Friday, 27 August 2004


No, not the computer game. Over at Voyage to Arcturus, there's an excellent article on Civilisations from a Galactic viewpoint, as part of an extended critical review of Dr Michio Kaku's article, The Physics of Extraterrestrial Civilisations. This follows on from a more recent post of his, about the Super Earth I mentioned in the previous article on this blog.

Though talking about Computer Games, the most educational game I've ever come across was Maxi's old one, SimEarth. Not only did it teach me some of the concepts involved in how Life evolved on this planet, and the deleterious effect Homo Sap. has had on BioDiversity, but it changed my world view. Provided we don't really, really screw up and remove all life down to a depth of kilometres, it's no big deal. If half the species on Earth die off, including our own, just wait a Billion years, or even a few bundred million, and you wouldn't know anything had happened.

Maxis hasn't developed the game any further - too educational, not enough game - and so it's Abandonware, and a legal download of it is available for the PC (Mac versions exist). It's so old that the .zip file is less than 1 Megabyte in size, it will fit on a single floppy. I've also just installed and tested in on my Win98 box, so it will probably work on even on XP, ME etc. There's even a good help article available online explaining some of the basic concepts.

But you really are playing God. From another help article about the game:
Scenario 5.8. Earth 2xxx- goal: get 25,000 biomes and 1,000 civilized people,
time limit: unlimited

This scenario seems easy just from looking at it, but is in fact very hard. You could open the present and flood the whole world, which means you'll start from scratch. However, the method I used is the opposite as it's hard to get the biomass up to 25,000 with so much water. Water based animals don't seem to count as much towards biomass as trees do. So, instead I allowed all of the water to boil over.
Letting the temperature rise is fairly simple in this one, as doing nothing will achieve this goal....
As Peter, Paul and Mary once said, Well, Well, Well...
Lord told Noah, Build him an ark,
Build it out of hickory bark.
Old ark a-movin', and the water start to climb,
God send a fire, not a flood next time.
Anyway, if you adjust your screen settings for the original 640x480 resolution, it's worthwhile having a go at it.

P.S. If you get to the 'nanotech' stage of civilisation, and you cause a Nuclear War, then you get a Terminator-type scenario, with killer robots taking over the world. That one was an Easter Egg put in by the programmers, and isn't in any of the documentation.

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