Developing Finsterwald Amid a Pandemic: A Startup CEO in The Trenches
Journalist, writer and media expert
Former Huawei manager Peter Stieglbauer talks to HackerNoon about Decentralization, Gaming, and Funding for their new VR 3D game, FINSTERWALD
As a self-proclaimed IT ‘True Nerd’, Peter Stieglbauer has seen it all.
The experience of working with multinational tech giants such as UNISYS, Fujitsu-Siemens and Huawei gave him not only insights into the
pressures of dealing with major technology companies but taught him how to adapt.
And now he is having to adapt to the pressure of being the CEO of
a startup, PolyDynamic, providing digital services for the next age of decentralization.
Yet the more pressing focus is on his games company, PolyReality, with the
imminent launch of an epic VR/3D game in the horror adventure genre.
Last year, just as Stieglbauer and his team were entering the
finishing straight for completion of their project, the small company suffered a double setback. Their main developer became unwell and this, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst funds were tight already, not only shortened the runway but made delivery of the much-anticipated game in question.
Stieglbauer wanted to support his team and not abandon them, and
with the global pandemic at Germany’s door, collaboration became much more difficult with the team working from home. With no government help, what does a CEO of a startup do? Peter talks us through his journey and his current fundraising campaign to release his gaming masterpiece, FINSTERWALD.
Mr Stieglbauer, thank you for taking your time to answer some questions and share your journey with us. We are hoping to hear more of your story and tell us what is in store for gamers with the soon to be released, FINSTERWALD.
But first can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into disruptive technologies?
“I guess I was born with it. It’s in my blood. As early as I can remember I was curious about technology. Being a true nerd, is not a title that sits well with many people, but it always sat well with me. It is who I am.
I was brought up in Munich, Germany and went on to study Applied
Sciences at the city’s university, Munich University. I say study, but to be
honest, this was simply a tick in the box, as I knew more about tech than what I was taught during my courses at University.
It was a ‘means to an end’ before embarking a career as an IT
consultant for some of the world’s most recognised brands.
The headliners are UNISYS, Fujitsu-Siemens, and Huawei – and each
experience was a good one as I was able to apply my increasing knowledge to applications and all of my roles there were fulfilling.
Yet, personally, and professionally, I wasn’t fulfilled. I wanted my own company.”
Given your CV of working with tech giants, does this give you a broader perspective on the industry?
How do you see an entrepreneur building a decentralized entity today? Is it riskier or more difficult than building a traditional startup, especially during a global pandemic?
“I conceptualised PolyDynamic back in 2017 in Leipzig with my good friend who would become my co-founder.
Our company mission was to become ‘A Service Provider of the
Future for the Digital Civilization.’ PolyDynamic now provides businesses and institutions with technical solutions for a stable digital scaling process. The team of experienced German engineers offer the highest level of thoroughness and technical services based on cutting edge technologies including AI, Blockchain, Cloud Computing, VR/AR, Gamification, IoT and Big Data to name a few.
The company was launched successfully in 2019 and initially, all our aims and ambitions were on track.
OK, we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room as far as funds were concerned, but we were doing well. Then a sickness in the team coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic hit us in 2020. It hit us hard.
Building a decentralized company is riskier than building a traditional startup at the best of times, but doing so in the face of the world global pandemic for a century? Enough said.
Still, we motored on. We have big plans and with PolyReality, the exciting gaming company and subsidiary of PolyDynamic, with an expert team and one of the most exciting horror VR games to come out from Germany than I can remember.”
Where should one start today as an entrepreneur with the ambition of building a decentralized future?
Do you see VR as a niche gaming technology? Are the ones launching today pioneers or are we already past that?
“The industry has not taken off yet, we need some GPU power to see it flourish with realistic full-FOV (Field of View) displays, decent eye tracking, and controller diversity. I think Lighthouse is the superior system, with its millimetre-precise tracking on consumer level, not only in enterprise level. VR will change how we will work in the future. No doubt about it.”
What have been your biggest challenges, apart from the well documented pandemic? Are PolyDynamic and PolyReality now more resilient and robust and thrive for coming out of it?
“It is all about survival.
But let’s be clear, as a German tech start-up, we have been left high and dry. I have had to fight for every for getting subsidies, or subsidy loans from banks – and without success. We have not received one cent.
In Germany, It is impossible for a start-up to receive any help. You must have a business running successfully for two years before they will even negotiate.
You must have built a customer base and a solid revenue.
Our greatest challenge is surviving without accepting
investment or VC funds. I wanted to build an organically grown, self-sufficient company, that is not doomed through an EXIT where the IP mostly flows to the USA and China. I want to foster every and each employee, since they are lost in the ‘normal’ world, where no one speaks the language nerd.’ I literally pulled two of the most skilled engineers out of their highly toxic work environments, where their former bosses humiliated their brilliance to a degrading workload.
Another challenge for startups for Germany are the existing
structures from government funds. Even if we apply for them, the structures are so old and broken, that we literally cannot apply for subsidies.
To get subsidies in Germany. You must demonstrate two years of successful trading and revenues.
Furthermore, a startup application for subsidies is only allowed if the
applicant then ceases to work on the project whilst you wait up to six months for the subsidies to be granted. By then, the project will either be dead or no longer valid!
If I waited for subsidies for six months and I am developing something on a trend, six months is half a lifetime in IT.
So, now we are in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign, with Kickstarter. We want to attract an audience of gamers and backers who are truly invested in our project. These will be the people that will get us over the finishing line, and we will be eternally grateful to them.”
What more can you tell us about FINSTERWALD?
“FINSTERWALD, which translates to Dark Forest, is a chilling first-person horror adventure VR/3D game, set in the deepest, darkest forest in Germany featuring the Ancient Guardian of Forest, the Waldschrat, as the main protagonist.
The Waldschrat is the ancient and feared guardian of the forest. A vigilante, who watches over all the plants, trees and animals in their natural habitat, the Waldschrat does not welcome visitors who threaten the delicate balance of nature in this sacred grove.
It is the territory of nature and nature alone, and it is the Waldschrat’s fundamental purpose to keep it that way.
Gamers will be able to familiarise themselves amongst the Germanic fables of old and find a way to survive in the most ancient, deepest, darkest forest known to man. The nemesis is the Waldschrat, but will this creature be a friend or a foe?”
Is this PolyReality’s first game?
“Yes. FINSTERWALD is our first game, and we want it to be the first of many.
The playable VR build is almost complete, with design and sound implemented. Final iterations are being made and the team is
ready to provide an Early Access by early May and the full release, depending on the Kickstarter crowdfunding outcome, approximately two months later, with a target of July 2021.
Currently, the team has several ways for the further development: finish the game as it is and publish it as a VR title only.
Another option would be to develop a non-VR version. Or to continue refining gameplay, add varied difficulty settings, give the game some general visual improvements, add lore and narratives through discoverable in-game items, or add more levels for greater variety of gameplay.”
Will you be providing Early Access?
“Early Access is highly controversial in the gaming industry. This includes developers and most importantly, the user. As a CEO, it is a decision I do not take lightly to provide Early Access.
The main prerogative with Early Access is to ensure that the
core gameplay loop is complete -which it is for FINSTERWALD. Other features be ready only a few weeks later.”
Is PolyReality carrying the flag for indie’s across
“We are new and we are different, bringing to life some incredible concepts to develop new principles and methodology of creating truly immersive games, based on research and analysis of the vast gaming experience of the team itself and global gaming community.
PolyReality’s slogan is The Nexus of Worlds and as a game developer, we
specialize in creating the most atmospheric games with elaborate and fine
detail and deep, immersive gameplay. State-of-the-art 3D audio technology and modern visual HD graphics design allows the team to take the gaming experience to the next level.
We collaborate with the Institute of Sorabistik of the University of Leipzig, the University of Novosibirsk, historical museum staff and consultants, German historians, Theologists, and Psychologists.
We were founded during a pandemic, with an international team working from their homes, and still we have achieved so much in such a short time. Just think what we could do in the post-pandemic with time and funds!”
Pledge to FINSTERWALD by PolyReality: FINSTERWALD
by PolyReality — Kickstarter
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