Currently, players are not allowed to break laws, the server will prevent laws from being broken by stopping the player’s action before it occurs. With this 200k stretch goal (if we reach it during Kickstarter or post-Kickstarter), we will add a new option to servers: Players will be allowed to break laws, but doing so will flag them as a criminal and make them open to being arrested and punished.
In this system, each time a law is proposed it must include a list of punishments for violating it, and a ‘statute of limitations’ for how long players will be susceptible to arrest from it. If a player violates a law, they will be flagged as a criminal for that length of time, but that flag will be only visible to witnesses.
A player witnesses a crime if they are in visible range when it occurs. They can also detect a crime using a new forensic skill that allows players to examine a crime site (a tree chopped down against the rules, a player house broken into, an elk killed in violation). If their skill is high enough (depending on the recentness of the crime), they will be added as a witness. Players can share their witness status with any other player they encounter, and anyone who is marked as a witness to a crime will be allowed to arrest the player.
To arrest a player, they must be caught by the other player, and weapons can be used by witnesses against criminals to subdue them. Players will not generally be able to attack other players, with only witnesses being allowed to attack criminals to subdue them. Players can be arrested while offline if they can be found(their avatar will stay in the world), and features will be added to track the whereabouts of criminals.
Once arrested, the punishment for breaking a law will be applied, which can include:
- Monetary fine – Automatically removing items/currency from the player’s inventory/home and putting them in public ownership.
- Jail time – If a jail is built in the world, they can be constrained to a cell for a given amount of real time.
- Death penalty – The character is deleted from the server and the user banned from logging in to that server in the future.
If we achieve this stretch goal, we’ll be continuing to evolve the design and implementation of this feature, so expect changes, removals, and additions of what’s described here, but the basic premise will remain: players will need to manage the enforcement of laws in their world, and some may decide to devote their time in Eco to either violating the laws for self-gain, or bringing justice to those that have violated the laws.
I expect this to be one of the most interesting aspects of Eco, watching how societies determine what’s allowed in the world and what punishments should be met upon those that violate that, and the effect it has on the success or failure of the world as a whole. This feature adds an extra layer of difficulty and replayability to the game, and playing on a large server in which laws can be broken will be very difficult to succeed on, with only the best-run governments, economies, and criminal-justice systems finding a way to succeed. We’re excited to see the user stories that would come out of this feature.