In a recent email update via Kickstarter that the developer of the new game, TUG, sent out to backers of the project, Nerd Kingdom (yes, that's the name of the company) proclaimed:
"Let's make this happen -- for the KINGDOM, and for SCIENCE!"
As of this blog, NK has sent out 8 updates informing backers of topics from their philosophy of game development to updates on backer-level perks. Now as I've backed a number of these projects, I've come to notice one thing with TUG: it's makers are not your typical game developers.
Whether it's the academic tone of the updates, the varying level of backgrounds that the team has or just the current artstyle that is showcased in some of their Kickstarter updates, I really couldn't walk away from supporting this project.
Intrigued, I reached out to NK, headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and tried to find out exactly what is TUG and makes the company behind it tick.
Tell me about Nerd Kingdom. How did it come to be and what is it’s purpose?
Well, the short of it is: it came from a lot of big data and science nerds that played a lot of role-playing games (RPG) and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.
In school, we would spend hours in games like Everquest, World of Warcraft (WoW) and Guild Wars. You name it, we played it. We began to see that the things that were happening in-game were things that we recognized from our studies -- the two were nearly identical, in fact.
We began testing things, creating working economies (yeah, that was us), creating complex multi-guild raiding groups, testing data against gear score, breaking every system we possibly could...it was so exciting. But it wasn’t enough - just like any raider who was dying for more gear, we were dying for more systems, more ways to play, interact, manipulate, etc.
But the culture of those publishers would constantly dumb down, restrict, or even hide things. These companies were creating societies online - something more than a community, even - and it was tough to watch so much potential get bogged down by the desire to “monetize” as opposed to the desire to play. So, we started a collaboration - we called it Nerd Kingdom - and years of research and play eventually led us to TUG.
In a nutshell, what is TUG?
It’s a sandbox fantasy RPG with an emphasis on discovery and immersion. It is difficult to define, really - it’s the result of everything we have learned about the world from decades of academic research and from playing, modding, and studying video games.
“The idea is really not to sell, just to share.”
Why make TUG?
Because nobody else will.
It is not in the interests of a publisher to break tradition because tradition sells. Brilliant minds (in academics) are making serious games with their knowledge but they are not always fun.
Video games are worlds; they are this convergence of so many amazing things, and there is nobody willing to just acknowledge that and go at it with a flat approach. There is always an agenda - some motivation aside from just making it fun.
We wanted artists to have a say; we wanted scientists to lead design from their understandings of human behaviors, and of economies.
We wanted story and theme to lead development, not be afterthoughts.
We wanted gamers to theorycraft, like any good gamer does, and we wanted modders to be recognized for how important they really are.
And amazing technology exists all over the world, so we needed that to help us bring it together. This project is the result of so many perspectives, and it’s just so hard to really emphasize how amazing that process really is.
Why is it called TUG?
We call it TUG, short for The Untitled Game.
It is kinda part of our philosophy. Since we want to build this world for the community and with them, we have no place to name it ourselves; hence, it is "untitled".
We are hoping that in time, the inhabitants of that world would take it upon themselves to name it.
What is / are the inspiration(s) behind TUG?
This list could go on for a very long time!
The short of it is, we were inspired by the simple, elegant design of some famous Nintendo franchises who spend so much time perfecting their craft, but will never see life on a PC.
We were influenced by our interest in social sciences. And of course, Minecraft! And then there’s Journey, Monster Hunter, Pokemon, Eve Online, World of Warcraft...you name it, we were inspired by it!
Now that’s not to say we take things directly from all of those areas, but there were pieces from each of them and many more that woll go unnamed for now that were brilliant.
And really, what is creativity but the applications of our experiences and interests? With so many voices working together, these inspirations naturally emerged. They were games that were a LOT of fun, but left us with a lot of “what if?” moments.
In watching the promotional video for TUG, I noticed that a lot of your staff have Ph.D.’s. Is the purpose of TUG to be more of a game or a social experiment?
Why can’t it be both? In games, we face trade-offs like we do in the real world.
We work against each other, and together, like in the real world.
We care about how we look, or how good we are at things, like in the real world.
Right now, if we had access to the information in Eve Online, or World of Warcraft, we could get insights into world issues that could save us all billions of dollars, not to mention help us address policy issues, taxation issues, global issues...and even help solve design issues for hundreds and thousands of developers and modders. But it won’t, because it’s locked away, and most of that data is never even used for real world applications.
I understand that there is crafting in TUG. Will crafting be required of players, or will they be able to play through the game through exploration, quests and fighting (for skill and supplies advancement)?
TUG is being designed so that any item seen in the game can be crafted, or created. But yes, eventually a player may run across some bandits in a forest, and the items they are carrying could be equipped and used to take up the pillaging themselves.
“It was tough to watch so much potential get bogged down by the desire to ‘monetize’ as opposed to the desire to play.”
How long is TUG; i.e., is this a game with or without Game Over?
It’s not really a game that is designed to have a 'definite' ending.
It’s a world that will be built upon, and players will regulate one another for resources, or land, or because they don’t like the color of the other’s pants. We don’t know what all these motivations will be yet, but we do know it’s going to be amazing to see!
I enjoy playing games that provide both a 1st- and 3rd-person perspectives at any time. Will this be available in TUG?
It will be available, yes. But not at any time, and not in a traditional sense.
We have not quite gotten into that yet, but if people are already in tune with our thinking, they will know how we will handle that right away. We will be talking about that fairly soon. People will either love it, or hate it. But it’s the price we have to pay to make the world truly immersive, logical, and consistent.
I will say this much: it will add values of play that we have not yet seen before.
Why should people back your Kickstarter, and when it is released, why should players buy your game?
Really, it’s not for us to say. We know that we are talking big, but the idea is really not to sell, just to share. It’s tough though, since the industry has been talking big for years. Hopefully, we will show the communities over time; this is really about us creating something we want to play, and doing something amazing with it, and of course, just having fun.
Do you have anything else that you would like to add?
Just thank you, to you and our community.
It really is amazing to see the support for what we are doing, even when not everybody quite understands it. This really is a labor of love for us, and we want it to show in our project.
We have a long way to go, and we look forward to the ups, and learning something new from the downs.
For more information on TUG and Nerd Kingdom, check out their Kickstarter campaign here and their website here.
As always, thanks for reading.