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Sim Earth Logo

Rumour has it that earth was just a big accident, caused by an even bigger bang. But could you make something better in just seven days?

Sim Earth A fter a long, long wait, Sim Earth has finally arrived for the Amiga. Touted as the next best thing to being a divine intelligence, Sim Earth has something of a reputation – but so do most Maxis programs.
This reputation isn't necessarily always good, though. Often the 'Maxis problem' is that of slowly updating screens, mice which don't react for what feels like days, and a slightly detached, mildly irrational feeling that you're not really involved with what seems to be going on. Sound familiar? It was certainly the case with Sim Ant (especially in high-res mode) and even Sim City had a few, shall we say, user interface idiosyncrasies.
Sim Earth suffers from the same jerky mouse, the 10-second window updates and all the other signs that indicate a thrice-converted program struggling to cope in a new environment. It's a shame because Sim Earth is a wonderful excursion from the usual 'mutton-dressed-up-as-shoot-em-ups' we seem to get served all the time.

Two for the money
On the bright side, at least Sim Earth does come in a variety of forms, so perhaps you can extricate the best from two worlds. The high resolution version is flickery on a standard Amiga monitor and it needs a couple of RAM (or more!) to work – but what do you expect? The display is really detailed and it is possible to have several windows open at once, displaying a multitude of facts about your own personal planet.

The low-resolution version works on all one-meg machines, and is faster. However, each low-res Sim Earth window (and there are many, ranging from world maps to life-form graphs) take up a whole screen, which means that you have to spend a long time switching between windows.

In either case Sim Earth is much more playable from hard drive. From floppy it can occasionally seem like the game has given up and gone to sleep. Usually, just as you are about to do the same, a window will sputter into life and you will realise there are still things to do. It is not an ideal situation by any means, and you regularly find yourself wishing you had several megabytes and a go-faster accelerator to help you along.

The end is nigh
Assuming that you haven't already been put off, you may be wondering what, if anything, Sim Earth actually has to offer. If you can put up with a few long waits, you will soon discover that Sim Earth s full of charm, variety and intrigue, and it provides a long, solid chunk of entertainment and enlightenment.
Essentially, the concept behind the challenge is not the confrontation that other games feature, but nurture. In a way it is like Sim City, though of course you have to look after an entire planet rather than just a town. But the level of complexity involved is so much greater that this ends up as much more of an educational simulator than a game.
There are so many things which can influence a complex structure like a planet – many things you have probably never even heard of, let alone understood – and they all work against each other to the point of madness.

A session with Sim Earth will have you wondering if it's ever going to be possible for humans to live together harmoniously without nuking the bits off each other or poisoning the place with pollutants. It is an eye-opener, without doubt, but often a depressing one. Crafting and sculpting a hospitable, life-supporting planet from a charred lump of space rock or a ball of damp gas is not easy work. Most of the time you will be fiddling with the knobs and switches in a vain attempt to cause a positive effect. More often than not, you won't have a clue what is going to happen several domino-effects down the line. Sure, you know that if you increase the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere then life-forms will be able to breathe, but you probably won't expect to then see them all fried in the huge forest fires that burst out as the oxygen level increases. The manual doesn't really hammer the point home. There are lots (and lots) of topics explained – but in a roundabout way, without actually explaining the long-term effects they'll have on your precious planet.

The bright side of life
Sim Earth is hard disk installable Sim Earth needs 1 Meg to run In most cases, when you finally get some lifeform to become sentient, you will find that they turn into evil warring, polluting, destructive nasties who are their own worst enemies. 'Civilisation' reports complain that their lifestyle is bad or miserable, and that they're working 108-hour weeks; but reducing the workload only causes the game to warn you that Science (or some other researchable development) needs more energy.

Light entertainment is provided when odd candidates for sentience suddenly develop into rational-thinking beings; jellyfish, for instance, are not usually found at the top of the food chain, but Sim Earth occasionally evolves species like these into tool-using, hard-working brain-boxes who like to go to work on the local bus, and love to visit shoe shops on Saturday mornings.

Despite the problems it has with its less than Amiga-sympathetic conversion, Sim Earth is fun: you can spend hours and hours tinkering with your new planets, each one having its own special flavour and vital differences which make playing the game a refreshing experience each time.
It is not quite so involving as, say, Civilization from MicroProse, because your long-term control is not direct – merely influential. You may not grow to love your creations quite so much, but your planet's security is paramount. And perhaps that is the secret of bigger things than Sim Earth - a good few politicians would change their blinkered viewpoints if they could see just how inconsequential we all are in the face of global catastrophes. End of sermon – buy it and save the world. Twice nightly.
Neil Jackson

Amiga Format, Issue 39, October 1992, p.p.100-101



"It has you wondering if it's ever going to be possible for humans to live together harmoniously without nuking the bits off each other."


Sim Earth
Maxis/Ocean * £39.99
  • A hugely educational, yet entertaining, 'edutainment' experience.
  • Unfortunately it suffers from 'conversionitis' in the speed department.
  • Guaranteed to interest and involve you for hours and hours.
  • Recommended for global corporation bosses and politicians.
verdict: 79%



Sim Earth Logo

Dank der Konvertierer von Maxis läuft die Evolution am Amiga rückwärts: Während die Ameisen aus "Sim Ant" praktisch zeitgleich mit ihren PC-Kollegen loskrabbelten, darf unsereins die Erde erst hinterher bewohnbar machen!

Sim Earth Da hat also der Vorgänger den Nachfolger glatt um anderthalb Jahre überholt. Aber was sind schon 18 Monate im Vergleich mit Zehn Milliarden Jahren? So lang ist hier nämlich die maximale Spielzeit – nicht zu verwechseln mit der tatsächlich investieren Echtzeit, die aber ebenfalls reichlich bemessen werden sollte. Denn Sim Earth ist so ziemlich das genaue Gegenteil eines flotten Spielchens für Zwischendurch!

Zu Anfang ist alles noch ganz simpel, da muß man sich lediglich zwischen vier Schwierigkeitsgraden und acht Planeten entscheiden. Wer es sich einfach machen will, wählt den Experimental-Modus und die Daisy World, dann steht ihm unbegrenzte Energie zur Verfügung, und er braucht sich nur mit acht verschiedenen Sorten von Gänseblümchen rumzuschlagen. Bei anderen Welten (z.B. Wasser, Mars, Venus, Zufallsplanet...) und höheren Schwierigkeitsgrad (sprich: weniger Energie) wird's komplizierter, schließlich ist man auf seinem Privatplaneten für ALLES zuständig: Man kann Kontinente erschaffen, Vulkane ausbrechen lassen, Klimakatastrophen herbeiführen, die unterschiedlichsten Lebensformen ansiedeln und und und. Während die Jahrmillionen so dahinfließen, wird der Job ständig stressiger, weil sich der Entwicklungsprozeß allmählich verselbständigt und anfängliche Fehlplanungen immer schwerer korrigiert werden können. So etwa ab der Steinzeit beeinflußt der Spieler die Evolution dann eher, als daß er sie tatsächlich steuert.

Was nun die technische Seite im allgemeinen und die Konvertierungs-Güte im besonderen angeht, so haben die Programmierer seit dem erscheinen des Mac-Originals nicht gepennt. Wie schon bei "Sim Ant" hat man auch hier die Wahl zwischen einer Hi-res-Version, die Leute ohne Flickerfixer, Turbokarte und mindestens 1,5 MB Speicher am besten sofort vergessen, und einer Lo-res-Ausführung, die 1MB RAM verlangt, sich ansonsten aber mit einem Standard-500er begnügt. In diesem Modus muß man zwar auf ein paar Farben verzichten, dafür ist die Grafik sehr übersichtlich und flott. Daß das Scrolling ruckelt, kann man als Maxis-Tradition durchgehen lassen; daß es der spärliche Pieps-Sound schwer macht, den Unterschied zwischen Musik und Geräuscheffekten zu erkennen, hätte aber nun wirklich nicht sein müssen. Die Handhabung ist jedoch über alle Zweifel erhaben, und zwar trotz des immensen Funktionsumfangs: Es gibt einen vorbildliche Maus/Menü-Steuerung, eine feine Help-Funktion und ein 200 Seiten starkes Handbuch; demnächst soll das Spiel auch komplett in deutsch erhältlich sein.

Wenn Sim Earth dennoch an einem Hit vorbeigeschrammt ist, dann deshalb, weil es letztlich nur für eine relativ kleine Schicht von Zockern interessant ist – allzuleicht läßt sich das hochkomplexe, sehr lehrreiche aber etwas trockene Gameplay als langweilig fehlinterpretieren... (mm)

Amiga Joker, October 1992, p.74

SIM EARTH
(MAXIS)
EVOLUTIONS - SIMULATION

81%

"SEHR KOMPLEX!"
Amiga Joker
GRAFIK
ANIMATION
MUSIK
SOUND-FX
HANDHABUNG
DAUERSPASS
58%
36%
24%
11%
84%
86%
VARIABEL: 4 STUFEN
PREIS DM 99,-
SPEICHERBEDARF
DISKS/ZWEITFLOPPY
HD-INSTALLATION
SPEICHERBAR
DEUTSCH
MINIMUM 1 MB
2/JA
JA
SPIELSTÄNDE
NEIN


Sim Earth Logo  CU Amiga Super Star

In the beginning there was darkness. John Mather turns on the lights...

Sim Earth LIFE AND TIMES
Sim City is generally regarded as one of the best products ever released on a 16-bit machine. On paper the game might sound deathly dull. I mean, the chance to build your own city from scratch, complete with roads, power cables and nuclear reactors doesn't sound very interesting, doesn't it?! Maybe it would appeal to sad anorak cases, but who else? In practice, though, the game was a revelation and became an instant classic.

For the last three years, Maxis have been working on its successor. The finished game - Sim Earth - is so huge it encompasses the entire solar system and projects way out into the future. Your decisions can affect anything from a single life cell though to a complete planet. When it was released on the PC and Mac, the game received rave reviews in the computer press and now, finally, we have the finished Amiga version. Hurrah.

TOY CUPBOARD
Maxis prefer to call Sim Earth a 'software toy' rather than a game. A game, they state, has a preset beginning, a preset end and a specific train throughout. A toy, however, is something you can use in anyway you find possible. Sim Earth definitely falls into the second category. The basic aim is to guide a planet through its evolutionary processes and keep things ticking over. The model runs around a theory created by James Lovelock called Gaia (see 'Gaia Theory' box out). Your task is to ensure that the planet stays in a condition suitable for its inhabitants. If your planet is largely water based, and you have a lot of different types of fish bobbing about, it wouldn't make sense to increase the sun's heat, effectively boiling away the oceans. This is a hell of a lot more complicated than it sounds.

In your disconnected position, you have complete control over almost everything in and on the planet. You can create life, destroy it, cause major tragedies, form new oceans, even change the way sentient and non-sentient beings behave and respond, all though a series of menus and slider bars.

MAJOR TOM
Your overall objective varies depending on which of the eight scenarios you want to play. You can take on Earth in prehistoric times, just before the birth of mankind, and shape the planet through to its ultimate ending as the sun washes over it. Alternatively, you can try solving modern day problems, such as coping with nuclear fall out, reducing the greenhouse effect, removing starvation and generally returning the planet to the Garden of Eden. Should you find that a little heavy, you could try to colonise Mars or Venus, adding an atmosphere and essentially terraforming the planet to your own requirements. There is also the chance to completely design a planet from scratch, to give yourself various problems of your own making or to explore how different situations would evolve with different actions.

The first thing you will notice when opening the box are the two Sim Earth game disks. One is for the standard user, where the game requires 1 Mb to play and runs in low resolution mode. The other is for more advanced machines, running in hi-res interlace and requiring 2Mbs. The latter is obviously faithful to the PC and Macintosh versions, but you only lose out on presentation if you don't have the high grade set-up.

On loading, you are presented with the opening menu. This shows you the eight different scenarios you can play on, as well as the difficulty level. Changing the level of difficulty doesn't actually change how the game runs, but it does affect the amount of energy you have for dealing with problems. There is also an 'experimental' mode, which gives you limitless energy, making life so much easier.

CREATURE COMFORTS
Energy is at the core of the game and is split into two parts. The first, your energy, is the total amount of control you have over the running of the planet. Creating life takes only small amounts, and you can plop animals down wherever you like most of the time. Doing something a little larger, however, such as causing an earthquake, eats up your energy in no time. The other kind of energy belongs to the SimEarthlings, and although you inherit some of this, you can never have control over it. Essentially, as species develop and grow, you get more and more energy – rather like taxation in Sim City.

The game is essentially played out over three screens, although there are numerous windows that can be called up at any time. The first is the map screen. This gives a full, flat image of your planet along with a series of buttons at the bottom. By pressing on different buttons, you can find out about the temperature, air currents, amounts and position of life on the planet and various other things. A click on the 'Globe' option turns the map into a rotating ball, showing more precisely where everything is. Interestingly enough, the maps of Earth, Venus and Mars are very accurate. Most of the time this screen is used for reference, a way of seeing at a glance if there are any major problems that need fixing.

The main screen is the editor where all the action happens. The main part of the screen is taken up with a close-up view of a part of the landscape. Marked on this map are all the different types of terrain and inhabitants. Obviously this view is simplified, but what more could you expect?

WORLD DECISIONS
Down the left side of the screen are the main game options, and this is where you really start to interact. The first icon lets you place things on the planet, such as lifeforms and different pieces of technology. If the time ore climate are wrong, they will die out instantly. Nurture them, and they'll flourish. The final option is the Monolith. This large black shape – a la 2001, is used to promote intelligence within creatures, and before long the creature you use it on will become sentient. You can only have one sentient race at a time, and as this race passes through the different ages (industrial, technological, etc.) it finally reaches the space race, at which point all of the creatures of that ilk leave the planet in rockets to colonise other planets, and the game begins all over again.

Other options include the raising and lowering of land, changing the scenery and, to my mind the most interesting, adding natural disasters such as tidal waves and virulent plagues. Try to imagine the effect that a major volcano slap bang in the middle of England would have on the coast of France. Or have you ever wondered what a meteorite the size of a city would have on the global infrastructure? In this game you don't have to imagine as you can create a whole plethora of disasters one after another.

There are four different scientific models to play with, too, which allow you to alter general fundamental aspects of the planet. The Atmosphere model, for example, allows you to change the amount of rainfall, the power of the sun and the strength of the greenhouse effect, whereas the Civilisation model lets you change the sociological aspects of the sentient rac, be they working in agriculture or the arts. And this is all done by selecting the relevant option and then sliding a bar.

INFORMATION
There are almost limitless sources of information in the game, all of which have to be monitored at some point or another. There are a number of graphs detailing such items as the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere to how many wars there have been in the last hundred years. In fact, the amount of information is the most daunting things of all. You really do have to watch your back in this game, as disaster can come from any angle.

The key thing about Sim Earth is its leaning toward realism. It becomes fascinating, even addictive after a while just exploring the possibilities available. In that respect it actually forms quite a good learning tool. As well as being a hell of a lot of fun to use.
It is going to take a very long time to become completely familiar with the package, probably far longer than the couple of weeks I've had with it, but I'm loving ever minute. This game requires more brainpower than any other I have ever played, but if you really want a challenge, and are ready to see what a simulator is all about, then get this the second it hits the shelf. Simply incredible.

CU Amiga, October 1992, p.p.73-74

MANUAL LABOUR Flicking through the manual gives you a good idea as to the research that has gone into Sim Earth. Spread over 220 pages, the first 10 outline the game, the following 130 detail the events and lifeforms, and the ensuing 80 page section explains in detail Earth science and the Gaia theory. Not that it is necessary to know Earth science inside out to play the game, but it does enhance the experience when you find you can explain why something is happening and then make educated guesses as to how to solve any problems.

GAIA In Sim Earth, Gaia is a living object, a face projected on the side of a planet, and by looking at her you can see how well you're doing. She displays a range of emotions, from joy to sadness to anger, depending on whether you are harming the globe or not. Nothing seems to irritate her more, though, than stabbing her in the eye with the mouse pointer. Do this and she moans, shouting 'Don't do that!'.

THE GAIA THEORY The Gaia theory states that the Earth is a self regulating system – no matter what we do to it, it will survive. Life may not, but we can never hurt the Earth. This theory is one that, while never actually disproved, isn't wholly accepted by the scientific community. There may be a lot to signify its truth (like the fact that the Earth's temperature has remained constant for the last 3.6 billion years despite an increase in solar heat of 25% and the fact that oxygen has formed 21% of the atmosphere for 200 million years) there are still no solid facts. In Sim Earth, Gaia keeps the planet in check most of the time, all you have to do is keep it favourable for life.

buyers guide
release date:
genre:
team:
controls:
number of disks:
number of players:
hard disk:
memory:
 
Out Now
Simulation
Maxis
Mouse
2
1
Yes
1 Mb

 

OCEAN £19.99
Staggering in every way. A once-in-a-lifetime product
GRAPHICS
SOUND
LASTABILITY
PLAYABILITY
79%
65%
95%
93%
OVERALL 93%