If you have Species on Steam, this game may already have been recommanded to you; at least this is how I learned of it. If this hasn't been the case, well, here we go.
Intelligent Design is a bottom-up ecosystem manager/evolution simulator with an emphasis on mechanics discovery through player experimentation.
Your only form of control on the world is through spawning buildings (some of which can be upgraded) and organisms -you appear to be unable to kill or destroy (and the developers cheerfully admit this make loosing control over population dynamics extremely easy).
Radars expand the zone in which spawning can take place, and can generate forcefields to isolate populations.
Collectors harvest biomass from the surrounding organisms: this biomass is the resource you spend to manage buildings.
Research stations scan organisms in range to earn science points, which unlock options for genetic manipulation (more on this below).
Organisms, meanwhile, are divided in plants, herbivores and carnivores (self-explanatory). Graphically, they appear as unremarkable coloured blobs (green for plants, blue for herbivores and red for carnivores) but they have complex behaviours and properties determined by genetic values, or "genes". (For example, "height" is a plant gene.)
Initially you can only spawn random organism of a given category; by spending science points you unlock the ability to set the value of researched genes in new spawns.
What is arguably the main concept of the game is that researching a gene only unlocks a name and the ability to set its value, but not its effects (what could the herbivore gene "alignment" means?!). There are no abstract shortcut to it: players are incentivized to do actual science if they want to have a clear idea of what they're doing. This approach also applies to the game's "goal": you do have a score, and a scoreboard to compare yourself to other players, but you have to work out by yourself what actually contributes to it.
To help players with !!SCIENCE!!, they are given access to a few graphs (populations, score, temperature... through time), and the game even outputs data in .xml.
The storyline is said to follow the same attitude: you are an ecosystem engineer employed by a nebulous corporation to work on a planetoid through a drone equipped with teleportation technology; any further detail is something that have to be deduced (as far as I know, I just took a quick look).
Intelligent Design: An Evolutionary Sandbox is more abstract than Species, but it may interest you if you like the challenge of experimenting in order to understand the simulated world.
Know about another game or simulation that's worth sharing or discussing? The gaming industry is at it's best when it's a great big incestual slurry of crosslinks and recommendations, so tell us about it here!
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