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Ant Simulator Looks Pretty, Also Real Ants Make Terrifying Traps

Ants. Ants. Ants. Ants.

Ants.

That has been my thought process as I try to write about Ant Simulator this morning. Ant Simulator [official site]’s developers have released a rather lovely-looking video to show off the new lighting for the game and I am here to talk about it. Except I keep accidentally getting distracted by even more ant videos and ant facts. Let’s look at the video and then I will tell you about an amazingly horrible ant trap:

The video I am supposed to be looking at has you in first person (first ant) perspective exploring what looks like a garden. You clamber up and down dandelion stalks and past fungus in the manner of Honey I Shrunk The Kids or The Borrowers or something. The lighting does indeed look lovely and there are little pollen grains drifting about. I’m not sure which of the Eteeski team this is talking on the video but he says they researched the relative sizes of pollen grains and thinks an ant (with vision comparable to a human) would be able to see them in the environment.

He adds that ants generally have bad vision so it’s not exactly ANT REALISM. I’m not sure the point about most ants being blind is quite right though? As far as I can tell workers generally have the poorest vision and sometimes lack one type of eye altogether but there’s a lot of species differentiation.

The particles are being tried out as a way of orienting the players as well which is a cool, unobtrusive use I hadn’t thought of. You climb all over surfaces in the game so having particles of pollen drifting downwards gives you a sense of which way is up.

The other thing I like about this video is that instead of a little floating hand holding a gun which indicates HUMAN IN VIDEOGAME you have little mandibles on the bottom right and left of the screen and at the top you can see the funiculus which is the segmented bit of the antennae. I think this one is a carpenter ant, although you can also play as a driver ant, a trap-jaw ant, a jack jumper ant and a bullet ant.

So what actually is Ant Simulator. Well. It started life as a Ludum Dare entry but is now being developed into a full game:

“Ant Simulator is a game design to let players experience life as an ant in a fun realistic environment. See how different the world looks from the eyes of an ant! Not only do you play as an individual ant, but you will command a colony from small beginnings and grow into an ant empire!”

In terms of what you do, I watched an alpha gameplay video and there’s digging, collecting fruit, attacking spiders and using food to tell baby ants which units to grow into. There was also a queen ant who you seem to treat as an egg vending machine. I also learned that Americans seem to call woodlice “roly polies” which is ADORABLE.

Outside of game things, I have been researching ants and looking at videos of their behaviour so let me conclude by talking about the ant species, Allomerus decemarticulatus. They live in the Amazon and they construct traps out of plant matter and fungus which they cultivate themselves. The traps look like part of the plant the ants live on but there are lots of little ant-sized holes in which they can hide, ready to ambush. When the prey lands on the trap an ant will pop out and grab on, holding the prey for long enough that other ants can get involved. After it has been immobilised the prey then gets spread-eagled like it’s on a torture rack. It gets subdued further through venomous stinging and biting and is then carried to the colony where it gets dismembered and then cut into littler pieces to be eaten.

You can see that in action here (it’s a Quicktime thing so Chrome will freak out).

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Philippa Warr

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