"This caps an incredible year for us," commented Ollie Lindsey, founder of winning company, All Seeing Eye. "It's been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and to actually win is a dream come true. It means we now have the opportunity to focus solely on a game that we're incredibly passionate about."
Epic Games and Wellcome launched the $500,000 Developing Beyond competition in January 2017. The brief prompted developers to create new games exploring the theme of 'Transformations.' The games took inspiration from scientific ideas and used Epic's Unreal Engine 4.
Game developers were matched with researchers to explore the science behind their ideas and begin to transform science into an entertaining video game.
Winning game Seed by All Seeing Eye uses virtual reality to turn players into plant breeders with advanced genetic engineering skills. Historian Dr. Helen Anne Curry shared her knowledge of plant breeding history with the development team to help explore their ideas. Players take on missions to breed new plant species in a virtual potting shed that can influence food production, reflect geo-politics or even create new poisons in an imaginary world.
Chair of the judging panel comedian and broadcaster Susan Calman said: "With Seed what All Seeing Eye has delivered is an immersive, enjoyable experience that hit the brief of transformations. All of the judges wanted to return to to the game again and again. I never knew being in a VR potting shed could be such fun!"
The three finalists made it through semi-finals at Develop:Brighton in July 2017, earning $60,000 to improve their game. Developing Beyond received over 100 games applications overall.
In picking the shortlist fellow judges also considered games that transformed scientific ideas about microbial quarantine, human evolution and artificial learning.
Second place and $50,000 went to Winter Hall by Lost Forest Games. In third place Terramars by Untold Games received $30,000.
Winter Hall is an exploration game that draws the player into a different time in human history where they can influence the legacy of the Black Death.
In Terramars players explore the mental and physical health challenges faced by a team of six astronauts as they try to build a new human colony on Mars.
Developing Beyond was designed to provide a sustainable platform for studios to create new minimum viable products. Developers retain rights to the intellectual property they created over the course of the challenge. The aim of the competition is to prepare the teams to ship new commercial games with the help of investors, publishers or partners.
Iain Dodgeon from Wellcome, said: "Seed mimics the fun and wonder of scientific discovery. It captures how creative the scientific process can be. The seed experience was so delightful we all wanted to get back into the potting shed."
Mike Gamble, European Territory Manager at Epic, commented: "The jury was unanimous in voting for Seed as the deserved winner of this year's Developing Beyond. All Seeing Eye have created a beautiful place to explore and spend time in, as well as delivering great gameplay and hitting all the scientific beats on right on the mark."
"The quality of all three games has been incredible and the decision to split second and third was agonising. All three games are more than good enough to be picked up, developed further and taken to market, where I'm sure they will all shine."