May / June 2020 Newsletter

Published by Ecosystem on

This time we will concentrate on the dynamic plant and coral systems that will adorn the ocean bed in the finished game. It’s important to note that plants and corals are far more than just decoration – they are the keystones of the entire Ecosystem that evolves around them.

A deep-sea creature swimming near the ocean bed

Plants & Corals

Over the past couple of months Tom has been working mainly on the plant / coral life of the game. Whilst they are not the main focus of the game and do not go through the evolutionary processes that creatures do, they are still the foundation of pretty much all the other life systems that the game simulates – and adding depth to their systems adds so much more to the emergent ways in which creatures behave and interact.

Adrift on the Ocean

As things stand in the demo, creatures tend to learn to travel between food sources, nurseries and mating grounds, which are all fixed positions set by the player. We mentioned in the previous newsletter that a fluid simulation to represent the ocean currents will be a part of the finished game, and this will actively spread plant seeds and coral eggs to more distant locations.

A visual representation of the ocean currents

This means that plants and corals will, depending on their particular preferences for their immediate environment, die off in certain places and spring up again in distant ones as their seeds settle in suitable spots, carried there by the ocean currents.

A diverse coral reef

This means that plant and coral eaters will need to learn to follow the food as it were, leaving behind barren or depleted areas and seeking out fresh growths whilst using nurseries and mating grounds along the way. Predators will then need to follow them in turn, so you can see how these more complex systems will lead to all the evolving life being more migratory and interacting in new and perhaps surprising ways.

Coral eggs drift to a location and begin to grow, just like in nature

Picky Plants

A lot of research has been put into the various plants and corals that will appear in Ecosystem. Tom has scoured academic sources and even guides designed for aquarium owners to be as close to reality as possible! Each species has an accurate representation of its tolerances for nitrogen and phosphorus as well as sunlight and floor substrate. There’s also been work put into how these plants and corals interact with each other – for instance, in nature corals often try to attack their neighbours for space by sending out ‘sweeper’ tentacles! With the more recent changes things like kelp forests are now a possibility (kelp is a much larger plant than can exist in the current demo – in real-world nature kelp can get very long indeed!)

Coral reefs will now build upon the bony foundations left by previous generations, much like they do in real life. This should lead to some spectacular, natural-feeling landscaping happening without needing any additional player input.

Interface

Plenty of work has also gone into the interface – in the below example, the player is placing seagrass on the ocean bed. Game play information is given in the UI whilst this is being done – the nutrients that the plant will provide, as well as its preferred and tolerated substrates. There’s also some information relating to the real-world counterparts of the particular species that is being worked on – Ecosystem strives to be educational as well as everything else!

Adding seagrass to the map

Onward!

As we’re sure you can see the game is taking significant strides towards its goals, and it is currently in a state of significant difference to the existing demo. That means that an update to the demo is likely on the cards at some point to more closely represent how the finished product will be – more news on this coming at a later date. For now, thank you so much for reading, and we’ll have more to share soon.


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