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).

59 Comments

  1. Sin Vega says:

    Yayyy more ant fans pls. Ants are the best organism, by far. Utterly fascinating creatures and if you disagree you are a big wrong fool with stupid big useless flappy ears who doesn’t know anything.

    This is looking lovely. More ant games! More!

    • pepperfez says:

      Utterly fascinating creatures and if you disagree you
      will be among the first to be liquidated by the myrmarchy.

    • grimdanfango says:

      Ants are great, but I personally thin bees are right up there too. I’d be loath to choose which was “the best organism”.

      Now, a game where bees and ants join forces and conquer the world… *that* I’d like to see.

      • grimdanfango says:

        Gah, “think” I say… “think”! Curse this lack of edit button.

      • Sin Vega says:

        My dream game would basically be Ant Simulator But Also Bees, Spiders, And Wasps.

        The wasps would be evil, naturally. Also there’d be an option to be a wap mimicking spider stealthing it inside a nest so you can corner the queen and bite the bastard to death, while giggling.

        • RedViv says:

          Only the most scientifically accurate arachnid cackle will do.

        • Hypocee says:

          For a reason I forget, I just had it pointed out to me a couple months ago that all ants are wasps.

      • Wedge says:

        You’ve not played Earth Defense Force I take it?

        OK probably not exactly what you’re thinking of, but still.

      • Bugamn says:

        Have you heard of Swarm Assault? I’ll concede that it’s not a simulator, and the bugs have guns, but it was an RTS with some interesting ideas and I miss that game.

        • JeCa says:

          Oh, that’s what it was called. Thank you so much! I used to play that to death on my parents’ W95 machine (although some memory leaking issues meant if I didn’t beat a given mission within a certain time limit the game would become unplayable, which added an extra sort of challenge), but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was called.

          Now, to ruin or not to ruin childhood memories…

    • xaqfox says:

      I would celebrate fire-ants going extinct and my ears barely flap at all

    • PerspectiveDesigns says:

      I LOVE ANTS! Myrmecology is one of my favorite hobbies. If anybody wants to see some pictures of bizarre ants from around the world I highly suggest checking out Antweb.
      link to antweb.org

    • Akbar says:

      whoo ant love! The story of the Argentine ant is one of the most incredible ones. You can hear it here: link to npr.org but I’ll summarize below.

      The Argentine ant is a type of ant from the north of Argentina, with their homeland a flood plain. These ants were incredibly skilled fighters as land was sparse. One day, a boat pulled into the river and these ants, who all instinctively avoided water, crawled aboard. These ants then started spreading colonies. These ants were exceptional, most ants will happily assimilate other colonies and breed with eachother, but these ants would immediately kill any other non-Argentine ant. So we have these warmongering (I’ve heard that ants are the only non-human animals to engage in anything that resembles full scale warfare) ants that are genetically engineered to preserve their breed and spread. What this ended up meaning is that every colony of this ant would be peaceful with eachother and hostile towards themselves, thus making them considered a supercolony. For perspective, before this discovery, the largest ant colony was believed to be one in Hokkaido, measuring 2.7 square kilometers. This was completely eclipsed by the Argentine ants, who have a massive colony along the European Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts measuring 6,000 kilometres in length, and on a whole, the global argentine ant supercolony is about as large as the Spanish empire at it’s peak extent.

  2. pepperfez says:

    Can we have Pip’s Science Corner as a regular feature?

  3. Janichsan says:

    Not quite a SimAnt remake/sequel, but close enough.

    • LionsPhil says:

      One day.

      One day.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      SimAnt really was the best, wasn’t it?

      • cpt_freakout says:

        Yes.

        The real question is: are we ready? No, are we worthy?

      • tehfish says:

        I vaguely remember playing it at school and enjoying it a lot. (ah, the wonders of having one of your friend’s dad as head of IT)

        Slightly terrified of finding and replaying it encase i find it was all nostalgia or something :P

    • Hypocee says:

      Its Kickstarter which I backed failed, but keep an eye out for Formicarium – a sim attempting to be Dwarf Fortress for a diverse sampling of weird ant species.

  4. PsyX99 says:

    Nice !

  5. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Can you go all Phase IV and create scientist-melting heat ray towers?

    • KaptainKartWheel says:

      Longtime listener, first time caller here.

      Registered specifically to share the love about Phase IV.
      Has to be one of my favorite films ever!

  6. vence333 says:

    I played a lot of Empire of the ants from Microids back in the days, was a big fan of ants after reading Bernard Werber books and was pleasantly surprised by the game, which is a RTS game were you needed to establish a strong ” economy ” while fighting other ant species and some other insects like spiders, not sure if this is even close to that.

  7. seroto9 says:

    This looks fANTastic. I’m a fan(t). I hope you can keep us inform(ic)ed about this game.

    Thants, Ant.

  8. Noumenon says:

    Can anyone comment on whether the game is educational enough to buy for a nephew?

    • Sin Vega says:

      I think you’d be selling yourself short there, to be honest. You could get a lot more than one game, unless it’s a particularly troublesome nephew.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        If this isn’t a joke or reference then it’s a wonderful display of entitlement. Is the twist that you’re their nephew?

      • tehfish says:

        I just got odd looks for giggling like a loon randomly… I hope you’re happy :)

  9. VitalMoss says:

    I literally didn’t know woodlice were anything other than roly polies until now.

    • eggy toast says:

      If anything the name wood lice has tarnished the once adorable roly polly.

    • Navillus Omloc says:

      Thanks to my maternal Grandmother I grew up calling them ‘Grey Goats.’

    • death_au says:

      In Australia we call them butchy boys. No idea why, but I had no other name for them until now.

      • Premium User Badge

        Dukey says:

        No we don’t! They’re slaters! What weird part of Australia do you come from?

      • King_Rocket says:

        No we don’t, as another has said they are known as slaters in Aus. Obviously you are a plant working for some unknown counter slater agency.

    • Arglebargle says:

      We called them rolly-polly, but what’s an L among friends….

    • Premium User Badge

      Edski says:

      In New Zealand we called them Slaters, although apparently as a small child I referred to them as Blunjikays for reasons that weren’t entirely clear.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      It’s woodlouse, not lice.

  10. NonCavemanDan says:

    Next feature to add: milking aphids!

  11. NetsukeMonkey says:

    For the Ant fans here (Fants?) – can I heartily recommend a book called Journey To The Ants (Jants?) by Bert Holldobler and Edward Wilson. I got it out from the library one day expecting to be mildly interested and instead came out intensely fascinated and in love with ants.

  12. CannedLizard says:

    Ant-thony!

  13. racccoon says:

    I love killing ants & sitting a watching the other ants come to its rescue and they get killed by hour or more its a massacre of dead ants but they still keep coming…reminds me I got Ant powder this years and destroy all the ants around my garden and outside area lol
    poison the mothers and tread on them :)

    • ButteringSundays says:

      If you need a name for a good therapist just let me know.

  14. Universal Quitter says:

    We also call them “pill bugs” and “sow bugs,” but I suppose those are somewhat less adorable.

  15. Arglebargle says:

    Years ago, in the indoor-outdoor den of my old Texas house, I came upon a thick trail of fire ants snaking in from the outside. Now this was a contravention of the rules: I left the fire ants alone in the backyard, if they didn’t invade the house. Occasionally they’d lose institutional memory, and come in to raid the dog food. The cat food I’d finally found a place that was difficult for their foragers to get to, but the dog was just not agile enough for that. Usually this meant a spate of chemical fire and brimstone.

    But I followed the ant trail, and it lead under one of the den’s overstuffed chairs. This being odd, I pulled the chair out to investigate. There, dropped from the previous year’s Christmas stocking were three brazil nuts. The ant trail lead directly to them. The industrious fire ants had drilled holes in the nuts’ tough shells and were busily hauling the meat out of them. I could only image the initial shock of the first foragers as they recognized their long lost fodder. Fire ants having coming to N. America sometime in the ’20’s from Brazil and having spread from their initial banana boat incursion in Florida, this may have been the first time they’d come across some of their native food in decades.

    Impressed by their focus and diligence, I decided to forgive them their trespass. Then I remembered Richard Feynman’s college experiments with ants and ant invasions. With some adept use of a cardboard box and some fireplace tongs, I moved the Brazil nut ‘manna’ outside, and placed them right along the path the fire ants were following into the house.

    An hour of computer fun later, the den was clear of ants: Their invasion was spurred only by the glorious remembrances of food-past, that far surpassed the minor delights of canine or feline kibble. The balance was restored.

    • DevilishEggs says:

      My fire ants story is my grandfather stripping out of his overalls and underpants in his front yard because they had become lately invaded by the red devils. I like yours better.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Family lore says that something like that happened to me when I was 3 years old. Apparently, I didn’t hold a grudge….

  16. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Huh. I’m kind of impressed with the scope of the movement mechanics. First game I’ve seen with “Simulator” in the name that actually tries to take it seriously. A lesser game would have left it at scaled up environments with regular FPS movement… I like how you can easily walk around both sides of a blade of grass like that, and particle gravity indicating down is a nice touch. Cool-looking environments too, though the ground detail lets it down a bit (probably WIP). Needs some more decoration and displacement maps, maybe some loose pebbles.

    • Jay Load says:

      I am immediately reminded, and somewhat aghast that no-one else previously has mentioned it – of the way the Aliens moved in Aliens vs Predator. They way they could stick to any surface. It made navigating around the levels so much fun, and possibly my favourite part of the games! I could see me buying this just to have the experience but in a properly scaled natural setting. Could be awesome.

  17. Jay Load says:

    Thanks, Ants.

    Thants.

    (C’mon, what has happened to RPS commenting??? The one time we can use an actual quote from Look Around You and the jokesters are nowhere to be found!)

  18. Hypocee says:

    There was also a queen ant who you seem to treat as an egg vending machine.

    More true than you quite possibly know! Something that sets The Selfish Gene apart from Dawkins’ later works is its frequent diversion into evolutionary edge cases which demonstrate stable intraspecific or intrakin equilibrium rather than anything we’d naively describe as optimisation. My second-favourite chapter in the book covers the family conflict created by hymenopterans’ bizarre genetic system. We can make unusually clear-cut predictions about a single number indicating for whose genetic benefit a colony operates. There are some real-world complications and exceptions but long story short, in most species and most colonies, the workers almost entirely get their way and farm their mother for supersister queens.