cultivation(6) Games cultivation(6)
cultivation - game about the interactions within a gardening community
Cultivation is a video game written by Jason Rohrer about a community of gardeners growing
food for themselves in a shared space.
Cultivation is quite different from most other games. It is a social simulation, and the
primary form of conflict is over land and plant resources---there is no shooting, but
there are plenty of angry looks. It is also an evolution simulation. Within the world of
Cultivation, you can explore a virtually infinite spectrum of different plant and gardener
All of the graphics, sounds, melodies,and other content in Cultivation are 100% procedu‐
rally generated at playtime. In other words, there are no hand-painted texture
maps---instead, each object has a uniquely "grown" appearance. Every time you play, Culti‐
vation generates fresh visuals, music, and behaviors.
Cultivation is certainly an unusual game, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good.
From experience, some people absolutely love it, while others absolutely hate it. It's
intended to be an "art game," after all, and mixed reactions go with that territory.
When two sides are fighting, they often ruin the commons for everyone. The game is a
metaphor about that kind of situation. Too much fighting destroys the island for everyone.
Cultivation explores the social interactions within a gardening community. You lead one
family of gardeners, starting with a single individual, and wise choices can keep your
genetic line from extinction. While breeding plants, eating, and mating, your actions
impact your neighbors, and the social balance sways between conflict and compromise.
Cultivation features dynamic graphics that are procedurally-generated using genetic repre‐
sentations and cross-breeding. In other words, game objects are "grown" in real-time
instead of being hand-painted or hard-coded. Each plant and gardener in the game is unique
in terms of both its appearance and behavior. The game includes an extensive in-game tuto‐
In Cultivation, the game system teeters on the verge of uncontrolled conflict, and the
player can make choices within this system that affect the balance. Perhaps it is impossi‐
ble to win the game by acting only out of self-interest, but likewise, it may be impossi‐
ble to win acting only out of altruism (I say "perhaps" here because, even as the designer
of the system, I have only explored a tiny fraction of the game's possible permutations).
Players can directly see the results of the choices that they make.
In the initial release of Cultivation, neighbors would respond to encroachment with both
counter-encroachment (claiming some of your plants as their own) and social scorn (refus‐
ing to mate with you). With only these mechanics in place, fighting just didn't feel seri‐
ous enough---a fight could continue indefinitely without any real consequences, since
after two plots overlapped completely, no further revenge was possible for either side. I
had to think of a more serious act to crown the peak of an escalating fight. Poisoning,
which is now a key mechanic in Cultivation, fit perfectly. This mechanic allows an angry
neighbor to poison a plant. Poison not only kills the target plant, but it also renders
the ground around the plant forever unusable.
You can find more information at http://cultivation.sourceforge.net/
June 2007 cultivation(6)