$500,000 Video Games Challenge Developing Beyond Reveals Finalists

Games exploring life on Mars, plant breeding and the legacy of the Black Death have made it to the final of Developing Beyond, a $500,000 year-long development competition created by Epic Games and Wellcome.

Three game development teams have won a place in the final phase of the Developing Beyond challenge, each earning $60,000 in funding after impressing a panel of esteemed judges at this year’s Develop:Brighton conference.

Comedian and broadcaster Susan Calman led the panel of judges as they met with all six semi-finalist teams yesterday. Delving into the games themes, Calman and fellow judges Professor Ian Goodfellow, Head of Virology at the University of Cambridge and Eurogamer’s Chris Bratt, along with Epic’s Mike Gamble and Iain Dodgeon from Wellcome, confronted microbial quarantine, human evolution, engineered plant life, adaptive artificial learning, acclimatising to life on Mars and creative chronicling of the Black Death.

The three finalists are:

Seed by All Seeing Eye – a virtual reality game where players are able to discover, grow and engineer plant life.

Terramars by Untold Games – a game in which the player adapts to the environment of Mars by exploring the physiological and psychological challenges humans face when living on a different planet.

Winter Hall by Lost Forest Games – a narrative exploration game about the legacy of the Black Death.

Speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton, judging panel Chair Susan Calman said: “All six games are hugely creative and impressed the judges. Each had merit but the three we chose to go forward are those that integrated the Transformations theme alongside playability. I’m looking forward to revisiting the games over the coming months to see how they develop.”

In January 2017, Epic Games and Wellcome launched the $500,000 year-long Developing Beyond competition. The brief prompted developers to create new games exploring the theme of ‘Transformations.’ The games had to take inspiration from scientific ideas and use Epic’s Unreal Engine 4.

The six semi-finalists were selected from over 100 applications. This week they showcased their entries at Develop:Brighton to demonstrate the progress made since they received $15,000 and were matched with a scientist to explore their concept.

After huge deliberation, Untold Games, Lost Forest Games and All Seeing Eye were selected as the most promising teams. Each will now receive $60,000 to continue developing their title. The winning prize of $150,000 will be awarded in January 2018. Second place will be awarded $50,000 and third place will be awarded $30,000.

Games development legend John Romero along with historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes will join the jury for the final six months of the competition.

Developing Beyond is designed to provide a sustainable platform for studios to create new minimum viable products. The intention is to prepare the teams to ship new commercial games with the help of investors, publishers or partners.

Iain Dodgeon, Broadcast, Games & Film Manager at Wellcome, said: “It’s always surprising to see what happens when scientists and developers work together. Science is inherently creative and so is games development. Developing Beyond creates games for new audiences and a new way for people to explore scientific ideas. Things we can imagine but aren’t yet possible or accessible we can see becoming real in these shortlisted games.”

Mike Gamble, European Territory Manager at Epic, commented: “The Unreal community constantly impresses us with all they do, and the six teams selected as semi-finalists have worked incredibly hard over the past six months. Their innovation and dedication to the competition is truly inspiring, and I’m hugely excited to see what our finalists will have for us in January 2018.”

About the Finalists

Seed

Developer: All Seeing Eye

Project Summary: “Seed” is a virtual reality game where players can discover, grow and engineer generative plant life. The game immerses the player into a visually stunning environment, using hand tracking to allow players to craft unique and beautiful plants which grow quickly before their eyes. As the planet’s population expands, the relationship with plants and crops is crucial to human survival. In the face of a changing world Seed aims to explore this relationship by taking inspiration from seed banks and the roles they play.

Seed

Terramars

Developer: Untold Games

Project Summary: In “Terramars” the player manages six crew members in a mission to start the terraforming of Mars. In order to do so, they will have to manage the planet’s resources, development of the base camp and, most importantly, the repercussions on the mental and physical health of the astronauts from the conditions in which they’re living. Alongside exploring the transformation of the planet, Terramars explores the challenges and stresses on human bodies, minds and social relationships when adapting to life in an alien environment.

Terramars

Winter Hall

Developer: Lost Forest Games

Project Summary: “Winter Hall,” a narrative exploration game about the legacy of the Black Death, enables the player to leap through time and live a few hours in the lives of a connected web of characters. As the player explores the world from their first-person perspective, and items and stories set in that era will be surfaced. The game sees the player transform into different people throughout time, and explores their lives and the changes that occur through the years.

Winter Hall

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