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PhiNotPi's avatar

Where can I find a good artificial life and evolution simulator?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12670points) May 18th, 2011

I am looking for a free Alife simulator that does a good job of demonstrating evolution and natural selection. There should be complex behavior, with no “optimal life form” that a human could create easily. I would prefer for it to have some graphical component, so I can see the life moving around.

Note: Conway’s game of life does not count. It is a cellular automaton, and does not demonstrate natural selection.

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18 Answers

Afos22's avatar

I’ve always wanted to find such a simulator. Great Question.

ragingloli's avatar

How about this?
It starts with randomly assembled cars and then has them run a course. After each round it mates the two most successful “cars” and introduces some mutations, which then make up the next generation.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@ragingloli That is neat, but I do not think that it does a good enough job of demonstrating natural selection like it is in real life. It seems too artificial, with the program actively selecting and breeding the best car. It actually seems to simulate a genetic algorithm.

jellyfish3232's avatar

This isn’t exactly what you want, since it doesn’t follow a totally realistic course. It’s actually a game, but it has the evolutionary aspects… Ever heard of Spore? Again, it isn’t what you’re looking for, but you control the evolutionary process of a cell, to a simple creature, to a tribal creature, to a civilized creature, to a space age creature. Good fun, but not scientificly accurate.

ragingloli's avatar

Spore is not really evolution. It is intelligent design, from the first stage. You tack on body parts based solely on your own preference and in the creature stage you get new bodyparts from collecting skeletons, which you then tack on the body of your next offspring.
Spore is not about evolution, but about intelligent design and genetic engineering.

Needless to say, Spore was one of the biggest disappoints in the gaming industry.

crisw's avatar

I absolutely adore Gene Pool.

You can simulate all kinds of evolutionary scenarios with it- and it’s fun to watch, too! Let me know if you want more details on fun things you can do with it.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@crisw Almost exactly what I was looking for. The challenge is to now find one with even more complex behavior.

Zaku's avatar

Sim Earth

jellyfish3232's avatar

Excuse me? It may not be “proper” evolution, but the game itself is remarkable!

ragingloli's avatar

Remarkable disappointment, yes.
It was a collection of minigames, nothing more. The only good thing about it was the creature creator.
The cell stage was a minigame, hunt, eat and upgrade your little amoeba. Then suddenly you sprout two legs and you are on land.
The creature stage, a minigame. You control one single animal and then all you do is collect skeletons and kill or convert other animals.
The tribal stage is equally bland and shallow. You either convert or kill other tribes. The same for the “civilisation stage”. There is no depth to any of it.
The space stage is equally crap. All you have is one single ship with which you just colonise planets or annihilate other civilisations. The trade system is equally rudimentary.

Here is what I think Spore should have been to qualify as “remarkable”.
You start out with a selection of random amoeba that start to evolve on their own. After a few generation you are presented with statistics about the survivability of the different lines of amoeba. You select the one that you think is the most promising. You are allowed to make limited genetic modification to optimise them as you see fit. Then the game continues to simulate evolution and you watch your choice either becoming dominant, or extinct, how the modifications you make influence the subsequent autonomous evolution in changing environments, which would then influence your thinking when the next selections come along. You would have to anticipate how your choices and modifications play out in the long run. It would be more of a manager style game, not a simplistic hunt and collect minigame. You can even switch to one of the competing species that evolved without any of your involvement.
Where spore’s tribal stage starts, here is what I would envision. Once your species has evolved sufficiently to invent fire on its own, you are given direct control over one small stoneage village and have to expand, build, collect resources and research new technologies, and compete with other villages (that may or may not be of your species). My game would not have purged the other species from the planet.
What is also important is that the choices you made earlier in the game directly influence how well you do in the tribal stage. Depending on your choices, your species would have distinctive properties, like speed, strength, size, food consumption, resilience to environmental conditions and disease, or how well they cooperate in groups. Speed, strenght and size directly influence your species combat capabilites, how fast you can gather resources, how fast you can build and expand your settlements, what environments you can settle in, how much food you have to gather to support your settlement. Intelligence also directly influences how fast you can research new technologies, or what technologies you can research. Whether you have hands with fingers or are some spider like creature with legs only, also influence the speed of research, building and creating new technology.
Your choices in that tribal stage would also influence the continued evolution of your species.
Focus on combat and neglecting research, and your species will get stronger , faster, deadlier, at the expense of intelligence and social cohesion. Focus on research and your species gets smarter at the expense of physical strength. Doing this you proceed through the ages like in Empire Earth or Civilisation, but without hard separators. Combat would be on the same scope of Supreme Commander, City building would be like Sim City.
Once you get to the space age, gameplay would be like Galactic Civilisation mixed with Sins of a Solar Empire, in a full 3D Galaxy. Researching new technologies, designing your own ship styles, trading with other civilisations, combat involving hundreds if not thousands of starships. At any point in the space stage you can go back to micro-managing your cities if you like, while the game does the rest automatically until you get back.
THAT would have been a remarkable game.

jellyfish3232's avatar

That WOULD have been a remarkable game, and certainly a significant improvement. And I agree with you about the cell and creature stages, they are mind blowingly boring minigames. Tribal stage is fairly basic too, but civilization stage has a good level of strategy to it,
and space stage is quite, and I will say it again, remarkable. No point in arguing the topic further, though.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I was revisiting some stuff and I think that I should post an update to this question…

I ended up finding Darwinbots. It is a relatively complex (and free) artificial life simulator. It does not really simulate realistic life forms, but does a very good job showing natural selection.

There is a flat territory where different species of circular bots can move around. They are able to feed on each other, reproduce, communicate, and create things resembling multicellular life. There are also things such as venom, poison, vision, and walls.

One neat aspect is the ability of the user to write their own robot DNA and compete with other bots.

Afos22's avatar

If someone here is a programmer, make a more realistic artificial life simulator. People me would love to play that

QuQuasar's avatar

I realise this was asked a while back, but just in case you’re still looking…

Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution:

It’s the games first alpha release, so it’s nowhere near polished, but it’s available for free and it evolves populations of large scale vertebrates.

If you like it, please consider sharing the link around: our IndieGoGo campaign has only just been launched, and could use all the help it can get. :)

PhiNotPi's avatar

^ That’s pretty awesome. Are you the developer of the game?

QuQuasar's avatar

Yep. It’s still under heavy development, of course: we have some pretty ambitious plans for it. :)

dra_red's avatar

I have built an evolution simulator which is interactive to allow the user to see what happens when various factors are altered. I haven’t added any graphical features yet apart from colouring each particular species. Have a look if you are interested: ‘’.

Cheers, Dale

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