Some Impressions: The Fate Of The World

By Quintin Smith on November 3rd, 2010 at 9:02 pm.

Those options, from left to right: Exterminate the Chinese, Clock Off Early, Tell Terrorists They'll Have To Wait, Order Jam Rationing, Plant a Tree.

Indie climate change strategy game Fate of the World has been on RPS’ radar for a while. As of this Monday, the beta’s been made available to all pre-order customers. Can RPS rescue our doomed world? There’s only one way to find out.

I’ll admit to it now. I approached saving planet Earth with the same attitude I have to most games – figuring I’d beat the odds with nothing but some quick learning, lateral thinking and a dash of roguish risk-taking.

Yeah. About that.

The current build of the Fate of the World beta has only one scenario, entitled Oil Crisis.

As always, you’re cast as the head of the GEO, a hypothetical governing body that’s been given the power to institute just about whatever policies it likes in order to combat climate change and generally stop the world from crumbling like a wet biscuit into the murky tea of chaos.

In Oil Crisis, it is the year 2020. Your objective is simply to get to the year 2120. Each turn is 5 years, making that 20 turns. The game ends if the global temperature rises by 3 degrees, if your expenditures are higher than your funding, if the GEO is banned from operating in 8 of the game’s 12 regions, or if the global HDI drops below 0.5 (meaning development of the world comes screeching to a halt).

Basically, just do the job. How you actually play Fate of the World is incredibly simple. Each turn you’re given cash by all of the regions you’re operating in. This cash can firstly be used to buy operatives, and each operative you have in a region gives you a slot to play a card in. The cards look like this:

And represent policies, actions or construction projects. Each turn you drop your cash instituting various cards, and maybe buy a few extra operatives, and then you end your turn and watch 5 years tick by. That’s it.

Is the game, then, just picking sound policies? Swapping to nuclear and renewable energy sources? Researching advanced tech? Building carbon scrubbers?

Well, no. As you’ll see above, each region has a wealth of stats that can be brought up. What you can there is a fraction of the info at your fingertips. Policies don’t just need to be sound, they need to suit the region. An anti-deforestation program in Latin America can reap huge benefits. The same program in Europe will simply sit in one of your card slots like a fat, rectangular lump.

SO: Do you simply click your teeth while examining the numbers, then pick the most suitable policies?

Well, no. Because these are troubled times, and you’re being funded by the whole planet. If you’re not causing a direct improval in a region’s quality of life, the GEO will get kicked out of that region, or your operatives will get murdered, or both. In any case, you won’t be getting any more funding from them.

Here’s how my end of turn summary looked at the beginning of the game:

And here’s what it looked like after 20 years:

The GEO was as popular as a fart in a submarine. My decision to tackle the kids who were killing the planet as opposed to the ones who were actually dying caused India and North Africa to punt the GEO out, meaning less funding for me and no influence in those areas.

And here’s the same chart after 50 years:

I had entered proper Billy No-mates territory. My actions had led me to being abandoned by half the world. On the plus side, I was still receiving enough funding to look after the other half, who just thought I was a bit of a shit.

At this point, my game shifted. I began simply trying to keep the GEO alive by lessening the misery caused by peak oil, so the other regions wouldn’t kick me out. Latin America was a sore point.

If I could just hang on for five more years, they might change their tune. I abandoned my (achingly effective) anti-deforestation program, and focused on dropping unemployment and building Aid centres. If nothing bad happened in the next 5 years, the people of Latin America might start seeing the long-term benefits of these operations and SON OF A BITCH-

And that was how my operatives ended up taking charter flights out of Latin America.

So. Fate of the World is a game where you click your teeth while looking at numbers to determine effective policies, while attempting a political balancing act to do with easing the globe’s suffering?

Well, no. Because sometimes a decent policy in one region will dick over another region catastrophically.

In my game, it was biofuels. I needed an alternative to oil, and biofuels struck me as a good choice. Renewable and clean? Perfect. Sign me up. What I didn’t predict was the crippling effect my encouragement of biofuel adoption in first world countries would have on lesser economically developed countries. With farms growing less actual food, food prices went up, causing anger and starvation and snapping assorted economies like twigs.

This is Fate of the World. You think, you scheme, you rub your chin, you decide on your plan, you cast the die and then the game tells you fucked up, and the walrus is dead.

Fate of the World is almost certainly the most brilliant educational game I’ve ever played, and its brilliance is in its simplicity. The rules of the game are swallowed in seconds, and from there you do nothing but thinking and learning. Thinking, because the game offers nothing else- there are no animations or repetition, and learning because despite the game’s apparent simplicity you keep making mistakes, and you want to fix them, but fixing them causes more mistakes, and then you want to fix them.

Because you’re close to something amazing! You really are! The predicted temperature of the Earth 100 years from now is dropping. You saved the Orangutan. You prevented those flash-floods from causing untold pain in the Middle East. The Earth is opening up to you like a Rubix-cube, its patterns shifting, locking and unlocking in unexpected ways. There is a way to solve this puzzle. You know there is. But it’s always just out of reach.

After I’d built flood barriers and instituted some wildlife protection programs, Europe quickly became my stronghold, from where I’d commission research. But research into what? In this beta build, you can’t click on cards to access real-world information on them, something I was pining for. Did I want to research superconductor tech? What’s a superconductor? I needed to learn.

I suspect that Fate of the World is going to earn itself a great deal of attention in the media, as well it should. For an enjoyable game to be married so effectively with education, and on such an important issue, makes me want to take off my shirt and jump around. But then I’d put the shirt back on, because it’s cold and the central heating’s off because I’m trying to save electricity and I think that’s probably saving the planet and not killing somebody on another part of the planet. Probably. If there’s a bad side to Fate of the World, it’s that it teaches a hopeless skeptic on most policies.

If you’re curious about Fate of the World and want in the beta, remember that a pre-order is all it takes. Good luck, and remember… remember to… …ah, shit, I’ve got no tips.

Who knew saving the world would be so hard?

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176 Comments »

  1. Corbeau says:

    Okay, this game is great in so many ways, but one thing really, deeply bothers me. There are no policies for population control. Nothing about education on birth control, nothing about even government imposition. Nothing. The only similar option is mass poisoning in covert ops.

    That strikes me as being an ideological blind spot on the part of the designers, and it troubles me greatly.

    • sfury says:

      Well they do take advice on what new cards gamers would want on their survey here – http://survey.red-redemption.com/index.php?sid=98333&newtest=Y&lang=en/ – those are good ideas you mentioned, so please tell them.

      I also hope there will be more cards in the full game, my selection felt a bit limited compared to their flash climate change game Though they maybe did that so it doesn’t become incredibly complex, you have whole 12 very different regions here, and also have to keep them happy or things get a bit chaotic. But still a bit more options would be great.

  2. Oozo says:

    That will teach me not to read RPS before going to bed.
    I dreamt that Quinn’s final judgement on this game thus: “Noble, but the noble cause is a bit underminded by the overabundance of cards needlessly showing boobs and vintage pin-up models”.

  3. frags says:

    ‘You saved the Orangutan’ Pure gold. Game sounds really cool. Will check it out.

  4. sfury says:

    Bought it immediately when they offered it for pre-order (and I’ve been waiting for that since RPS’ interview with the devs).

    So far I like it a lot, though I’m far from saving the world yet. My biggest problem is what Quinns said – some of the cards offer too little or no info about their effect or how they work or how long it will take for a project or research to come to fruition. There’s a sense that this is a game with lots of stats and management and some strong underlaying rules, but so far without a tutorial or some manual you have to blindly stumble through it and sometimes even do not understand what you have done and to what effect for lots of in-game years.

    Their previous flash Climate Change game was pretty good in telling what does what and why (though it had screwed up economics) so I’m hoping they’ll polish that here too.

  5. bbot says:

    Great concept, but it sure is a beta.

    The card model is interesting and blatantly intuitive, but it falls down a bit on making a firm distinction between projects (which you can always start, which will never end, serve to increase a particular stat) offices (which pretty much only unlock their branch of cards) research projects (which say they go on forever, but don’t) and actions.

    Actions are particularly weird. Each turn lasts for 5 years, so each action lasts for 5 years. Then why make the distinction? You can’t fast forward any less than five years at a time to manage things on a finer scale, so it’s just more interface complication.

    Speaking of interface complication, the spinning globe world view. Sure, it’s pretty (kinda sorta, the texture isn’t terribly high resolution) but it doesn’t actually display any useful information. You can’t see the effects of climate change or wildfires or economic depression (city lights going out) or brownouts (lights flickering) or even city names. It would be the perfect place to display death tolls, but no.

    There also seems to be an odd bug where you “finish” research projects but the cards remain in your hand. Are they finished or not?

    The game also gets confused when you get kicked out of a region, and let back in, viz hiring representatives.

    It also really, really, really needs to do a better job telling you how pissed the regions are at you. Getting kicked out a region has enormous effects on gameplay, and so the game should warn you, or at least make it a tiny bit more obvious.

    Also, the music is terrible, and it ignores standard UI conventions (you can’t ctrl+v the serial code into the unlock field, and it took me a while until I noticed the “paste” button, and you can’t use the mouse scroll wheel to scroll)

    The UI itself looks a lot like a Flash game, and not at all in a good way. Big round buttons, and no keyboard shortcuts. And I appreciate the thought behind personalizing the interface for each region, but it’s a whole lot of useless chrome and is pretty hard on the eyes to boot.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The pissed off thing was clear for me. Low number of hearts = about to go.

      KG

    • D says:

      I agree with UI concerns, but I think it works pretty well overall. My hopes follow
      - One thing I have a really hard time with, is how each region has its own remembered-layout, so when you switch back to North America, it will goddamn remember if you were looking at the stats screen or the cards screen last time you were there. Very often, I just wanted to look at the same screen I was already at, but just for North America instead of India. So it’s quite unintuitive to me.

      - Don’t use half the screen to separate the “Page 1/2″ text from the next/previous page buttons. Put them suckers right on each other, since they’re so closely related.

      - Let me open the “Cards” screen when I click on one of them cards on the bottom! I’m always clicking there anyways because I already know exactly which card I want to replace.

      - And related to this, let me recruit one more agent for the region I’m looking at right now, because I just need this one more card in play and then they won’t hate me the next round. Maybe. Ok, it’s a long shot.

      - And oh god yes, please use the main spinning globe for something other than just an animated background. It’s very pretty though. I don’t really care for the red and green dots, because I have to go through each regions news bulletin anyways in case I’d miss that South Africa is getting pissed off. Again.

      This game is so good and I’d be playing it right now instead of complaining, if only I hadn’t accidentally fried my vram last night. Yay computer games!

  6. MadZab says:

    So why is the font for North Africa in Thai letters?

  7. Matthew says:

    The game looks to be as awesomely interesting as I predicted when I first heard about it on this very site. Yay!

  8. Meneth says:

    It’s an interesting game, though atm the UI is pretty bad, there’s too little info on what different cards do, and there’s some bugs that need ironing out.
    For example. biofuels seem to have no effect after level 1. So when I finally try to stop oil production, the world economy completely collapses
    So far, I’ve only managed to win a single campaign, out of about half a dozen. I usually lose due to the economy collapsing, or the temperature climbing too far.

  9. Nallen says:

    Can you integrate DEFCON? :)

    • Jimmy says:

      DEFCON-style + this game engine = win, but then it might not appeal to all. Besides, the cold war is over. But, yes something like a national grid interface would be cool. Maybe integrate with Total War as well?

  10. mihor_fego says:

    I can’t believe this game caught the attention of a major TV channel here in Greece, which presented it on the news!
    Even if it can’t reach deep within all aspects of what the future holds in terms of global issues, provoking people to search around to get more information is by itself worthy of praise.

  11. Matthew says:

    Also, just read some of the comments under the Guardian review and associated announcement of the game.

    Some really strange people out there. Apparently that covert sterilization card is a telltale sign of the evil Warmist religion agenda. Also no one plays games that aren’t Call of Duty, so this ‘educational quiz’-looking thing will obviously fail because it hasn’t got ‘a dedicated and hardcore fanbase, or a million dollar marketing campaign’. And Al Gore has a house on the beach, which for the life of me I can’t figure out what that has to do with the game, but a few commenters considered it very important. Godwin showed up, naturally.

    The devs could do with emphasizing the Dr Apocalypse scenario; a lot of people suggested playing the game to destroy the world, without realizing it can be a win condition. Also since the game is educational people for some reason assume it won’t be very fun, and say how it won’t survive in the market against other ‘fun’ games.

    Our civilization’s educational systems are so utterly broken that ostensibly mature people automatically associate the word ‘educational’ with ‘boring’ and ‘un-fun’. And then we wonder why people reject science. It just makes me a sad, extinct panda.

  12. pkt-zer0 says:

    A game that can be entertaining and educational at the same time? Sign me up.

  13. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I like the way it’s one of the few forms of media which expresses the complexity of the issues involved, hell the biggest suspension of disbelief in the game is the part where they say “at the start, you have the kind of power required to plan a solution to this issue in the first place”

    although i doubt a thorough and expensive manned space flight project is an option & it really needs to be as it’s the only viable solution to long term survival of the human race.

  14. Tiktaalik says:

    They don’t seem to have a forum for feedback. This seems to be a bad idea. I want to post and discuss on a forum, not fill in a web form!

    • Lyrandon says:

      In the beta manual they state that we should use the steam forum for discussion (it does not exist at the moment). I’m confused by this too, because a proper forum is not much work and they would get a lot better feedback and discussion.

  15. Michael Hoss says:

    I feel with you Quintin. The fucked up walrus dies all the time and africa always declares war to me. But hey. I managed it to get the global warming down. but than I was kicked out from japan cause they were pissed of the taxes. hargh. Fate of the World is such an unfair game and I still love it. Even after I learned that if I’d be ruler of the world at least six countries would start a war.

  16. sredni says:

    Reminds me of http://www.3rdworldfarmer.com/

    You play as a 3rd world farmer just trying to survive. While technically possible to win, it is insanely hard and throws disasters at you whenever you are close to meeting the win conditions. I liked it because the message was in the mechanic – it is an excellent rebuttal to the ‘bootstraps’ argument.

  17. Matthew says:

    Waiting for it on Steam so I can preorder.

  18. Souldark says:

    I just finished my first game, lost the scenario at 2095. I cannot for the life of me work out a good method of keeping the temperature from rising. I pretty much went up by half a degree every 5 turns or so, no matter how much I capped emissions or banned biofuels :(

  19. Corbeau says:

    One really nifty mechanic: it looks like the effectiveness of some policies relates directly to the attitude of the particular country. Instituting Cap and Trade in America did pretty much nothing, but instituting it in Europe after an extensive global awareness campaign (that altered it’s attitude all the way to Green) claimed to be much more effective.

    This game really needs to explain it’s complex layering better.

  20. Master of None says:

    “its brilliance is in its simplicity”

    The question I found myself asking after playing was: “Why is this a standalone PC game?”

    This game is so simple, it could easily have been a Flash game, and the cadence is more suited to a mobile gaming environment. This game would be a lot more fun on an iPhone.

    … am I banned yet?

  21. Cronstintein says:

    Why is it asking for 3gigs of ram for a turn + card based game? That’s got me scratching my head. I blame it on the unnecessary globe.

  22. irongamer says:

    Gah, this game is down right depressing. I don’t understand how project cards and cards with infinity for time work. I don’t seem to see any benefit from them over the course of a game.

  23. amishmonster says:

    For people in the beta, have you found any support/discussion options? Other than the survey form sfury linked, I can’t find any kind of community or beta-oriented features. How did you even find the survey, sfury? Did I miss something in the e-mails?

    That said, enjoying the game so far, depressing though it is. Definitely needs population control. And in the game.

    • Meneth says:

      There seems to be no forums at all.
      The website has a contact e-mail, but that’s pretty much it.
      The feedback form is linked in-game (fateoftheworld.com/feedback)

  24. Megazver says:

    Not everyone that’s worried about the science is a GW denialist, you know. Me, I’m a bit worried too, but not about GW but about portrayal of nuclear power. The enviromentalists are still split on it, but more and more now realize that it’s the only way to satisfy the humanity’s energy needs that are currently provided by coal, with significantly less enviromental risks. How does the game handle it? Can you just build wind and solar until you don’t need coal anymore?

    • Hentzau says:

      It has an “Expand nuclear energy” option, it has fast breeder and fusion reactors, and it has a project which slowly phases out coal over sixty years while you (seperately) increase either nuclear or renewables to take up the slack. Of course if you switch over to electric cars while you’re doing this the energy grid will collapse under the strain. If you rely on biofuels to allieviate the dwindling oil supply, the third world starves. So nuclear is one of the main “clean” energy options, but implementing it effectively is a little bit tricky.

  25. Droniac says:

    This looks great!

    That’s a pre-order.

    Let’s see how this beta thing goes :p

  26. Heimmrich says:

    Great deal of attention indeed. Saw about the game in a website about general things (events and such) of my city. I’m from Brazil and the site has nothing to do with video-games. Took a look there, but not very gamer-reliable information, a google search later and I ended up here. Funny how things work sometimes.

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