by Toby Ellis
Before Farmville there was a void in the lives of women in their mid-40s, and Facebook was somewhere I could comfortably go without being asked to water crops.
Germination X follows the Farmville “click and wait” approach to gaming, but with a slightly more artistic approach to the whole genre.
This time you’re not being forced to pay money to add extra fields to your virtual land, but rather to collaborate with other players to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Sounds kinda lame, right?
Well, Germination X is the furthest thing from lame for one reason: It’s run by the same artificial intelligence software as a robotics project being funded by the EU. On Wednesday the 28th of March we at Loading were joined by the lead programmer of the game, Dave, in what proved to be one of the most drunken, slovenly and downright interesting game testing sessions in recorded history.
The game itself boots directly from the browser, and fairly uniquely doesn’t require a password. You just type in whatever username you like and you’re in! Since the game is in an (early) Alpha you’re greeted with some plants, cubist (procedurally generated) scenery, trippy looking butterflies and a few seeds scattered here and there. The game might not be pretty yet, but the artstyle is definitely enough to set it apart from most of the isometric time-based games out there.
Either way, after dragging seeds around confusedly for a while we eventually got a pretty stable forest going, and that’s where the game’s main theme came into play: Permaculture. Certain plants require other plants around them in order to remain healthy, produce seeds and ultimately thrive. A sick plant drops no seeds, so pretty quickly the assembled players realised that there was victory to be had in co-operation, and pretty soon the bar was filled with excited plant-based chatter.
There was no clear winner to the game, and we all had a lot of sick clover on the field, which was made worse by the incessant taunting of the “Plant Spirits” which advised players of what was going on. These spirits were bizarre, but ultimately helpful as they gave us vital clues as to who and what needed help. It was a level of interaction I’ve never really experienced with other players via the internet, and it was uniquely rewarding.
All in all a good time was had by all: The EU was paying the bar bill and the game itself was interesting, marred only with understandable flaws given the earliness of the Alpha build and a few gameplay features which were far from obvious. The game’s helping develop robots by observing the way people interact with each other in a virtual playing-field, which is ultimate badass.
Anyway, enough of this reading, go play the game for yourself HERE
It’s free, fun and addictive as crack, and once it’s finished it’s going to be something which leaves an indelible mark on the face of what games even are. Will you spread clover around the forest and write rude words in roses, or will you help sustain the healthy ecosystem the game is built to promote? Only time will tell…
I, personally, plan on making swastikas from Clover.