At the end of April, a discussion took place on a private channel on the Seed Discord server between eleven group leaders and spokespeople, to discuss their plans - as well as their opinions of each other. And while the group conversation started cordially enough, rifts and secret plots soon emerged.
They're inspired by government systems throughout history, including a dictatorship in which the scars of memory are still fresh. Many got their start in other online games, and are now in search of a new world. In real life, they're from across the European Union, North America, Australia, New Zealand and beyond - from Iceland and Russia to South Korea and Vietnam. Some even drive big rig trucks across America while they plan a new society. Between them, they make up the player-created groups of Seed.
And while it hasn't – as of yet – been announced when Seed will go live to the public, these player-created groups are already creating governmental structures and recruiting new citizens in order to be ready when the first settlements begin to form.
Virtual Politics, Real Origins
As a child growing up in the Transylvania region of Romania, the parents of group leader Wololo would tell him stories of brutal life under the communist rule of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu - stories that shaped his outlook on what his political system in Seed should be. As did the aftermath of Ceaușescu: "The thing is that since the end of communism, the government slowly added regulations which just put up barriers making it so that those businesses can't be formed today in the same easier conditions."
While some factions got their start in game worlds like Grand Theft Auto Online and Second Life, others have also been inspired by real-life governments throughout many eras, including feudal Japan and the Austria-Hungarian empire. And as its name suggests, the government structure of the Usamgov faction is inspired by the United States - just without some of its key flaws.
"For example," says founder Michael Weston, "we do not have an Electoral College."
For Firehawk Industries, another group based in the United States, the real-life influence extends to the members' careers: Many of them are ex-military and truck drivers, both retired and active, and bring this experience to their online roleplaying. "A lot of people see that when we operate in convoys on other platforms, they see how well we all interact with each other, almost in like a family unit style," as Firehawk Industries leader Retoma puts it.
Who are these groups? Find out here.
The Coming Conflict
What will happen when these many groups attempt to occupy the same planet, and vie for its limited resources? Conflict seems inevitable - a clash of competing economies, at the very least, or outright war.
To preempt that possibility, the Argentavian Federation is even attempting to establish the Intercolonial Council of Seedkind: "Our own UN-style council for player-groups to hop into and discuss political matters," says DrunkRussianBear. Then again, Usamgov also hopes to form its own United Nations in Seed, so there may be competition between peace organizations.
Some groups are planned as in-world corporations, and intend to operate within different political systems. "Once there is an established form of currency and players obtain forms of income," says Retoma of Firehawk Industries, "we can move on to a contractor status/business agreement to provide needed services/products."
Then again, some corporations are decidedly more aggressive than others:
"Seeing as we're a criminal syndicate," the Sosig Chef of PPSHFC (Peace & Prosperity Super Happy Freedom Company) muses, "we might be the only sources of illegal goods for a while -- so we could basically control the world through clandestine… well... assholery. Think the UK before the Opium Wars."
When asked about war, however, most groups insist that they plan on maintaining good relations with each other.
But they are unsure how long peace can hold:
"It is after all the Internet, and things can change in an instant," the head of The Argentavian Federation acknowledges. "People's ideals can shift if their group is pushed enough."
Retoma of Firehawk agrees: "A lot of the times people tend to show what they want people to see, but do other things behind the scenes."
As if on cue, Wololo of Caledonii International suddenly interrupts the group conversation:
"Seeing as we are having a large meeting with several leaders, in order to clear up some rumors about us… [I want to] assure everyone that we are NOT a terrorist group."
Wololo attributes this rumor to an innocent misunderstanding: "I was looking for a specific faction or group to join, but found out that no such faction existed at the time, and so I jokingly said that I would create a terrorist state and nuke people at random." However, he insists, no actual plans to annihilate Seed's colonial planet are currently in progress.
Secrets, Lies, and Seed
As these groups prepare for the opening of Seed's planet, they evolve and change. Soon after the panel adjourned, Hound19 announced the disbanding of his planned monarchy, citing lack of time to be a ruler. "I have instead," he announced proudly, "joined The Argentavian Federation as a Foreign Affairs ambassador."
Wololo, the Transylvanian, also let me know that he's since parted ways from Caledonii International to found his own group. Surprisingly, it's not apparently due to that whole terrorist-nuclear-strike-threat thing.
"I got accused of not discussing major decisions with the council," he tells me, insisting that that was not the case. That infighting (and his Romanian history) has inspired the structure of his new faction: "Growing Wealth International has a CEO (me) while Caledonii has a council at the head of their company."
But, the likelihood of change and conflict was already clear to me during the Discord meeting. One member (who asked to remain anonymous) secretly sent me a direct message, insisting that I could not trust much of what had just been said.
"[W]e operate a covert information warfare division," the group leader informs me. "So we have archives of past group intentions, their current plans, structure, member base, etc."
"So despite what everyone says in that chat, we have maintained the upper hand in information warfare and know the truth behind the words," the leader continues.
This kind of surveillance, they say, is "a necessary evil to maintain harmony. Squashing those who threaten it before they can even go public."
So while the settlements in Seed have yet to be built, the twilight struggle for its future has already begun.