Strange Loop Games, an almost 11-year-old studio that is dedicated to developing educational games to motivate self-learning in the social world, has its fifth title—ECO.

Basically, ECO is a multiplayer simulation game that requires players’ cooperation to create a technologically advanced civilisation with an ecological use of natural resources.

The background story of ECO is that the world is under the threat of an approaching meteor. Players need to improve technology to destroy the meteor. Moreover, players have to work within a simulated in-game ecosystem. Overall, the players’ target is to prevent a global disaster without causing ones during the development.

John Krajewski, the founder of the studio, said in an indie interview with TechRaptor that the core design idea of ECO is ‘the tragedy of the commons’, which means in a shared-resource system where individuals, acting independently based on their own self-interest, behave contrary to the common good of others, by undermining or damaging shared-resource through their actions. Thriving on this concept, ECO becomes a multiplayer game that heavily relies on cooperation and gamers’ communities, like Minecraft.

In ECO, there is no combat whatsoever and no player’s character can die. Players only need to consider the character’s nutrition balance and control the amount of extracted natural resources with other players, to prevent the simulated ecosystem from being destroyed.

Besides, ECO offers rich simulated environment. Similar to the Earth, the game world has a huge number of forests, plains, rivers, underground resources and plants to harvest and animals to hunt. The ecosystem supplies the resources while players manage their pollution, waste, hunting and resource collection to keep a balanced system, and one disruption could impact all across the world. For example, deforestation and rapid industrialisation decreases the number of mitigating greenhouse gases, causing climate change with rising sea levels and species extinction, which sounds familiar, right?

Therefore, ECO has pushed players to form a sustainable society. Players could build a community-driven economy where players set up contracts with other players with specialised work skills, within the game’s quest-like labour market. For example, richer players could hire skilful players to craft new technologies which richer players could charge fees for others to use them. Also, there is a player-run government based on democracy, which means players could establish and maintain their laws and government if they gain the most votes from other players. Players could also impose tax to discourage certain activities that could potentially damage the environment.

ECO is built on an ecological simulation which generates data from players’ interaction with both the world and others. The game also offers players graphs and heat-maps to search and analyse, which could be used to propose laws. Successful use of scientific evidence is the best way to beat the game.

ECO initially received an education grant from the United States’ Department of Education because the studio intends to popularise the game throughout middle school, like Minecraft Education Edition, while the game aims specifically to raise youngsters’ environmental awareness through educational gameplay. Then, John Krajewski decided to raise more money in Kickstarter to extend the game in 2015.

ECO has released in Early Access stage and opened for players on 6th February 2018, selling for £23.79 on Steam. The studio has continued updated the game, yet the full version of the game’s launch date is unknown.