How the Eco-Sim Works: The Players’ Lifeline

July 1, 2015
Eco is a game that requires balance.  Exploiting the maximum resources possible will quickly deplete and destroy the world you occupy, but taking nothing from the ecosystem will be equally devastating: a meteor will hit the planet and destroy everything anyway.

 Elk

The answer lies somewhere in the middle, and to navigate that you must understand and interact with a sophisticated simulation.  Twenty-four hours a day, a simulation runs in Eco that processes the lives of thousands of plants and animals.  These are individually simulated, and the AI of each animal determines how it interacts with other animals (as predator or prey), how it feeds, reproduces, lives and dies.  When you log out of Eco at night, the world will not be the same in the morning, as it lives on with or without you.

animal_gif_idea2sLeft to its own with no player intervention, the populations of plants and animals will form boom/bust cycles over time, as the population of one grows and its food source dwindles, than the reverse as consumers run out of food, reproduce less, and their populations consequently reduce.  Our first biome is based on the Pacific Northwest ecosystem, with plants and animals from the region interacting (wheatgrass, camas, elk, marmots, hares, wolves, etc).  The behaviors can become quite complex, with wolves engaging in pack attacks, habitats that can be disrupted by humans, food webs, nesting, hunting, and much more.  We intend to add more biomes (watch for our Kickstarter to take part in choosing which biomes we create), and will introduce aquatic biomes that influence what’s happening on the land, matching all of them closely to real world ecosystems and implementing lots of interacting species.

 trade_and_pollution_progress

The simulation runs with a much accelerated time scale, with each real-day representing roughly a year (it varies between systems, with technological advances simulated at a far faster rate than ecological effects).  Players can witness events happening real-time in the game, or they can explore them in graphs.  Each Eco server (which is either run by us as a public server, or by individual users who may make it private or public) tracks all the information about what is happening in the environment over time: population levels, hunting rates, pollution rates, birth rates, death rates, etc.  If players create in-game objects to gather this information it appears in the graphs, providing valuable information about how the environment is functioning.

I fully expect people’s individual incentives to guide their analysis of what is going on in the world, and that kind of blindness can lead the world to ruin.

This information is extremely valuable, because the ecosystem is your lifeline in Eco.  In order to build the technology you need to survive and stop an impending disaster, you’ll need to take resources from this world in massive quantities.  Done trivially, this would be incredibly damaging to your environment and destroy your world before the external threat even strikes; rather, players must find a balance to use as they try to save their world, and they must do so as a group.  Making any kind of decision as a group can be difficult, let alone when those decisions can mean life or death for your world, and to allow players to make these decisions we’ve allowed players to create laws that bind their actions (see the blog post here).

Wolf and Pups

There’s a lot of gameplay in Eco that happens outside the immediate mechanic of the game, and that’s where some of the most interesting gameplay moments are.  Players will use external interfaces (ie, a web browser) to query the data provided by the game, and use it to understand what’s going on in the ecosystem.  The environment of Eco doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and understanding what is going on and what’s causing it will be a topic for player discussion and conflict in the game.  I fully expect people’s individual incentives to guide their analysis of what is going on in the world (a woodcutter is going to deny that deforestation is a problem, for example), and that kind of blindness can lead the world to ruin.  Having that experience and recognizing its effect in retrospect after a destroyed world will be an incredibly powerful thing.

Eco Webpageeco-video

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.

20 thoughts

  • Reply
    Bailea

    I like that Eco is mostly based around the survival of the Earth and how different things that happen in the ecosystem effects Earth. But I have one problem, the whole meteor crashing into the world thing. Now I know I lot of people say that Eco needs a “goal” but this game sounded really great having normal everyday problems that you needed to solve without causing ecosystem destruction. A meteor crashing into the Earth puts a time restraint on what I believe the whole basis of this game is. Which is way I agree with many others on having wars and territories, laws based on places. This game has the potential of being a real life scenario type game but with the ultimate goal being to save the world from a meteor what do you do after that? Also will there be natural events like tsunami’s and volcanic eruptions or natural forest fires? Could there be hospitals, fire departments, schools or even Zoo’s? How realistic are we making this game or is the pollution and food webs the only things true to real life?

  • Reply
    Etterra

    Will the time scale for private servers be adjustable, making 1 year last over several real world days? It would be preferable for some like myself to have a 365 day year take, say, 12 days so you can log out one day, then log in the next, and see the progress a wolf pack’s pups have made, rather than see an entirely new generation.

  • Reply
    Steven

    does game take into effect real reasons people advance technology for example like starvation – thirst hunger- freezing to death so forth all these things effect climate in real life because they are things that drive us to make technology and build world up All advancements of civilization came out of basic needs and wants.

    animals and people need food, water, shelter form elements or you die, to keep warm need burn wood, coal or create power, to heat shelters, if its too hot people want AC, as population grows you need more food need more water need more shelters need more power – population is not static number. which requires further advancements in technology to make us use less resources but increase output we get.

    or is it bit more generic then that just based around scenario of stopping moon from falling out of sky ?

  • Reply
    Hiro Hamada

    I’ve got two questions:
    1: When is the real ECO coming out ? not alpha or beta, the final thing.
    2: I’ve got plenty of french friends, they like the game and would like to know if it’l come out in french to…
    You’re doing a great job, ECO is the best game of the world, thank you very much.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      1. Final release will be in about 2 years.
      2. We are now supporting German language, with the help of German fans. I hope the same can happen with our French fans.

  • Reply
    epicjohn99

    I have some questions about this game.

    1.Can plants and animals be domesticated?

    2.If I kill off only one species of animal will the entire ecosystem be destroyed or just part of it?

    3. Will I be able to ride an elephant into a battle with a neighboring civilization?

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      1. Yes! Animal power will be a viable source of energy and transport.
      2. It will have huge effects on the ecosystem, but may not destroy it outright.
      3. No plans for elephants right now, and war is much much later.

  • Reply
    Blue Horizon

    I’m super excited for this game! I know the release date for the alpha version is not out until Oct. But my hope is that they will make it available late Sept. or early Oct. to Alpha players. I hope my environmental biology class I am taking in college will give me an advantage over people who know less about environmental problems.

    • Reply
      John K. Post author

      Thanks! Yeah we hope to do early oct, but reserving the right for late Oct. Dev tier will get code in sept.

  • Reply
    Nathanial

    Considering that I work in the psychology and sociology field I find the idea behind this game interesting. Much like eve which I used for my grad paper. I decided to back this game just to do some experiments in it with the way people interact.

  • Reply
    Cephus

    I’m hoping this game holds the group’s interest at least for a few years like minecraft did. However, I hate to tell ya guys that, well just read my facebook post… lol

    Looks interesting. So buy game -destroy all trees -pollute like an idiot – live post apocalypse mad max style

    Ya… we will try…..

  • Reply
    Caleb N

    This game is what I thought Minecraft would be when I first started playing it. Sadly it was not. However i’m looking forward to this game very much. I hope it meets my hopes and expectations… Many of which have already been met! i look forward to being part of a player government and exploring all it has to offer! btw a 24 server with each real life day being an in game year?! we had better move fast! i have so many questions like if the air pollution gets really bad can the players black out from being oxygen deprived? or is the time until the meteor strike set as like a count down timer or is it random? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!!!!

  • Reply
    MrNoahChase

    This type of game is the type of game I’ve been wanting someone to make for years. I have always loved games where you can influence the ecosystem. I simply cannot wait for this to hit kickstarter and I hope it will be in an open alpha to at least some players (maybe ones who backed you on kickstarter). I have great hopes for this game and I may even check out strange loop’s other games just because they seem like such good developers from what I’ve seen so far.

  • Reply
    JavQM

    Can wolves kill players?, and if they do what would happen to the players?, are they going to be banned or something?

    • Reply
      hispaniafer

      are yoy going to make the game in diferents languages??? Please do spanish

      Great game, i want to play it :D

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