In SimEarth, the player can vary a planet’s atmosphere, temperature, landmasses, etc., then place various forms of life on the planet and watch them evolve. In the “Random Planet” game setting, the game is a software toy, without any required goals. The big (and difficult) challenge is to evolve sentient life and an advanced civilization.
The development stages of the planet can be restored and repeated, until the planet “dies” ten billion years after its creation, the estimated time when the Sun will become a red giant and kill off all of the planet’s life. There are also eight scenarios that do have goals, the first three (Aquarium, Cambrian Earth, and Modern-day Earth) involving managing the evolution and development of Earth in different stages.
The next four (Mars, Venus, Ice Planet, and Dune) involving terraforming other planets to support life, and the final scenario (Earth 2XXX) involving rescuing life and civilization on a future Earth from self-replicating robots and nuclear warfare and giving the player the option of causing a great flood to help achieve this goal. In addition, there is another game mode besides Random Planet and Scenario mode, called Daisy World.
Where the only biome on the planet is daisies, which change their color relative to the temperature. The game models the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock (who assisted with the design and wrote an introduction to the manual), and one of the options available to the player is the simplified “Daisyworld” model.