That the vulgar 'official strategy guide' label cheapens this book reflects SimLife's uneasy categorisation as a game. I don't know how well it sold, but I'd guess that people who bought SimLife on the reputation of SimCity and SimEarth were disappointed. Like the other Sims it doesn't make that much sense as a game, but unlike them, to most people it doesn't make much sense on any other level either. SimLife is about genetics, and unless you know something about genetics it looks rather dull.SimLife only begins to make sense when you understand something about what it's doing under the covers, which means that the kinds of people who are drawn to the program are those who are interested in genetic algorithms and emergent behaviour. These kinds of things are generally grouped under the title of 'artificial life', and I'm betting most copies of SimLife that didn't end up in the bin found their way onto the computers of A-Life groupies.I'm also guessing the game's authors knew this, because this book, written by the same team, reveals just how frighteningly technical the mechanisms concealed behind SimLife's cuddly interface really are. For me, this is where the book scores. It treats SimLife as a testbed for doing A-Life experiments, and it pulls no punches in describing the technicalities. It also becomes clear on reading that although SimLife models nature, it does so in a grossly abstract manner.SimLife may have been ill-conceived as a game, but as a tinker-toy for A-Life aficionados it's a hit. But to get the most from the program you need to understand its design and philosophy, and this is the book that will fill you in. If it was my call I'd repackage SimLife with a two-volume manual set, and this would be Volume 2.
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