What would you do if you were starting over on a new planet? How would you build your shelter? What would you hunt? What crops would you cultivate? Would you be victorious over torrential storms or let forces of nature sweep over you? Would you domesticate wild animals or let them roam through your land? Would you look for others to build your civilization with?
In First Earth you create your own civilization. Starting on Earth without any humans in sight, you make the critical decisions that will dictate how you live and whether your survival is a perilous struggle or a victory over nature. You control your advancement and where you take your civilization. Should you wish to advance with others, you can seek them out. You start as a caveman in rags, but can advance through the ages to create what only you can imagine. The choices are yours. Your path is unknown; how will you walk it?
Characters start on a realistic Earth-like world that has been untouched by humanity. Each player can choose to play near other players, or alone in the wilderness. If a group of players wants to start another civilization, they can do so by treking across land to somewhere new; the world is huge. Players who like to be alone can set off adventuring in one direction and never return. Explorers can range far, then return to town to sell information.
Walking is the only method of travel until other forms of transportation are invented. There is no warping of any kind. Location is an important part of the game.
Natural resources, like plants, can be harvested. The world contains many types of natural resources, including edible plants, useful plants, minerals, and ores.
“Hard skill” is designed to be the most important ability for players to have. Hard skill isn’t a number in the game, it’s the ability to play the game itself. For example, a player who learns where to find the best ores, or figures out the fastest way to chop down trees, has hard skill.
Players may also improve “stat skills” which their character gains by doing an action. For example, someone who chops trees a lot can have an increased stat skill that gives them better results than a player who’s never done it.
Players can choose to play alone or with real-life friends. Who you interact with as a player is based on your location in the game world; friends can play with each other by going to the same area.
Social laws like property rights are enforced by the game engine itself. There are no apparent police or governments, because it’s not a game about government, but the engine enforces a free society simulating a real, ideal free-market government similar in concept to the original United States government.
There are no official guilds, nations, or races.
Natural currencies may develop in the game’s free-market economy. Players can trade any item. Using “contracts”, it’s possible to trade large quantities of items or currency. Contracts operate much like checks (like contracts did in Ultima Online).
There are no “bound” items like in some games. “Bound” items in traditional MMOs disallow players to trade certain things. In First Earth, every obtainable object is a real object that can be traded.
The game’s free economy is the most innovative single aspect of First Earth, though it is not essential to the play or the fun. The simple systems of harvesting, production, free trade, contracts, and location, together create a diverse economy without any extra development work. This is what makes it possible for First Earth to offer deep gameplay with simple mechanics.
At first, the world has no human effects, and players start with no resources, no tools, and no technology. It’s a caveman civilization.
Players are able to find and harvest resources from nature. With invention, effort, and time, players can use natural resources to invent tools. Using tools, they can harvest more resources. This is how technology is advanced.
“Invention” is a game mechanic players can use to invent entirely new things within the game world. To invent something, a player must know specifically how his invention is created, and must have the necessary materials, equipment, and time to experiment. Inventions can be kept secret, or traded with other players as contracts.
The game supports technological complexity up to a certain point; players may continue to advance technology over real years of play.
There is no intended parallel to real Earth history. The same things may be invented, but much more quickly than in real history, because players are actually modern thinkers with access to Wikipedia.
The design approach is similar to this article about UO’s resource system (p2, p3) by respected game designer Raph Koster.
There are many possible ways to play. In the tradition of other open world games like Ultima Online or Minecraft, there are many essential interacting systems. Players may choose which to pursue success within. One player might strive for wealth, one for physical strength, one for knowledge of the surrounding land, one for producing quality food, and one for social events like throwing a party or starting a new town.
Example: The player starts playing, and happens to start near a forest. He finds a sharp rock and uses it to chip away a small branch. He learns to sharpen his rock against another rock, forming a sharp edged tool. He could tear off some bark and use it to bind the sharpened stone to a branch, then he’d have a stone axe. Now he can start chopping lumber. Or, he could go try to find some metals.
Example: Once there’s an economy, players will develop reputations as merchants. One such merchant could expand her business by buying supplies from smaller producers, because her reputation enables her to sell things more easily. She could hire people to advertise, or she could sponsor building a public building to inspire goodwill.
Example: Someone who simply loves to explore the world could be walking far from civilization. He could stumble upon something rare, like an exposed mountainside of coal or some other precious material. He could discover a local ecosystem of some new or special plant life, or even a beautiful vista.
Players should experience the sense of wonder and discovery, the world “as it could and ought to be”, on a small scale, so they can come to understand how personal productivity, trade, and society can function. Characters can be roleplayed for players to explore their inner self.
The primary audience is gamers who love innovative, open-world MMOs. This has existed before, in pre-2001 Ultima Online, vanilla World of Warcraft, and others. First Earth brings that type of game back, this time by design, so it can’t be lost again.
The secondary audience is anyone who wants to participate in the amazing, living world that gamers may create.
First Earth uses the Unity3D game engine. It uses generic models for characters, plants, terrain, and animals.
The server is a custom engine written in Erlang, a language that facilitates many players interacting in one game world.
Ultima Online (UO) is the major inspiration for First Earth, and ideas from UO play a huge role in its design.
First Earth takes the same form, in the sense that you’ll play a character in a simulated world filled with objects and interactive unstructured systems, designed to be fun for all types of players. Like UO, there is trade, property, and object synthesis.