The skill and trading systems, the importance of knowledge, and the need to maximize efficiency to succeed in Eco mean that players will need strong communication mechanisms. Teamspeak, in-game chat, and web fora are all great, but what is needed is a common place to advertise trades, announce village formation, discuss government and policy on the way to creating law, etc. in a format optimized for the game.
I suggest adding a Daily Newspaper feature as part of the web UI. The newspaper could be updated every day and contain a combination of:
- server-generated reports of interesting events:
- reminders of how close a natural disaster might be perhaps, or other story atmosphere
- new players joining
- new buildings built
- new technology developed
- new laws proposed, or proposed laws going into effect
- highlights of various in-game statistics
- player-generated science reporting (created by a player armed with data they've collected, similar to current law interface)
- player or server-generated advertising of trades available in various markets
- player-written editorials or other articles to discuss laws and policy
- political campaigning
- player-written government or anti-government propaganda
- wanted ads for criminals
- reports of toxic spills or environmental abuse
Certain kinds of reports, and/or the existence of the newspaper could be dependent on development of some kind media infrastructure or communication technology, and there could be skills associated with various aspects of it. It might be possible to create laws that affect production, distribution, or consumption of the news.
I think a well-done paper could make in-game communication fun and efficient. It would be great for catching up if you've been off the server for a couple of days.
I also think it would be nice after endgame (whether won or lost) for players to be able to download and keep the news archive as a souvenir of the experience. Also along these lines, imagine if post-game you could look at a record of the news alongside actual recorded stats of the health of the world (stats that were perhaps unknown or not seen as significant at the time) and try to evaluate what went right or wrong in terms of what was known or how it was communicated.
To me, Eco is ultimately a simulation to test whether a community can come together and resolve differences in time to solve an existential problem while protecting a delicate and complex ecosystem. Just as in real life, success is going to require successful communication above all else, so it seems to me that communication should be an integrated and recorded first-class aspect of the simulation. Certainly out-of-band communication can get the job done, but the game has many opportunities to enhance, encourage, standardize and archive communication among its players.