This is an initial game design for Germination X - a permaculture game for social networking platforms.
Current pre-alpha version running here: http://t0.fo.am:8000
Serious games that deal with farming and food production:
One of the most interesting aspects is to explore the community building effects of social games. The main way this will work will be through the world, which is an open and shared space, unlike other facebook games which give you a private owned area which you manage, and limited access to your friend's spaces.
Some ideas for more specific additions:
It would also be good (if optimistic) to consider the possibility of creating a system open enough for players to create their own economies or markets of exchange, rather than build one in.
Seems rigid and encouraging a collection-as-linear-progress game mechanic, but another option:
This also encourages competition amongst guilds.
See the germinationx user stories.
You will be aided in your planting by a companion who can help point out good areas to plant your seeds in, and explain why, based on the permaculture system below. The role of the companion will be to explain permaculture through the game.
It would be interesting to use a social network platform for experimentation and collecting feedback from the public. Players might be able to choose from a selection of companion types, or have them randomly assigned.
The relationship of the player with the companion should be a focus for testing. The companion could follow the model of the companion character Yorda in the Ico game, slower and needing attention from the player in some way. This way the companion will require a little investment of time - even if it's just waiting for it to catch up. I'd like to explore whether this actually increases feelings of attachment - especially if it's use to you and knowledge are not clear to begin with and are gradually revealed.
Possible companion forms:
Plants in the game will grow according to simplified permaculture and companion planting rules. As well as players, plants are also arranged into guilds, of mutually beneficial plants. The companion will teach you which plants are suitable for planting together and why - this will be based on real life examples. In companion planting, each plant has something it offers (a function) and also something it needs (a weakness). For example, an extremely simple plant guild could consist of:
|Turnip||Repels pests||Susceptible to weather damage|
|Apple tree||Provides shelter||Requires N2|
In this way each plant benefits from close proximity to the other, and forms a loop of dependency. Not sure if this particular example is accurate - it's very important that we use real examples.
Pea needs → Apple tree needs → Turnip needs → Pea
More plants may form complex relationships, but we don't need much more complexity to get the point across. So, areas planted out of balance will be susceptible to the plant's weaknesses, eg an area dominated by peas:
Will be decimated by pests, while an area lacking shelter would become damaged by harsh weather eg:
A more suitable pattern would be to mix them up more thoroughly:
The world is separated into regions (temperate, arctic, arid, mountainous, tropical). As your guild's experience increases, you can explore further and grow plants in multiple regions. Regions will have corresponding weather conditions, and pests.
Players living in different regions will be able to give us feedback on growing conditions and ideas for new plants and recipes.
The growing season will be sped up into a week.
Perhaps these need to be shifted around to suit the average working week! Growing conditions will vary in time as well as space - affected by weather.
Needs much more thought, and a closer look at the project from my point of view, but some ideas:
Alpha testing: Seeing if the permaculture rules work for a simple system. Time now to iterate this until it's satisfactory. From this point on plants can be added in parallel to the development.
Beta testing: Concentrating on the companion and player/guild dynamics.