Gaming for the Environment

Minecraft: Sustain Mod
This video game mod was developed by Mateusz Mrowiec (NJIT) to introduce sustainable resource management into the widely popular online sandbox game MinecraftMichael Ehrlich of NJIT’s School of Management served as a consultant for the sustainable game economy and balancing award systems. Instructor and adviser: Andrzej Zarzycki

Main Features
 Adding pollution.
 Adding electricity.
 Players have to manage their time and resources to ensure pollution doesn’t go too high.
 Once it does, the world around them starts changing.
 Adding achievement and badge systems.

Game Mechanics
Simple rules: (1) You enter an unbalanced, not pristine, world. At the start, you need to make choices that impact the environment. (2) Are you mining for coal and using a furnace to produce energy and prepare products, such as processing iron ore for iron? (3) Or do you collect trash/recyclables to reharvest some rare metals to be able to produce a wind- or watermill? (4) Trees take time to grow. (5) They deteriorate and ultimately die when the air, soil, or water pollution is high.

You are spawning in the game at random location and in random environmental conditions.

At the beginning of the game the player receives their starting items (image below top) as well as the Sustain Manual, Recycler and Battery Pack (image below bottom)

Starting assets at re-spawning

Players start with an unbalanced world–random levels of pollution (left), levels reset and randomize when player dies and re-spawns (right).

Pollution is cause by using pollution-producing machines like water turbines or furnaces (left). However it can be lowered by planting trees and using water filters. Pollution can be negative, meaning the player has some room to use the machines and keep the world healthy (right).

Properties of various game objects.

Sustainable Game Economy
A furnace will smelt iron and gold fast, but it also pollutes the air more quickly. An electric furnace will cost a lot more to build, and the player will have to recharge its batteries, but it will pollute the air a lot more slowly (left top).

To counter the pollution, players will have to plant a lot of trees. Trees take time to grow. Players have to plant saplings, which will slowly turn into trees over time (left middle and bottom).

Soil pollution is the only type of pollution that goes down in quantity by itself. It takes a long time, but it will eventually go down if the player doesn’t pollute the air or water.

Air pollution and water pollution directly increase the soil pollution. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep both in check.

You can gather and mine materials just like in a regular Minecraft game. However, the Sustain Mod adds a new block–trash block. Trash can be collected and put inside the Recycler, where it is recycled into new materials and resources. These resources are not obtainable through the conventional gathering methods in Minecraft, and these new resources, such as aluminum, are necessary to build zero-carbon and zero-pollution infrastructure such as water and wind (turbines).Trash can be recycle to obtain new Minecraft resources
Players need to be prepared for unexpected events and disasters that can impact the gameplay. In the case of the Sustain Mod, disasters happen every couple of minutes and trigger negative changes in one of the pollution types. If a player is unprepared for these events (operating just below the maximum pollution levels), this may cause the death of a player.

Trash Block  (above left)– Randomly generated around the world. Player puts them into a Recycler and gets random materials. Recycler (above center) – Turns trash into random resources. Needs batteries to run. Can’t be crated. Player gets one when they spawn. Battery  (above right)– Item that stores power generated by wind and water turbines.

Unexpected events can significantly alter the gameplay and score tally.

Pollution vs. Player
The only type of pollution that affects the player directly is air. At around 80%, the character gains Weakness status. This will slow down mining and attacks will deal less damage. At around 100%, the character gains Poison status. This will slowly drain health until the player dies and respawns again.

Balancing player strength versus amount of pollution.

Decaying nature due to the pollution

Pollution vs. World
When the pollution get too high, the world itself will start changing:
– grass turns to dirt
– trees become polluted and lose leaves
– flowers disappear
– tall grass disappears
The higher the amount of air, soil and water pollution, the faster the world is changing/decaying.

Minecraft, Sustain Mod gameplay.

Tools/machinery and components

Technical notes

Power Generation:
Wind Turbine – Produces power. Expensive to build. Does not pollute (top panel).
Water Turbine – Produces power. Needs to be placed in water. Cheaper than wind (second panel from the top).

Power Usage:
Electric Furnace – Smelts metals twice as fast as regular stone furnace. Needs batteries to run (second panel from the bottom).
Water Filter – Filters water and decreases water pollution. Needs to be placed in water. Needs batteries to run (bottom panel).

Machines will have a certain lifespan. They will have to be repaired. If they start breaking, they will produce/work slower. When they are not repaired they will simply be destroyed – New tools, such as Wrench – Repairs machines and gets damaged over time.

Target Audience
(1) Kids in elementary and middle schools. The Sustain Mod is meant to teach children about the environmental problems and choices we make everyday.
(2) Minecraft players who wish to extend the game and try new challenges.