Earthsim versions 1 & 2 were developed from 2006-2012. Combining a high resolution planet simulator with a universe scale rendering engine let Earthsim work as an interactive 3D encyclopedia of the Earth and the surrounding universe.  ‘cut scenes’ or documentaries would get triggered as you explore the simulated universe.

As so much good work went into the Earthsim project, the original developers have decided to resurrect the project. The new Earthsim will include a new engine, a land/world editor and a series of games.

For the first game we are simulating a living green ecology along with the water and weather systems that interconnect with it. The working title for this game is ‘The Green Machine’.

The Green Machine

Aim Of The GameBuild a resilient ecosystem and keep it alive through various levels.

Can you survive the four seasons, 5, 10, 50 and 100 years? Or go for 1000 years to prove you have what it takes to build a world that can survive?

Rain falls, and water flows over the land as rivers and is absorbed into the soil. Trees grow and lakes form and dry out. Forests grow or die away into deserts.

Challenges include tidal waves, drought, volcanoes and meteor strikes.

Two play modes:

Play through

  • Each level consists of a landscape that the player must master and keep alive.
  • Each landscape has its own characteristics and challenges, starting from the simple to the more complex. 
  • Learn the various challenges encountered and build skills as you progress through the game

Build – Share

  • Build / Sculpt your own landscape
    • Utilize living simulation and real-time erosion tools or static feature brush
  • Upload and try out your level with other users
  • View and download top rated levels


The videos at the very end of this article show the engine used for Earthsim 1 and 2. The engine was advanced for its time, but it has been more than 10 years and things have moved on.

The limiting factor is no longer the ability to render things well, modern GPU’s have that down. The limit is set by the amount of data required to feed the GPU and how detailed that data is. So the technology challenges come from creating and running a rich and detailed simulation engine and feeding that simulation data to the GPU to keep it busy.

(building a multi user distributed version is even more challenging and is our stretch goal)

Load balancing resources such as memory and compute power between the CPU and GPU is the name of the game.

New Earthsim Engine

In the videos above you can see the terrain simulation in action. The lava flow example shows the multiple sediment layers running, you can see layers of earth and gravel moving and sliding down hills and moving differently underwater.

The new engine splits the simulation load between the GPU and the CPU. The atmosphere fluid simulation runs on the GPU. The landscape sand, earth and water simulations run making heavy use of a multi core CPU. This gets the most out of the extra memory available on the CPU side to build and simulate a multi layer sediment model of the terrain. At the same time it leaves the power and memory of the GPU available for a volumetric simulation of the atmosphere.


To improve on Earthsim 2 we require high performance Ocean and Atmospheric simulations that all combine to feed the Biosphere simulation with data.

Terrain sim + Water sim + Atmosphere sim -> Biosphere sim 

The Biosphere simulator manages all the life-forms on the surface of a planet, and what by-products those life-forms create to export back to the landscape, such as ‘Biomass’ that then rots to create more soil to compete the life cycle.

Today on early prototypes of the new engine we can achieve over one million individually simulated life forms on an average modern multi-core CPU. Move to a high end CPU (16 + cores) and you are in the realm of 10 million individual simulated organisms.


Running a local planet simulator is one of the most compute intensive, power hungry tasks around. Yet modern PC’s have incredible processing power.

Early work on Earthsim 3’s large scale multi-core fluid simulation

Our long term vision is to enable you to realistically terraform planets, albeit in gamified form. Imagine loading up and terraforming Mars, Venus or any recently discovered exoplanet.


Beyond video encoding, and CG ray tracing there are not so many applications that stress modern multi-core cpu hardware, and even fewer that can do it in a real time interactive application. Also the most power hungry modern games are in general more GPU intensive than CPU core intensive. With this in mind, we hope to include a benchmark aimed at high end PC’s in the Earthsim engine and keep improving that benchmark with subsequent releases. The goal is to let users have simulation visualizer that shows what top end CPU’s can do to showcase the power of the latest hardware.

The 2011 Earthsim 2 planet engine

The videos below show what we achieved with the Earthsim 2 engine from 2011. We expect to go far beyond this with the new engine in the coming years.

At the end of 2011 we had the planet engine able to resolve an earth like planet down to below 1cm of detail. The videos below show some of the work we did on the way to hitting the 1cm resolution milestone.

Putting a an ocean onto the surface of Mars allowed us to clearly see ancient river channels. Three years before NASA made a similar announcement.
Very high resolution simulation and rendering of the planets using the latest satellite scanning data at the time.
Early work on Dinosaur animation blending in 2007. Mainly showing how the Acrocanthosarus can bend its neck left right and roar high and low. Some early herding and predator prey behaviors too.
Some of the pieces we implemented through 2011
From the first time we got the planet rendering down to 10M accuracy


Earthsim content aims to highlight the connections across disciplines and demonstrate a unified holistic systems view of the universe.

Game Content

  • Prebuilt game levels you progress through.
  • Build your own levels and share them with others.
  • Game Versions:
    • The Green Machine (Aquarium worlds)
      • Simulate the world as a tile of landscape in an aquarium.
      • The world is a single piece of bedrock
    • Islands (floating islands in the sky that can interact to form puzzles)
      • Build multiple floating islands that share a greater aquarium atmosphere
      • Islands are created by erupting a volcano that releases lava that cools to form the bedrock that a game level progresses on
      • Water, earth and lava can fall from one island to another carrying heat with it.
    • Planet Crafter (Planetoid worlds)
      • Simulate the world as a ball in space.
      • Planets are small.. Small enough to simulate everything on them for game.
    • Multi player: Team up with others to manage larger levels and shared planet management.

Learning Content

The Original Earthsim featured three types of in house generated content:

  • Encyclopedia Interactive: entries on on plants, animals and geological formations throughout the known universe,
  • News: short pieces on discoveries that guide the viewer to and through those discoveries
  • Documentaries: Longer pieces that tie smaller elements together into a bigger user driven hierarchical path through the experience, a guided learning game experience.

As the new game develops we will look into adding learning content back and creating a new updated free version of Earthsim.

Development Blog


Water forms a big part of the earthsim3 engine. There are two major challenging components to this. Simulating a large amount of interconnected bodies of water in real time Rendering a large scale landscape that has dynamic simulated water on it. Water Simulation Like pretty much everything in the world of computers, the fundamental limit …