Hypersonic Laboratories raises $7M for sandbox UGC gaming platform



Hypersonic Laboratories has raised $7 million in funding for a multiplayer role-playing sandbox platform for user-generated content (UGC).

The company is building Helix, a platform that will enable “modders,” or creators building game content, to create their own games inside a virtual world.

The idea is that anyone should be able to pick up and create their own game and world inside Helix. Players and fans can quite literally make the game in crazy detail, like triple-A graphics at in real life (IRL) cityscape scale.

Play Ventures led the round, with participation from AppWorks, WTIC, KB Investment, and Alex Ekvall. This latest round brings Hypersonic’s total funding to $11 million. The new funds will be used to expand the Hypersonic Laboratories team and prepare for Helix’s closed alpha launch later this year, said Jack Kim, CEO of Hypersonic Laboratories, in an interview with Games.


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“We’ve followed Jack (Maker) and his team closely since their earliest days and have increasingly been amazed by their big vision and ability to execute,” said Kenrick Drijkoningen, general partner at Play Ventures, in a statement. “We are excited to support them on their journey to empower creators and players with HELIX. This may well be the biggest new gaming platform in over a decade.”

Origins

Jack Kim is CEO of Hypersonic Laboratories.

The company started in 2019 and it focused on different projects as a game studio. About three years ago, it started building the Helix platform.

“I grew up modding a lot of these epic games — open world games. I was big car enthusiast. So growing up, I used to play a lot of them but also actually mod games like GTA. For all these cars that I wanted in real life, I would search online to find the right model for it, download it, and use all these modern tools to install them into the game.”

That was in the wild west days when there weren’t many rules or central platforms to enable modding. Then there was a big moment when Epic Games started talking about Unreal Engine 5 and launched it, first in early access in 2021 and then formally in 2022, Kim said.

“I always thought that there was a big opportunity to create a game that’s dedicated towards modding, with a safe environment,” he said. “What we’re creating here with Helix is kind of a modern paradise. We’re finally getting a dedicated home for modders who have been on the fringes of the industry.”

Helix will be a place where you can create virtual worlds. They can be games, simulations or even art showcases. You can host servers on the platform, and it’s kind of like how Roblox might look if it were built on top of Unreal Engine 5, Kim said.

Helix Studio 3
Helix is built on Unreal Engine 5.

“It looks a lot more realistic,” he said. “And with Garry’s Mod from decades ago, that’s a good example of a sandbox game where there is no single story.”

The team built essentially a replica of New York City as a game world, though it is smaller than the actual city itself. Traditional game studios have built New York City many times over, often using proprietary engines, but those worlds don’t get shared with modders.

“The creator of Minecraft never imagined people to be building functional civilizations, logic, computers within a game. And similarly, I would like to be pleasantly surprised by the types of things that people create using our tools. That’s the beauty of creating a platform rather than a single game,” he said.

There are plenty of maps that will be available, including one that looks like New York City.

“We spent a lot of time creating the default maps that will go with the Helix platform,” he said. “I would say that is likely to be a fraction of the maps that will [ultimately] be available. The goal is the majority of the content on the platform will be created by other artists.”

Since the team is using Unreal Engine 5, Kim thinks the creations will be more realistic and appeal to older players and developers, much like you see with Grand Theft Auto mods.

Helix can be the home to a variety of environments.
Helix can be the home to a variety of environments.

“The biggest problem here is the lack of professional tooling around modding. So every game has its own set of tools built by the community. But, again, these are reverse engineered third-party tools that also are unstable sometimes. They’re not that easy to use,” he said.

Kim would rather see a world where the tools are good, and anything created is easily shared with other people. With Hypersonic Laboratories’ tools in place, the modders can upload these things to the vault and anyone else can download the tools or assets for building their own games.

“Someone could use that to make a battle royale game. Someone else could use that to make a zombie infested, post-apocalyptic revival game,” he said. “It’s this modularity around the platform that really helps for both artists and developers.”

The early access blew many people’s minds. It really blew my mind. And I’ve always been fascinated by virtual worlds, even before this whole metaverse craze,” he said. “I’ve always thought that to do the same things in a virtual space, you open up way more creativity.”

Casino
A casino inside Helix. It’s made for role-playing games.

Despite the immense popularity of role-playing mods and servers across various games, the industry has long neglected this thriving community, providing little to zero commercial or professional support, sometimes even going after the mod creators in an effort to shut them down, Hypersonic said.

This community has continued to grow while fighting this uphill battle:

Building the ultimate moddable game

Post Apocalyptic City
You can build a post-apocalypse New York City if you want in Helix.

As an avid car enthusiast, Kim (who goes by Maker online) grew up as a big fan of open-world driving games such as GTA V. However, Kim found himself spending even more time modding than actually playing the game itself. Now, Kim and his team are several years into building their dream open-world sandbox game, Helix, which allows anyone to easily create, share, and play mods and servers.

“I had all these cool cars I wanted but couldn’t afford in real life, so I would download 3D models of them online and mod them into the game. I used unofficial modding tools developed by the community, which, since most games are never made to be modded, were very difficult to use and could even break the game. I even downloaded a virus that almost destroyed my PC,” said Kim. “It shouldn’t be that hard for the millions of people out there who want to mod or play modded games, but until Helix, there’s just never been a professional toolset or platform built by modders, for modding. Our team, cumulatively, has built mods and modding frameworks with more than 100M total downloads – all in their own free time. Imagine what they can do now that they’re actually being paid to do it!”

Unmatched credibility and vision

Revenge on the Robber
Modders can tell their own stories.

Hypersonic Laboratories is led by a team of veterans from various gaming companies such as Roblox/Uplift Games, Hypixel Studios, Activision, Kongregate, GameStop, and more.

The company is also announcing the addition of Kasey Fitton (aka Mycroft), the former lead of ESX, a popular FiveM framework which is used by more than 25,000 RP servers, and Joshua Eger (aka Kakarot), the creator of QBCore, another hugely popular FiveM framework.

apartment
Helix will have pro tools for modders.

Helix has already started to pick up some buzz in the RP developer circle, with several prominent RP modders already experimenting with the platform to create incredible worlds and player experiences. The Unreal Engine 5 world of Helix can already support over 1,000 simultaneous players.

Initially launched as a Web3 product with an in-game economy powered by an NFT marketplace, Helix has recently shifted to a traditional Web2 platform, completely removing any use of blockchain technology and NFTs.

The company is taking that Web3 work and spinning it out into a separate, dedicated game. For those who bought NFTs in the past, they can use them with that separate game. That decision came from growing the ambitions of the company to build a platform.

The company expects to be in closed alpha testing this year. Kim said the project is picking up attention from developers who like Garry’s Mod, and Hypersonic Laboratories has hired some of those community members on its team. The team has about 30 people.

Raising the money during the downturn wasn’t easy, but the investors expressed a lot of confidence in the team’s ability to execute, thanks to the progress so far.

“We are building a very ambitious vision with a small team, and we’re using this money to be able to hire a world-class team,” he said. “I think the RP space in general is underserved right now.”



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