New Features 📡
Replaced the character controller
Character no longer slips and slides around walls in confined spaces.
The new controller is more responsive, should feel better when moving around in precarious situations like building the walls and roofs of buildings.
Character climbs stairs without requiring jumping.
Character no longer slides off of steep slopes, like roofs.
Improved the tutorial
Added a Controls popup that tells you how to interact with things in the world when you look at them for 1 second. Shows what each mouse button and ‘E’ key do.
Added initial support for playing on local worlds. Note: Initially this is a PC only feature, we will be looking at adding support for this on OSX and Linux in the future.
You can create and load worlds locally, and play without needing to setup your own server - it does most of the legwork for you.
Added a ‘Continue’ option, which will remember the last server you joined or world you loaded. One click gets you back into the game!
- Introduced the concept of ‘Specialties’, which are branches of the skill tree that require research
- Restructured the skill tree to place all Specialties at the root
- Reorganized the skills window to be easier to navigate
- Simplified skill costs
Player avatars now have more accurate foot placement and new animations including running, jumping and swimming.
Torches can now be seen when carried by other players
Updated water art!
Improved the end game win sequence.
Changed the way the Laser works: it now destroys the meteor 30 seconds after activating. Since this removes the 9 hour charging time, it instead requires double power.
Animated the lasers to turn to their target
Made the meteor easier to spot, fixed issues where the meteor was impossible to see.
Improved hammer functionality
Changed the units of the AirPollutionSource and AirPollutionSpread world layers from tons of pollution per 16 square meters to tons of pollution per square meter.
Made /help sort and categorize the displayed chat commands.
🐞 Bugs Fixed 🐞
- Fixed bug where laws and government were not saved when hitting save in the server GUI
- Added /dumpcarried command
- Fixed room requirements for the Repair Station
- Reduced stutter due to garbage collection
- Added admin commands /setreputation and /setreputationrelative
- Fixes phantom items in inventory
- Fix bug where the Cause & Effect API would fail when inspecting layer relationships in an area that isn't aligned with the world origin
- Fix some number formatting issues in Cause & Effect
- Fixes a lot of issues when holding logs with shovel, or rubble with pickaxe, etc.
- Fixes some items not appearing in store selection window, including coal and certain seeds.
- If world layers changed dirt in stockpiles to other types, such as grass or desert sand, the stockpile used to lose the dirt item associated with it. Fixes that.
- Fixed a server crash when claiming property with a deed crafted at a workbench
- Removed Stone Roof (migrated to mortared stone roof in a previous release)
- Fixes some server crashes related to crafting projects
- Fixed problems with tooltips that were too tall for the screen
- Fixed problems with tooltips closing even while still being hovered over
- Added tooltips to items showing which skill gives that item, if any
- Fixed not being able to walk after opening the advanced settings in the escape menu.
- Fixed protection on fuel supplies that prevents unauthorized players from removing fuel from them
- Fixed rubble placement against walls
- Fixed occasional crashes when performing trades
The Eco Steam date is official: February 6th! We’ll be launching our Beta version in Early Access.
Until then, all purchasers past-and-present will get these alpha rewards, a Meteor Shard and a Top Hat and Goggles, as a way to say thanks for your support all these years!
If you are reading this on the forum, there's a good chance you are already an Alpha backer. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts We couldn’t have made it this far without you.
Once we release on Steam these rewards will no longer be available to new players, and we will be dropping the price from $40 to $30 (Any accounts or invites purchased before then will retain the rewards).
Also just released 6.3! Check out the feature list here.
We’ve left Alpha 5 in the oven a bit longer to get it more polished, and today it’s ready to be released! Check it out at strangeloopgames.com/eco, where you can pick up the alpha version and give it a try.
New in Alpha 5:
New climate and ecosystem model, tracking ground and air pollution, global temperature from CO2 released, sea levels rising, deforestation impacts, biomes that change, dynamic irrigation, and much more.
Avatar creation and customization, with clothing as a new item type.
Added turkeys, bison, and foxes to the ecosystems.
New web browser map visualization; Can view most aspects of the world, such as populations of various species and pollution levels as they change over time. View animations of global temperature rising, or any statistic changing. Use it to propose arguments in the law system
Power system, both burning fuel for campfires or generating electricity from a generator and power grid.
Significant tech-tree work: new skills and crafting items
Tons of polish, bug fixes, and other small features.
We’re cruising along towards beta, and then the Steam release after that (after which all purchasers will get a free Steam key).
We now have a public discord for chatting about Eco and its development. You can join the Eco discord here: https://discord.gg/ge3JDp2. You can also join us in the forums here.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us, been amazing seeing the community grow and getting tons of great feedback. Keep it coming, and feel free to email us directly. You can also follow us on Facebook where we will be posting daily updates from the team here.
Onwards to Beta!
We’ve been working hard getting the Ecosystem update ready for Eco Alpha 5 and looking forward to getting feedback from our early backers. We’ve decided to give it a few more weeks of polish and bug-fixing before we send it out, so we’re moving the Alpha 5 date to Oct 24th. Alpha 4 is available now at strangeloopgames.com/eco however, and all buyers will get all future versions (including a Steam key).
Here’s a look at a few of the new things coming in Eco Alpha 5.
Dynamically growing plants:
New biomes, including desert:
Biomes are driven by the underlying ecosystem simulation, which is composed of dozens of individually simulated layers that interact:
Biomes will actually change depending on the climate, and a world wracked with CO2 pollution will have sprawling deserts that take over farmlands.
We’re building ways to view and understand all the connections in this simulation, as doing so will be required in order to successfully build a civilization in the game without bringing the world to ruin. Beyond understanding it yourself, you’ll need to convince others of what is happening and the right course of action for the player-run governments to take. In Eco, climate is not just a scientific challenge but a social one.
Thanks to all our supporters and can’t wait to share what we’re working on in Alpha 5 and on towards beta and launch. Feel free to email with any questions or feedback.
Following up on our Alpha 4 Economy Release, we’re releasing the last build before beta, Alpha 5, Ecosystem Release.
This build focuses on building out the climate model, farming model, plants and animals, and player avatars. Things you’ll find in this build (enable pictures for screenshots):
- Climate model. Air pollution from human sources will contribute to the C02 content of the atmosphere, raising global temperatures (potentially destroying farms and biomes) and melting ice caps to raise the sea level.
- Farming model. Plants and animals now rely on temperature and soil moisture, which can be impacted by a number of factors, both natural and man-made. Farming becomes a lot more about planning and irrigating the land and understanding the impact and where crops will grow best.
- Irrigation model. Players can now build aqueducts to transport water over long distances to irrigate crops and supply buildings. This will be key for building the large-scale farms needed to succeed in the game. In the screenshot below you can see how water travels much further in an aqueduct than in an uncontained channel, and the spread of water into the surrounding land that results.
- World Layers. To support these systems and many others we’ve introduced a World layers system, where multiple layers determine values on the surface of the world, changing over time. We’ll be making these accessible to the player so they can view animations of how things like global temperature, animal populations, and pollution change over time and use it in arguments for laws. The image below is the new control panel on the server.
New plants and animals. We’re adding a lot more depth to the ecosystem with a new set of plants and animals.
Avatars. We’re creating player models and a clothing system which will give boosts to activities.
Alpha 4 is for sale now at strangeloopgames.com/eco and all buyers will get Alpha 5 (and all future versions including Steam) free when it comes out.
Thanks for supporting us, it was amazing to meet so many people interseted in the game at PAX, and having this kind of support while we complete the game has been extremely encouraging. Lots more to come and we’re excited to hear your feedback as we get there.
We’ve created a new updated trailer for Eco, which we’ll be demoing at PAX! Check it out below.
We’ve been hard at work on Alpha 5 and have a ton of new stuff coming soon. We’ve added a new ‘World Layer’ system, that handles climate change, irrigation, temperature, pollution, plant/animal populations, and much more, and they’re all connected together. Check out how farming is affected by various factors below:
Farming now is really affected by the wider factors that affect the world - climate change can change temperature and rainfall and destroy farms, pollution can make ground infertile, and player-made irrigation can significantly make an area better for farming. There are many other aspects of the game that will be affected by these factors as well.
We’re extending the ecosystem to many more plants and animals as well, and will have new biomes as part of the world. Check out one of our new animals that will be roaming the plains, the bison:
Thanks as always for following us, the game is available now in Alpha here, and all backers will get a Steam key when we launch there. Follow us on Facebook here for updates as well.
Thanks and as always let us know any questions.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Pokemon Go phenomenon is its speed; in a week, it was used more than Twitter.
It was an idea the world was ready for, packaged in a form that was easily approachable.
It speaks to the acceptance we already have of the digital world that augments our lives; we’re already summoning people to drive us around from the ‘augmented’ transportation system, social media ‘augments’ how we communicate and engage with other people, and dating among young people happens primarily through the ‘augmented’, gamified social landscape of apps like Tinder. Pokemon Go’s arrival, suddenly adding a sense of wonder and magic to the everyday world around us, was a welcome addition to the lives of so many, clicking instantly with players on a massive scale. It is this general concept of augmentation (beyond overlaid maps and video), connecting the virtual world and the real world, that holds the potential for huge benefits to society. Most of our life, in fact, is already augmented in some fashion by technology that persists around it, alongside it, shaping it and being shaped by it in an increasingly important and useful augmented space.
Oddly enough, the same can’t be said of education. Education is one of the few facets of modern life that has very little digital connection, and yet could potentially benefit the most from it. In many cases, institutions explicitly block digital access out of safety or relevance concerns, missing the potential for providing the huge benefits we already receive in the rest of our lives. In order for education to advance into the modern age, this must change.
Classrooms: The Game Designer’s Dream Space
Games in the classroom are not new, I grew up playing them in elementary school (Oregon Trail forever!). Despite their long history in education, the roles of games in school has not changed much. The classic case for their use is the computer lab:
- Generally a solitary experience, with students sitting down and using a computer or tablet alone.
- One-off experiences, where students play a 15 to 30 minute game.
- The teacher sits off to the side, acting primarily as tech support.
- It resembles recess, a kind of reward and break from the ‘real work’ of school.
Such a use of the classroom space is unfortunate, because there is essentially no richer and more interesting space to design a game for than the classroom environment. It’s a game designer’s dream space:
- You have an instant group of friends playing the game, where everyone knows each other.
- They physically gather and meet every weekday.
- There’s an experienced guide invested in their success whom they interact with several hours per day.
- They all have access to the same level of hardware, internet connectivity, and similar schedules to play together.
Trying to make a game go viral and spread to a player’s friends is the goal of so many entertainment games. With games in the classroom you start with that state. There’s such a rich environment to augment here and connect to technology, and yet none of these properties are used, sticking instead to the barest of bite-sized activities. We can do a lot better, and games are what must lead the approach.
Moving Towards Virtual Field-Trips
For technology to truly take advantage of the unique and rich environment of the classroom, we need to build virtual field-trips. These experiences and games need to augment the classroom, running alongside it for long periods of time, creating a context in which everything students learn has value. In the same way that Pokemon provides a context to the world around you, making daily interactions and trips suddenly magical and filled with social connections to others, so can a virtual world augment a classroom, adding context and meaning to the concepts that students are learning, merging it into their larger lives and giving it relevance and connection.
Education is currently very focused on teaching students the ‘how’, even at the expense of them grasping the ‘why’. The problem with this approach in the information age is that the ‘how’ is instantly obtainable, with world-class resources a google-search away for literally any topic. Anyone who cares enough can teach themselves anything they want, for free. The primary goal of schools should then not be inserting facts into students’ heads (facts are already ubiquitous), but providing that ‘why’, helping them discover the innate beauty of these topics such that they are open to it in the world around them.
The amazing thing about video games is that they automatically do this; you never have to make a kid play a game (you might have to make them stop playing a game). The same thing, of course, cannot be said about homework. Is this necessary, must homework be a slog for it to be useful? Is tedium the value? While the ability to do boring things you don’t want to do may be a useful skill, far more useful in our current age is engaging with something that has meaning in your life and others, and education can be significantly improved upon by bringing the self-driven nature of games into education. Furthermore, those who don’t think the subject matter learned in school can be made as engaging as video games haven’t seen the true value of that subject matter.
A classroom augmented by a virtual world provides that ‘why’ in a form that is relevant to players, adding meaning to everything they’re learning in the classroom, inspiring collaboration and leadership between peers, and showing in an intrinsically compelling way ‘why they should care’. What’s more, the possibilities for types of experiences that can extend the classroom are limitless, crossing and connecting all subjects and fields.
Our current project Eco aims to achieve this: In Eco, a classroom of students builds a civilization together, in a shared virtual world that runs continuously for 30 real days. Everything they do in this world affects the simulated ecosystem, which can be polluted, damaged, and destroyed. To succeed, players must make decisions as a group through a virtual government, making intelligent decisions based on simulation data taken from the game.
Eco exists alongside the classroom, running continuously and providing context to what students are learning in multiple fields: ecology, statistics, civics, leadership. It makes use of the physical proximity of a classroom by making that the council meeting, where students can take the opportunity to discuss and decide with others what course of action they should take in this shared vulnerable world, using data and graphs put forth by the game. It shares the experience with the teacher, presenting an aggregated view of all the challenges the players are immediately facing, creating dynamic curriculum and discussions that can be used in class and connected to other lessons. It lets the teacher be the guide and mentor, while the experience remains that of the students.
Through this ongoing virtual field trip that the whole class takes part in, we hope to provide a meaningful social context for multiple connected subjects, augmenting the school lives of students with a rich and connected experience.
Much has been said about the ability of video games to provide a safe place to explore, where failure is accepted and part of the learning process. This is no doubt a great feature of educational games, but less is said about how the opposite is also true: video games can provide meaningful stakes for players, an augmented world that they care about and share responsibility for with their peers. When this world is truly shaped by your decisions and can be damaged or destroyed, you suddenly have an immediate and pressing need for the knowledge you need to succeed. The fate of their virtual world now literally depends on their grasp of ecology, or statistics, or collaborative and leadership skills. Video games often pretend to make players the saviors of the world, but when that world can actually be destroyed and is shared among a group it becomes true.
Furthermore, by augmenting the social world of the classroom, you gain the intrinsic importance that students place on social interactions (which is often far and beyond the value student’s place on schoolwork). Whereas your skill in math and statistics would typically contribute nothing to your social connections in school (if not weaken them), in a socially connected game world that players care about, it becomes socially valuable, making students who understand it important contributors to the group. It’s hard to overestimate the importance that today’s students put into augmented worlds; their lives and social connections are so intertwined with technology that they can scarcely be separated. Education currently has the ability to use that same magic in ways that benefit student learning in massive ways.
For this to happen, we’ll need to get over our fear of social connections through the internet. We have long since abandoned this fear in the rest of our lives (we now regularly summon strangers through the internet and get into their cars, a once unthinkable action made safe by a well-designed system), but education is a sticking point. This is understandable, as particular caution is needed with children, but once one understands the potential value of what’s at stake and sees it’s a solvable problem, it becomes worth solving.
As game designers, we have a tremendous opportunity, and indeed responsibility, to bring the incredible advances in video games into education. The world of education remains a slow-moving one, set in a larger world that is very much not, and expanding an education system designed for the industrial age to fit the information age (and whatever comes next) is unarguably an urgent and imperative task.
I strongly believe that this task will fall to game designers, those creators of innocuous entertainment, having advanced their art across its history into a precise and powerful tool, repurposed into something that can shape education into what it needs to be: a spring of inspiration and connection in a student’s life, fueling them with the self-drive they need to guide their own lives into success and happiness, while directing the unimaginably rapid evolution of our world towards a place we will all want to live.
John Krajewski is the designer of Eco and founder of Strange Loop Games, a company focused on bridging the gap between games and education. Eco is currently in Alpha and is funded via Kickstarter and an SBIR grant from the US Department of Education.
We’ve released an update to Alpha 4 and reset the main server, so it’s a great time to login and check out the game from the beginning if you haven’t already.
It’s currently available on our website.
Here’s the changelist:
The skills page now displays all skills discovered server-wide
Starting property claim items are now placed in the player's backpack
Axes can no longer chop lumber (use the hammer)
Powered objects (campfires, etc) can now be powered by non-owning players
Workbenches are no longer opened when typing in chat
Various workbenches now have higher building requirements
Multiple skill trees will no longer remain highlighted when selected (visual bug)
Seeds should no longer occasionally immediately grow when planted
Storage chests can no longer be placed inside of other objects
Reclaimed property claim items are no longer all consumed in a single use
Player characters no longer sometimes ignore the jump input
Objects on minimap disappear when removed (trees)
Objects on minimap scale properly (or at least more properly) for tiny or huge worlds
Minimap objects do not show their category on tooltip... too cluttered
Player icons on minimap can be toggled
Collected items shown on minimap tooltips
Store trade strings are so long and actually look ok
Properties on minimap update in realtime
Animals are selectable after being killed, for harvesting. disappear after harvested
Minimap player icons actually rotate in the direction that the player is facing
Minimap LODing is vertex based, and culling actually works based on an uncurved orthographic geometry
Minimap SSAO actually works now... although it's almost unnoticeably different, it's technically more correct now
Modules can now be removed using the hammer
Alpha 4 is the economy release, and we have tons of new features in this one to check out. Here’s two videos showing off some of them:
Alpha 5 Started
While we continue updating Alpha 4 for our current playtesters, we’re beginning on Alpha 5, which will be the Ecosystem release, and the final Alpha release before Beta. We’re building the scientific model now for climate, habitat, irrigation, and pollution, and they’ll all be connected. Here’s a look at that in-progress:
All of these systems are connected, and it’s really fascinating to watch the effects of one layer rippling across to the other systems. You’ll be able to view and use this data in the minimap and graphs page as well.
Thanks everyone for the great feedback on Alpha 4, keep it coming and feel free to email us.
We’re honored to announce that Eco won the grand prize in the Climate Challenge in New York! In Eco players are tasked with building a civilization together in a simulated ecosystem, where they can have a huge impact on the environment and climate.
Eco, winners in the Climate Challenge pitch contest: http://area.autodesk.com/games-for-change
By using scientific evidence and debating with their peers, they can create laws and policy that prevent the world’s destruction. Just like the real world, the challenges faced in Eco are social ones, as players must find ways to sustain a balance between both economy and ecology, neither can be ignored. For Eco to be recognized as having the potential to change minds and the world is hugely encouraging and validating, as we believe games have the power to do incredible things beyond only entertainment.
Alpha 4 and 5 Update
We’ve just released our Alpha 4 update to Eco, and you can pick it up here. We’ll have our Alpha 4.2 release next Tuesday 7/19, so stay tuned for tons of fixes. Following that, we’ll be focusing on Alpha 5, which will be the Ecosystem Release and final alpha build before beta. It’ll focus on plants, animals, habitats, pollution, climate modeling, and many more simulation aspects. Join us now and get in on the ground floor to help us shape this game as it continues to grow.
Here's a look at our latest video from Alpha 4, transportation and roads.
Cheers and as always email with any feedback.
In Eco you only carry a realistic weight, so transporting materials with vehicles and building roads to run them on are essential. Check out how they work in our latest release in this video:
At the start of a server, players will create their buildings right next to raw materials, but eventually as technology improves, new projects will require a variety of processed materials from a variety of sources. To handle moving these across the world, players will need to band together and put forth the time and resources to create transport networks.
Transportation is a huge driver of modifications to the environment, as well as a huge consumer of resources and, in late-game, source of pollution. How players decide to lay out their roads will have a huge impact on the both the ecosystem and economy of Eco.
This and many more features available now in our Alpha 4 release! Come join the games in progress or hop on a new server and start from a pristine world.
And as always send us any questions. Thanks for your support,
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