I've been playing Eco consistently as we hurtle towards Beta. I've played on worlds in 6.3 and 6.4. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on aspects of the game, from much needed short-term quality of life fixes to longer term gameplay issues.
Before I begin, I just want to say that I greatly appreciate all the hard work the devs are doing, and I'm sure many of these ideas are already planned or on the radar.
I just want to share these ideas from a (non-education-focused) player's perspective:
Quality of life improvements
Visualize linked radius
The addition of linked storage was a huge improvement for the game, but is still frustrating to manage your home and store because the linked storage radius is not obvious. Also, the storage windows can get very hard to manage, especially because they must be rearranged for every storage/crafting table. To combat this issue, we need to be able to visualize linked storage radius when holding storage or crafting table items, similar to how property claims work. During this visualization, unlinked storage/table objects should be highlighted red and linked objects (within radius) should be highlighted green. This would make base planning much easier.
Prompt player to name storage
Storage management is even more of a headache if the player does not name their storage appropriately. Prompting players to name their stockpiles or chests upon placement may help alleviate this.
Better contextual behavior
Several times I have run into the issue where a tree fell on top of a stockpile or on another person's property. The stockpile takes precedence over the tree, so I have to clear the stockpile and pick it up to be able to chop up the tree. When the tree is on someone's property, I am able to chop it up, but can't pick the pieces up if they are inside tree debris. These issues are both quite frustrating. Bottom line, we need better contextual behavior to combat these issues.
The way the skill tree works can be very confusing to new players. The main problem we are all familiar with is that players will quickly spec into some of the manual labor skills and then get screwed over with exponential specialization costs. I think we're all aware that the coefficient for these costs is too high in 6.4.
Move toward more traditional "skill tree"
I would argue that the skill system needs another overhaul, especially early-game. It should give the player more clear choices between 2 or 3 options. For example, you can choose Laborer or Mining or Logging at the start of the game; you can choose Cooking or Gathering. In these examples, choosing one locks the others (though this could be disabled in singleplayer). Further on in the game you can unlock the specializations you didn't choose at the start. This is more in line with how skills work in other games. Maybe Eco should move toward more of a traditional "skill tree" model that RPG players are familiar with. It would also help players visualize the entire technology tree if it were all condensed into one tree listing specializations (clicking each specialization could open its respective skill tree). This would give players a better idea of what they need to work towards.
Show future specialization costs in the skill window
Barring a skill overhaul mentioned above, it would be nice in the current system for players to be able to see the costs of their next few specializations, so they can plan accordingly. A confirmation dialogue for unlocking specializations would also help players avoid choosing a skill unintentionally.
Pollution needs to take a more central role in the gameplay of Eco. It needs to affect the growth of plants and animals and the health of the biomes. Biomes should transition into others in certain conditions.
Actively combat pollution
The problem with pollution always being the bad guy is that it discourages gameplay. Want to stop your blast furnace from destroying the environment? Stop making Iron Ingots! So, you've just given the player the option of A. not playing or B. causing pollution. If there were alternatives to iron ingots, this would be one thing. But, there aren't. So, we need more items and gameplay mechanics that actively combat pollution, so players are more engaged with fixing the environment. I'm talking CCS technologies, filters that could be applied to the ends of output pipes, ground pollution cleanup mechanics, things like that.
One of the main challenges of pollution in Eco is that it should have a much more negative impact on wild plant growth, animal growth and agriculture. This would be the primary way that players will see pollution affecting them. Pollution would hurt their skill gain and actually prevent technological progress by restricting calories available. This interplay between skill progression, pollution, ecosystem, and available calories should be the central challenge of Eco. It deserves a lot more tuning. But agriculture needs to be more challenging than it is.
More precise plant requirements
Plants should have more precise moisture and temperature requirements to grow effectively. This would not only give players an incentive to settle multiple biomes and locations on the map (a good thing!), but it would also increase the impact of pollution on plants. Air pollution changing temperature and moisture patterns? You may have to move your farm, or use fertilizers and other items to keep your plants from dying.
That's not to say that I think farmers should have to micromanage their plants' nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, etc.). I think this aspect of agriculture is a little too complex. But pollution should have more of an impact
While the meteor game-mode provides a good incentive for players to progress as fast as possible in technology within 30 days, a lot of servers are opting to go meteor-free. This begs the question: What is it that is going to keep players playing? What is the incentive to progress, when you're only going to cause more pollution?
One thing I've noticed is that a lot of players want to have a sense of permanence in their worlds. This is why they disable the meteor, and it's why a lot of players I've played with hate server wipes. Building things in Eco is challenging, and players don't want to lose what they have accomplished.
I think players need more focused goals than simply the mission statement set forth by the world leader. For ultra-late-game, when players have amassed thousands of skill points, there needs to be an incentive for some kind of massive building projects: Things that require ridiculously big buildings or a ridiculous amount of resources.
Incentives for technology (more fun stuff!)
This sounds kind of obvious, but the game just needs more "fun stuff". Yes, it's a vague and subjective term, but the excavator is a great example. Vehicles like that are fun to use and tear stuff up with for your big building projects. To add to that there should be more "fun" things in the game, like:
- Jetpacks (glorified /fly command for players)
- Explosives (better pass some laws before players get access to these!)
- Fabrication (Use a factory to place blocks en-masse and make mega-structures more easily)
That's all the ideas I have for now. Thanks for reading! If you think an idea is particularly good or being overlooked, I can submit it to Github as a suggestion.