Darwinning: Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution

Day 145, and the creatures have still not realised I am Johnny 5
I think if this footage of Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution shows anything, it’s that gamers should not be allowed anywhere near a first-contact situation. What happens in this sandbox natural selection sim, where you watch species evolve rapidly as they deal with the changes in the climate and food chain, is just a little bit genocidey. Everything is going fine: the creatures crawl from the ooze that they once called home, they scamper over the world, they get a bit too numerous so an ice-age is set in motion for a little bit of population control, then the developer sets a deathbot loose. The selection gets a little bit unnatural at that point.

The Galapagos as a design document is a fun idea. There are a huge amount of variables to play with: the climate, the water level, the fertility. Then there’s more unnatural enhancements, with you directly affecting the creatures mating habits, or physically plucking one from the ground to place elsewhere on the little island. Any physical stat you can think of can be exposed in the game engine: want to know a particular creature’s neck width? There’s a toggle for that. And global extinction is just a few toggles away. In this instance, the rover the developer sets loose kills all the low-strength creatures and feeds the high-strenth ones, but then they get reliant on the rover’s lunch runs. So when he takes the rover away, the entire civilisation collapses.

There’s not a lot of game yet, but that’s coming. The simulation is what matters first and foremost, but when that’s settled there will be species vs species fights to the death, terraforming, and fossil hunting.

The alpha builds will be free forever, but you can buy-in to the latest versions.


  1. lowprices says:

    Meals on Wheels Deathbots are a natural part of any functioning ecosystem.

    I do like a good sandbox to cause chaos in, and this looks like one of those.

    • LIVELIKE21 says:

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  2. Vastial says:

    Reminds me very much of Unnatural Selection back in 1993!

    • mwoody says:

      THAT’S what it reminded me of. Particularly the setup screen. Thanks; that was bugging me.

  3. Jahkaivah says:

    So kind of like what Spore should have been?

  4. sinister agent says:

    Yay, experimental ecology games! The natural next step after years of open word / exploration / procedurally generated landscape games, and it’s starting to happen. Colour me pleased.

  5. Bhazor says:

    I am so hot for this. Seriously this is one of my all time dream games.

  6. KwisatzHaderach says:

    This sounds intrigueging.
    I wonder if there will be a climatic feedback system put in place, like an iceage triggering even colder climates due to higher albedo, maybe even causing a snowball earth with only a few microbes surviving in some puddles. And then rising CO2 levels because the carbonate-cycle is broken by the iceblanket, causing hotter climates. Ahhhh, the science!
    They will probably keep it a little more direct and gamey though…

  7. 1Life0Continues says:

    The Sequel – Intelligent Design: For the Sake of Balance

    • TechnicalBen says:

      While a joke, and I get it. It does raise an interesting question. We know the programmer of this game is “natural”. They “exist”. Who does the programmer represent here? Unguided actions, or a guided one? Is the evolution in the game the result of random actions or determined ones? Is the system “Natural” or “Intelligent” in the creation, or both?

  8. Low Life says:

    My mom always warned me about people who use two colons in a headline. I’ll be keeping my eye on you, Craig.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      My mom always warned me about people with two colons.

  9. Reapy says:

    Oh very cool, I love stuff like this. I was thinking they totally need to go mario galaxy / planetary annihilation and wrap the world round a sphere.

    • Somerled says:

      …and then I pictured a pudgy, castrated, mustachioed stereotype the size and mass of a large moon jumping, spinning, and butt-stomping through our evolutionary past … and Lovecraft started making a whole lot more sense to me.

  10. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    A version of Spore that’s fun to play? A version of SimLife that actually has some gameplay and graphics to go along with the simulation?

    Color me tentatively excited.

  11. RSeldon says:

    Could it be? Has someone finally heard my prayers for a proper modern-day SimLife? HA! I KNEW those ritual sacrifices would pay off in the end.

    …I mean. Um. Gosh, this looks properly lovely. I shall try the alpha as soon as I’ve got time.

    *sidles away to scrub the blood and arcane symbols off the floor.*

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      If we’re doing black magic, could we maybe punish the guy who approved the box art for SimLife? That box art is why I got the game as a child and why I’ve been forever dissatisfied with it.

  12. Jadeymew says:

    Hey all,

    I’m Jade, the main art/graphics person for this game! Just wanted to say thanks so much for the article and all the positive feedback, you guys are the best! :D

    • Syra says:

      I liked the style of the video, it made me laugh.

    • 2helix4u says:

      This is basically one of my dream games. Downloading that alpha now!

    • Didden says:

      The humour is grade A in the video. I’ll be watching for those dropsharks.