14 Mai 2019

I’m beginning a new project currently (and pretentiously) called SimToute (~SimAll in québécois).

The main design goals are:

(1) Model (as simply as possible) a simulation from which could emerge something like the neolithic revolution and the early human kingdoms.

(2) Design tools for users to discover interesting stories that might have transpired through the simulation–positioning them as historians of sorts, discovering interesting features in a simulated history.

The historical setting is inspired by the recent reading of Against the Grain and a lifelong obsession with the emergence of the state in human societies. The computational perspective is inspired by James Ryan’s work and Phd thesis Curating Simulated Storyworlds that proposes an “overgenerate and curate” approach to emergent storytelling.

Herbivores in blue, predators in red, humans in yellow

What I have now is a basic ecosystem with:

The World, modeled as units of 1 square kilometer. Each have different suitability for vegetation that defines a maximum amount of plants and a regrowth rate. Timesteps are one year.

Herbivores, something like gazelles or deers, they eat plants and roam until they are satisfied. If they have met another of their kind, they will reproduce. If they have roamed a long time without satisfying their hunger, they die.

Predators, something like lions, they eat herbivores. I found they are very prone to overpopulating, depleting the stock and going extinct so they were complicated a bit: they will avoid overpopulation by migrating when more than two on a km2, and they will not reproduce if they have met more than X other predators in their territory. They will attack humans if hungry.

Humans, They can also live off a small fraction of plants, if they don’t find enough, they will go hunting. If they are still hungry after roaming their territory, they will ask acquaintances for food. If they are still hungry, they will organize a migration party with all acquaintances in a similar situation (on the spot).

Interesting dynamics so far:

  • As mentioned earlier, predators are certainly the most fragile unit. They compete with humans for herbivores but can’t fall back on plants when the resource is depleted. Managing overpopulation was key to this balance.
  • It is nice to oberve the flock of herbivores in relationship to humans and predators. When human settlements are too dense, they deplete the nearby herds and are forced to migrate to areas where there are still animals. As they do so, herbivores re-populate the abandoned settlements, creating an oppotunity for humans to come back, and so on.

What’s next? Probably fishing–I want to use this activity to introduce techniques (fishing, for example) and objects (making embarkations to go on water units). These should be able to spread accross the population. I also want to introduce herding.