SimEarth: The Living Planet
is a Simulation Game
by Maxis, released for home computers in 1990 and the Super Nintendo
in 1992. The game leaves the player in control of a planet's terrain and biosphere over billions of years. As well as playing with a custom planet, you can try your hand at scenarios like terraforming Mars, solving modern-day Earth's problems, or exploring James Lovelock's Daisyworld
The game is more involved and less humorous than most of the Sim
titles. One of its more whimsical elements is the Gaia window, which conveys your ecosphere's "mood" via a talking planet with an animated face.
This game provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Robots have higher capabilities than all other lifeform types (Except, funnily enough, daisies) and thus will render them all extinct rapidly.
- All Planets Are Earth-Like: It mostly depends on the player's actions: variables like axial tilt and atmospheric composition are left up to you. However, with the exception of the carniferns, any life that evolves will resemble terrestrial forms.
- All There in the Manual: "All" being a crash course in earth sciences, from geology to biology, and a functional guide to climate modelling that is useful 20 years later in understanding IPCC reports. It was over 500 pages, went into exhaustive detail about the simulation's assumptions and underlying equations, and was larger than most modern game boxes.
- Thankfully, this was condensed to just twelve pages in the Virtual Console version, covering just the basics of gameplay.
- Apocalypse How: Class X (on the old scale) Class 5 (on the new one) at the end of the game, when the sun swallows up the planet. During game play, can range from Class 0 to 6 (on the old scale) Class 1 to 5 (on the new), depending on player actions, natural events, or the actions of the sentient species.
- Character Tiers: Enforced due to different species having different likelihoods of attaining sentience. Robots are the most likely if introduced. Below them are mammals and dinosaurs, the most likely sentient species to occur by laissez-faire play. At the bottom are Trichordates, which even The Monolith will frequently fail when used on, and below even that are Carniferns, which not only need specific conditions to appear in the first place, they are very difficult to control enough to develop intelligence before another species beats them to it. Still, though, sentient carniferns.
- Copy Protection: Based around solar system trivia.
- Cruel Player-Character God: Crank up the sun and bake the planet into a desert wasteland! Or maybe dial it down and trigger a whole new Ice Age! Wipe out cities with plagues, smash continents with asteroids, and make your species favor war by turning them away from philosophy!
- Earth That Was: A more positive example. After developing nanotech, the sentient species will leave the planet, allowing another one to take its place. (Or not.)
- Evolutionary Levels: Evolution in-game tends to form more and more complex organisms, rather than ones that are more adapted to their environment like in real life.
- An Exterior Designer Is You
- Gaia's Lament: Can be perpetrated by both the player and the sentient species. Sentients can pollute the planet into global warming or nuke it into nuclear winter, and the player can hit it with disasters and destructive terraforming, or mess around with the planet sliders.
- Gaia's Vengeance: You can literally poke her in the eye...at your peril.
- Goal-Oriented Evolution: Always towards sentience.
- A God Is You: This is how the game was advertised: "Like being God, but with better graphics".
- Grey Goo: Robots are completely indestructible, live in every biome, and reproduce quickly. Once unleashed, they will be the only life left on the planet - not even the player can stop them.
- Green Aesop: They don't come much more Anvilicious than...
Gaia: This pollution is bad
- Grew Beyond Their Programming: Robots from the nanotech cities if they become sentient.
- Homeworld Evacuation: If the sapient civilization develops past the "nanotech age", an event called "the exodus" is triggered. All cities, regardless of tech level, are fitted with engines and take off into space. The planet is declared a preserve and left alone, possibly allowing a new sapient species to evolve. The motivation for the exodus is unclear.
- Humans Are Special: The PC version seems to favor mammals achieving sentience, at which point they will resemble humans. Right after one sentient species leaves or goes extinct, if mammals are evolved enough, they will reach sentience in no time flat, even if other species are at the same level as well.
- I Love Nuclear Power: Nuking a nanotech city will release robots into the wild, which generally outcompete any other organism in the wild, and can easily become sentient.
- Insectoid Aliens: Literally, if insects reach sentience. They tend to breed in large numbers, so it's not uncommon to have your screen filled with members of the insect race.
- Killer Rabbit: Daisies - the only life form in the game that can kill robots.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: Robots. They have the ability to live in any biome, and "reproduce" quite quickly, allowing them to reach sentience very quickly. When they do, they'll start off in the Industrial Age, rather than Stone Age. They're still susceptible to plagues, though. (Computer viruses?)
- The Monolith: Can be used to accelerate a species' development.
- Nanomachines: The pinnacle of technology.
- Nuke 'em: Good luck cleaning up if your sentient species doesn't know any philosophy when they get to the Atomic age of development.
- Plant People: If the carniferns reach sentience.
- The Reptilians: If dinosaurs or reptiles become sentient.
- Save Game Limits: Only one planet can be saved at a time on the Virtual Console version due to the Wii not having the same filesystem as the Turbo-Grafx 16.
- Sequel Escalation: This was Maxis' first Sim game after SimCity.
- Shown Their Work: The aforementioned Door Stopper manual wraps up with an "Introduction to Earth Science."
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: From level 2 to level 4.
- Spiritual Successor: Maxis' "SimEverything" game, Spore (released 18 years later).
- Starfish Aliens: Literally, if starfish become sentient.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Possibly this is what the player is, if dialogue from the Monolith use means anything.
- Threat-Based Gaming: The help system lists the effects of each menu option.
Quit: This will implode your monitor, possibly doing you severe bodily harm.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Aside from making the climate uninhabitable, if you want to actually have life, you can make life hellish (as is said in the game) by setting Art and Philosophy down to zero.
- Oh yeah, and that city you just incinerated to see the Easter Egg robot race? Each city, especially Nanotech-class cities, can and will house hundreds of millions of sentient life forms. Nice going.
- Wide Open Sandbox
- The Woobie: The obscure, long-extinct Trichordates were included in the game because the developers "felt sorry for them."
- One of the most impressive achievements possible in the game (although no special events occur) is developing trichordates into the dominant form of life on the planet, and the resulting "alien" civilization that results from their sentience, given their extreme difference from all the other lifeforms in both nature and appearance.
- You Nuke 'Em: One of the disasters available to be triggered by the player. Useless for stopping robots, though.