MOSCOW - University of Idaho students have created a new video game that lets players blast aliens while learning about the concepts of evolution.
"Darwin's Demons" is now available through Steam, the world's largest PC game distributor.
Students from several different disciplines including biological sciences, computer sciences and business worked with the school's in-house game developer, Polymorphic Studios, to create the project.
An arcade-style space shooter in which the player battles a population of evolving aliens, "Darwin's Demons" uses evolutionary principals such as adaptation, mutation and selection to introduce players to scientific concepts.
"The alien’s morphology, fire type, and behaviors are all encoded by a digital genome," the studio explains. "The aliens that are best able to shoot or evade you reproduce to make the next generation."
The game was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation's BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. More than 20 students, along with the studio's advisors - two U of I professors - were involved in creating the game.
Proceeds from the sale of the "Darwin's Demons" will go back into the studio initially, but if it sells enough copies, the students who helped create the game will get to share in the profits.
"We've already been wildly successful even if we only sell 10 copies. To finish something like this, that's quite an achievement," Professor Barrie Robison said in a statement.
"The big payoff for the students occurs when they apply for their first job," added Professor Terence Soule.
Polymorphic Games will now begin work on its next game with a new team of students hired to work for the studio this summer.
"We hope to support the sustainability of the studio so we can hire more students," Robison said. "Our vision is to create a self-sustaining studio that produces a new evolutionary game each year, while providing our students training in the interdisciplinary collaboration skills that are required in today's job market."
For a preview of "Darwin's Demons," or to buy a copy for $4.99, visit Steam's online store.