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LindsayGold's picture
Projects: anything we were discussing in class, but I'm a gamer. I'm sure I'm not the only one, either. But someone (possibly Flora?) mentioned a man named Will Wright, the creator of The Sims, SimCity, and all their related expansions and franchise stuff. Great games, absolutely classic. They're largely in the "sandbox" style - you can't really win, you just keep going, dealing with events and continuing to manage your city or household or whatever. He's a highly acclaimed game designer, and also seen as something of a visionary in the gaming community. He has a new project in the works, under the title of Spore. It's created a huge buzz, mainly because of the new design principles he's bringing: small programs that run huge and inclusive games. There are details about that in the above link. The point here, however, is that he's essentially making an evolutionary emergence model. Yes, it's a game, and therefore it will have the player as the "conductor", but the modifications needed would probably be more than possible to make the game basically run by itself. The idea of the game is that you begin as a tiny little life form, with barely two cells to rub together. You go and you pick up little food dots, and eventually you can upgrade your body with flagella or a little spike or something, and you start encountering other tiny life forms who are competing for your food. Soon, you can upgrade to a new form of life, and on and on, until you're a fish, then maybe an amphibian, maybe a mammal. All interesting, right? Keep reading; it gets better. What really interested me about this game (for many reasons) was the rendering capability. There was another game made in the 90's along these lines, called E.V.O: Search for Eden; however, it was for a console system, and all the art and evolutionary possibilities were pre-rendered, as in most games. The thing about Spore is that the computer will basically make for you whatever you want your creature to look like. Up in the Wikipedia article about Spore, there should be a link to a video of Wright at E3 2005 (a major gaming convention), presenting Spore. He decides to create a three-legged mammal, shaped exactly to his desires. The creature is released into the world, and it a three-legged creature might move, if ever I saw one. The customization possibilities are endless. I know I sound like I want to marry this game (and I think I might), but there are actual applications - we now have a model to see, with reasonable accuracy, how certain life forms might survive, why they developed certain qualities. We can essentially travel in time, back to when life was new. The game even moves on to create societies of these creatures, small villages that eventually become cities and countries. We can try more complicated versions of the Prisoner's Dilemma (no link, it's in like eight places on this site), checking whether societies survive more frequently if they are cooperative or pugilistic. I have great hopes that with this game, someone, someday, may be able to tell me why I have an appendix.


julia_ferraioli's picture

I've always been a fan of the sims games...well, any game where there isn't a true "win" as most games do (rescuing the princess, saving the parents [see Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure], etc...) and the sims games are right there at the top. The appeal of these games, to me, has always been to let things happen where they will. Take social interactions. Why don't the aquarius people get along with the sagittarius people? Why do the people in Sim Tower (regardless of location) always seem to take the elevator on the left when there are elevators spaced evenly throughout the building? Anyway, to get back to your post, Lindsay, this spore game sounds fascinating. What you describe (as I understand it and the article) is initiate evolution. What I would ask is, can this game be "played" if it is left alone? Or do you explicitly have to design the animal or download it off of their website? If you didn't have to design the animal, if it just evolved based on the surrounding environment, that would be awesome, and I would go out and get the game despite my prejudice against EA Games. However, if it can just be observed, I suppose that it wouldn't necessarily fit into the category of a game, would it? Of all of the sim games, I believe that the sims and sims2 were the only ones where the game would play itself (correct me if I'm wrong). Awesome post, Lindsay, thanks for bringing this cool game to notice! Oh, and I hope that you figure out why you have an appendix. Let me know when you do.
LindsayGold's picture

I don't know that there will be a "watch and go" type of thing. I guess I was just saying that it would be possible and, if done in that way, effective as an emergent computer model. We'll have to wait and see...