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This is an initial game design for 'redleaf' - a permaculture game for social networking platforms. Needs a new name, based on the red leaf ideas, but directed in a slightly less confrontational direction.

Very rough hand wavy stuff, feel free to poke in new directions.

General ideas

  1. Players are arranged into “gardener guilds”.
  2. New players can join guilds or start their own.
  3. You have a planting companion who follows you around to guide you.
  4. Players never directly meet in the game - although discussions via forums obviously encouraged.
  5. The world is large and you can freely explore, but you can only see a small portion of it at a time.
  6. The plants will consist of local, interesting or on the edge of extinction species rather than well known types.

Game Sketch

Player Guilds

  1. Player guilds have experience points.
  2. You increase your guild's experience points by growing succesful plants, listening to your companion is essential to do this well.
  3. The more experience points your guild has, the more diverse types of seeds you will able to collect, seeds will appear on plants that are more difficult to grow.


  1. Players have an energy level.
  2. Energy is used up by roaming, looking for seeds.
  3. Energy is replenished by eating harvested food.
  4. You can't directly eat food you have collected, only that given to you by other people.
  5. When you harvest plants, you have to choose who to give it to. They will have to be a friend, but not necessarily a member of your guild, or even someone currently playing the game - this would act as an invitation.
  6. If you run out of energy you die. This is seen as a noble act of replenishing the garden with your composing matter. You can respawn, but at a cost to your guild's experience.

Notes: To run out of energy while harvesting for other people could be annoying - perhaps a less extreme form of this could be to keep the required donation to other players, but also take a small power up yourself. Needs testing in game.

Pattern of play

[to be expanded]

  1. Start game, select to join existing guild.
  2. Look around, seeds can be found around some of the plants you find, you try picking them up.
  3. You plant seeds in good locations (guided by your personal permaculture companion)
  4. You see some plants that belong to your guild, and they look ready to harvest. You click on the plant to collect the fruits or vegetables.
  5. A menu appears with your friends on it, you select one to give the harvest to. You also choose from a choice of recipes that can be used (in real life) with the type of vegetable you are sending them.

Permaculture companion

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:

  • An insect.
  • A wise old man/woman.
  • A plant - could everything in the game be depicted in a vegetal form?
  • Control - no companion, but the same information dispensed in “tool tip” like form.

Permaculture system

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:

Plant Function Weakness
Pea N2 fixer Pests
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.

Weekly year seasons

The growing season will be sped up into a week.

  • Sat, Sun: Winter, some harvesting of root crops.
  • Mon, Tue, Wed: Spring/Summer, time to plant.
  • Wed Thu, Fri: Summer/Autumn, harvesting time.

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.

Boskoi connection

Needs much more thought, and a closer look at the project from my point of view, but some ideas:

  • Plants discovered during foraging expeditions result in additional seeds being made available to your gardener guild.
  • Plants foraged in boskoi replenish your energy in the game.
  • As your guild improves, so boskoi unlocks secret plants in your city.
  • redleaf_game_design.1275636867.txt.gz
  • Last modified: 2010-06-04 07:34
  • by davegriffiths