SimAnt – The Perfect Game
Remember the good old days of gaming? Before micro-transactions, before loot boxes, before EA. Modern day gaming is a business. Especially under big corporations like EA. But back in the eighties and nineties developers were just passionate tech heads. One such developer was Will Wright. Before his company Maxis was assimilated into EA’s evil empire, they specialised in making simulation-based games. Simcity and the Sims probably being the two best-known franchises. Lesser known, but infinitely great was 1991’s SimAnt.
Impressively detailed and accurate. Especially by the standards of early nineties computing capabilities. SimAnt throws you as the collective intelligence behind a colony of black ants. Starting in a suburban backyard you must grow and spread your way across the yard. Eventually moving into the house and towards the total domination of the property. Between avoiding larger bugs, rival red ants, and the humans you must intricately manage the develop your whole ant society.
You must set ratios of your egg laying between workers, soldiers and breeders. Workers will dig out the nest, forage food, and tend to larvae. Soldiers have better health and attack, but cannot care for larvae. Breeders only use is to colonise a new part of the map. You can also set the ratio of what activities will take preference amongst your ants.
You directly control one ant in addition to the passive ratios you set in the background. With this ant, you can use pheromones to give instructions to other ants. You can change the ant you can control at will. In the normal full game, you must keep track of 3 simultaneous game space. The nest, which is a side view of your nest and all the dug tunnels. Much like ant farms that were popular at the time. The surface, a top-down view of the piece of the map you currently in. here you collect food and combat other bugs. Lastly is the overworld. The map of the whole property, broken down into grids. Each grid has its own nest and surface map. You use your breeders to start new nests in grids outside your starting one.
The manual for the manual for the PC release of SimAnt was also jam-packed with interesting facts about ants. It is also believed that Will Wright first got the idea for the Sims while working on SimAnt.
Now the game isn’t perfect. Because it comes from the early days of computing the graphics are quite basic. The controls are also not the best and feel clunky by modern standards. But despite all this SimAnt is still a brilliant sim game. Selling 100 000 copies in the first year, and accumulating positive reviews.
I was always sad Maxis was absorbed into EA before a sequel was made. But at least that means it is now abandonware. Play it yourself here. Go forth minions, and dominate the house !