Interview with John Krajewski, Project Lead for ‘ECO’

Interview with John Krajewski, Project Lead for ‘ECO’

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It’s been over a month since the ECO alpha was released, and I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t get this out sooner. Ever since its initial announcement, ECO has been one of the few games I’ve been looking forward to alongside Xenoporn Tycoon, a game where you manage an alien porn company.

A few weeks before the alpha was made available to backers, I sent some questions over to John Krajewski, Project Lead and Designer for ECO. As well as exploring the inspirations for the game’s concept and his vision for ECO, Krajewski also revealed one of the stretch goals that wasn’t unveiled in their Kickstarter campaign:

How did you come up with the game’s concept?

John Krajewski: The core idea is ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ as a game, a society simulator. There’s been nothing quite like that yet, and I think it’s such a fascinating concept to explore. The pieces (a shared vulnerable ecosystem of resources, a government and economy to support player collaboration, and a meteor to give time pressure) grew organically out of that seed.

What were your inspirations?

JK: Guns Germs and Steel was a big one, and Collapse; two Jared Diamond books about the rise and potential fall of our species. Ultima Online as a game of real consequences with a group of people. Minecraft as a way to create incredibly dynamic shared worlds. “

What inspires you outside of gaming?

JK: “The function of societies, how individuals fit into the group, and how that interaction is productive or destructive. I think we can learn a lot from games about how societies operate/should operate.”

I’ve played Masters of the World, Democracy 3, and Crusader Kings 2. All of them give you some level of control over a country, and their “government.” However, they are also limited by the fact that you are playing with some amount of AI; ECO will be solely populated by real players.

No, you cannot do anything and everything in ECO. What you can do though, is customize the choices made available to you, and get a real response from the other players.

During their Kickstarter campaign, Strange Loop Games raised just over $200,000. This covered their initial funding goal of $100,000, and unlocked two of their planned stretch goals: land ownership, and the justice system. Out of the five that weren’t achieved, only one was revealed during the campaign, a new biome. I asked Krajewski whether he could share any of those that weren’t revealed during the campaign:

JK: “Space travel is one, but it’s not a for-sure thing. If the game is a success and keeps growing, it’s an area we’ll expand into much later.”

This is a great example of how games have gone from being products you could buy off the shelves, to platforms supported long after release. It is highly likely that the addition of space will have an impact on the enjoy-ability of ECO, which is why some believe video game reviewing has become an impossible task, although it doesn’t stop us from trying.

“As long as it keeps making money to keep the lights on, we will keep supporting it. I want [ECO] to be a forever-game, a platform for many kinds of experiences. It’s too early to say if we’ll get there, but we have huge hopes for the game.”

If you would like to support Strange Loop Games and are interested in checking out ECO, you can get access to the open alpha for $40. Obviously, as with any alpha, there will be bugs, balancing issues, etc., so please bear this in mind before purchasing.