7 – Biomes & Biodiversity

Biomes and Biodiversity

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Establishing the Characteristics of a Biome

III. Gradual Transition Between Biomes

IV. Attributes for Plants and Animals

V. Not the Sonoran Desert Everywhere

I. Introduction

Biomes and biodiversity are a great way to infuse a sense of environment and a living world into any game with a large world. The purpose of this document is not to catalog the different varieties of biomes which could exist within the games, but instead to provide some general guidelines and considerations for how biomes should exist and how biodiversity should populate those regions.

A lot of this takes into consideration that the game world is compressed, that some biomes in-game may be much closer together than they could ever exist in the real world. This also takes into consideration that biomes aren’t surface-deep, and things below the visible surface are just as important to the biome as what can be seen on the surface.

I may be no geologist, but I know that pouring sand in a forest doesn’t make it a desert.

II. Establishing the Characteristics of a Biome

Biomes are large stretches of area with similar weather and geological characteristics. The characteristics of a biome will influence the types of plants and animals that can exist there, as well as different types of materials which may not be available in other places. Below are some of the characteristics which can be defined for a biome, and these features will gradually be affected or slowly replaced as one biome transitions to another.

– Weather patterns may be determined by the types which normally occur in that biome.

– High and low temperatures for the season may determine wildlife diversity, as well as the timing by which some plants reach a state where their rarest materials are available.

– Humidity can affect volatility, conductivity of electricity-based attacks, and various other properties.

– Soil composition, like the composition of clay and other minerals and presence of permafrost, can influence what can grow there, and determine the challenge for burrowing creatures (or players) to get through masses of soil.

– Seasonal variation can determine how drastically the biome changes for different seasons, which may allow for further variation in an area or similarly limit what can survive there to things which can withstand harsh conditions year-round.

– Altitude can determine how much ground water the area soaks up, affect the standard temperature, and potentially cause fatigue if creatures change altitude too rapidly without acclimating. Different organisms will exist at different altitudes, which can promote a semi-stratified look and feel to these locations like one would see in the real world.

III. Gradual Transition Between Biomes

The game world is very compressed compared to real-world scale, so it makes sense that desert and tundra can potentially be as close as 10KM apart from each other. There should never be a distinct rough-cut transition from one biome to another, and the transition between them can be done in a way that is extremely smooth and organic.

The distance between two biomes should be a fair distance apart, and for the purpose of this document I’ll be using 10KM as the standard. This can easily be scaled to a size which makes sense if the concept is actually implemented.

In order to allow for a gradual and natural transition, the entire world can be set up on a 100×100 square meter grid, which will assist with facilitating terrain transition over long stretches. This also takes into account materials under the surface as far down as the biome goes before reaching an underground region, so simply replacing the surface layer of a region will not be enough to affect major change.

The content of a region will determine if the region is Full or Transitional.

  • Full terrain regions are ones which are made up of 95% or more of a single biome. This discrepancy of 5% is to account for player-constructed architecture or temporary instanced content which may not entirely fit the biome but still be placed there.
  • Transitional terrain regions are ones which have a blend of two or more biome types. These are any combination where less than 95% of a biome’s characteristics are represented in the region.

Part of what determines the mix of two or more biomes is how close the transitional areas are to the full areas, but also the blend of biomes in the 4 adjacent grid spaces as well as the 4 spaces connected diagonally at the corners.

Representation of one biome in an area cannot be more than 1% higher than all adjacent grid spaces, meaning that no more than a 1% increase in the representation of one biome can be found in a gird space that is adjacent to another. This guarantees a very smooth transition over a long distance, and fully prevents biomes from having very abrupt transitions.

What it means for a biome to be represented in an area is that the material conditions and physical properties of that biome are expressed in some amount in that area. Weather patterns, hot and cold temperatures, humidity, soil composition, fertile or permafrost, seasonal variation, and altitude, can all be a factor in how a biome is expressed in a region, as detailed in the above section ”Establishing the Characteristics of a Biome.”

IV. Attributes for Plants and Animals

In addition to the combat or harvesting attributes associated with the flora and fauna of a region, there should be survival attributes which determine how well they can survive under various conditions, which are vital to their disbursement and availability across the game world. Every organism will be able to exist in an area based on their tolerance to temperatures and temperature shifting, ability to move about or spread through natural mechanisms, ability to survive on available food sources or with available minerals and precipitation, susceptibility or resistance to toxic and otherwise harmful features or organisms in the area, how well it can be out-competed and choked out by another species, ability to stay in the area year-round or need to migrate, and potentially other features. Weaker burrowers may do poorly in permafrost or chaparral because the soil is tougher for them to get through, for example. Some plants may not release certain chemicals or even flower in the same way as one in a different biome, so finding a plant isn’t necessarily enough to be able to harvest exactly what is desired from it.

Ranges for these attributes can also be used to determine speciation and evolutionary differences. A plant existing in a certain temperature range for centuries could develop a different color, fruit size / shape / color / flavor, and leaf patterning than other species. A furred beast in different regions may have different coloration to help blend with the terrain, as well as having different fur patterns or other altered features to further represent adaptation in that area. Depending on the characteristics of the region, and what the plant or animal needs to survive there, it can be assigned variations that make it unique from other species while retaining many of the important characteristics.

Not every organism has a biome it fits into. Many things will be able to exist across multiple biomes. Some things may only be able to exist in transitory areas between certain biomes, as the blend of conditions they need to survive is specific to those transitional regions, which further promotes exclusivity and scarcity of their specific materials.

V. Not the Sonoran Desert Everywhere

This is important enough to me that I need to mention it. The Saguaro cactus only naturally occurs in ONE PLACE on Earth, yet so many cartoons and video games have gotten this wrong over the years and put this iconic cactus in places where it doesn’t belong. It has become the token symbol of desert regions, while Beaver-Tail cactus is seemingly everywhere. If something similar to the Saguaro cactus is used in the game, only use it in ONE type of desert biome that happens to be rather lush and green for a desert, not one with sparse plants and sand dunes. Be consistent about it too, don’t allow it to be generated outside of the one region where it is placed.