Three Rings Design

Last updated
Three Rings Design, Inc.
Type Subsidiary
Industry Video games
FoundedMarch 30, 2001 (2001-03-30)
Founder Daniel James
Michael Bayne
DefunctMarch 4, 2016
FateDissolved after layoffs
612 Howard Street, San Francisco, California
Key people
Ian McConville
Owner Sega Sammy Holdings
Number of employees
Parent Sega Games Co., Ltd.

Three Rings Design, Inc. was an online game developer that was founded on March 30, 2001, by Daniel James and Michael Bayne. The company was named in honor of the Three Rings of the Elven-kings in Tolkien mythology.


The company's first product was Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates , an skill-based open-world MMOG in which player is tasked with action puzzle games corresponding to tasks of piracy, crafting and carousing. The player joins a crew to sail with other players and participates in a player-driven trading economy.

The company's second product, released December 1, 2006, was a western-themed Tactical Multi Player game named Bang! Howdy .

Whirled, the company's third virtual world, was a player created content platform using Adobe Flash and html5. Whirled allowed creators to list virtual goods such as avatars, in-world toys or game content and earn real-world currency from the system. Whirled went into beta testing in 2008 and became unavailable in April 2017.

Three Rings created a number of Flash games for Whirled, notably Corpse Craft which was later released on iPad. In 2010 the studio tested Facebook games including The Everything Game, a collectible card game.

Spiral Knights was the company's fourth MMOG, launched in April 2011. Spiral Knights is an action adventure world where players cooperate to defeat the denizens of The Clockworks, a mysterious ever-changing maze.

In 2011 the studio launched Doctor Who: Worlds in Time, in partnership with BBC Worldwide.

Three Rings was an independent developer from its founding in 2001 until 2011 when it was acquired by SEGA of Japan. The company had been funded by the founders, revenues from Puzzle Pirates and other games, and investors including True Ventures. Following the acquisition the studio operated as a label within SEGA until March 2016, when SEGA reduced its San Francisco R&D staff. [1]

Puzzle Pirates, Spiral Knights and other Three Rings games remain operational under the banner of Grey Havens.


Game Gardens and open source code

Shortly after Puzzle Pirates' launch Three Rings Design open-sourced substantial parts of the underlying technology for creating multi-user virtual worlds, available on GitHub. [3] The company created a site called Game Gardens, which hosted free tools for creating and playing Java games using these libraries, a precursor to Whirled, which allowed players to upload client and server-side AS3 (Adobe Flash) code to create complex multi-player games.

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  1. "Sega's Western mobile division hit with layoffs". Gamasutra. Chris Kerr. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  2. "BBC Worldwide and Three Rings join forces for first ever Doctor Who multiplayer online game". BBC Press Office. 2011-02-24.
  3. "Three Rings Github code repositories".