UPDATE: Evolve & Conquer: Teaching evolution via an engaging video game

Awhile ago, we unveiled the early versions of Evolve & Conquer, a video game for teaching evolution that we’ve been developing in-lab. We’ve come a long way since then, and we decided that it’s time we release a playable demo. Below is a short update on how the game looks now. We’ll have the playable demo available for download soon.


Unit Control and Navigation


Players control the bots with standard Real-Time Strategy controls. Left-clicking on a unit, holding left click and dragging a selection box, or double clicking selects them. Then right-clicking (cmd+left click for mac) on the terrain gives them the order to move. Using Unity’s navmesh they are able to avoid all obstacles and find the shortest path to their destination.


Realistic physics


Evolve and Conquer will feature NVIDIA’s PhysX physics engine, which comes packaged with Unity3D. In E&C, physics will play a large role in the bots’ interactions in the world. Bots will have to adapt to challenging physical obstacles such as physical barriers, wind, lava, rockslides, and even meteor showers.


Combat


Beyond the physical environment, bots may be forced into direct conflict with different alien species. This video demonstrates the combat system, where the bots are ordered to attack the hostile bots. In battle, only the strongest species survive. Thus, the bots experience survival of the fittest. In this video all of the redbots have either evolved high damage or high health but one particular has evolved high attack range is able to move from enemy bots destroying them.


Reproduction


Of course, the bots must be able to reproduce in order to evolve. This video shows how bots reproduce. The bot must consume resources dropped by plants in order to produce offspring. The larger the bot the more resources it needs to reproduce. This can be done manually simulating artificial selection or “bot husbandry.”


Inheritance & Foraging


Here, an army of bots are producing offspring en masse. Each offspring inherits the traits of its parent, though some of the offspring experience slight changes (“mutations”) and become larger, faster, stronger, etc. If you don’t feel like micro-managing the forage-and-reproduce process of your bots, you can order them to automatically forage and reproduce by themselves. If we let this run for an extended period of time, the faster and larger bots would sweep the population. Thus, E&C is a full-fledged simulation of evolution by natural selection.


Trailer


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