May / June 2020 Newsletter

Published by Ecosystem on

This time we will concentrate on the dynamic plant and coral systems that will adorn the ocean bed in the finished game. It’s important to note that plants and corals are far more than just decoration – they are the keystones of the entire Ecosystem that evolves around them.

A deep-sea creature swimming near the ocean bed

Plants & Corals

Over the past couple of months Tom has been working mainly on the plant / coral life of the game. Whilst they are not the main focus of the game and do not go through the evolutionary processes that creatures do, they are still the foundation of pretty much all the other life systems that the game simulates – and adding depth to their systems adds so much more to the emergent ways in which creatures behave and interact.

Adrift on the Ocean

As things stand in the demo, creatures tend to learn to travel between food sources, nurseries and mating grounds, which are all fixed positions set by the player. We mentioned in the previous newsletter that a fluid simulation to represent the ocean currents will be a part of the finished game, and this will actively spread plant seeds and coral eggs to more distant locations.

A visual representation of the ocean currents

This means that plants and corals will, depending on their particular preferences for their immediate environment, die off in certain places and spring up again in distant ones as their seeds settle in suitable spots, carried there by the ocean currents.

A diverse coral reef

This means that plant and coral eaters will need to learn to follow the food as it were, leaving behind barren or depleted areas and seeking out fresh growths whilst using nurseries and mating grounds along the way. Predators will then need to follow them in turn, so you can see how these more complex systems will lead to all the evolving life being more migratory and interacting in new and perhaps surprising ways.

Coral eggs drift to a location and begin to grow, just like in nature

Picky Plants

A lot of research has been put into the various plants and corals that will appear in Ecosystem. Tom has scoured academic sources and even guides designed for aquarium owners to be as close to reality as possible! Each species has an accurate representation of its tolerances for nitrogen and phosphorus as well as sunlight and floor substrate. There’s also been work put into how these plants and corals interact with each other – for instance, in nature corals often try to attack their neighbours for space by sending out ‘sweeper’ tentacles! With the more recent changes things like kelp forests are now a possibility (kelp is a much larger plant than can exist in the current demo – in real-world nature kelp can get very long indeed!)

Coral reefs will now build upon the bony foundations left by previous generations, much like they do in real life. This should lead to some spectacular, natural-feeling landscaping happening without needing any additional player input.


Plenty of work has also gone into the interface – in the below example, the player is placing seagrass on the ocean bed. Game play information is given in the UI whilst this is being done – the nutrients that the plant will provide, as well as its preferred and tolerated substrates. There’s also some information relating to the real-world counterparts of the particular species that is being worked on – Ecosystem strives to be educational as well as everything else!

Adding seagrass to the map


As we’re sure you can see the game is taking significant strides towards its goals, and it is currently in a state of significant difference to the existing demo. That means that an update to the demo is likely on the cards at some point to more closely represent how the finished product will be – more news on this coming at a later date. For now, thank you so much for reading, and we’ll have more to share soon.


Harald · July 21, 2020 at 6:13 pm

Are you guys ever going to add something like camoflauge where the creatures have like these visibility scores? Like a fish that is pink neon and other contrasting colors would be easier to spot for other fish than a fish that camouflages into plants and stuff

    Tom · August 4, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    Yes, that is actually what I am working on now, funnily enough! Creatures perform vision checks against others that take into account lighting and water conditions, and most importantly, comparing the target creature’s coloration to its surroundings. The feature is still in-progress, but I am hoping that this should give an evolutionary benefit to mimicking one’s surroundings, be that foliage, coral life, terrain, or water color. Thank you for writing, and I apologize that this reply is so late! I’ve been working pretty much nonstop as hopefully a beta test is on the horizon soon

Chris · July 31, 2020 at 12:04 am

I played 14 hours of the demo on Steam and I adored it. I LOVE the concept. I can see that you’re years and years away from a complete game and that’s fine by me. You just take your time and get it right. This is something which deserves to be done properly, so please don’t rush it. I wish you all the success in the world.

    Tom · August 4, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you! I’m really glad you liked the demo. I’ve made a lot of progress since then and am hoping to have the core of the game working sooner than the demo might lead one to think. I will update it once I am further along to give a better sense of where the game is at now. I really appreciate the well wishes, it was very encouraging to read.

Cooper Wright · August 10, 2020 at 1:27 pm

You’re doing a great job. I’ve always been a firm believer that great things take time.

    Cooper Wright · August 10, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Oops, I accidentally posted too early.

    What I meant to say was:

    You’re doing a great job. I’ve always been a firm believer that great things take time, and this is no exception. In the otherwise… Not so great year of 2020, this is something I am really looking forward to.

      Tom · October 12, 2020 at 7:11 pm

      Thank you, Cooper! It’s really nice to think that this game has given people something to look forward to, and your comment has improved my day quite a lot. You may have already seen it, but there was a big update to the demo on Wednesday that you might want to try out. I hope that you like the new additions

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