How Player-Created Laws Work

June 18, 2015
The world of Eco is an incredibly reactive one, and whatever any player does in the world affects the underlying ecosystem, potentially in destructive ways.

With so many players in a world, how wouldn’t the world instantly be destroyed, whether purposely by trolls or through greed/ignorance, by a small number of players?

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The solution to this is the player-run government, and running it is a huge part of gameplay that all players must participate in.

The Needs of the Many

The player-run government will be incredibly powerful, because laws will be binding. That means if the government decides that each player may chop down only 10 trees per day, attempts to chop down an 11th will be rejected by the server.  Individuals are physically bound by the decisions that the group makes, essentially simulating a perfect criminal justice system (more on that later and how we plan to evolve it).

So just how does the group make decisions?  Players will likely disagree on much, especially given that each player has individual specialties that determine their incentives, and coming to a 100% agreement in Eco will be as impossible as it is in the real world.  Looking to the real world for examples of how decisions are made, you find an infinite spectrum of approaches throughout history; indeed the ‘technology’ of how to make decisions as a group advances alongside actual technology.

Deciding How to Decide

In Eco we give this problem to players as a form of gameplay.  Not only must they make decisions as a group, they must make decisions about how they will make decisions.  That is, they must determine how their government functions.

Will it be a dictatorship? A democracy?  Is the first player that arrives/server operator the ‘king’ who issues all laws by fiat?  Are representative elected per district? Or does every player have a vote, and majority wins?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and our goal with this system is to emergently produce the same pathological problems that real governments exhibit (gridlock, corruption, gerrymandering, politicking) and allow players to navigate them by changing the rules of government.  In Eco there are no monsters or zombies, instead the ‘enemies’ you must face are corruption, greed, ignorance, and exploitation, each exhibited from your own comrades sharing a vulnerable world with you.

Creating Laws

These social forces can be formidable enemies, but you are provided the tools you need to fight it in Eco: by forming a government and creating laws you can allow individuals to collectively guide the direction of the group.

Laws can be proposed by anyone, which are then (in the default government style of democracy) put up for a vote.  Players who login to the game before voting ends (a couple days after the proposal) will be prompted to vote on the proposed law, and if a proposal receives a majority ‘yes’ votes (plus a required minimum total votes) it will be entered into law at the end of voting.

In Eco there are no monsters or zombies, instead the ‘enemies’ you must face are corruption, greed, ignorance, exploitation.

The proposal phase is one of the most interesting aspects of Eco’s gameplay, because it is at this point that players get to civically engage with other players.  Most of the laws you’ll make in Eco affect the ecosystem (by changing what players can do to it), and to make educated decisions about this ecosystem you need to understand it.

Data-Backed Arguments

When a law is proposed, players will be required to fill in an argument for it, and that argument can contain scientific data about the world, taken directly from the simulation.  Players will be able to gather data in the world (like population growth/decline per species, hunting rates, pollution levels over time, and many more) by using special data-gathering objects they place in the world. Once this data is collected, any player can use it to create graphs and visual representations.

 Eco Webpage
It is through this system that players can begin to illuminate the complex interactions that are happening in the ecosystem, making conjectures about the causes and effects they’re seeing, and arguing it with their fellow citizens.  Is the  drop in elk population caused by or merely correlated with logging rates?  How costly is the effect of the new mine’s pollution levels on the surrounding farms?  In Eco success depends entirely on your ability to function within a simulated ecosystem, but the workings of that ecosystem are not obvious presented facts (there is no ‘ecosystem health bar’), and players must figure it out for themselves using the tools of investigation the game provides.  Statistical investigation is a weapon you wield in Eco, and the resulting knowledge is valuable, because you need it to make decisions.

However it’s not enough to simply determine for yourself what is happening within the ecosystem and what must be done about it, you must convince a majority of players to agree with you if you want to pass any laws that might affect it.  To achieve this, you’ll need to back up law proposals with scientific data, graphs and argumentation.

eco_kickstarter_env_effect_rough1s

You’ll have to convince a skeptical player base of your proposed course of action, a collection of players that all have different specialties and incentives in the game and while they theoretically all have the same goal of surviving, each will posses different ideas about what should be done.  I can imagine that players whose in-game livelihoods depend on taking resources from the environment may deny problems even exist, potentially until the point that they reach catastrophic levels.

On each law, a discussion is started, and players can add their own statistics and graphs to refute or support your argument and conclusion about what should be done.  Data is your weapon, debate is your skill at wielding it, and the public forum of a virtual government is your battle arena. That is our PvP system.

Changing the Government

You might find that obtaining a majority of voters is a very difficult task.  Perhaps player debate devolves frequently into gridlock, and nothing gets done (watching the news, this sounds all too familiar).   There’s a solution for that as well, and that’s in how the government itself works.  In Eco, laws can be proposed that change the fundamental rules of the government.  Perhaps the voting period is reduced or increased, perhaps voting is limited to a small group of ‘nobles’ or ‘representatives’ chosen per district, or to a single dictator.  Perhaps there are branches of government, with one having veto power over the other.  Maybe representatives are elected, or appointed.  Voting could be a right that must be purchased, or can be lost.

There is no ‘ecosystem health bar’, players must figure it out for themselves.

 The government is extraordinarily malleable in Eco, and one of the most interesting parts will be watching the different approaches taken on each server, seeing which are most effective and which spiral into chaos and collapse.

The Possibility of Crime

Everything above describes our initial release of Eco, but what we hope to do (if we achieve our stretch goals) is to extend this by allowing laws to be broken.  The initial system will physically enforce laws, but with this change that will cease to be the case. Instead, the server will allow players to break laws, but flag the perpetrator as a criminal.

Once flagged and witnessed, a criminal can be arrested by anyone on the server who subdues them.  Players can use skills for forensic evaluation to determine who broke into a house, who hunted illegally, who attacked another player.  Tracking skills can be used to find the criminal, and even when logged off criminals can be vulnerable to capture.

Once captured, criminals will be subject to the penalties outlined in the law they broke.  These penalties can vary widely, from a fine, to suspension, to jail time, all the way up to the death penalty (character perma-death).  Laws are defined by the group, and so are punishments, and their harshness or lack thereof will have great effects on the world.

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Our Only Enemies

Eco presents a shared vulnerable world that can be hugely affected by a group of players, but it also provides the means to understand how that world works, and use that understanding towards making intelligent decision as a group.

Thus Eco presents a fundamentally optimistic view that the problems that face both our virtual and real world can be solved, but it doesn’t shy away from the catastrophic failure that can happen when collaboration falls apart. Indeed, that is the very focus of conflict in the game.  There are no demons to battle in this game, no angels to save us, for we be they both.

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The Eco Team is a collection of introverted and sometimes genius programmers/designers based in Seattle and Australia. We all grew up and thrive in the video game culture, so of course making them is our dream job. We look forward to continuing to put out quality games for the community of players.

49 thoughts

  • Reply
    star

    This game looks amazing and will definitely get it when I have the money, just one questions however. Will there be some sort of server wide research system that will allow the players to get new government systems and skills for everyone or will all the government systems be unlocked at the beginning?

  • Reply
    Francisco Pereira

    It looks like a great way to do a social experiment, a great education tool that could have its concept used in schools in some countries. I guess that you answered most of my questions. Probably, if you give modding possibilities those arguments like Cops and Law Breaking would become a player-side matter. Good job, can wait to make part of this experiment.

  • Reply
    Morgan

    If you are unable to break rules due to server restrictions… does this mean that all players are brainwashed drones? Sometimes those who break rules disrupt the status quo so that it can improve. Not all rule breaking is bad when viewed over the long term. All society needs rules… but to be unable to break them…? Not sure if this is entirely a good thing. Perhaps grounds for a great philosophical debate though.

    • Reply
      Matthew

      Law breaking and law enforcement are 200k kickstarter goals which might maybe happen in it’s not reached. Lookup info on the kickstarter updates.

  • Reply
    mrwizard70

    Wait, can we have multiple governments for different areas? if the world is only run be one government what happens if 45% of players don’t agree with the other 55%?

    • Reply
      Francisco Pereira

      But on the other hand, if we subdivide too much there will be an ideological conflict, a step to war, wich I believe is not the main goal of the game/simulation.

      • Reply
        Matthew

        But war is sadly what happens in real world if people can’t find diplomatic solution. As it might not be the main goal of the game, it would bring another level of reality to the game.
        If there could be war, will the players involve themselves in something that can quickly end everything They worked on? Or will They work harder on diplomatic solution to their disputes? I could see that working out in the game.

        • Reply
          John K. Post author

          Would love to see war in the game, our first ‘conflict’ will be the criminal justice system though, which should also be really fascinating.

  • Reply
    Andre Torres

    What about looting / breaking / destroying buildings and other things people might think in order to get stuff without job rules ?

  • Reply
    Nicolai

    Hey this game looks great. This is a must try :-). Just one question. It says here that if the stretch goal is achieved you will allow laws to be broken, so players can get punished. If this stretch goal isn’t achieved, is it still possible this could get implemented at a later point after the game is finished? because it seems like a REALLY good idea!

  • Reply
    Caleb N

    YES, This will be fun! deciding who should be in charge how things should be run…whether if the adults who play are the only people allowed in charge, or should children and teens be allowed to be part of the government as well. being a criminal might be fun as well! it all depends on how big the world is…. if i was a criminal i would want an isolated place maybe under the ocean or high on top of a mountain to hide. another thing could be over throwing governments that you disagree with. maybe multiple nations or factions resulting in war over resources and land. So Many things can be possible with just the idea of a game like this! If I was a kid i would totally freak out and play this game non stop for months. and if i was an adult, and had a huge paycheck i would probably give most of it to the development of this game but sadly i’m a teen…without a job….. living off allowance……sigh…..

  • Reply
    ER

    1. The world appears to be that of a small planet, if so will there be multiple planets to join/ explore in that server?
    2. Will each server have a custom player limit as to not overcrowd the planet/ world?
    3. Will players hosting their own server be able to choose the size of the planet/ world?
    5. Possibility for underwater architecture?
    6. Absolutely amazing! The only K-Starter I’ve ever backed, you’ve really caught my eye and I’m sure many many others as well.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      1. One world per server.
      2. Yes you can set that in the server settings
      3. Yep!
      4. Yes 😉
      5. Yes
      6. Thanks a ton! Great to have your support.

  • Reply
    Nexus General

    But what of a civil war? Could we band together to kill off opposing factions even within our single sovereign state?

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      Might be something for larger servers when we scale up, or a mod. I like the idea of coups though.

  • Reply
    Michael K

    Reading the posts already made, I have a couple of questions of my own.
    1. Someone posted the use of money. Can any system of trade be implemented, even no trade?
    2. Is there a system for how to select the type of society? Or is it all presets?
    3. Is there support for recording in-game footage or will there be? I would think people would want to show off which systems worked to keep a balanced ecology and thwart the meteor.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      1. Its barter right now, so any currency can emerge. Players dont have to trade if they dont want, but it will be very hard to succeed without it.
      2. Its all player-run, so you’ll vote on it.
      3. We’ll rely on third party tools for that, will be great to have a lot of streamers.

  • Reply
    Anonymous

    Along with the idea of war between countries and crime. Possibly have things like assassins available as a job option. Also will we be able to choose our own job or will it be assigned to us by the server?

  • Reply
    Nexus General

    I have to wonder if this whole thing is implemented well, would we be able to create standing armies to overthrow the current server government by means of large scale depopulation of “undesirable” individuals?

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      To start there’s just one sovereign nation on the planet. We’d like to add multiple nations and thus wars eventually.

  • Reply
    Game gamut

    Hello strangeloopgames!

    Game gamut is a youtube gaming channel dedicated to servicing our subscribers with knowledgeable information on the industry.

    That being said, my partner and I are extraordinarily intrigued by every aspect of this game. We have so many questions and would be honored for a few minutes of your time to broadcast an interview with you? We can’t wait for this game to be released and will be large advocates of this game!

    Let me know if this would interest you.

    Happy gaming,
    -game gamut

  • Reply
    Adam Navarro

    Hi. I was just wondering if this game will be on steam?

  • Reply
    Robin

    This whole game sound like an amzing social experiment. I hope you will be able to make that crime thing work because that sounds so awesome!

  • Reply
    Peter

    a good freedom dictatorship and it’s done. democracy will destroy it. the smartest solution is to create a single national park where tree cuting, mining, farming, hunting and nearly nothing is not allowed, gather there a decent number of animals and let people build everywhere else. when the animal food or tree suply will be low just introduce new from the park. give the people the option to create animal farms and forests with fences so they can keep them with private property rights and exchange goods with others. if it can’t be done the simulation as a whole is incomplete

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      Yes there will be a whole player run economy, with stores and contracts and rents. Banks may be a feature we implement in the future, really like the idea of something like that.

  • Reply
    Pietn

    Thank you for sharing. A few questions came to me.
    1. Will you be able to trade your limits with others? Say I’m not interested in cutting threes. Can others cut more in exchange for something else?
    2. Can you bound laws to certain players? For example there jobs.
    3. Will there be something like corporations or communities so that the limitation count for the group.
    4. Can you specify regions? For example here you can hunt but not there.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      1. Good idea, currently no, but perhaps we do some kind of ‘tree credits’ you can sell through the player economy.
      2. Currently laws apply to everyone, but sectioning that to ‘licensed’ players would definitely be interesting. Only licensed woodcutters can chop trees, for example.
      3. Eventually, that’s a late feature we’d like to explore. For the initial version everyone is a single entity. Once servers scale up this will be important.
      4. Yes, this will be an important feature.

  • Reply
    Petkovics Tamás

    I’m really indulged reading about a game concept, which is actually far beyond a simple game, but it is an important intellectual challenge and scientific experiment.
    Actually the scientific problems are related to social eco-systems, and I remember watching a genius documentary made by Adam Curtis, “All watched over by machines of loving grace” which was discussing about the evolution of eco-modelling, failed attempts to build “peer-to-peer” societies in the 70’s, and a scientific dead-end, because of oversimplification. I am curious how will this work out this time with this game.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      I havent heard of that but it does sound interesting. I will take a look.
      That said, there will be tons of simplification, because reality is infinitely complex. We hope to pull out the most salient and interactive parts of the simulation though.

  • Reply
    Novamonk

    Interesting post. Thanks for putting it up.

    With the Data screen, will we be able to have a ‘history’ view, and see when certain laws were enacted? That way to determine what, if any, effect past laws had on the world?

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      Yeah definitely, you’ll be able to get lots of insights into the effects youre having that way. Will take the form of markers on the graph view.

  • Reply
    Steve

    The game idea is the best I have ever seen. Just 2 questions:
    1. On what platforms will it be avaible
    2. How much will it cost
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      1. PC first, then mac/linux and tablets later
      2. Not sure yet, similar to other titles like Rust and DayZ probably.

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