Eco Sounds Like Minecraft But With Consequences

I’ve been reading about Eco [official site] this morning – a game which is currently in alpha but sounds crazy ambitious and wants to have players build a civilisation but also feel the impact of everything they do on the game-world’s environment.

Here’s the trailer they took to PAX:

It seems like a Minecrafty world but where you’re not living in that sandboxy bubble of just being able to mine out resources and create machines without impacting food chains and pollution levels. This is the site blurb:

“Eco is an online game where players must collaborate to build a civilization in a world where everything they do affects the environment. All resources come from a simulated ecosystem, with thousands of plants and animals simulating 24/7. Work together through the player-run government and economy to build the technology to stop a meteor on a collision course with the planet, without polluting the world and killing it off in the process before that even happens.”

To me that feels ambitious to the point where I have no idea how/if it will function. It has already won awards, like the Climate Challenge pitch award, though, and there’s an alpha that interested parties can buy into for $40 (or more depending on the level of access/influence you’re after). ALL OF THE EARLY ACCESS CAVEATS APPLY ETC ETC.

I’m just going back through the Kickstarter and there are things mentioned like: “In the extreme, the food supply of the ecosystem can be destroyed, along with all human life on it, resulting in server-wide perma-death. Eco is a game where the player’s actions have meaningful consequences.”

I wonder how you balance/moderate for that? Especially in an age where people will just turn up on a server and do their damnedest to ruin things just because they can. Or maybe you’d just start a new server so… would the impact just be lessened? Would you just mine out a world on one server and then hop to the next?

The availability of data on the ecosystems looks really interesting too, and I can see why they’re selling a classroom bundle. I studied biology up to the end of high school (A-level if you’re a UK reader) and our course focused really heavily on ecosystems and biodiversity. For my final project I looked at how lichens colonise gravestones and how the balance of different lichens changes over time indicating that some are primary colonisers.

If this simulates the impact of various decisions in-game and gives a little context on the whys and wherefores (i.e. change after a particular law is voted in) I can see that being a valuable teaching tool.

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    • DuncUK says:

      Also, Griefer’s Paradise; the game

      • geldonyetich says:

        Maybe not. Griefers will ruin any open world game, but the thing about one where they impact he environment so drastically is they would have to live with the consequences as well.

        Anyway, I had a similar concept. It’s actually very rudimentary: Minecraft, but with environmental consequences. Box, but made out of cardboard. Game, but this one uses the keyboard. Comment, but this one tried to be insightful. The implementation is the thing.

  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Been loading this up every now and then to keep an eye on progress, while it’s quite clunky in places the actual sim side of it is very compelling and the progress made with each new build is pretty good.

  2. Ur-Quan says:

    The concept sounds pretty nice, but I fear that this will quickly devolve into Trolling: The Game.
    Think about all the ways a bunch of trolls can screw with everyone else playing on the same server.

  3. vrittis says:

    Sounds a bit too much “Molyneux’s acorn”-ish. I’d keep it at arm’s length for now, but the premise sounds interesting!

    • benkc says:

      Help me out, is “Someone’s acorn” an allusion to something?

      But yes, just from context, I agree with your sentiment.

  4. klops says:

    Sounds like a feeding ground for the griefers.

  5. whodafug says:

    Sounds like propaganda to me.

  6. Kefren says:

    Since population is always a factor (impact factor x no. of beings causing impact) I wonder if there’s any way to simulate that in terms of players having offspring, or via just having player control of how many other humans are allowed on each server.

  7. Chatterwell says:

    Concept is one I love, but I’m pretty certain this will sadly become a Griefers fantasy world.

    Would be great on a Role Play server, or with a large dedicated group of friends

    If this game’s target demographic wasn’t the people of the planet Earth, this may of had potential to be fun.

  8. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    I remember reading back then that Ultima Online had an ecosystem simulation as well.. but the Internet just tells me that “it was removed because the players quickly deforested the land and killed off all the animals”

  9. Premium User Badge

    Captain Narol says:

    I like the concept a lot, but the lego/minecraft “blocky” graphical style is really pushing me away, and I’m not sure the practical gameplay will interest me much…

    So back to my “No Troll’s Sky”, where griefers cannot reach you (which probably explain why they turn so massively to the steam forums to cause trouble and spread hate…)

    • Premium User Badge

      yhancik says:

      It looks far far far less blocky than Minecraft and its clones

      • phelix says:

        Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the art-style is lowpoly.
        Minecraft is voxels incarnated as a world of blocks.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      That’s quite the generalisation you just made about people who don’t like NMS.

      • Sleepy Will says:

        I think it was more a generalisation of people posting vileness on the NMS forums – which is a set of people not identical to people who don’t like no mans sky. Which is a long and clumsy way of saying, I think they agree with you.

      • Premium User Badge

        Captain Narol says:

        You twist my words, I’m definitely not saying that everyone that dislikes NMS is a troll, we all have our personal tastes about games and this one is clearly not tailored for everyone’s taste.

        What I mean, is that there’s currently a lot of trolls in the steam forums about NMS and that it’s kinda a game in itself for them to bash everyone who still enjoy it despise the smearing campaign fueled on purpose by some redditers and youtubers.

  10. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Like others have said, this sounds great, apart from the other people part. If it wasn’t online-only, it might have a chance, as people could be introduced to the game without the possibility of griefing – just like Minecraft. It’s not like it would even be particularly challenging to replace players with NPCs in this context; city builders and strategy games often contain worker units that serve a similar purpose and are/can be automated.

  11. lglethal says:

    I had no idea that there were different types of Lichens on Gravestones, depending on their age and stuff. That’s something I find really interesting! Thanks Pip!

    I’m going to go look into that (after work of course! *cough*).

  12. syndrome says:

    Isn’t anyone interested in how ACTUAL world sorted out the griefers issue? It’s not like it’s constantly griefed, isn’t it? At least not on our situational individual scale of obvious.. Perhaps we could port that back? Emulate somehow?…

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      If you mean in real life, people are less prone to grief when the consequences for it lands on their physical selves. Despite that, we still need laws and rules that are enforced by police to keep them in check.

    • Moonracer says:

      game griefing is more prominent since you can cause chaos and leave at any time with no personal consequence. Real life griefers do exist, just not to the same extent. Just think of all the internet videos of pranksters. Recently I saw a video of a guy sneaking around NYC, cutting random people’s selfie sticks in half with a bolt cutter.

    • skeletortoise says:

      Not to be grim or serious about this point, but now that I’ve thought of it it just seems too spot on to not point out terrorism is a pretty good real world form of griefers. The only real difference I would say is attitude or mindset. Griefers don’t take anything seriously and terrorists take themselves and certain things VERY seriously.

  13. vorador says:

    Way too ambitious this one.

    And yeah, being able to permanently ruin the game for everybody else means somebody WILL do it. Wonder how they’re going to deal with griefers.

  14. Moonracer says:

    This will be one of those games that is only playable on private servers. That’s nothing new in gaming.

    My real concern is how well the mechanics are designed to prevent bypassing the risks? Can I just dump toxic waste in an artificial pool to bypass water pollution? Can I make animal reserves?

    What I do like is how limited the resources look on such a small sphere. It looks like the world could only hold about 10 active players at a time and hopefully the core is molten so you can only dig so far.

  15. Artist says:

    Nice idea. But until the devs provide proper proof of meaningful multi-core support (beyond separating networking, sound and load/save) this is probably not much more than a pipedream. Unfortunatly Indies arent known for proper support of multi-core designs.

  16. ErraticGamer says:

    That is a cool concept, but it’s not just the “other people” aspect I’m curious about the workings of – as other mentioned, you play on private servers, okay, problem largely solved.

    I don’t understand what the motivators will be for most of what they showed. Giant skyscrapers and the resources required to build them and the environmental impact of harvesting and investing those resources don’t make any sense outside of a world that already has jobs, and companies employing people and needing to cram hundreds or thousands of them into one place at one time. Road networks only make sense if people need to transport themselves and goods in huge quantities. Giant viaducts only make sense in a world where humans need clean water for drinking and washing, and sewage only makes sense when they produce waste. If you’re intending to make meaningful commentaries on how humans and ecology interrelate, “30 folks getting together to build cool looking stuff” is going to miss a lot of the reasons real-world problems actually arise.

  17. polarnomad says:

    While I agree that this project seems doomed to fail specifically because players need to moderate and co-ordinate their actions so as not to adversely affect the in-game environment, I say hats off to the developers for attempting to pull it off. Definitely going to keep my eye on this.

    Thank you, Pip, for bringing Eco to our attention.

  18. goertzenator says:

    Having given alpha 4 a good shake, I can answer some questions and fill in some blanks:

    – There is property ownership and permission mechanisms to keep strangers from interacting with your property. That said, griefers can sabotage a town by say claiming land where a future road would go. There supposed to be new features to deal with that, but can they keep up with a determined griefer?

    – Most of the crafting tables in the game have a room requirement, so you must build more complex rooms as the game goes on. I didn’t get all the way to the end, but I suspect those highrises are ridiculous.

    – The most interesting part of the game for me is the logistics game. You get *one* heavy item slot (heavy item = log or ore block), so roads and carts are mandatory beyond your first shack. Do you build a tricky mountain road to get that nearby ore vein or do you go for the much more distant vein on the other side of that grassland? Additionaly, these mechanics raise the cost of griefing. You can’t just go mine out a vein on a whim… it takes planning, infrastructure, and often help from another player.

    – Some economic systems are broken at the moment, but the overall picture will be very interesting if they can make it all work. In the early game you have a barter economy and can set up stores to trade goods. Later on currency arrives to make this easier. I recall efforts at an economy in Minecraft… why would I buy that when I can easily make it myself? That’s where the skill system comes in: being an effective steelworker and effective concrete worker at the same time is not practical.. players must specialize to move the game forward. Skill development involves eating high quality food and waiting, so a gamer dad who can drop in an hour a day can still be as pivotal part of the economy as a kid who plays 8 hours a day. No skill farming here.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      These are good starting points, but it still seems like you could easily grief a settlement by simply exterminating the nearby animal life. No need to transport the meat – just let it rot on the ground. Even if the locals find it, it will be the last meat they get for a while.

      • goertzenator says:

        IIRC it take a bit of skill development to get the bow, chop down trees, make a hut, make a workbench, and manufacture arrows. Not high tier complex stuff at all, but still a decent investment if you just want to grief.

  19. LordDamien says:

    We started a Minecraft server back in beta when fires will spread (almost) indefinitely and animals would only grow in patches of grass.
    In a month of casual playing, we:
    – Accidentally provoked fires that got rid of all the trees on the island.
    – Lost all grass patches due lava/water floods.
    – End up in a wasteland of stone, glass and metal semi-demolished fortresses and rock dicks until all carbon and other finite resources were exhausted.

    So don’t sub-estimate players’ skills for mayhem, even accidental mayhem.

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