I've been thinking a lot about simulation games lately (here's why, if you're curious). I had pretty much all the Maxis games as a yoot: SimAnt, SimEarth, SimCity, SimLife... and later on, I also played the Sims. I think there's much to be learned from comparing & contrasting these, but I'd like to get your thoughts on it. To get the ball rolling, let's compare SimEarth to SimCity. On the surface, managing an entire planet sounds like enormous fun. To some extent this could be considered a god game. And in fact I did pour quite a few hours into it, but in practice, it was nowhere near as fun (nor as successful in the market) as SimCity. I think the reason for this is simple: when a SimEarth game is going well, there is nothing for you to do. Your planet evolves on its own, and doesn't benefit from your meddling. So you are pretty much a spectator, most of the time. In SimCity, on the other hand, there is always stuff to do: until you lay some roads and zone some zones, nothing can happen at all. Then you have to make sure your zones are supplied with water and power, and carefully place municipal buildings, manage the budget, put out fires, and so on... without active guidance, at best your city will stop growing, and at worst it will be plagued by crime, fires, pollution, etc. There is still the automatic-simulation element (buildings appearing or being abandoned) that you can't control, but this is balanced by a lot of things you must control. So you stay busy and feel productive. SimLife was close to SimEarth, in that evolution pretty much happens, though I would always try to monkey with things by dragging creatures here or there for example. Those efforts rarely paid off, though. So again it was hard to feel like you were a productive participant. SimAnt, on the other hand, was closer to SimCity (or maybe we should say it the other way around, since SimAnt was the first). There's always plenty to do, and without your guidance, your ants won't do much... until you get to the "multiple squares of the yard" stage, when you discover that the yard squares you're not actively managing do just fine without you, often better than the one you're in control of. So. To summarize, I guess I'd say that simulation games must strike a fine balance between automatic evolution & events, and giving the player plenty of tasks they must do to advance. But what do y'all think?