Judges led by Susan Calman chose 'Seed' by All Seeing Eye as the overall winner of the $500,000, year-long competition created by Epic Games and Wellcome.
"This caps an incredible year for us," says Ollie Lindsey, founder of winning company All Seeing Eye, which will now receive $150,000 to continue work on the game. "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."
The brief to developers was to create a new game that explores scientific ideas within the theme of Transformations.
Over 100 ideas were submitted. The shortlist of six matched developers with researchers to explore the science behind their ideas and build compelling games.
Potting shed fun
'Seed' 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 and seed banks with All Seeing Eye 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.
Iain Dodgeon, from Wellcome’s public engagement team, 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."
The judges found the game hugely fun. Susan Calman, Chair of the judging panel, 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!"
Second place, and $50,000, went to Winter Hall by Lost Forest Games. The game draws players into a different time in human history where they can influence the legacy of the Black Death.
In third place was Terramars by Untold Games, which received $30,000. 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.
"The jury was unanimous in voting for 'Seed' as the deserved winner of this year’s Developing Beyond," said Mike Gamble, European Territory Manager at Epic. "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."