'Minion Masters' studio raises $6m for friendship-forming game

Concept art for BetaDwarf's 'Project Haven'

The Danish team behind indie hits "Forced," "Forced: Showdown" and "Minion Masters" is now looking to explore a genre all about creating and maintaining friendships through "Project Haven."

After making "Forced" in a disused university classroom that they called their home -- a story famously told through a Imgur image montage -- video game studio BetaDwarf followed up on the 2013 success with 2016 spin-off "Forced: Showdown" and then PC and Xbox One launch "Minion Masters."

Since their classroom-squatting days, the team have gone from a house they turned into an office to an office they turned into dual-purpose living quarters and are now looking to invest in a new kind of game about making and maintaining friendships.

Loneliness has been identified as "the next public health epidemic of the 21st century," a condition which can even end up impacting mortality rates, BetaDwart proposes.

The studio foresees friendships, specifically those formed through shared interests and activities, as where it can make a net positive contribution.

"It's beautiful when positive society impact and business has a chance to meet, and we believe this is true in this case," BetaDwarf CEO Steffen Kabbelgaard said in a statement announcing "Project Haven."

"If we can create and maintain friendships through an activity and in some cases reduce or remove loneliness from our players, then we are more than confident that we will set many new industry [Key Performance Indicator] benchmarks and that our team will be empowered and motivated by the positive impact on people's lives."

All three of the studio's games have been rooted in co-operative, multiplayer interaction, and the team is looking to leverage socially engaging mechanics from Massively Multiplayer Online games ("World of Warcraft" a promient genre example) and Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games (the intensely competitive, small team versus encounters "Dota 2" and "League of Legends" being common touchstones).

BetaDwarf's announcement of "Project Haven" arrives three weeks after US studio Spry Fox launched "Steambirds Alliance" on Mac and PC, a hectic action game about brave plane-piloting birds defending their land from an evil cat.

"In this modern world, there are a lot of people who could use a friend. Or even if they have enough friends, they could use a place to spend more time with them," Spry Fox wrote at the time.

"There's a ton of research demonstrating that lonely people often suffer from poor health, depression, and/or anxiety. Friendship is the antidote."

"So it occurred to us: what if we made a game that was all about connecting with and cooperating with others? A game with only two teams, and all the players are together on the same side."

Accordingly, "Steambirds Alliance" was designed to let players jump in and out of games as they please, with no penalty to themselves or others.

It allocates points and rewards across all participants so players can't accidentally steal mission prizes from one another and incentivizes teamwork whether intentional or through proximity.