SimCity from Maxis was the hit game of last year. Not too surprising really, if you think about all the human vices that the game satisfied. Greed, violence, cruelty. Lust was probably the only one that didn't figure in. (Perhaps that will be coming soon in SimRelationship :-)). Some people felt, well, a little cramped by SimCity. After all being the mayor of a city is fun, but it's not like being a demi-urge.
SimEarth, Maxis's new game, allows you that power. You are a deity in charge of a planet and have control over the physical landscape and the evolution of life. Sim life forms can start out at the most basic level and progress up to intelligent life forms capable of interstellar travel. Felt like tearing up a swamp or eradicating a particularly bothersome life form (I don't think there is a life form corresponding to your co-workers)? Well, it's all possible in SimEarth. If you are feeling especially ruthless you might think about some appropriate disasters, a plague perhaps, or maybe an earthquake, or what about an ice asteroid?
The $69.95 SimEarth is designed by Will Wright, creator of SimCity. Wright was aided in the task by James Lovelock, whose Gaia hypothesis treats the Earth as a single self-regulating system instead of separate systems of biology, geology, human culture, etc. One of the seven worlds that ships with SimEarth is DaisyWorld, a computer version of Lovelock's model of how life can regulate the environment to create conditions favorable to its continued well-being.
One of the most interesting parts of the game is that it can be goal-oriented or exploratory, as the player wishes. If you simply wants to see what happens when you work on getting dinosaurs up to the level of interstellar space travel or maybe to see what species will survive in an icy environment, so be it. There isn't much of the traditional winning or losing. In addition, SimEarth has been praised by environmental groups as a learning tool for illustrating what humans can do to the environment.
There are also the usual slew of hidden codes in SimEarth. If you're a ResEdit explorer you'd probably run across these too, so I don't feel bad about revealing anything (besides, I don't know what most of them do :-)). Try typing "joke," "erad," "smoo," and "rand". But be warned that you may not want to see what they do to your favorite planet. Erad in particular sounds nasty. Jake Hoelter of Maxis did reveal that "smoo" stands for smooth and smooths out your terrain.
The response I've heard to SimEarth has been extremely positive. In fact, people have been complaining about not being able to get a copy because all the stores are sold out. Unfortunately, we're waiting until Christmas when we have time off to play games for a day straight (that's right, TidBITS will not be coming out around that time for at least a week, maybe two. Even we deserve a break every now and then.). If you are looking for more presents still, Maxis also will release, probably in time for the holiday season, two graphic sets for SimCity. Set #1, Ancient Cities, will include Ancient Asia, Medieval Times, and Wild West graphics. Set #2, Future Cities, will include Future Europe, Future America, and Moon Colony graphics. Be aware that these are simply different graphics - there has been no change in the city simulator itself. But if you were getting tired of the basic old city graphics, being able to zone a cemetery and a corral might be fun. Maxis hasn't set a price on the graphic sets yet, nor is there a firm release date.
Maxis -- 800/521-6263 -- 415/492-3200