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Video Game / The Sapling

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A game about life and evolution.

"Have you ever wondered what life is like on other planets?"

The Sapling is an evolution Simulation Game developed by Wessel Stoop that is currently in early access. Inspired by games such as Spore, it allows players to create algae, plants, and animals that inhabit a virtual ecosystem. There are two gameplay modes:

  • In scenarios, the player must create organisms that meet certain requirements to complete objectives, and each milestone unlocks more complex organism parts.
  • In sandbox mode, the player has access to all the parts in the organism editors from the start, and can turn on random mutations to watch the ecosystem evolve on its own.

The Sapling has an official website and YouTube channel, and is available on Steam and

This game contains examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolour Wildlife: Your creations can come in any colour from the visible light spectrum and beyond; you get an achievement for colouring an animal infrared or ultraviolet.
  • Amazing Technicolor World: The Sea & Sandbox Update allows you to customize plant colours as well, and in sandbox mode, you can customise which colours will be able to photosynthesise on your planet.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Wessel has admitted in the devlogs that he simplified parts of biology in order to make the game easier to understand. For example, whether an animal can breathe on land or water depends on its mouth, even though not all animals breathe through their mouths.
  • Binomium ridiculus: Starting with the Sea and Sandbox Update, default species names are generated from a series of roughly 300 vaguely Latin sounding suffixes with another syllable thrown on the front. Descendant species have a 60% chance of keeping the suffix of their parent species.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The Flower Update added the ability to have glowing flowers as well as bioluminescent body parts. With certain instincts, they can serve a purpose beyond just looking cool.
  • Colony Drop: The Food & Fire Update adds the option for the player to trigger a meteorite impact, which will cause a wildfire in the area surrounding the impact and kick up enough dust to reduce the amount of sunlight plants and algae can take in for a period of time.
  • Dire Beast: Animals (and plants) have four different body sizes that they can evolve between, with larger ones having more health and greater lifespans at the cost of longer reproduction times and requiring a lot more energy to survive. In earlier versions of the game, species that grew via random mutation would get the name "Greater [X]" rather than generating a brand new one.
  • Everything Fades: Plants and algae disappear right after death. Animals on the other hand simulate decomposition by turning into meat and then old meat after a period of time before vanishing.
  • Eye on a Stalk: As of the Sea & Sandbox update there are no less than five different types of stalked eyes.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: As part of the Food & Fire Update's seed overhaul, plants can evolve fruits of various shapes, sizes, colors, and toxicity. There are even fruits that float upwards with internal gasbags to make themselves more readily available to flying seed dispersers.
  • The Great Fire: The Food & Fire adds the possibility of wildfires spreading in regions that are hot and dry. Certain plants can also evolve to interact with this by developing fireproof bark or seeds that begin germinating after the blaze to take advantage of the new empty space.
  • Lamprey Mouth: The Food & Fire Update added these to go along with the introduction of blood as a food source (though they're also capable of eating live prey if it's small enough.)
  • Living Gasbag: Downplayed. Plants can evolve fruits with gas pockets in them that hang upwards to entice flying creatures since they have the greatest range of all animals (and thus are the most effective seed dispersers).
  • Long Neck: As shown in the game's logo, players are fully capable of making animals with giraffe-like necks to more easily reach high up leaves on plants that have evolved bark. In fact, it's entirely possible for a species to have a neck that makes up 5/7 of its body length.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: A lot of body parts are directly inspired by real life animals. So if you want to make something with a shark's snout, bat wings, duck feet, eye stalks, and covered in fur, go right ahead.
  • More Predators Than Prey: Averted. Predators will never outnumber prey unless players do so deliberately, and the population will eventually stabilize to more realistic levels once left to its own devices.
  • Necessary Drawback: More complex parts and larger body sizes give species more tools to survive, with the tradeoff being that they reproduce at a slower rate. Because of this, it can often be advantageous to lose things that aren't required to survive.
  • Noisy Nature: Terrestrial animals make quite a bit of noise when out of the water, even when they aren't calling.
  • Pregnant Reptile: Both this and Whale Eggs are completely possible starting with the Fight & Flight Update as how an animal gestates is independent of almost all other factors (save for the animal's size and body parts determining how long until birth).
  • Procedural Generation: When random mutations are turned on in sandbox mode, the game adds pre-existing parts in logical locations onto pre-existing species. Also, the background music during gameplay is made of various parts that play depending on what's happening.
  • Protection from the Elements: Temperature plays a big role in what species can survive where. There are a variety of body parts to assist in specialization, along with several behaviors for riding out more extreme seasons like hibernation/abscission or delaying the next generation from hatching/sprouting until temperatures are more favorable.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: The game has a simplified version of r/K selection. While all animals only produce a single offspring at a time, pregnancy/hatching time is derived from a species' size and the amount of complex body parts it has. As a result, more powerful species tend to have much smaller populations because they simply can't reproduces as fast as weaker ones. Later updates would also add more K type parenting options like nest building and carrying young, though just like everything else they increase the time until the offspring are born.
  • Recurring Riff: The music mainly consists of ambience interspersed with variations of the same 12-note riff.
  • Shout-Out: According to a devlog, the triple tube-shaped eyes added in the Sea & Sandbox Update are a reference to Alien Biospheres.
  • Speculative Biology: The game is about creating plants and animals that have to survive in certain environmental conditions. The player can edit their creations, or let the game randomly mutate them in sandbox mode.
  • Stock Beehive: Enclosed wax nests bear a passing resemblance to these due to the low poly nature of the graphics.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Justified. An air breathing animal's ability to remain underwater (or vice versa for water breathers) is determined by their mouth type. Should they have a particularly well suited mouth (or better yet, evolve a blow hole), then an air breather can hold their breath for stretches of time long enough to effectively compete with water breathers for underwater niches. That said, they will eventually need to come up for air, no matter how powerful their lungs are.
  • Swallowed Whole: In earlier versions of the game, predators would simply eat their prey in a single bite. After the Fight & Flight update introduced body sizes, this only applies if there is a significant size difference between them, with all other kills resulting in the dropping of carrion.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Random mutations effect instincts as well as physiology, so it's entirely possible for animal to develop downright suicidal behaviors like actively traveling towards hostile environments or avoiding food sources. Any species that does so without other traits to help compensate for it will very quickly find themselves going extinct. The player can also do this themselves if they really want to.
  • Too Many Mouths: Animals can be given multiple mouth types to allow them to eat different food sources, though with the the Fight & Flight Update adding variable pregnancy times based on the number of and complexity of body parts this is Awesome, but Impractical at best.
  • Universal Poison: Averted. Plants can develop fruits with one of three types of poison at varying levels of concentration. Animals can also only be resistant to a maximum of two poison types at once.
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: All plankton in the game are classified as algae, meaning that every single filter feeder mouth is classified as at least partially herbivorous even if their real world counterpart was a carnivore.
  • Weird Weather: Seasonal weather patterns in sandbox mode are determined by the player, so it is entirely possible to cause this yourself. You can adjust the temperature, moisture, wind speed, and sea level.