Project Visions: Prospect County

I am going to go ahead today and introduce a new Project Vision, rather than continuing on with the iGoverness vision. I will come back to the iGoverness project, but at this point, I’m going to let it stagnate a bit more before I start writing again about it.

So, today we are going to look at a project that came to me while thinking of different video game types that I would be interested in playing.

Prospect County
Prospect County would be a Massively Multiplayer Online game. I know that the saturation in this market is beyond a level where a startup could get into the growing market, but I just want to put this idea out there.

The MMO market is full of fantasy and sci-fi titles, as well as simple life-replacement games. These all allow people to interact as if they were all in a virtual world, a la Snow Crash.

What would make Prospect County different is the way the game is handled, the gameplay and the basis of the world.

World Basis
The world of Prospect County would be a complex one that starts out as untamed wilderness, giving the player free reign on how to cultivate the world and make it a livable place.

To start out, the virtual world would be modeled after a real-world location. The technology behind this would be firmly grounded in topography and using modern techniques to map out the location and digitize its natural elements. We would start out with topographic maps, satellite images and the history of the real-world location to determine the terrain and natural resources that are found in the location.

So, let’s say that we take a county, for this instance, we’ll take Allegany County, Maryland. We find topographic maps of the entire county, combine this with satellite imagery and resources for discovering what natural features made this county originally attractive for settlers to come to the area (e.g. coal, oil, etc.).

The topographic maps would be passed through a program such as Terragen and PhotoSynth to create a 3d representation of the terrain of the area, and the “game board” on which the players will begin.

Gameplay
The players would be put into this world with the technology and materials that settlers would have had in the late 1700s. The players would be free to sculpt the land, harvest the natural resources, and setup government and laws as are seen fit.

The freedom of the players’ choices would be paramount to this idea. They would be starting from scratch, just as our ancestors did, and would have to build things from the ground up. Any kind of communication systems (like towers on mountain tops within eyesight sending visual signals to each other to relay information from one location to another), sewer and government systems would have to be created by the players in this virgin atmosphere.

Educational Value
I would see this virtual world having great educational value. A student could enter the world (multiple instances would allow for new worlds to be created from the beginning if necessary) and live the way the settlers would have had to live in that era.

Extra features, such as disease, wildlife and natives would be able to provide a realistic layer of interaction, both with other people and with artificial world elements. A Social Studies teacher would be able to assign a student to an instance, and they would have to work together with their fellow students to build their society and community and bring them further into the modern world using their “bare hands”.

This is a very rough idea, but I think that it could be very well laid out and could end up being a product that is worth producing. Ideally, if I had the time and resources, I think that the technology behind these ideas would be interesting to create, and would provide tremendous value for the modern human culture.