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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 12:01 GMT
Video game to help flood planners
Screenshot of the FloodRanger game
The game is about juggling human and environmental needs
The planning of the UK's flood defences is to get a helping hand from a 3D virtual world-based computer game.

FloodRanger, set in a fictional region over a 100-year period, helps planners and engineers work out strategies to cope with real-life flooding.

As in other virtual world games, like SimCity, players have God-like control, so social, economic and environmental decisions have knock-on effects.

It was developed as part of the Department of Trade and Industry's Foresight flood defence project.

Water god

According to the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, the number of people at high risk of flooding in Britain is expected to more than double to nearly 3.5 million by 2080.

With global warming one of the world's biggest threats, Foresight's project was designed to inform government policy about how to protect valuable coastlines effectively, as well as devise better long-term flood defences.

Screenshot of the FloodRanger game
You lose if the public dislike you
Players of the game, developed by Discovery Software, are faced with a balancing act involving various scenarios, decisions and uncertainties.

The players can choose between two global economic scenarios and four climate change models, devised by the UK Hadley Centre for Climate Change, as a backdrop for the action.

It is up to the player to decide where best to build appropriate sea or river flood defences, like dams, reservoirs or groynes, whilst keeping their public generally happy.

With a budget of borrowed funds and a progress report every decade, players have to provide enough employment, housing and infrastructure to keep them popular with the public.

Public opinion drops and players lose if people have to put up with living under the constant threat of flooding, or if disasters do happen.

Model accuracy

The developers, who also make sophisticated geographical information systems, have put in a great deal of effort to make the game use scenarios and models that are accurate.

The large city where most residents live sits on an extensive river network and a major estuary.

The surrounding region has an upland national park full of peat bogs, as well as numerous towns, villages and tourist hotspots.

The region has been created using an extensive hydrological model built into a 3D landscape, which takes into account real information about rainfall, drainage, tides, climate and topography.

Foresight said the game would allow ideas to be tested out in virtual worlds before millions of pounds were spent in the real world.

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17 Feb 04  |  Technology
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09 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
Floods 'lead to mental illness'
14 Feb 04  |  Southern Counties


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