Orig­i­nal species

A game about nat­u­ral se­lec­tion vies for sur­vival on Green­light


Cre­ated by a team of four self­de­scribed “bi­ol­ogy nerds” from Zurich, Switzer­land, Niche is a turn­based strat­egy game about ge­netic in­her­i­tance and sur­vival. Play­ers must try to stave off ex­tinc­tion for their tribe of evolv­ing crea­tures and en­sure the species proves ge­net­i­cally suc­cess­ful.

“Niche’s rule­set is built on the five sci­en­tific pil­lars of pop­u­la­tion ge­net­ics: ge­netic drift, gene flow, nat­u­ral se­lec­tion, sex­ual se­lec­tion, and mu­ta­tion,” ex­plains Philom­ena

Sch­wab, re­cent Zurich Univer­sity Of The Arts grad­u­ate and one quar­ter of the core Niche team. “The player com­mands their an­i­mal tribe, man­ages the re­sources and chooses which an­i­mals should pro­duce off­spring to­gether.”

The re­sul­tant pups will ex­hibit a mix of their par­ents’ char­ac­ter­is­tics, which in turn de­fine their abil­ity to in­ter­act with what they en­counter in the world. Like all of us, th­ese cute crit­ters are lum­bered with a lim­ited life­span, which makes guid­ing your species’ tra­jec­tory all the more im­por­tant as you seek to adapt and find an eco­log­i­cal niche in which to live. It’s a tele­o­log­i­cal slant on nat­u­ral se­lec­tion, then, but one that’s based on real sci­en­tific prin­ci­ples.

The harsh re­al­ity of na­ture is off­set by the game’s soft pas­tel pal­ette and charm­ing crea­ture de­signs. In­spired by boardgames, Niche’s in­hab­i­tants ini­tially sported a carved-wood look, but the need to im­bue off­spring with ge­netic fur colours and pat­terns meant a switch to what you see here.

The team took to Steam Green­light in Jan­uary and plans to move into Early Ac­cess later in the year, aim­ing for a fi­nal re­lease in late 2016/early 2017. In the mean­time, you can try the PC/Mac demo now: www.bit.ly/niche-demo.

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