Earthsim versions 1 & 2 were developed from 2006-2012. Combining a solar system simulation 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 much good work went into the Earthsim project, two of the original developers have been resurrecting the project with a new engine. The new Earthsim consists of a simulation engine, a land editor and a game.

For the first game we are simulating a kilometer scale ‘aquarium’. With the main focus being a living green ecology along with the soil and water systems that interconnect with it.

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.

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


A video showing testing the various real-time erosion systems in Earthsim

Earth and gravel sediment types can be seen sliding down hills and being moved and mixed by underwater currents.

Engine Roadmap

At a high level we are developing the engine on three stages. Each stage will improve aspects of the simulation along with expanding the scope of the simulation domain.

  1. Aquarium
    • Simulate the world as a tile of landscape in an aquarium.
    • The world is a single piece of bedrock.
    • Supports multiple soil and sediment types that all interact with flowing water
    • Water simulation using ‘shallow water’ equations
    • Ground water simulation. Penetration based on soil and rock porosity and evaporation.
    • Biosphere growth model based on seeding plants & trees. Plants and seeds are sensitive to:
      • Temperature,
      • Rainfall,
      • Soil quality
      • Sandiness of soil
      • Soil depth
      • Competition with other plants
  2. Islands
    • Build multiple floating islands that share an atmosphere inside a ‘greater aquarium’.
    • Islands are created by erupting a volcano that releases lava that cools to form the bedrock.
    • Water, earth and lava can fall from one island to another carrying heat with it.
    • Floating islands in can interact to form puzzles
  3. Planetoid
    • Simulates the world as a ball in space.
    • Planets are small.. Small enough to simulate everything on them for a game.


Ocean and Atmospheric simulations combine to feed the Biosphere simulation with data using the model below.

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.

The technology challenges in the new engine come from creating and running a rich and detailed simulation engine and feeding that simulation data to the GPU to keep it busy.

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

The landscape sand, earth and water simulations run on the multi core CPU to get the most out of the extra memory. This allows us to build and simulate a multi layer sediment model of the terrain (which is memory hungry but only requires fast access when land layers are modified which is less frequent) along with a real-time water simulation.

This leaves the GPU memory and power for volumetric simulation of the atmosphere as well as rendering.

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.

The 2011 Earthsim 2 planet engine

The videos below show what we achieved with the Earthsim 2 engine from 2011. We hope 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 goals are to help demonstrate a unified system view of the universe and our part in that system. A side effect of our first game is to help players discover the art in multi generational land management.

Game Content

  • Prebuilt game levels you progress through aiming to keep the world alive through various scripted challenges.
  • Build your own levels and share them with others.

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 some form of learning content and creating a new updated free version of the Earthsim encyclopedia.

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 …