Life Is A Game: Sim Cell

By Nathan Grayson on October 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

You are made of this.

I didn’t much care for Spore as a game or a simulation, but I always thought there was untapped potential in some of its (sadly disconnected) phases. The cell stage, especially, took us to a place where games rarely tread, largely because most of our heroes tend to be visible without the aid of microscopes. Sim Cell, then, interests me because its main celling point (ugh) is that you’re itsy bitsy for the entire thing. Also, it’s a game with educational elements, but not an edutainment product, strictly speaking. I desperately want to see games and education make beautiful, salt-and-pepper-bearded children together, so this is very good news. Watch it in action below.

Now, you don’t actually play as a cell in Sim Cell. Rather, you explore the inside of one as a nanobot. Your goal? To thwart a virus invasion by exploring, scanning for information, and solving puzzles. So basically, you learn by doing:

“Scanned objects will explain how they work individually, but it is up to the player to fit these explanations into a common framework among all the objects of the cell, connecting the dots and constructing for themselves the very processes that cells use to function.”

It looks rather handsome, and it heralds from the proven puzzlers over at Strange Loop, who previously turned the valves on the Adam-approved Vessel. He used words like “ingenious” and “beautiful,” so I think that means he thought it was pretty OK.

Sim Cell doesn’t have a release date as of yet, but it looks decently far along. I suppose it mitochondria come out this year, but I’m not betting on it. It’s a fairly organelle concept, however, so I have high hopes.

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32 Comments »

  1. Cytrom says:

    I’m a bit burnt out on indie games, but i love this idea.

  2. Cinek says:

    O_O now that looks interesting! Always wanted to see something like that! Especially after 1st stage of Spore.

    So – where do I throw my money?!

    • staberas says:

      I’ll buy it if there is a grey goo scenario …

    • yurusei says:

      Man, first stage in Spore was as good as it gets.

      Still remember the amount of glee I had while playing it.

      • baddie says:

        Sim Cell actually starts at the cell level and goes the other direction compared to Spore – there’s a second stage where your nanobot deploys a ‘Picobot’ that can interact with DNA, copy it, and bring it out of the nucleus for the Nanobot to use.

  3. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    This game could prove to be a catalyst for people learning about cells.

    OR

    I just hope this game wont be too small.

  4. Biscuitry says:

    This reminds me of a flash game that did the rounds a few years ago, unimaginatively titled Cell Craft. The title may have been dull, but the game was anything but, turning basic cellular biochemistry into a lightweight strategy game. With, er, platypuses, for some reason. Its focus was more educational than Sim Cell appears to be, but that never seemed to get in the way. You should try it.

  5. gwathdring says:

    I hope my antivirus software doesn’t stop the game from running properly!

    I’d make a better pun, but it’s hard to think of good jokes involving proteins. I could make jokes about map KKK, but all of those jokes would probably land me in a cell.

    • Safilpope says:

      You’re right, microbiology puns are hard. We should find some pun-experts, assemble a protein and have them sort it out for us!

  6. Kefren says:

    “Enhance its defenses”

  7. Bull0 says:

    Everyone’s so tough on Spore! It was never going to live up to the hype! I loved the cell and creature stages, the “tribe” stage was pretty weak, the “civ” stage was actively unfun, then the final stage was in my opinion pretty cool. The stages weren’t disconnected though – they were connected less than perfectly, sure, but they were connected.

    And no love for the tech? You could assemble a creature with any crazy combination of appendages and it would animate pretty believably – that was impressive! Come on!

    • InternetBatman says:

      Pretty much this. The tech was great (a procedurally generated universe filled with user creations and an amazing editor), the middle stages were weak, and each stage needed more, but the game was pretty solid in its own right.

      And people didn’t see some of the connections, like animals you befriend becoming domesticated in the tribe stage, and pets in the city stage.

    • Seiniyta says:

      Spore was a game I hoped would get a lot of expansions and make each stage more fleshed out. It would have been so great. and would made the game a very good 4X game. Also the tech really was amazing considering that even when like a limb was INSIDE the creatures (for whatever reason) the .png file still knew somehow even though you couldn’t see the limb at all in the .png. A lot of respect for the people that made that tech happen.

      The engine definitly had problems though, really bad collision detection. Especially noticeable in the expansion. Despite Maxis created a less then perfect SimCity 2013 I definitly would love to see them give Spore 2 a shot with more depth overall, more robust editors. Tribal stage being more like age of empires, civ stage like Civ 5; Space stage like a real time Masters of Orion.

    • Yglorba says:

      The problem was that the game never knew what it wanted to be.

      As a mechanical game, it was an abject and complete failure (outside of a tiny bit of fun you could wring from the early stages, yes, but they were flawed because development had to be split with and constrained by the connections to other stages.) All of the ‘game-y’ aspects felt forced and unfun to me at every stage other than Cell. Dancing at creatures to convert them, really? Boring and repetitive.

      It would have worked as a simulation-game, or as an art-thing, but they decided to go with a half-assed gamey-thing that just didn’t work.

    • A Dangerous Sloth says:

      The problem with Spore was that there was so much cut from the game because of (excuse me if I get this name wrong) Chris Hecker. Spore was originally supposed to be a very science driven game and there was SO much in the original plan/alpha thingy, ranging from a water stage (which supposedly you were able to stay in and build an underwater civilization), to a city manager like Sim City, to an actual DNA/Protein building stage before the cell stage. The original game was deemed too hard and too sciencey by Chris Hecker, and the studio was divided into two teams, team science, and team creativity. Team creativity was believed to sell more, so that got the greenlight. People don’t hate Spore or anything, it’s just there was so much wasted potential in that game.

      • David says:

        Chris was responsible for the awesome procedural animation tech in Spore. He did not damage the gameplay; that is an oddly persistent myth.

    • Lev Astov says:

      They actually managed to make the final game contain less than the demo Will Wright gave all those years before. The result was disjointed pieces of a game. That’s why people have a problem with it. It was still enjoyable, but I feel if Maxis had had true creative freedom, it would have been better. I suspect EA of making them make it “more accessible.”

      • Cinek says:

        Hahaha, yea, so true. These prototypes that they released were more fun than the whole space stage put together – they actually simulated growth of vegetation, and how weather affects worlds. Final Spore space stage wasn’t even half as advanced as that tiny prototype.

  8. amateurviking says:

    As someone who from time to time teaches cell biology to hungover undergraduates. I have to say I’m impressed with how this looks. Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria etc all immediately recognisable. I will follow this with interest.

    Edit: Strikes me that 6DoF game set in a human body a la Innerspace could be absolutely amazing.

  9. valouris says:

    Dammit, I had the idea of trying to make sth like this when I finished my studies, now it won’t be so novel anymore :/ I’m happy though that at least there is some more serious interactive biology going around.

  10. Sakkura says:

    This is basically what I imagined in my head when I went to university to study molecular biology. In reality though, it’s much cooler.

  11. Edmundo says:

    This reminds me very much of a project I worked on: “Kokori”. Its a Chilean educational biology game where you control nanobots inside of a cell. ( http://en.kokori.cl/ ) Can be downloaded for free and should run on any computer (it was designed so it could even run on cheap netbooks, because it had to be accesible to all students regardless of the capacity of their PCs ). The web version of it is just a “3d viewer” of a cell, but the downloadable game has some light RTS gameplay.

  12. pilouuuu says:

    I just wonder if a game not made by EA is allowed to be called “Sim…anything”.
    Maybe they’ll have to change the name Sim Cell.