From Alpha To Omega: Discovery

I genuinely find that more interesting than an ultra-realistic picture of men with guns

I’m periodically amazed that there hasn’t been a modern update of Sim Earth, the genius of which was that it made me feel equal parts scientist and god, both of which are unattainable goals in my actual life as I have no aptitude for reality or divinity. Doesn’t matter because we’ll all be bald space marines within the next twenty years and I’m sure some sort of shaving implement and stick-to-wall training will be provided. Meanwhile, I’m still looking for the next great Science-God game and I’ve found Discovery, a free browser-based offering. It’s short and fairly simple, given that its scope is the creation and contemplation of a world, but it is an interesting little toy. Try it.

Maybe it is my inner nostalgic taking over, but I don’t find it too hard to see life in these blotches of colour. The biggest and most damaging limitation is the size of the world, which doesn’t provide the proper scope for fusing continents and sinking mighty land bridges, but the game is perhaps more about discovering the limits of structure rather than unlimited horizons.

Via Jayisgames.


  1. lunarplasma says:

    I loved Sim Earth. I spent quite a few hours on it getting Dinosaurs to go fly off into space. I even spent many an hour reading the background material in the manual regarding the Gaia theory.

    But therein lies my biggest beef with this game – it is very strong at pushing the self-sustaining Gaia Theory which is not quite the mainstream view of ecological processes.

    Now back on topic: yes, Discovery. This does look quite interesting but damn, it takes a while to start doesn’t it?

    • Berious says:

      I’d spend most of a game with a horrified Gaia looking quite p-off with me. Great game for fiddling about with variables and watching the results. Can’t imagine a game like Sim Earth or Ant being made today, it’s a shame Maxis discovered The Sims really.

    • Creaturemagic says:

      I Really, Really, Really want another game like Sim Ant. I loved playing an ant, attacking the red ants, controlling the spider, taking over the lawn, taking over the house, it was all just so fun. I’m actually curious as to why an indie hasn’t already released a game similar to Sim Ant. In fact, I want another Sim Tower and Sim Farm while I’m thinking about it :)

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      ” not quite the mainstream view of ecological processes.”
      Which is a bit like saying that the classical elements aren’t quite the mainstream view of chemistry.

  2. mod the world says:

    Speak for yourself, i don’t plan on being bald 20 years from now!

    • MiniMatt says:

      Me neither, I’m already saving up all the hair from the shower plug-hole.

  3. Bhazor says:

    Probably the best tutorial instructions I’ve ever read

    “The squirrels cried for help to be saved from the sea and the fish. Give them clairvoyance.”

  4. Nallen says:

    I am thirty and balding. Someone get me to a stick-to-wall training centre before I am too old to enlist.

  5. PoulWrist says:

    Games like this doesn’t sit well with the fundamentalist religious mindset of the modern world.

  6. kukouri says:

    Great find here.

  7. Jorum says:

    Surely in the face of climate change now would be a perfect time for a new SimEarth game?

    The hours I spent trying to get insect civilisation. Or trying to terraform Venus, argh that was hard and featured lots of “oh shit all the dolphins are boiling” shenanigans.

    Also SimAnt – someone go and make a new one now.

  8. mod the world says:

    Interesting game. Reminds me of MS Paint.

  9. Khann says:

    Could anybody give a little insight into why these simulation/management games have all but disappeared? Genuinely curious.

    • Vagrant says:

      Because making a game costs elventy billion dollars and the common plebe likes explosions and guns sticking out of their necks.

      This leaves the indie scene to take up the standard, but designing sims are hard, and they’d rather just recreate their 8-bit youth anyways.

    • Khann says:

      Surely these types of games are (relatively) cheap to make? They’re not exactly asset heavy, and as I understand, that is the most expensive part of a modern game. I wouldn’t imagine you’d need a 50 man team.

      Guess that’s why I don’t run my own studio.

    • Shuck says:

      The problem seems to be that although it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of sophisticated art assets, it needs some serious maths. So it isn’t nearly as easy to put together as other games. (Also the more people doing particular types of games, the more likely you’ll find tools and sample code/code libraries devoted to just that thing, making it easier for developers who aren’t serious programmers.) So it’s still a pretty serious time/resource commitment – look at something like Dwarf Fortress, which has two people (one of them a mathematician) literally devoting their entire lives to developing it whilst living like monks. So simulation games tend to fall between the gap of what’s financially feasible for larger studios (who have to appeal to a large audience to make their investment pay off) and indies (who simply don’t have a lot of time or resources to make a game in the first place).

    • Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

      It’s because very few if any indy developers have the talent of Will Wright. Will has a knack of abstracting incredibly intricate systems in a way that is both extremely accessible and entertaining. It isn’t really something that is easy to replicate. Edgy 2D platformers and simple roguelikes are just so much easier.

  10. chabuhi says:

    I can’t unlock anything past “M” in Discovery. I tried spamming every key below it to death, but I’m clearly missing whatever circumstances invoke the “N” unlock.

    I can’t believe I’m seriously playing this game.

    Edit: Got past it – finished. Interesting commentary on our “evolution”.

  11. Vagrant says:

    reply fail!

  12. Josh Wanamaker says:

    I had much more fun with SimLife than SimEarth. It had some of the terrain-editing components of SimCity with the massive scale of SimEarth, only you controlled plant and animal life down to the genetic level. I had ever so much fun creating a virulent plague of locusts that ate both plant and animal matter, reproduced 9 times every second, and lived for 100 years. I would use the carrot tool to lead massive clouds of the things across entire continents, leaving nothing but skeletons and bare rock in their wake.

    Holy balls, Tyranids. I created Tyranids.

  13. nimzy says:

    But you do play a science-god game everyday when you run this website!

    RPS: Fondly regard creation.

  14. chabuhi says:

    Discovery Channel had a game out back in 1997 called “Evolution: something something something” that was a neat little iteration on the SimEarth/SimLife games. It got frustrating at times, but how I enjoyed raising my elephants to sentience!

  15. Cheese says:

    “I’m genuinely find that more interesting than an ultra-realistic picture of men with guns”


  16. Xyvik says:

    This article brought back such a huge wave of nostalgia! So much time spent on Sim Ant, Earth, Tower, Life…

    As an indie developer myself (or at least trying very hard to be one) I can say that it is rather difficult to find engines that would allow Sim-type games. As already stated, everybody loves guns and explosions, so those are the engines easiest to find. Some good engines that could work Sim-related stuff are expensive or very hard to use. I’ve been fiddling around with using Unity as a Sim-type generator, but so far it has been very difficult.

    If I ever get it figured out, a new Sim Ant is the first thing I’m making. Promise!

  17. gayylalgli says:

    Hmmm … top down, browser-based game. I am still hurting from the disappointment that was the last Shadowrun game on the PC. This announcement fills me with guarded optimism. I would prefer to see something more modern and robust. The Shadowrun IP has such potential. Maybe one day it can be realized. It really could be something truly amazing – essentially with three whole worlds to explore (physical, astral, Matrix). But in order to fully realize the world of Shadowrun in a digital environment would take hundreds of workers and thousands of hours of intense work. I’d just be happy if they get the idea right, myself.salvia divinorum