Kickstarter for Balance of the Planet

I very rarely mention Kickstarter projects here; it's a review site, not an indie news site. But I think this is important enough to highlight.

Chris Crawford -- one of the grand old men of US game development -- is seeking funding for a revised version of Balance of the Planet

Balance of the Planet is one of Crawford's more obscure title, but among his most brilliant. It's a sim in which you try to develop economically while preventing ecocatastrophe. Among its most brilliant features is that virtually every parameter in the game is user adjustable -- meaning that it is politically wholly neutral. If you believe that nuclear power is safe, you can tweak its danger parameter downward. If you believe that the effect of carbon emissions on global warming are overstated, you can change that parameter to. You can, in other words, adjust the sim to suit your personal beliefs -- or explore what might happen if the belief sets of someone else are correct.

The main flaw of the original game, in my opinion, was its ugliness. Crawford self-funded and self-published the game, and its graphics were quite dowdy even by the standards of the time; I don't think it ever had a prayer of a chance at retail, and despite the reputation Crawford had gained with Balance of Power, the pick-up by the press was meager.

Crawford is planning on releasing the new version as freeware; it's the kind of thing that the serious games movement, and schools, should eat up -- and given the existence of the serious games movement, they may now be an audience, and a promotional venue, for this product that did not exist in 1990. Moreover, we need this game -- both because we, as a society, need to be thinking more clearly about our impact on the planet, and because the serious games movement needs to have something really good to point to -- where today, there's "not bad" at most.

If this sounds remotely interesting to you, check it out.