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       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
       gardener varieties.

       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
       and compromise.

       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-game tutorial.

       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

                                   June 2007                    cultivation(6)