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Vilmonic is an artificial life sim about shaping evolution, out now

Don't talk to me about life

Life! Don't talk to me about life. Unless you're talking about breeding artificial lifeforms in something like Vilmonic, where you guide evolution to help increasingly sophisticated beasties flourish. Or just whack 'em next to some predatory zombitons and see what happens.

Cover image for YouTube video

Your ostensible goal is thus:

"Protect and breed unique pixel-art life forms whose pixels and color have meaning. Experiment with natural and artificial selection. Craft tools, construct buildings and change the environment. Uncover the secrets of the past as you dig up ancient tech and fend off the mindless haywire zombitons."

You're not an abstract deity: you're a little fella who walks around moulding different conditions that shape your "Animatroids". That might mean building walls to block off those zombitons, or possibly just distilling a healthy fear of them into your creatures through appropriate breeding practices. Their dispositions are reflected in their appearance, which is driven by a fairly straightforward formula:

"A simple set of rules, derived from genes, controls the behavior of each animatroid. Animatroids have external sensors (motion/scent/water) and internal sensors (hunger/stress/thirst). Animatroids' brains have attraction/repulsion relationships between these sensors. It is these relationships that determine each animatroid's behavior."

My fledgling life forms haven't evolved much, because I accidentally closed one of the tutorial windows and now I've got no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. That tutorial could do with work.

Like with Dwarf Fortress though, I'm more interested in seeing what other people get up to than clambering over the learning hump myself. People have been sharing the results of their experiments on the game's Discord channel, plopping different organisms and ecosystems next to each other and watching what happens to the gene pool.

Solo dev Mark "Bludegonsoft" Stramaglia says he's still got more features in the works. I'd love to see some inter/intra-species altruism metres: it'd be fascinating to see how different environments impacted emerging morality. Scientists have been fussing over Conway's Game Of Life for decades, adding twists to the initial conditions that make simulated organisms choose to share or hog their resources. The idea is that these experiments demonstrate how morality (or proto-morality) emerged as a successful evolutionary strategy, and it sounds like much of the framework for simulating such things already exists within Vilmonic.

Vilmonic is available on Steam and Itch for £10.25/$13.49/€11.24. There's also a free demo here.

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Matt Cox avatar

Matt Cox

Former Staff Writer

Once the leader of Rock Paper Shotgun's Youth Contingent, Matt is an expert in multiplayer games, deckbuilders and battle royales. He occasionally pops back into the Treehouse to write some news for us from time to time, but he mostly spends his days teaching small children how to speak different languages in warmer climates.