strange loop games

Studio known primarily for ECO.

ECO jumps into beta and Steam early access

The blocky world simulator ECO has bidden farewell to alpha and moved right into beta today. The beta transition also coincides with the title’s release on Steam early access, where ECO can be purchased for $30.

The beta launch comes with Patch 7.0, which adds definable districts, a more balanced world generation, redesigned plant simulation, password protected servers, reworked tutorials, a better-looking HUD, support for mods, and several new plant and animal species.

“We’re putting together a road map with what’s to come, and look forward to deeply involving the community as we keep development moving, tons more we want to do,” the team said.

Massively OP recently explored ECO with its developers. If you missed that stream, we’ve got it for you below!

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The Stream Team: Exploring ECO with devs

ECO is a survival game unlike the others; you are trying to keep the entire planet alive! Not only that, but it is full of science! Massively OP’s MJ is excited to dive in and check this sandbox out ahead of its Steam launch. Even better, she isn’t heading in alone: Devs are joining in to discuss the unique elements and answer questions about the game. Join us live at 8:00 p.m. for a look inside this new world.

What: ECO
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 8:00 p.m. EST on Monday, January 29th, 2018

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Shroud of the Avatar saves the wetlands

Wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, and not just because they are chock-full of stinging insects, biting snakes, and muddy bogs. They also are important quest locations in MMOs, which is why it’s so important to preserve them as nature intended.

Thankfully, organizations like SOTA (Swamps of the Alliance) exist to save the unique qualities of the wetlands from becoming generic, cloned entities. The digital eco warriors are rebuilding the East Longfall Wetlands for (catch and) Release 49 as part of the Paths of Truth and Courage. We assume that those are national forestry trails.

The SOTA team has also been busy this month creating “hordes of barbarians and cannibals,” although we cannot for the life of us understand why they would do this. Perhaps a dare.

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ECO’s player housing is more beneficial than you think

In some online games, player housing is mostly a way to show off personal creativity and set up a space of your own. In ECO, however, it will be much more than that.

The dev team introduced its new housing system, saying that setting up an abode will be an important way to help your character to grow. You know, before the end of the world and all that.

“The better furnished your house is with the more variety of rooms, the faster you’ll gain skill points,” the team said. “Adding furniture of matching categories to a room (i.e., bathroom, living room, bedroom) will provide a room bonus to the property owner, and having multiple rooms of various types will apply a ‘balanced house multiplier.'”

Of course, make your house too big to draw these benefits, and you’ll be putting the planet at risk. Shame on you. Player housing arrived in the Alpha 6.1 patch.

Source: Kickstarter

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ECO drops a massive alpha build with world laws, player contracts, and fishing

It is high time that we check back in with ECO, that multiplayer world ecosystem simulator, because there’s some major happenings going on in this game. The team recently dropped its Alpha 6 patch, bringing a ton of sparkly features to this in-development title.

One of the coolest new features that debuted in Alpha 6 is being able to customize your game worlds: “The new law system introduces a new way to construct laws for your Eco worlds. Build laws composed of many different conditional statements and effects, with a simple drop-down based interface.”

Other changes include “physical” mining that involves physics, the addition of durability to tools, additional plant and animal species (hope you like trout!), fishing (hope you REALLY like trout!), a contract board for jobs, reputation that players can give each other, player objectives, player credit, more skill options, improved graphics, better optimization, and debris when you chop a tree down.

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E3 2017: ARK Survival Evolved on scope creep, Xbox One X, and leaving early access

So ARK: Survival Evolved is going to be the first big survival sandbox not named Minecraft or Don’t Starve to not only make it to launch but to get there from Early Access development. Leaving EA is something we rarely see, which is why readers may notice I’m quite critical of games that ask for your money, sell you an incomplete game, and then spend years defending their EA status while continually making money on an unfinished project. To hear that a company once known for making paid DLC for an unreleased game is willing to shake the security blanket that is Early Access fills me with joy and a little trepidation.

Normally, this is where I’d tell you I’ve written up the interview, which is still true. However, as this was in a small group setting, not only do we have a writeup, there’s also a YouTube video for the few of you who have thirty minutes to wade through the (mostly) raw interview. You’ll see ARK’s Community Manager Cedric Burkes in person, hear daring press try to ask hard-hitting questions, and cringe as my terrible hat hair makes a quick appearance at about the 27-minute mark.

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Emil Chronicle Online closes its last server

It’s the end of the line for one long-running Japanese MMORPG.

Emil Chronicle Online, also abbreviated ECO (no relation), is closing down its very last server in August, MMO Culture reports. The anime MMO first launched in Japan back in 2005 and was gradually licensed out to other countries and regions over successive years. However, most of those other versions were subsequently shuttered (such as the English version back in 2010), leaving the Japanese server as the sole survivor.

The game went free-to-play back in 2009 and included some pretty wacky stuff, including the ability to morph into a marionette and the opportunity to roll as a machine race called (we kid you not) Deus Ex Machina. Check out a trailer below for a sample of Emil Chronicle Online’s flavor.

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ECO explores climate change with the power of video games

If you’re averse to politics, science, and education, you might want to give ECO wide berth. Otherwise, Strange Loop Games CEO John Krajewski hopes that you and the upcoming generation of students might learn a thing or two about the impact of humans on a closed environment through ECO’s 30-day cycle.

“Within the experiential power of games, I believe we can find some of the power to untie the political knots that wrap up climate change, creating an experience in a virtual world where climate change is a problem you can see in front of your face, and it immediately threatens you,” Krajewski wrote.

Krajewski said that by allowing players to experience first-hand how the environment reacts to siphoning off resources and changing the world itself, the players might come to a conclusion through their experience. “Within ECO, the processes of climate change and societal impact happen over the course of 30 days, with a few dozen friends or classmates, in a world small enough to see all of it,” he said.

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The Survivalist: Massively OP’s guide to multiplayer survival sandboxes

Welcome to The Survivalist! Ya’ll might have noticed that I have gravitated a bit from my happy home of deep, immersive virtual worlds (possible due to the lack of them!) and have been tinkering about and enjoying time in various survival games. This isn’t as odd as you might think! One thing I love about sandbox worlds is the ability for your actions to matter in terms of shaping the world and carving out your place in it. Survival games have been allowing me just that with opportunities to build the world, from the society on it to structures in it to the even the physical world itself. And decisions definitely matter, bringing satisfaction and reward or disappointment and destruction.

I’m not alone in this appreciation of the survival genre, either. Many MMO gamers have joined mainstreamers by flocking to it lately as seen by the explosion of the available games. Those of you not on board yet might be wonder just what is so alluring about a genre that has many elements of MMOs but on smaller — and oft times privately managed — scale. As the weeks and months wear on, The Survivalist is going to explore all the nooks and crannies of the survival sandbox genre (and likely die many, many times in the process!), but today, we’re going to look at what players can jump into to test their survival skills. So here’s a guide to many options in the newest genre to take over our gaming sphere.
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Global Chat: Interior decorating in MMORPGs

With Elder Scrolls Online’s new housing system coming early next month and LOTRO testing out some much-needed housing improvements, homemaking seems to be a subject on the mind of many players these days.

Contains Moderate Peril says that MMO housing has yet to live up to potential: “What you can do with housing is a far more interesting talking point. At present housing mainly offers in the MMO genre additional storage, an opportunity for aesthetic customisation, and convenient support services […] What housing across most MMOs fails to do is offer any additional social facilities or unique group content.”

Meanwhile, Dimension Gallery featured one house designer that came up with some impressive dimensions (my favorite is the Spongebob Squarepants!).

Housing not your thing? After the break we have blog essays on Final Fantasy XIV, welfare epics, and the true endgame activity of MMORPGs!

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Eco delays its Alpha 5 update to October 24th

Eco’s Alpha 5 brings in its comprehensive ecosystem mechanics, but as a result of polishing those mechanics, it’s going to take a little longer to push those systems live. An update to the game’s Kickstarter backers confirms that the next alpha build will be available on October 24th, complete with an animated shot of the client’s dynamic plant growth system.

The ecosystems and biomes will be taking center stage with the fifth alpha update, with complex interplays causing the various biomes to shift over time. Overfarmed prairies can become deserts as the soil is depleted, changing cloud patterns can bring new rains, and so forth. It’s going to be a little while before the patch is ready to go, but it’s a complex system, so it will hopefully be well worth the wait.

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ECO’s ecosystem will release October 5th

Total War: ArenaAn ecosystem is coming to ECO! Though if you consider the survival sandbox’s name, that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The devs told Kickstarter backers this week that Alpha 5 will release on October 5th. This final build before beta introduces climate and player avatars and improves upon farming and the flora and fauna. An activity-affecting clothing system is also being added along with the actual avatars.

How will the ecosystem affect the game? Well, air pollution from humans can raise global temperatures, which could melt the ice caps can melt and raise the sea level. Such climate changes could potentially threaten not just farms but entire biomes.

As for farming, growing crops and raising animals will now rely on soil moisture and temp. Players will need to keep careful tabs on their farms to keep them viable and productive. To help with this, irrigation is being introduced as well, so folks can build aqueducts to transport water over large distances.

ECO raised over $200,000 last year through Kickstarter as an educational sandbox simulator.

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The newest ECO patch adds food, buildings, and power

ECO’s alpha 4 update is now live, and boy is it a major patch for the upcoming sandbox. Several major systems have been added to the game in it, including power, buildings, food, logging, and property.

The politically minded might appreciate the inclusion of elections and taxes, while the explorers will probably rejoice that ECO has added a spherical map to help navigate the world and find friends. Players can also use the new server browser to pick a particular shard.

Curious about how the food and skills interconnect in ECO? The devs have a video walking you through how the systems bounce off of each other, which you can watch after the break.

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