>My name is Quentin Long, and I'm one of the many people who only learned
of the Phylomon project because of PZ Myers. I have some ideas regarding
the game part of the project...
The Pokemon game/anime thingie maintains its popularity, in part, by a
steady stream of new material -- new Pokemon critters, new arenas, new
this-that-and-the-other. Indeed, this is true of pretty much every Collectible
Card Game on the market (Magic: The Gathering, etc). It would seem to make
sense for Phylomon to follow suit, by releasing new stuff on a regular schedule.
Fortunately, the biosphere's natural organization accomodates that sort
of thing fairly well. To begin with, you release the Basic Phylomon System,
which covers a playable subset of the biosphere; after that, release a
series of 'expansion sets' at regular intervals. "Now available: Temperate
Rainforest!" "Horrifying Parasites -- just in time for Hallowe'en!" And so on,
and so forth.
It would be appropriate for the Phylomon Project to sell physical
card-sets *as well as* providing downloadable card-images. Believe it or not, this
download-AND-sell paradigm works pretty well for science fiction publisher
Baen Books [ http://www.baen.com ], which allows people to download entire
books from Baen's current catalog under the Baen Free Library program. If
people just want to download the cards and print 'em out on their home
computer, great; Phylomon can provide *Official* Phylomon Cards (hopefully of a
higher degree of quality than most random people are likely to be able to
achieve with the equipment in their homes) for those who wish to spend a bit of
cash. And whatever profits are thereby generated, I'm sure the Phylomon
Project can figure out what to do with that cash, right?
Fundamental premise underlying the whole thing: The Basic Phylomon
System should be an accurate reflection of biological reality as far as it goes
-- with the understanding that *real* biological reality (if you'll pardon
the expression...) goes *farther*.
Second fundamental premise: The initial release is simple. Those
complications which make biology so messy, can always be introduced in later
The cards: I am not entirely sure what sort of data should be included
on a Phylomon card, so I'm just going to throw out a bunch of possibly-useful
ideas for you to look at. I am definitely *not* proposing that *all* of
these ideas must be included!
Size -- Body length, in centimeters, of a mature critter. It may be
appropriate to also provide a "game stat" version of this figure, perhaps the
base-10 logarithm of body length? For any figure X in the range (.3 > X => 3),
Size is 0; for anything in the range (30 > X => 300), Size is 2; and so on
and so forth.
Mass -- Mass, in grams, of a mature critter. As with Size, it may be
appropriate if the "game stat" version of Mass is the logarithm of this number.
A 100-kilogram critter, being 105 grams, would thus have a Mass of 5; etc
Habitat -- What biome/niche the critter lives in. It would be nice to
also include specific details (what temperature range the critter best thrives
in, what humidity range it likes best, etc); whenever the game gets around
to actually using Habitat, you can start off by just using "Biome X", and
reserve the more-detailed information for later expanson sets.
Dietary -- What the critter likes to eat. At its simplest, the "Dietary"
data is limited to carnivore/hervibore/omnivore; in addition, there should
also be more-detailed data on the critter's specific dieetary needs.
Predation -- What likes to eat the critter. It may be redundant to have
*both* "Dietary" *and* "Predation"?
Offense -- What sort of natural weapons the critter has; claws, fangs,
venom, antlers, whatever.
Defense -- What advantages the critter has which keep it alive; speed,
Reproduction -- How long the critter's gestation period is, how many
offspring per litter, preferred time of year for reproduction (i.e., mating
season [if any]).
Mobility -- The critter's modes of motion, i.e., flight, running,
swimming, etc (a critter can obviously have more than one mode of motion). Also
the top speed (in KPH) of each mode of motion the critter has. It'd be nice to
include data on maneuverability, but I am unsure how to represent that;
perhaps the radius of the turning circle the critter can achieve whilst moving
at top speed?
Numbers -- When you encounter the critter in the wild, how many of it
will you need to deal with? Solitary (one single critter), Group (anything up
to 8-10?), Pack (small group, up to maybe 25 or so), Swarm (big group, 1000
or so), Plague (*B*I*G* group, 8 digits and up?).
Activity cycle: Nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular. This data could be
considered a facet "Habitat"; if so, there would be no need for "Activity cycle"
to be a separate game-staat unto itself.
Hunger: How much the critter needs to eat, per day. This could be folded
into "Predation", rather than being a separate game-stat unto itself.
Eating habits: This would cover whether the critter is a 'standard'
carnivore, or a filter-feeder, or what.
In its simplest form, Phylomon can be a Top Trumps-like game. Each
player puts down a Phylomon card; stats off of the cards are compared; whoever's
card was the most strongest, that player collects all the cards which were
played. This works well for 2-player Phylomon Trumps, but multi-player
Phylomon Trumps may require some thought to avoid ties, or at least to determine a
unique winner, among (N > 2) cards.
The next step up for Phylomon is something in the neighborhood of Magic:
The Gathering. Added element: "Biomes", the Phylomon equivalent to the
various 'colors' of 'lands' which are used in M:TG. Each Phylomon card should
include data on which biome that critter lives in; if a player doesn't have
some particular Biome X in their hand, they can't play any critters which live
in Biome X. For critters which can live in more than one biome, the card
displays each available biome with a visual cue (different colors? grey 'em
out?) that indicates how well-adapted the critter is to each of its alowable
biomes. Simple M:TG-style Phylomon only pays attention to a critter's *most*
suitable biome(s); rules to handle differing levels of biome-suitability can
be introduced in a later expansion set.
Expansion set possibilities: Additional types of biome. M:TG-style
Phylomon starts with a small (but playable) selection of biomes; maybe Grassland,
Tropical Rainforest, Riparian, Savannah, and Mountain. A biome-based
expansion set would include a few cards for Biome X, plus a decent array of
Phylomon cards for critters which can thrive in Biome X.
Predation. The Phylomon cards should include data on what sort of prey
each critter noshes on; if a player wants to play a critter which feeds on X,
he must play the X-critter *before* he plays the critter which feeds on it.
Food web. Now we bring plants into it -- each biome can support a
particular range of plants, which are fed on by the appropriate critters.