The Games of Christmas ’11: Day 11

By RPS on December 11th, 2011 at 10:58 am.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… Well, nothing. Because they’d perished, like the rest of them.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

It’s… the soul-crushing but fiercely brainy environmental misery that is Fate of the World!

Adam: The body count that I accrue in the average game of Fate of the World is higher than anything I achieve in anything other than the most militant of space strategy games. As Galactic Overlord Smithsonia I may deliberately destroy the population of an entire solar system, just for kicks, but put me in charge of saving the Earth from climate change, along with the wider, awful weight of humanity, and all my best efforts only seem to speed up the process of annihilation.

With its premise of a fictional global body tasked with preventing the disastrous effects of climate change, Fate of the World could easily have been a series of heavy-handed lessons about the evils of current energy policies, a finger-wag at the doubters and deniers. Fine. Perhaps that’s in there but I always feel that the game is wagging its finger at me, the fool who took on the job of fixing things, rather than at any particular group in the real world. Every step I take eventually feels like an assault upon my geopolitical naivety.

MAybe the world isn’t ruled by bastards after all, but kind-hearted individuals each laden with a banquet’s worth of plates to spin. They’re also barefoot, so as soon as a plate drops to the ground and smashes, they are wobbling back and forth on increasingly lacerated feet, their soles sundered by the failures of the past. Perhaps there’s also a legion of lobbyists armed with feather dusters darting about the place, tickling the plate-spinners so that eventually they fall to the ground convulsing with laughter and agony, a ruined mess of gore and failure lying in the ceramic shrapnel of failed ideals.

Maybe.

But Fate of the World doesn’t convince me that the top of the political pile is dominated by anything other than bastards. It doesn’t even try to. But it does ask me to take all my optimism, belief and do-goodery and attempt to make things better. And I fail. Again and again and again. I don’t think I’m entirely rubbish, it’s just that saving the world from ourselves turns out to be quite complicated. Every butterfly that I save from extinction seems to flap its wings and cause acts of wanton genocide and financial meltdown in a less fortunate part of the world.

It’s not chaos theory but the game is as much about the interconnectivity of events and actions – cause and effect – as it is about global warming. It presents problems spanning everything from economic crises to genocide and asks, “What would you do?” Perhaps you’ll be guided by ethics or idealism but that won’t last long, because Fate of the World doesn’t just ask the question, it goes on to provide the answer.

“This is what you did”, it sighs. “You killed the pandas. You propped up a dictator, you caused tens of millions to starve. War is not and will never be over and you have ruined Christmas forever.”

But that’s not to say it’s wholly depressing fare. While I always feel trepidation when I end my turn, waiting to see what fresh Hell my encouragement of the electric car industry has wrought, the process is fascinating. I pick options I initially recoiled from because I know now that their long-term consequences are more favourable than my bleeding heart optimism allowed me to believe. Far from finding the game preachy, I took away the lesson that the big issues shouldn’t be simplified, that taking sides is futile, and that, with so much at risk, there is no such thing as an easy choice.

I also learned that if you have an imported Christmas tree you’re probably responsible for the soil erosion that will eventually cause Scandinavia to slide into the sea as its population fight bitterly over the last remaining fertile land, their violence fuelled by the influx of weaponry that followed the rise of militarised Finnish drug cartels. Enjoy!

Alec: So it turns out even biofuels are bad news for someone. Biofuels! They were supposed to fix everything, I once believed. I thought they would make the world a better place, but they wrecked a continent’s economy and agriculture, they caused mass unemployment and even starvation… There is no hope. Nothing works. What are we going to do? We’re so screwed! It’s all over, we’re going to die in fire and drought and flood and disease and all the monkeys are gone already and there won’t be any computers, cars or plastic anymore and Oh, God! Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, my God! Christ! No, no, dear God! No, Christ! No, no!

Fate of the World is a very difficult turn-based strategy game indeed. There is a good reason for that. Saving the planet – saving civilisation as we know it – is not going to be a cakewalk, after all. So while it teaches me, it also scares me, rather a lot.

I’m going to shut down my PC now, before it uses any more electricity.

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48 Comments »

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  1. Chibithor says:

    Watch out, Fox News told me there might be an ungodly liberal agenda behind this game.
    It’s still fun though, but a more extensive tutorial certainly wouldn’t hurt. Steam achievements stats say 55% completed the first mission, and only 4,3% the second. (Edit: To clarify, the game does have an easy mode, but because I’m an idiot, I haven’t tried it yet)

    • Caleb367 says:

      Needs moar patches and spit’n polish, to be sure. Oh, and now that I think of it, a Faux News mode, in which oil drilling magically makes everything better and cleaner and cutting trees prevents forest fires.

    • Sumanai says:

      How can you have a forest fire without the forest? And oil washes away the sins.

    • jp0249107 says:

      Let’s leave the political talk out of this site please? It’s bad enough already as it is. Truth becomes so subjective when we start addressing issues like this.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      I tried about 5 times to finish the third mission but no luck so far.

      Sitting at work I had this brilliant new idea to finish it: decimate the population of India and China. I’ll have to try out that strategy one of these days.

    • TaroYamada says:

      @jp#########

      Hard to argue that “truth is subjective” when 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists say that climate change is happening, and that human’s are contributing to it. It’s odd to me that people have chosen to politicize science in this regard when the sole objective of the entire field is to better understand the world and environments we come into contact with, or reside in. Either way, regardless of politics being involved or not, as it stands the scientific community has been very clear about our involvement; It isn’t as subjective as you are portraying. My tip to you is look to scientists for answers to scientific questions rather than politicians or political pundits.

      You wouldn’t visit the baker for heart surgery.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      @TaroYamada

      You probably haven’t heard of climategate….

      And no, “Scientific community” is absolutely not clear about this. Climatologists couldn’t be more divided on this issue.

    • TaroYamada says:

      @ Ultra, Climategate? It was investigated by six respectable institutions, all finding no evidence of misconduct by anyone! All the boards merely stated they had poor organization of their data, and poor transparency. The sad fact that you people continue to cling to ONE study, which has been found guilty of no fraud or wrongdoing, shows how inadequate your arguments against this are.

      House of Commons Science and Tech Committee UK

      Independent British Panel exonerates Scientists involved in ‘Climategate’

      Oxburgh report clears ‘Climategate’ Scientists

      Pennsylvania State University finds no wrong doing

      United States EPA: Scientists e-mails are ‘just discussions’, accuses critics of utilizing hyperbole to find flaws in e-mails.

      US Department of Commerce clears ‘Climategate’ scientists

      Also that 97% figure I quoted is from Scientists in the field of Climate Research, linkage

    • TaroYamada says:

      @ Ultra, You are unfortunately incorrect sir, I attempted to include links but that post is now awaiting moderation (as there were 7 links, and as such I imagine their spam system is withholding the post until moderation).

      Regardless, the 97% figure is from a survey given to the world’s leading Climate scientists, not just the scientific community. That survey was performed by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Climategate is a extremely poor counterargument at this point, and you truly should know better. The scientists involved with it have been found guilty of no wrongdoing by Pennsylvania State University, The US Department of Commerce, the EPA, the House of Commons committee on Technology and Science, a independent British Panel of Scientists, and the Oxburgh report. The negative things these reports had to say was that the small team of scientists behind climate gate lacked organization and that they should have sported better transparency.

      The fact that you climate change deniers continue to cling to one study, found guilty of no misconduct or fraud by any major institution, against the many, many, many other studies that do demonstrate a correlation between human pollution and climate change, shows how desperate your arguments are and that you merely seek out support for your already established views against a literal sea of opposing evidence.

    • alundra says:

      @Taro

      Why the need to look up to scientists?? science is as tainted from political issues as every other sector of society.

      What people need to open their eyes and see the amount of storms, tornados, quakes, floods and draughts we are getting each year, oh but then there’s that issue of the huge anthropocentrism that fills humanity with so much ego that some think we can pollute, pillage and destroy this planet and it will go unpunished.

      Nah, humanity is a bouquet of flowers when it comes to being responsible for our actions.

      Do you think the governments really care about the melting of the poles?? nah, the countries with lands there are already auctioning among the private sector who’s going to get the biggest share of mining operations once that pesky ice is gone.

      My point is, there are people who say “nothing is wrong”, or “it’s not humanity’s fault”, don’t waste your time arguing with such people.

    • TaroYamada says:

      For the most part I agree with you Alundra, however I wouldn’t take science lightly, many institutions have performed studies and confirmed that climate change is indeed happening. I agree that science can be tainted, but in many cases it is not. Just recently a study came out partially funded by the Koch brothers (who deny climate change’s existence) and that study re-affirmed climate change is happening despite said study being funded by some of the richest men in the US whose businesses’ would be harmed should legislation be put in place to protect the environment further. In this instance the results trumped the expected bias.

  2. Humppakummitus says:

    I can’t play this game because I’m scared it’ll make me clinically depressed. Forever.

  3. bill says:

    I just want to say I’m very happy to have some posts to read on sunday!
    A day at work made much more fun!

  4. Jonith says:

    It is a very good. and very fun game. It’s a shame it’s such a niche game, so only a few can actually appreciate how good it is. Needs a tutorial though, put it this way, I failed on the first level on my first time playing.

  5. frenz0rz says:

    I love FotW, but it is quite possibly the hardest game I’ve ever played.

    Over my gaming career I have dominated the universe in GalCiv2, wrestled Castille into becoming an imperial superpower in EU3, and resurrected the Roman Empire in Medieval 2: Total War. In 30 hours of gameplay, however, I have not completed a single FotW campaign beyond the tutorial one. The single, lonely achievement sits there, mocking me. I’ll do it one day, I tell myself. But I know deep down thats pretty bloody unlikely.

    • Premium User Badge

      beekay says:

      I’m sure I could manage it if I could just head off that world-ending financial cataclysm which wipes five continents from the face of my budget. :(

    • Gnoupi says:

      And in the game.

    • 1wheel says:

      Have you tried reading the forums about the game? The models the uses don’t always make the most sense – a tobin tax on Australia would raise not the same amount of money as one on Europe like it does in the game. Once you’re aware of some of the strange things of that sort, the game gets a little easier.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Also, I hate to say it, but Castille is probably one of the top three easiest nations to play in EU3.

      FotW is still very hard, of course.

    • TulipWaltz says:

      I recently picked up all the DLC of the game, because it was on sale… What have I done?

  6. Lyndon says:

    Don’t want to be “that guy” hopefully people will find this informative instead of annoying but the eleventh day of Christmas is actually the eleventh day after Christmas not the eleventh day of Advent. The twelfth day after Christmas is the traditional end of the Christmas season and it’s called Twelfth Night. Shakespeare wrote a play about it. Good King Wenceslas is set on that night. Point is Christmas doesn’t end on Christmas Day, but our modern capitalist society focuses on the build up to Christmas more than the actual Christmas. Which is sad.

    So keep your Christmas decorations up till Twelfth Night people, and if anyone gives you grief about it tell them to go fuck themselves cause it’s still Christmas.

    • BobbleHat says:

      One year I couldn’t be bothered to take my decorations down and they stayed up until March.

    • Jumwa says:

      Telling people to “go fuck” themselves is always in the spirit of the season, I say.

    • Prime says:

      I take issue with traditions being set in stone. Must a thing always be done in a certain way to be ‘correct’ or can the society actively engaging in that tradition not alter it to suit their circumstances and requirements while still retaining the essential spirit of the tradition? Everything changes, and just because something is old doesn’t necessarily mean it is better or more important than something new.

      I’d far rather talk about having the phrase “that guy” ejected from the language, never to return. It’s an abomination. Just say what you have to say without pretending to apologise for the thing that you clearly enjoy doing, namely putting your opinion forwards, and stop hiding behind a fictitious archetypal construct to do it, please, thank you.

    • Lyndon says:

      Fair enough Prime but do bear in mind that it’s hard for tone to be conveyed over the internet. I meant what I said in a “I think this is interesting and more people should know it” way more than a “you are an idiot for not knowing this obscure thing I know” kind of way. My usage of the phrase “That guy” was an attempt to clarify that tone. “That guy” is the guy who loves correcting people over trival bullshit and trying to make people feel dumb because of it. I love sharing interesting stuff I know with people. There is a difference, though no doubt small.

      Also the twelve days of Christmas being after Christmas day is clearly superior because it means we get more Christmas, which is awesome cause I like Christmas.

  7. Kollega says:

    There is no hope. Nothing works. What are we going to do? We’re so screwed! It’s all over, we’re going to die in fire and drought and flood and disease and all the monkeys are gone already and there won’t be any computers cars or plastic anymore and Oh, God! Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, my God! Christ! No, no, dear God! No, Christ! No, no!

    So, basically, instead of being a call to action, a call to act for the better future and at least try to change s**t, it’s a call to inaction, a game that says the only way to stop pollution is to kill half the population of the planet and that even this will not work in the end, and that we may as well start jumping out of the windows now to save ourselves the misery of drowning in the bottomless sea of war and poverty and starvation and despair. No wonder some people are so all over it.

    I, meanwhile, will be getting drunk because that can be our future. Thanks, game! Even without playing you, you have convinced me to give up. Achievement unlocked!

    • nullspace says:

      It is actually possible to prevent catastrophe while improving quality of life and keeping the global economy growing, but it requires organization and cooperation on a global scale. (and in the game)

    • Shooop says:

      @nullspace:

      Like he said, there is no hope. Merry world-wide catastrophes everyone!

  8. WMain00 says:

    Is it still fundamentally broke though? I recall alot of commentary saying that the mathematics behind the game meant it was extremely buggy?

    • nullspace says:

      That has improved a lot in the patches. The interface is better now, too.

  9. Navagon says:

    I got this game in a bundle recently. I really got to get around to playing it. :P But yes, it does seem more than a bit bleak. Maybe I’ll save it until after Christmas that way it won’t detract from the massively festive bastard that I am.

  10. scatterbrainless says:

    Man, I almost stopped laughing at this article long enough to feel bad about the fate of our species. Almost. One of my best mates is trying to save the world with an almighty phd in microbiology, and that spinning plates thing is basically his description of every problem from oil spills to car manufacturing. Only his is a lot longer, a lot more boring, and uses words like “biomass carbon sequestration”.

    • Mirqy says:

      For those that think the game sounds too miserable, there’s a ‘Dr Apocalypse’ mode, where the objective is to bring about as much destruction as you can, whilst making off with as much stolen cash as you can get away with. Before you get lynched.

      This mode is also very difficult.

  11. Kefren says:

    I’m glad a brain-busting non-face-shooting game is at number 11! I bought this ages ago and think it might be the kind of thing to interest my girlfriend in PC games. I think it is fantastic that a game like this is being sold. The issues are bleak but encouraging people to think about them more can only be positive.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Buzko says:

    “a ruined mess of gore and failure lying in the ceramic shrapnel of failed ideals.”

    Again, thank you for hiring this man.

    • Basilicus says:

      That whole paragraph was at once hilarious, depressing, and far more touching than a metaphor about spinning plates and feather dusters had any right to be.

      So, ditto: thank you for hiring such a fantastic new writer.

  13. alms says:

    LOL, great article. A long time after giving up on the game, I stumbled upon the official(?) wiki. I have no idea if it’s actually helpful, but I’m posting the link on the off chance someone could find it useful:

    http://fateoftheworld.wikia.com/wiki/Fate_of_the_World_Wiki

  14. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I would very much like them to have a sale on this. I’d love to play it, but US$19 is just a little overpriced in today’s gaming market.

    • pertusaria says:

      It was in the Indie Royale bundle a bundle or two ago (with add-ons) – maybe it will be in something similar again.

  15. Inverselaw says:

    It took me 50 hours of play before I succeeded in my first real scenario.

    The secret is to stave off the famine due to oil shortage. If you can reduce oil use quickly enough then thers enough oil for fertilizers and enough food so that you can convert said food into biofuel. Also 4th generation Nuclear plants are the bomb for short term energy production. By the time they become insufficient your renewable power tech is usually good enough to be worth expanding.

  16. pertusaria says:

    While people are talking about this again, maybe someone can give me a hint. In the more complicated scenarios (everything but the first one), should I spend lots of money getting a diplomat in every region or concentrate on one or two critical regions to start and build up slowly? It’s frustrating to have no ability to act in most of the world, but if you have diplomats and no money to start with I’m not sure it’s winnable.

    Thanks!

    • nullspace says:

      It can work either way, as long as you don’t let a region with nukes descend into continuous wars. I like to have an agent or two in all regions in the first few turns of the game. Use the ‘Eco Campaign’ propaganda and some social programs until the people stop protesting/rioting. That at least stops approval and stability from continually getting worse, and buys you some time to actually start fixing things.

    • pertusaria says:

      OK, thank you! I shall have another go sometime soon.

    • Kizor says:

      Sure. I hire at least one person in 9-12 regions on the first turn, or on the second turn at most. I keep enough cash pouring into them to keep them from banning me or collapsing into war, and concentrate the rest on trouble spots (namely China). If you’re not abandoning a region entirely, you should keep some amount of activity going on to counteract the support loss from austerity protests and natural disasters.

      The question here is whether you should keep the whole planet on board, or throw some of it under the bus in order to save the rest. I don’t have an answer, and the game mechanics are probably too murky to have one. If you save everyone, you’ll spend an awful lot of cash playing peacekeeper when you should be laying down the groundwork for reducing emissions and surviving shortages, and the third world will use its newfound stability to improve its standard of living, causing enormous emissions as the poor jump into the middle class.

      If you use triage on the planet, you’re kinda mean, the lack of green tech in abandoned regions means that prospering ones may develop enormous emissions, oil and coal that the world needs for farming may end up being burned in power plants outside your control, it becomes easier to lose your mandate, cap & trade will suffer, and some of the instability will spill over into other regions. Abandon too many regions, and you’ll lose a lot of cost-effectiveness: you can find yourself funding expensive, marginally effective reforestation projects with cash that could go into much-needed carbon capture operations next door.

      Note that I tobin tax heavily to afford spreading myself so thin so fast. You may have to move slower if you don’t have as much experience with managing support. Oceania in particular should be in no hurry to have you around. (It makes a great cash cow if you bribe it with defenses, though)

    • Mirqy says:

      When I won the main scenario, I’d managed to pull through every region in more-or-less decent shape. Except for India. Whether due to the size of the population or other inherent problems (or my own colossally idiotic management) they kept sliding back into plague, starvation and war, no matter what I tried to do. Everyone else pretty much fine. A world population down by 1.5 billion is fine, right? Fine.

  17. Shooop says:

    I am now in the process of recommending this game to every hopeless optimist I know of.

    • Mirqy says:

      They’ll keep at it and prove it’s winnable. Then they’ll be back, more optimistic than ever.

  18. Jarenth says:

    Oh yeah, this game. I must’ve spent over an hour on the tutorial alone, fully uncertain what was even going on. It took me that long to figure out that there were differently-coloured categories of action cards, instead of only the standard ‘generic’ cards the game starts you out with.

    I spent about an hour trying to save the world with electric car endorsements and increased oil drilling. It… it didn’t work out.