’ve sent you all a Steam key via e-mail. Our commiserations to the losers,

Meanwhile, Unreal development is going well, as we transform our plans from pre-production into working reality. With many issues already discussed at length and well-understood, we’ve been quick to implement them into the game.

Of course, there are still occasions where our assumptions have been proved wrong – some elements have turned out to be under- or over-sized, for example, and there have been several occasions where we’ve implemented an element only to immediately think of how it can be improved.

Fortunately, the team is experienced at agile development, allowing our work to be rapidly iterated and improved upon. Progress is reviewed at least once a day, and we’ve been able to identify and resolve problems the moment they arise.

Nevertheless, there have still been teething problems on the way. We crashed Unreal earlier in the week while importing a transparency-heavy art asset, and lost several hours of work, but fortunately the damage was minimal and easily repaired.

Overall, though, progress has been very promising and the mood within the team is highly optimistic. We seem to be well on schedule to achieve our goals in time for a September Kickstarter launch; it’s likely we’ll be able to share some in-game screenshots with you before then too.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with another update.

The Fate team

 

Fresh developments

Last week was not quite what we’d been expecting. We were anticipating a hectic schedule of finalising the Kickstarter materials, making the project live, and then readying for weeks of marketing and PR activity to support it.

Following the difficult decision to postpone the campaign, though, we found ourselves unexpectedly calm and thoughtful, as the pre-deadline adrenaline and stress receded.

The key factor in us calling the delay was a consultation we’d made with Thomas Bidaux of Ico Partners, a PR consultancy who specialise in the gaming sector.

Thomas is one of the world’s foremost experts on using Kickstarter to fund video games, and gives presentations on the subject at conferences all over the world. His opinion is worth heeding.

His assessment was frank – despite many strong points, our campaign lacked important elements needed to achieve our intended goals. Most critically, we didn’t have any gameplay footage for the new game in our video – something essential in the current crowdfunding climate.

As we reflected on Thomas’ words, we assessed what the impact would be. Turning the current designs into working gameplay would take several months, time we hadn’t budgeted for in our plans. It would push the current team to the very limits of what they could contribute in terms of time and effort. There was a lot to think about.

Over the next few days, we returned to our plans and designs, and worked out what was possible. The more we thought about it, the more positive we got. Games development is a lot easier now than it was when Fate of the World was first made back in 2011 – a huge wealth of sophisticated and robust middleware is now cheaply available that simply didn’t exist six years ago.

Despite the lack of a dedicated programmer in the team (one of the most important reasons for our Kickstarter), we do have some experience working with Unreal. While we might not be able to implement all the network code the Online version will need, we definitely possess the ability to make working versions of the core interfaces and gameflow.

With that resolved, we pressed on. We’re now a week into development, and already have got many of the most important features working on-screen. It’s also very refreshing to be out of pre-production and into development – there’s only so far you can take design discussions without actually seeing things working.

With development moving forward, we’ve found ourselves with time to tackle other long-awaited tasks as well. For example, we’ve long wanted to include a forum on our website, as a hub for discussion on the latest climate change science and analysis, and how it might impact the game design. Early experiments have been very promising, so we hope to unveil it very soon.

We’ll be back early next week with another update – including the reveal for Joe’s last piece of concept art, and the results of Competition 3.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Fate team