One Hour One Life

Last Week, Jason Rohrer released his latest game, and it's full of interesting ideas that are worth having a play with.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I created Story of Everyone, which experimented with collaborative content creation and player familial relationships.

Given the limitations imposed by the competition, the results were of course limited, but we did find some sort of in-game "culture" building where players would riff off the content contributed by others, creating interesting in-game narratives.

Story of Everyone was played serially (by one player at a time). This was partially for technical reasons (it's hard to implement real-time multiplayer in two weeks), but also because I had little faith in 1) my ability to recruit sufficient players to build real-time relationships and 2) the internet's ability to play nice together.

With One Hour One Life, Jason Rohrer has taken quite a different approach.

In One Hour One Life you are born to another player, who is also playing the game at the same time. While you are a child, you are unable to feed yourself, and can only communicate in a limited way (either by crying, or by using a few characters of text).

Other players (either your mother, or another female character) are able to pick you up to breastfeed - which fills up your food meter but depletes theirs.

In most game there would be no incentive for the mother to help you. They can just continue on their way and leave you to die.

In One Hour One Life however, because of strict limits on game play length (one minute in game is one year of life, and everyone dies at 60) - if you want the world to progress, you need to build things that your descendents will make use of. If you run around, avoiding children, only feeding and clothing yourself, at some point you're going to die and your contribution to the game world will be rather low.

If instead you look after and teach your children, and work with them to build sustainable farms and equipment, then perhaps they can continue the good work and build up your civilization.

The food meter is another thing that is very interesting about this game. To begin with it is very very punishing, and results in a very high rate of death by starvation. However this is because everyone is naked and they use a lot of energy because of the cold.

In the game it is possible to build fires which keeps the area around it warm, and to create clothing to warm players. As the game progresses you'd expect the amount of clothing in the world to increase, which will decrease the number of people starving to death, allowing people to create more.

It's this part of the game that is really exciting. Right now the world is in a very primitive state with a few communities attempting to survive (The official website shows that currently the longest lineage is 12 generations). But as the technology improves, babies can sit by fires while adults dress in warm clothes, and food can be provided through efficient processes, the game should change substantially.

In the future of the game, what will crime look like? you hope that the punishing system of death (where you have to live through years as a child to become an adult again) will discourage crime. But this is the internet, so who knows?

There is already an interesting culture beginning to form. Multiple times I've been born and taught the "laws of farming", which help with sustainability, and I saw yesterday that a road was being built between two settlements, allowing for more efficient trading.

It may still end up all going up in flames, but for now the future of this game is very exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

You can buy One Hour One Life for $20 from the official website.

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