cultivation - game about the interactions within a gardening community
Cultivation is a video game written by Jason Rohrer about a community
of gardeners growing food for themselves in a shared space.
Cultivation is quite different from most other games. It is a social
simulation, and the primary form of conflict is over land and plant
resources---there is no shooting, but there are plenty of angry looks.
It is also an evolution simulation. Within the world of Cultivation,
you can explore a virtually infinite spectrum of different plant and
All of the graphics, sounds, melodies,and other content in Cultivation
are 100% procedurally generated at playtime. In other words, there are
no hand-painted texture maps---instead, each object has a uniquely
"grown" appearance. Every time you play, Cultivation generates fresh
visuals, music, and behaviors.
Cultivation is certainly an unusual game, but that doesn’t necessarily
mean it’s good. From experience, some people absolutely love it, while
others absolutely hate it. It’s intended to be an "art game," after
all, and mixed reactions go with that territory.
When two sides are fighting, they often ruin the commons for everyone.
The game is a metaphor about that kind of situation. Too much fighting
destroys the island for everyone.
Cultivation explores the social interactions within a gardening
community. You lead one family of gardeners, starting with a single
individual, and wise choices can keep your genetic line from
extinction. While breeding plants, eating, and mating, your actions
impact your neighbors, and the social balance sways between conflict
Cultivation features dynamic graphics that are procedurally-generated
using genetic representations and cross-breeding. In other words, game
objects are "grown" in real-time instead of being hand-painted or
hard-coded. Each plant and gardener in the game is unique in terms of
both its appearance and behavior. The game includes an extensive
In Cultivation, the game system teeters on the verge of uncontrolled
conflict, and the player can make choices within this system that
affect the balance. Perhaps it is impossible to win the game by acting
only out of self-interest, but likewise, it may be impossible to win
acting only out of altruism (I say "perhaps" here because, even as the
designer of the system, I have only explored a tiny fraction of the
game’s possible permutations). Players can directly see the results of
the choices that they make.
In the initial release of Cultivation, neighbors would respond to
encroachment with both counter-encroachment (claiming some of your
plants as their own) and social scorn (refusing to mate with you). With
only these mechanics in place, fighting just didn’t feel serious
enough---a fight could continue indefinitely without any real
consequences, since after two plots overlapped completely, no further
revenge was possible for either side. I had to think of a more serious
act to crown the peak of an escalating fight. Poisoning, which is now a
key mechanic in Cultivation, fit perfectly. This mechanic allows an
angry neighbor to poison a plant. Poison not only kills the target
plant, but it also renders the ground around the plant forever
You can find more information at http://cultivation.sourceforge.net/
June 2007 cultivation(6)