SimLife. (simulation software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Beth C. Fishkind
SimLife, "The Genetic Playground," is a new addition to Maxis's line of simulations/games/toys, such as the popular SimCity, SimAnt, and SimWorld. SimLife's silicon-based computer world simulates many of the features of our very own carbon-based life. You build an ecosystem and fill it with life, then test your world by changing genetics and/or messing with the laws of physics. Toss in a disaster--drought, fire, flood, and so on--and see how your world adapts.
To play, you choose from six predetermined scenarios, such as exploring how a desert evolves into a forest or finding out what led to the extinction of dinosaurs. There's also an experimental scenario, where anything you say goes. (Flying Ilamas? No problem.) A topographical map shows you the world you're working on. Inside the map is a small rectangle called the Edit Window. Scroll the Edit Window over the map to find the section of the world you want to look at up close. A Windows-like menu system enables you to easily call up world creation and control parameters. For instance, are any of your plant and animal creations extinct, and if so, why? What can you do to save those left that are in trouble?
Life is complex, and SimLife has a lot of features, too--"more buttons than all the bellies in China," the manual declares. But, unlike life, SimLife has an entertaining and gentle online tutorial that introduces you to features one at a time. Additionally, you can limit or ignore many features so you won't get overwhelmed. The manual also offers a tutorial, reference, and educational bibliography. A lab book walks you through putting an experiment together and charting data.
SimLife gives you all sorts of interesting options. If you want to see what happens to your world and its inhabitants in an evolutionary sense, for example, speed up the simulation, and the years and generations will zip by. If you're more interested in the day-to-day events during the life cycle of a plant or animal, all you do is slow the simulation down. With SimLife, you can do it all. Maxis (510) 254-9700 $69.95 Circle Reader Service Number 440