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Video Game / SimEarth

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SimEarth: The Living Planet is a Simulation Game by Maxis, released for home computers in 1990 and the Super Nintendo in 1992. After SimCity, it was the first "spinoff" in the Sim Series. 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 hypothesis.

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.
    • The Super NES version had a comparatively simple manual, putting the most important info from the other versions' manuals in an in-game dictionary accessible from the main menu. The Virtual Console version's operations guide condenses it much further, eschewing the earth sciences lessons entirely and covering just the basics of gameplay — considering how complex the game is, this is a flaw rather than a mercy.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The Gaia Hypothesis that the entire game is based on is acknowledged by the manual as being not widely accepted in scientific circles at the time of release, and remains widely controversial to this day. However, it runs with it anyway because the result is an effective visual tool of how life and the environment on a planet can potentially develop regardless of the specifics.
  • Colonized Solar System: In two scenarios, the player's mission is to terraform and colonize Mars or Venus.
  • Copy Protection: Only in the MS-DOS version, based around solar system trivia listed in the manual.
  • 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!
  • Due to the Dead: Averted by Gaia herself in the TurboGrafx-16 version. If your sentient species goes extinct and you check up on her immediately after, what does she have to say?
    "Good riddance!"
  • 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.)
  • Energy Economy:
    • The player has to pay with energy for each action, such as triggering floods or using The Monolith.
    • Each civilization use energy to invest in aspects such as philosophy, art and sciences by allocating energy.
  • 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.
  • Final Boss: The robots in Earth 2XXX. You must drive them to extinction and reintroduce life onto Earth to beat the campaign. You can also encounter them if you destroy a city that's advanced enough.
  • 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 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.
  • Hell Is That Noise: In the SNES port, triggering The Plague disaster will be accompanied by a disturbing choir of electronically distorted voices saying "No, no, no, no! NO!" along with the corresponding animated skull-and-crossbones symbol.
  • 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.
  • Idle Game: Deliberate manipulation of the planet is easier than it looks and can end the game quickly. Most of the enjoyment in the game comes from seeing how a random planet develops on its own.
  • 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.
  • Layman's Terms: The Super NES port renames and simplifies many of the species names for the expected younger age of the Nintendo audience; "Eukaryotes" are known as "Amoeba", "Cetaceans" are known as "Whales", et cetera.
  • Lizard Folk: Dinosaurs or reptiles can become sentient, depending on the circumstances.
  • 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.
  • 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 TurboGrafx-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.
  • Starfish Aliens: Literally, if starfish become sentient.
  • Stop Poking Me!: Gaia gives this kind of response if you click her.
  • 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.
  • Technology Levels: Civilizations have seven levels to progress in, from the Stone Age to the the Nanotech Age, determinating how efficiently they can use given energy sources.
  • Timed Mission: All worlds are on an absolute time limit: In ten billion years, the dying Sun will expand far enough to destroy the planet. Due to how time passes at very different rates depending on what era your world is in — from 10 million years per cycle in the Geologic Time Scale to one year per cycle in the Technology Time Scale — in practice this limit only becomes a danger if you spend too much time in the pre-civilization eras, where time passes very quickly. Some scenarios also have their own time limits, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars and Venus within a set number of centuries.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Aside from making the climate uninhabitable, if you want to actually have life, you can make life hellish (as is stated outright in the TurboGrafx-16 version) 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.
  • Waddling Head: Gaia, in the Super NES version only, is a globe with a face and cartoony limbs. The other versions don't have limbs.
  • The Woobie: invoked 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.
  • Work Info Title: The "Sim" in the title lets you know it's a Simulation Game.
  • You Nuke 'Em: One of the disasters available to be triggered by the player. Useless for stopping robots, though (and in fact, the main means of summoning them).


Video Example(s):


Millions Are Too Small

The "Stag Nation" scenario involves trying to help a civilization too confined to advance, but something isn't right about that description...

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RidiculouslyFastPopulationGrowth

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