Eco: Global Survival Game

Homepage: http://www.strangeloopgames.com/
Genre: Business, Fantasy, MMO, Sandbox, Strategy
Rating: Not Rated
Developer: Strange Loop Games
Publisher: Strange Loop Games

Enter the world of Eco, where you must collaborate to build civilization in a finite shared world, using resources from a fully simulated ecosystem where your every action affects the lives of countless species.

Will you and your fellow citizens collaborate successfully, creating laws to guide the actions of the group, finding a balance that takes resources from the ecosystem without damaging it? Or will the world be destroyed by short-sighted choices that pollute the environment in exchange for immediate resource gains? Or, do players act too slowly, and the world is consumed by a disaster that could have been avoided if you developed the right technology? In Eco, you must find a balance as a group if the world is to survive.

A Global Survival Game.

Eco is a survival game in a global sense, where it is not just the individual or group who is threatened, but the world itself. The world of Eco will be home to a population of thousands of simulated plants and animals, each living out their lives on a server running 24 hours a day, growing, feeding and reproducing, with their existence highly dependent on other species.

Enter humans into this equation, and things get complicated. It is the role of players to thrive in this environment by using resources from the world to eat, build, discover, learn and invent.

However, every resource they take affects the environment it is taken from, and without careful planning and understanding of the ecosystem, lands can become deforested and polluted, habitats destroyed, and species left extinct.

In the extreme, the food supply of the ecosystem can be destroyed, along with all human life on it, resulting in server-wide perma-death. Eco is a game where the player’s actions have meaningful consequences.

 

A Player-Run Government

Taking resources from an ecosystem to build within it without destroying it is no easy task, and you’ll need to make decisions as a group to do so. Fortunately you’ve got some tools to do so.

Players can propose, discuss, and vote on laws, and passed laws will affect everyone, physically preventing them from breaking the law.
The ecosystem data is visible to players. Players can gather full data on the ecosystem simulation in-game, allowing them to analyze what’s happening in the world and how the ecosystem works. This data can be used to construct arguments for laws, backing up the player-run government with hard scientific data.

Constructing a city

Eco is a voxel world that can be completely transformed as players mine and build, and unlike other voxel games where buildings are purely decorative, buildings will have effects in Eco. When a player constructs a building, they can designate its type (whether its a home, school, lumber mill, bakery, etc). If it meets the criteria (size and construction material) it will then give special abilities to anyone who occupies it. For example, players who construct a home will see their food depletion rate go down by 70% if they logout inside it. Other buildings will be required to process resources (lumber mill, bakery), provide access to tools (mine, well) or increase the rate skills are learned (school, library).

Unlike other voxel games, building will be a complex task in Eco, requiring a range of skills from multiple players to construct. Resources must be harvested (wood cutting, masonry), processed (wood working), transported (animal labor), and constructed (carpentry, construction). It will not be possible for one player to specialize in all the skills necessary to build in Eco, collaboration is required.

Player-Run Economy

This emphasis on collaboration within Eco creates many interesting multiplayer effects, as players choose skills to specialize in. The only way to have work done across multiple specialties is to collaborate, and all high-level goals in Eco will require multiple types of skills.

Supporting this will be a player created economy which players can use to sell goods and services. Unlike most games which only allow players to sell items, Eco allows players to sell contracts for labor, which the game will enforce. Need someone to build you a house? Take out a contract and they will complete the job, with payment being held in escrow until completion. This system of contracts forms our ‘quest’ system, where a quest is an actual job needed by another real human in the game, which your player has the specialized skills necessary to complete. Through specialization and game-enforced exchanges and contracts, a rich economy will develop in Eco that forms the basis of all resource allocation.

Training skills and Food

Players will have skills in a variety of areas that determine their abilities in the game, and a single skill be increased at a constant rate of time. This rate is multiplied by how healthy and well-fed a player is, thus raising the need for an agricultural industry within the world. While most games treat food as something you must simply top-up periodically in the game, Eco ties it to skill advancement, so the nutrition of the food you eat determines how fast you increase in skill. Eat very little or only junk? Your skills will remain stagnant. Eat high quality and nutritious food? Your skills will raise at a multiplied rate.

Players who specialize in skills related to food harvesting, farming, and preparation, and then give or sell that food to their fellow players will have a tremendous impact on the overall skill rate of players and thus survival of the world. Food is not an after thought in Eco but a key industry required for success, and tied deeply to the ecosystem from which it must be harvested, making farming and hunting as well as food processing and preparation pivotal skills.

Researching Technology

Players begin the game with just a few technologies and buildings they can access. To acquire more, they must perform research. Players research by performing experiments, an action they can do in the game in special buildings with specific tools that will consume resources. Multiple players can contribute experiments to a common cause, and when enough experiments have been performed a knowledge object will be unlocked.

Knowledge objects are owned by those that performed the research, and they may be shared for a price or freely to anyone they wish (they never get consumed), with each player using a knowledge object getting access to new skills they can train, new buildings they can construct, and new research they can take on.

As players gain in knowledge they gain in power, with players in a fresh world starting off relatively weak but growing to have the capability for huge influence on the world and ecosystem, which can lead to triumph or ruin depending on how they use those abilities.

Laws

As the level of technology available to players increases, the capability for affecting the environment increases exponentially. To ensure players use this power positively, players must construct laws. Players can propose laws backed by scientific data they take from the ecosystem, using sophisticated graphs and wiki toolsets to make discussions and decisions about the future of the world a seamless activity for players.

There is no guide book to how to sustainably use the resources of the ecosystem, players must understand it by looking at the actual data themselves, and convince their fellow players of what they believe. As players have different specialties in the game, their incentives will be influenced heavily by their livelihood, just as in the real world (a lumberjack player may be less inclined to halt deforestation than the general population because their livelihood depends on it).

Thus, even though players are working together towards a common goal, their individual incentives and desires will guide their decisions in conflicting way, and navigating that Tragedy of the Commons through laws and scientific evidence to achieve success and avoid ruin is the core experience we plan to provide with Eco.

End of World Scenarios

Besides the threat of destroying the ecosystem of the world through pollution and habitat destruction, the world of Eco is threatened with another catastrophe, set via options at server creation. A meteor may be striking the earth, with the groups only chance of survival to develop technology to prevent it. Or a drought may be imminent, and food and water must be conserved in anticipation. Global warming may be raising the sea levels, and players will have to adapt. In Eco, the threats to the world’s existence are not only internal (player destruction of the ecosystem) but external as well, giving players an additional incentive.

There is no easy moral lesson here, and entirely avoiding harm to the ecosystem in Eco is not a solution, resources must be collected from the world at the short term expense of the ecosystem if it’s going to survive in the long term. These will be expert scenarios that only a large well-governed group of players will be able to overcome.

Hosting Servers and Single player

Players will be able to host their own servers, and the game can be played single player if so desired. The size of the world can be scaled, and the rate of learning increased in these scenarios so players can try their hand at building on their own in an isolated world, surrounded only with plants and animals of the wilderness.

Modding

We want to build Eco into more than just a single game, but a platform for many experiences. From alpha access onwards, we will have full modding support, with a modding API. Mods will be well-integrated into the final game, with downloads happening automatically, sent from each individual server. We intend to open up the technology we’re building to create a new class of game: large, dynamic, multiplayer worlds with continuous simulations running, in which the physical, social, economic, and government structure are all under player control. The possibilities for games like this is barely explored, and with Eco as a platform we can provide a launch pad for creating them.

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