Have you ever wondered what our purpose on this planet is? Of course you have as has everyone, and like anyone, you’ve probably come to the same conclusion. “We’re never going to find the answer, so we can just stop asking. Probably.” With that in mind, you start focusing on the good things in life, like not dying, having enough food, a comfortable shelter, and doing the best you can to ensure the success of your offspring.
This is pretty much the gameplay of One Hour, One Life, a massively multiplayer online survival game where you play a character for a maximum of one hour (you will probably die way before that, though) where each minute represents one year in your life. Whatever you achieve during your time alive will remain in place on the persistent server and will serve to aid (or hinder?) future generations as they try to figure life out.
When you log in and click “Get Born”, you’ll spawn as a baby near a young woman, your mother, who you’ll depend on for food and safety. She’ll tell you what she named you, and voila, you’re a real person, with a first name and your mother’s last name, part of a complex family tree spanning multiple generations (if your forebears were successful enough to branch their tree out, of course. Some get snuffed out by the harsh environment in a matter of 2-3 generations). You’ll be able to interact with your family, and everyone else, through a chat console, but you only get to say a few letters until you’re a bit older and can string whole sentences together. It’s up to the player playing as your mom to keep you fed and out of harm’s way.
As in real life, parents can vastly vary in their care and parenting ability. When I say parents I mean mostly the mother since conception is immaculate and fathers aren’t that much a thing in OHOL. The males play their own role, but by and large they feel like the less important of the two genders (sorry everyone, there are only two here), as the survival of the species rests on the shoulders of the females exclusively. That said, you can get born into a productive, prosperous family, with a caring mother who will nurse you into adulthood and prepare you for the challenges up ahead. Or you can get a mother who still hasn’t figured anything out for herself, let alone her offspring, and forgets to feed you as she scrambles around looking for food herself, leaving you to die unless another nursing-age woman finds you and nourishes you.
Either way, once you’re sufficiently grown (if you manage to stay alive until then), you’ll be on your way to being a productive member of society and having a family of your own. You can engage in countless activities with the items you can find while exploring the map, and you’ll need to do so continually in order to advance your tribe. There’s a comprehensive tech tree that’s getting updated with each patch, so you can see what items go together to form which tools, clothing or raw materials. To successfully keep your society going, you’ll need to find a role you can fulfill, and if you’re in a somewhat stable environment, you’ll encounter somewhat of a ready-made system, with rules, roles and activities everyone engages involuntarily and for the benefit of the group. Once you die, you can log in again and witness the fruits of the labor of your previous self, perhaps hear stories and memories about you, and strive to yet again further society.
The game’s developer, Jason Rohrer, has promised to continually update the game and introduce freshness, with an ever-evolving tech tree possibly leading to hi-tech advancements like laser-shooting robots. You might recognize the name Jason Rohrer as the indie veteran behind some other innovative games like The Castle Doctrine and Chain World. He’s always pushing the envelope with his creations, and once again he’s doing something new with OHOL. Instead of publishing it through the go-to service for indie developers, Steam, or a similar client, he’s decided to sell the game exclusively through his website. What he’s actually selling is server space, he says, and for $20 (currently) you’ll get the full build for Windows, MacOS and Linux and the full source code bundle so you can run the game on your own server. It’s a new direction but it seems to be working, as the game is getting a high number of players. There’s also a mobile version of the game available in the Play and App stores on Android and iOS.
In conclusion, One Hour, One Life is a game of exploration, cooperation, altruism and survival, a microcosm depicting life in the real world through intertwining personal stories, metaphors, rules and legends. Once you’ve played a couple of lives you’re instilled with a strong sense of mission and you begin asking yourself “what can I do to make things better?”. You realize that you’re not working for your own benefit, and that, as the saying goes, you’ll never get to sit in the shade of the tree you’re planting, but you do it anyway. Taking this sense into the real world would, in my opinion, be the penultimate victory of this game and its developer.