Crunch time

The last newsletter contained a rather pernicious competition: could you guess the identity of the artist behind the Dystopia1 concept art, knowing only the first letter of their username?

It turned out that no-one was capable of doing this, so earlier in the week we provided another clue: the last letter of their username.

That was all it took for a winner to emerge, with Matthijs Krijger swiftly calculating that GutsBerserk (aka Joe Knight) was the talent at play. Well done, Thijs, a Steam key for Tipping Point is headed your way

For those of you not subscribed to the newsletter (something easily rectified using the red widget on the top-right of this page), we promised we’d share the Dystopia1 concept art with you, so here it is:

Joe’s been working on two other pieces also. Utopia1, the sister piece to the work above, will be signed off shortly – once it is, we’ll be sharing the first look with the mailing list. The final work in the series is only at preliminary sketch stage, so expect to hear more about that in due course.

Alongside Joe’s work, there’s a plethora of other activities underway, with the video and graphic design briefs both progressing nicely.

It’s been something of a change for the core team: previously, we’ve concocted visions and proposals that have gained agreement internally, but now we have to find out if they inspire others also, so they can provide us with the skills and expertise we need.

With mere weeks before the Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to launch, there is more than a little tension in the air. Even so, our work is never less than compelling: every day, the news and research we read gives us conviction in our goals.

The data shows that climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. To contemplate it, study it, and share those observations with others, is an undertaking we find very fulfilling indeed.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with our latest news.

The Fate team


Art of the matter

If you’re on our mailing list, then you should already have received the latest newsletter, which gives you first look at the Dystopia1 artwork we were talking about last week. We hope you like it as much as we do, and look forward to your competition entries.

For those of you who have not yet signed up to the list (something achieved with both ease and rapidity, using the little red widget at the top-right of this page), don’t worry: we’ll be uploading the image to the website very soon.

In other news, it’s been a typically busy week. The follow-on artwork in the pipeline is looking very promising: the next one likely to be ready is Dystopia1’s companion piece, somewhat unsurprisingly entitled “Utopia1”.

Here, we see the same view as before, but in a world where humanity has managed to keep global warming to a minimum. The metropolis teems on, with sky cars and drones darting between the skyscrapers of tomorrow, laden with vegetation and renewable energy technologies. People seem relaxed and happy, socialising at rooftop parties whilst robot waiters serve them refreshments. It looks a lot nicer place to live, that’s for sure.

This aside, there’s been the usual iteration of design and marketing materials. We’ve redrafted the video script several times, as well as resolving some of the interface sub-screens that needed extra work.

By and large, though, the design and copywriting tasks are all nearing completion. Now our focus is taking those briefs and concepts onto the next stage, giving us the videos and illustrations that clearly describe the plan forward.

Fortunately, the team is growing to meet the challenge, with contributors both new and old adding their talents to the various working parties. Right now we’re heading into a bank holiday weekend, but come Tuesday we’ll have more people working simultaneously on FOTWO than ever before. We’re looking forward to seeing the results.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with further news of our continuing adventures.

The Fate team


A frightening prospect

One of our main focuses this week has been the first piece of mood art we’ve commissioned. Known internally as Dystopia 1, it’s a fresh vision of what our world might look like if humanity doesn’t tackle climate change properly.

Anticipating the current worse-case scenario of a 2.5 metre sea rise, it’s a vista of a great coastal city, its vital seafront now inundated by a relentlessly rising tide. The skyline of the once-proud metropolis looms eerily over the floodwaters, whilst despondent refugees, huddled amid the faded relics of a crumbling civilization, hopefully await whatever aid the city may still offer.

It’s a powerful piece, both stark and beautiful. The artist we’re working with has a style that suits Fate of the World well, with both impressionistic and realistic aspects to his work. It feels like a natural progression from the sort of images seen on the card art of the original.

Dystopia 1 is currently going through a small round of tweaks, but it shouldn’t be long now before we share it with you. Mailing list subscribers will get the very first look in a special bulletin, so please sign up using the red widget at the top right if it’s something that interests you. We’ll be running another competition, too, so you’ll have a chance to win a Steam key for the Tipping Point original game bundle, which you can use for yourself or give to a friend.

Dystopia 1 aside, there’s been plenty of other things going on, with a daily cycle of reviewing materials, discussing improvements, setting new objectives, and generating assets. We’ve got at least two more mood pieces in the immediate pipeline too, alongside our interface visualisations.

It’s a hectic workload, which often sees us working late into the night. Nevertheless, the mood is very positive: when work is as engaging and fluent as this, it’s a pleasure to be part of it.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with the latest instalment.

The Fate team


Competition prose

Thank you to everyone who sent us feedback and entries for the newsletter competition last week, all your input was appreciated. It’s helped us refine our proposals further, and we’ll share our conclusions with you in the next news bulletin.

Only one person could win the prize, and, after careful calculation, we came to the conclusion that Ronan Birrien guessed the closest to our provisional figures. Well done, Ronan; please check your e-mail for your Steam key.

Competition aside, it’s been a busy week. There’s been plenty of design work – some interface elements are now on their twelfth iteration, and it’s been fascinating to look back at the wire-frames archive, and see how our thoughts have evolved. The first proposals look incredibly vague and crude now, compared to the refined and precise plans we now possess.

These now need to be handed off to our graphic designer for a presentation pass, so it’ll still a while before we can share them with you, but we hope to be showing first glimpses within the next few weeks.

Some things you’re likely to see sooner than that are the first “mood” pieces we’ve commissioned – artwork that visualises some of the potential futures that can emerge from the game model. These will be the subject of the next news bulletin, so if you want to be among the first to see them, please use the red widget on the top-right of this webpage to subscribe.

The team will resume work next Tuesday, after a short break for Easter. There’s going to be plenty to do when they get back: the script for our Kickstarter video is currently on its first draft, and we have a major website upgrade in advanced discussion too. Overall, there’s a great sense of purpose and confidence in the air, and the team are highly inspired. It’s made all the trying times we’ve had over the past couple of years seem very worthwhile.

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

The Fate team






Hard copy

It’s been another full week. We’re waiting on our first artwork to come through, and in the meantime we’ve been focusing on our Kickstarter copy – the written text that forms the backbone of our page.

There’s been a lot to go through, a lot to edit, and a lot to talk about. At times, it’s been pretty brutal – some parts have gone through five or six rewrites now, with whole swathes of painstakingly-written text being shown the delete key.

Nevertheless, tempers haven’t frayed too much: everyone is focused on making the campaign as good as it can be, so we keep at it until we’re all satisfied with the results.

One bit we’re all quite happy with right now is the basic reward tiers – what people will get for supporting our campaign. The list has shrunk and grown several times over the last couple of weeks, but at the time of writing it’s reached a level where everyone agrees with what’s on the list.

We’d also quite like to know what you think. So, we’re sending them all out to everyone on the mailing list – if you’re not already on it, you can sign up using the red widget at the top-right of this webpage.

The newsletter also has a competition to enter, with a prize of a free Steam key to the winner. The results will be announced in next week’s dev blog.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next Friday.

The Fate team

Serious business

New team members, new ideas, and plenty of new tasks – last week was extremely busy. As a result, we managed to miss our usual Friday slot for posting the dev blog, but the end of the week got very hectic; we had company accounts to file, alongside everything else that needed doing, and we simply didn’t get the chance to post anything.

We continue to assemble the elements of the Kickstarter campaign, and are pleased with the emerging structure. Daily progress meetings have meant we’ve had the chance to fully review the goals and rewards we’re offering in great detail. Sometimes, it’s been frustrating, but more often revelatory – arguments which have spun in a circle for ages have finally been given enough energy to set them straight. It’s a deeply satisfying feeling.

Other long-standing issues have been resolved too. A few community members had notified us that the Newsletter sign-up had stopped working, an issue we managed to get to the bottom of. If you’ve experienced problems signing up previously, please go and give it another go. One warning, though: you’ll need to clear your browser cache first, as otherwise the fix won’t display.

In honour of the Newsletter widget’s resuscitation, we’re putting together a new edition for release shortly, which will give the readers first looks at many aspects of our upcoming campaign. If you haven’t signed up already, please give the red widget to the right of this text a quick try.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back on Friday with more news of what’s going on.

The Fate team

Time for a change

We’ve been maintaining the high tempo established last week, with daily meetings, and rapid progression on a wide range of tasks.

The main screen design has remained the primary concern. It’s gone through around nine iterations now, with each stage adding refinement and clarity, both to the interface and the game design at large.

Assumptions continue to be challenged, this week most notably seeing a change in how we handle time in-game.

For well over a year, we’d been aiming for an “always ticking” model, with the game engine constantly proceeding at a minimum rate – initially, the proposal was that a second per day would be the baseline: a constantly-ticking clock, encouraging players to be swift in their actions.

A day a second, however, does not bear up under close analysis. The original game modelled two hundred years of the Earth’s future; at a day a second, that would take twenty hours to play through. Not exactly feasible for a group of synchronous online players.

OK then, the argument went, let’s go for a *week* a second. That means we resolve a year in just under a minute, and the whole game can resolve in three hours. If we allow consensual time acceleration amongst players also, the game time could be reduced even further, down to maybe two hours for a full game. This seemed the perfect solution.

The “week a second” paradigm persisted for several months, and only really came under question recently, when we put a lot of focus on our other main new feature: the conference screen.

Given that international conferences are how climate change is tackled in the real world (via the COP, and its littler siblings), this interface is a very important feature in the new game. The agreements players make there will be binding, and any pledges breached will be the cause of significant diplomatic consternation.

We all agreed that the game clock will need to stop while conferences were occurring. Assuming there could be up to five agenda points to resolve via voting and bidding, each one might take three minutes or more to resolve.

Suddenly, our sums didn’t stack up again. In the real world, the COP happens once a year. 200 COPs over the course of the game is another 600 minutes, or 10 hours. Not feasible.

Discussion resumed. Having a conference every five years would mean two hours of conference play for a full game. Likewise, much of the gameplay will focus on the early 21st century: the first conference is of vital importance, the later ones diminishingly so. If climate change isn’t effectively handled by the late 21st century, then it will be way beyond the remit of courteous diplomacy to resolve.

Twenty important conferences for the first century adds up to around an hour of game time. So far, so good. At our “week per second” rate, the time between conferences would put another 90 minutes on top of that total, meaning that it would take no longer than two and a half hours to play the first hundred years.

Everyone was happy with this, but one circle remained unsquared: the constantly-ticking clock. Our work on the main screen made it clear to us that players will be constantly monitoring information, comparing data, and making policy decisions on the basis of their investigations. Their early actions would be particularly significant: banning coal in 2020 makes a lot more difference than in 2050.

The observation was made: a fast clock punishes thoughtful play. If it takes several months just to implement a single policy (with game-weeks ticking by, while the player resolves the multiple decisions and confirmations necessary), then success depends primarily on the player’s speed of action, rather than the sharpness of their analysis.

The death knell of the ever-ticking clock was sounded. Returning to a completely turn-based paradigm, with the clock paused until all players are ready to proceed, was the only way we could see of addressing the problem.

Going back to a purely turn-based system (albeit one with an accelerable turn timer) has had a few knock-on effects on the other interfaces – for example, we’ve removed the “ticker tape news channel” element, which told players about events as they occurred. However, the impact has been pretty slight, and everything we’ve worked on this week is being briefed into the concept art pipeline – another place where changes have been occurring. But that’s a story for another time.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with more tales to tell.

The Fate team


The plot quickens

It’s been a busy week. The company has begun a new phase, with the team able to work together at length and often. Once more, we’re seeing focus tighten and momentum build, as we move towards our critical Kickstarter.

At last, we’ve had the chance to discuss issues at length, and resolve unanswered questions. Some of these resolutions have been surprising, with long-held assumptions being challenged and over-turned in the process.

The prime example here is the work we’ve been doing on the main interface, the one which will keep the player informed about the most important aspects of the game.

In the original, this took the form of a spinning 3D globe. As appealing as this was visually (to this day, the author enjoys spinning it like a basketball), it had serious deficiencies as a way of accessing information- most notably, the player’s inability to see all the information icons at one time, positioned as they were on a sphere.

Our initial response on FOTWO was to move back to the classic 2D map of the world, where all countries are visible simultaneously. This, surely, was the right answer to the problem, the tried-and-tested solution.

There is a problem with the 2D map, though, that we as a climate change game encounter particularly. The atlas view of the world is an excellent description of the world in a horizontal plane, but very poor in showing the vertical one.

While the world’s surface is of great interest to us, in terms of the forests, farms, cities, oceans, and ice caps it contains, our game system is primarily oriented on the two main layers of our atmosphere, the troposphere and stratosphere. This is where carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases accumulate, and where excessive solar energy is retained by our planet. As more heat results in warmer global temperatures, this is expressed in results such as more powerful storms, melted ice caps, and rising sea levels. It is the effects up above that influence what goes on down below.

Our very first response to this issue was redundancy; we will have an interface that shows the horizontal, and an interface that shows the vertical. This answer did for a while, but it could not hold up under the close scrutiny we’ve brought to our Minimum Viable Product design. Two interfaces take twice the work to make, a luxury we don’t have when development labour is in such short supply.

Before the break, we’d been working a fresh idea that looked like it was very much on the right lines, reducing the system down to its most succinct fundamentals, and most of this week saw us inching this design ever-closer to an agreed solution. However, niggles just kept on cropping up, and despite innumerable tweaks we just couldn’t get it quite to everyone’s liking.

Friday, we sat down, and spent hours talking it through, laying bare all our concerns and frustrations, until our minds could take no more. Then, after a short lunch break, we resumed, and talked for hours further. It’s an opportunity we’ve been often denied on this project, but the benefits were immediate and obvious: by the end, our visions had merged and synthesised, and we will start the week with a fresh and exciting design to consider.

We anticipate being able to show you visualisations of our latest work very soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back week with another update.

The Fate team


Intermission statement

It was a break from development this week for the Fate team, as we needed to attend to a variety of outstanding issues. On the plus side, the result should be that we’re able to work together at a greatly increased level, and we’re looking forward to making significant progress in the months ahead.

Our goal remains the same: we want to make a game that explains the issue of climate change to people clearly. We want it to be easier to access than the first game, and we also want to make improvements to the gameplay too. Finally, we want to make the game multiplayer as well as single player, something we think will significantly aid its ability both to educate and entertain.

Platform-wise, we want to make it as accessible as possible to players all around the world. As before, PC will be our primary platform, but we will also develop with mobile and tablet versions in mind. Linux, too, is something we want to consider in our plans. Modern middleware platforms mean we can reach out to a far wider audience than we could before.

Middleware is not the only thing that’s changed since we worked on the first game. Public perception of the issue has changed massively; scarcely-known issues that we included like fracking and carbon capture are now widely understood and discussed. Collectively, as a species, we’re getting smarter and more serious about the issue every day. Though some still seek to deny and obfuscate the theory and data of climate change science, one thing is for certain: this issue affects each and every one of us alive on this planet, and it is not going away unless we work together to resolve it. That’s the thought which keeps the core of the Fate team turning up every week, no matter how gruelling the process has been.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with reports of how our new phase is progressing.

The Fate team

Educational benefit

Design discussions this week have focused on the “main screen” – the interface which the player sees most often, and whose purpose is to give them a succinct and comprehensible overview of the global situation. It’s something that’s emerged from our goal of reducing the game to its fundamental elements, as we’ve costed out the minimum budget we need to conclude development.

What we’ve ended up with is a screen that brings all the most important information to the same place, resulting in an at-a-glance visualisation of how climate change occurs, and what its effects are.

First, we see solar radiation entering the Earth’s atmosphere, which retains heat energy proportional to the amount of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide and methane. The more greenhouse gases there are, the more sunlight is trapped, and the higher global temperatures rise.

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is constantly changing; plants on land and in the sea take carbon dioxide out, whilst humanity burning fossil fuels put a lot more in. That’s not the only source, of course – plenty of methane emerges from the digestive systems of Earth’s animals; many people are surprised to learn that the contribution our livestock rearing makes to climate change vastly outweighs air travel.

More greenhouse gases means more greenhouse effect; as the simulation progresses, global temperatures begin to rise. This excessive and unnatural heat manifests itself in worrying events presented on the in-game news channel. Forest fires become more prevalent. Ice caps melt, and sea levels rise, flooding low-lying areas where people live. Warmer temperatures mean that pests and diseases can spread into previously-uninhabitable areas. Sickness increases. Crops start to fail. People begin to starve. Conflicts foment. Nations teeter.

At the centre of all of this is humanity itself, the prime mover of the whole system. It is we who raze the forests, raise the cattle, burn the coal, and refine the oil, as we seek to provide comfortable lives for ourselves through technological advancement. Can we forge a benign relationship with the ecosystem that nurtures us? Or will we destroy it, as a parasite kills its host? Will we eventually become an interstellar species, and what price might we have to pay to do so?

Postulating answers to questions like these is what Fate of the World is all about, using data-based and peer-reviewed science as our yardstick. We’re proud of the attention our approach has drawn from educators over the past few years; many schools, colleges, and universities have made use of the original game, both as a way of teaching people the details of climate change, and testing their attitudes to the possible outcomes.

To be clear, we welcome educational interest in the game, and we’re happy to offer free Fate of the World access to any establishment that would like them – all you need to do is e-mail with suitable accreditation, and we can set you up with a game code for each student.

This is an approach we’d like to take through to the new game too – though we also have to balance this against making enough revenue to keep the company afloat. One suggestion that emerged this week was making the new game “free for schools” a stretch goal on our Kickstarter. Is that a compelling notion? If not, what do you think we should do? We’d love to hear your opinions, either on social media or by e-mail.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with further news of our progress.

The Fate team