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SimAnt (SNES)

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Title Screen

SimAnt

Developer: Tomcat System
Publishers: Imagineer (JP), Maxis (US)
Platform: SNES
Released in JP: February 26, 1993
Released in US: October 1993


GraphicsIcon.png This game has unused graphics.
DebugIcon.png This game has debugging material.
SoundtestIcon.png This game has a hidden sound test.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.


PrereleaseIcon.png This game has a prerelease article

SimAnt is a game about Sims and ants.

Sub-Pages

Read about prerelease information and/or media for this game.
Prerelease Info

Debug Menu

Simant-debug.png

Plug an SNES Mouse into port 2. While holding down both mouse buttons, press L + R + Start at the title screen to access a small debug menu which allows you to view a few cutscenes and access the sound test.

Alternatively, use Pro Action Replay (PAR) code 80946D07.

(Source: Original TCRF research)

Sound Test

Simant-soundtest.png

The sound test is rather low-level and allows you to write values directly to the four SPC communication ports. The "Load SND" option selects a sound/music bank to load.

The controls are:

  • A - Increase the value by 01.
  • Y - Decrease the value by 01.
  • X - Increase the value by 10.
  • B - Decrease the value by 10.
  • Start - Send the value to the data port.

To play a song or sound effect, send a value of 02 or higher to any port. To stop playing music, send 00 or 01 to the same port.

Each song and sound effect actually takes up two values (for example, the first song uses both 02 and 03). The same value cannot be sent to the same port multiple times in a row; to restart a song or to repeatedly play the same sound effect, just alternate between the two consecutive values.

(Source: Original TCRF research)

Debug Flags

Red Yellow Ant

Despite its unique color, the yellow ant you control throughout the game is always a member of the black ant colony, and its leader in the war with the red ants. There's never an option to defect to the enemy, but there is a debug flag that almost does that.

Setting RAM value 7E0254 to 80 makes the following changes:

  1. The yellow ant is counted as a red ant in population tallies.
  2. Black ants attack the yellow ant.
  3. Red ants don't attack, and will feed the yellow ant when it's starving.
  4. When the yellow ant dies on the surface, it leaves behind a red corpse, except when eaten by a spider.
  5. If the yellow ant is a queen, it can only lay eggs in the red nest. But it still lays black eggs, which almost immediately get deleted.

Unfortunately, it's not a complete transformation, since:

  1. The objectives don't change. You're still supposed to defeat the red ants, and you can only enter territories that have black ant colonies.
  2. When the yellow ant dies, it's still reborn in the black nest.
  3. Recruiting still only summons black ants, and they're hostile.
  4. You can still attack red ants the usual way by pointing to them and pressing B.

Spider Test Modes

Setting RAM value 7E0220 to 08 enables invincibility for the spider. It won't flee from ants, and can instantly kill any that approach, from a short distance away. The yellow ant is immune to the instant killing, but can still be eaten the usual way.

Setting RAM value 7E0266 to 01 enables a more complicated and glitchy mode for the spider: With this flag set, the yellow ant is completely ignored in population tallies. The game also repeatedly teleports the yellow ant to be directly under the spider, but it does so sloppily by just updating its x and y coordinates. If the yellow ant is in one of the nests at the time, it gets moved to those x/y coordinates within the nest, possibly kicking it out of bounds since nests are only half the width of the surface. It also doesn't erase the yellow ant's previous position in a 2D array that tracks ant locations, so the minimap will show the yellow ant at multiple spots, and red ants adjacent to any of these spots can attack.

While the ant is under the spider, by default, the spider will be invincible and won't move at all. If you try to move the ant, the spider will start to move around a bit, and the yellow ant will try to move away, but will repeatedly get teleported back under the spider. The spider won't eat the ant, but the ant's movements will burn up a lot of energy. Whenever the ant is starving, it will automatically get fed by a "nestmate", but the only living thing near it is the spider. Despite being safe from the spider, the yellow ant can still be killed by other enemies or hazards.

This flag can be used in conjunction with the instant kill mode above, or you can set 7E0220 to 07 to enable yet another submode. With this other setting, the spider is no longer invincible, it returns to its usual behaviors, and the yellow ant is again vulnerable to being eaten. Whenever 7E020A is 02 or 03, indicating that the spider is chasing an ant or is eating, the cursor is automatically pointed to the spider and the camera recentered on it. If the spider runs off the map, the yellow ant can get pushed out of bounds. If at any point the spider dies, the yellow ant dies too, of unspecified causes.

When the yellow ant dies, 7E0266 is set back to 00. But due to the issue mentioned earlier with past yellow ant locations not being cleaned up, you may continue to see the yellow ant getting into fights with offscreen red ants.

Hidden/Unused Ant Types

As far as players are made aware, there are four ant types in each colony: workers, soldiers, breeders, and queens. Under the hood, it's more complicated, as there are 16 possible ant types numbered 0-15. Some of these extra types exist to distinguish empty-handed workers and soldiers from those holding items, but the type system also reveals some hidden and unused features.

Two Types of Breeders

At one point, the developers may have considered distinguishing breeder ants by sex. (In the ant world, this is the only caste that has males and females; workers and soldiers are all sterile females.)

When non-yellow breeder ants are born, they are assigned type 4 or type 8 with equal probability. When you enter a new area via the House screen, 50% of the time, you'll get a roughly even split of type 4 and type 8 breeders, and the rest of the time you'll get type 4 breeders exclusively, due to a quirk in the code that assigns castes there. Nonetheless, without inspecting the RAM there's no way to know how many of each you have, since there's no way tell them apart (they use the same graphics and behave identically). The code that tallies up ants by caste keeps separate tallies internally for the two breeder types, but there's no obvious reason to do so. The sum of the two totals is always used when displaying the breeder count to the player or checking that a colony has the 20-breeder minimum for a mating flight.

The type 4/type 8 distinction only seems to matter for the yellow ant. At the start of a new Full Game, the yellow ant is assigned type 8, and this is what the game checks before enabling the special menu to dig a nest and lay eggs. When the yellow ant dies and is reborn as a breeder, it's always assigned type 4. So it's plausible that the intent was for type 4 ants to be males and type 8 ants to be females.

Green and Blue Ants

Snes simant green and blue ants.png

Type 10 and type 11 ants are mysterious unused green and blue ants. Although they look like palette swaps of worker ants, they use separate graphic tiles with different color indices so that they're consistently blue or green in both the red and black ant color palettes. In an apparent oversight, blue ant members of the red ant colony appear as black dots on the surface mini map, but show up correctly as red dots on the nest minimaps.

Regardless of color, these ants have only one behavior: running around quickly with no express purpose. Unlike normal worker ants, they can't pick up anything and can't be recruited. They're also not counted in population tallies. Given all this and their bright clashing colors, they were probably only ever intended for debugging purposes.

Use PAR code 829FFC0A to make the black colony produce green ants instead of soldiers, or 829FFC0B to produce blue ants.

Walking Dead Ants

Type 15 ants use the ant corpse graphics. When ants die in the game, they get deleted by zeroing out their type data, so this type is never used.

Use PAR code 829FFC0F to make the black colony produce these ants instead of soldiers. They'll behave like green and blue ants, but use different corpse graphics depending on the direction they're facing.

Unused Battle Odds

When a pair of computer-controlled ants A and B fight to the death, the game uses pseudorandom numbers and a table of odds to decide if ant A should win. The table contains all possible ant type pairings:

Ant B
vs. Worker Soldier Breeder Queen
Ant A
Worker 50% 20% 70% 30%
Soldier 80% 50% 90% 40%
Breeder 30% 10% 50% 20%
Queen 70% 60% 80% 50%

With even soldiers having just a 40% chance of defeating the queen, the developers clearly wanted to make regicide difficult at some point. But the numbers in the queen row and column are ultimately unused. In the final version, the queen always loses because the game checks for a queen at the start of the fight, and deletes her if found. It then strangely goes through with the RNG-based battle anyway. With the queen deleted, a "null ant" fights in her place, using the odds of winning normally assigned to a worker ant. If the null ant wins, no one walks away alive.

Yellow ant fights use different code with different odds calculations, and the queen is still the hardest ant to beat.

Error Handling

Exposing Bad Behavior

Snes simant behavior errors.png

Each of the non-playable ants has a byte associated with it that describes its current behavior. The AI uses these values to guide the ants' next moves. For example, ants with behavior value 07 will invade their opponent's nest, and ants with 13 will go to a food source and guard it. Behavior value 12 and all values past 13 are undefined, and values 11 and 13 are only defined for ants in nests and ants on the surface, respectively. When the game detects an ant with an undefined behavior, it prints the hexadecimal value of that behavior on the bottom row of the dashboard, in sometimes flashing text. (The flashing may be an unintended side-effect of a race condition with displaying the red, yellow, and blue energy bars.) The left corner is for ants in the black nest, the middle is for ants on the surface, and the right corner is for ants in the red nest.

You Shouldn't Be Here

Snes simant why are you here.png

When you win or lose the Full Game or a Scenario Game, after the first dialog box about your loss/victory (e.g., one that says "all red colonies have been destroyed"), the game chooses which dialog to display next, which music to play, which cutscene to follow up with, etc., based on RAM address 7E0299. This is the byte that encodes the game mode you're in: 00 = tutorial, 01 = scenario, 02 = full game. You shouldn't be able to reach this part of the code while in the tutorial, and the developers want you to know. If you set 7E0299 to 00 while the first dialog is up, you'll be asked "Why are you here?" and then get kicked back to the main menu in silence.

Interestingly, it is possible to lose the game in tutorial mode through deliberately bad choices, though this isn't properly handled, resulting in a softlock. You just need to kill all your workers and soldiers, and only produce breeders, thus ensuring that no one can forage and the queen starves. Once the game detects that your queen is dead, the yellow ant disappears and time freezes, as if it's waiting for a dialog box to display. But none will ever come as long as 7E0299 is 00.

Regional Differences

Whil the original game for Macintosh/PC was developed in the US, the SNES port was developed in Japan. As a result, the Japanese SNES version contains many distinctly Japanese cultural elements that were removed for the US market. The US version also got some interface tweaks, mostly to improve usability.

Game Text

While the text in the Japanese version is very matter-of-fact, the English translation is intentionally humorous and written from the perspective of the black ants.

For example, these are the messages displayed when a spider dies:

Version Text
Japan クモは たくさんの アリと たたかい まけてしまいました。クモの したいは エサになります。
Japan (literal translation) The spider fought with a lot of ants and lost in the end. The spider's corpse will become food.
US The ants destroyed the evil spider! To the victor goes lunch! Who wants a leg?

User Interface

Saved Game Menu

Japan US
Simant save menu snes jp.png Simant save menu snes us.png

The saved game menu displays five slots for saved games. The top slot is for a single save of the full game, and the next four slots are for saving progress in the scenarios. These five slots are clearly labeled in the Japanese version as "オリジナル" ("original", i.e., the full game), and "シナリオ" ("scenario") A thru D. In the US version, this distinction is not shown.

For saved scenario games in the Japanese version, the last scenario cleared is referenced by name, while in the US version it is referenced by number.

Finally, the Japanese version gives the amount of time spent in each saved game, which is omitted in the US version.

Menu Icons

Japan US
Simant (SNES) (J)-Menu.png Simant (SNES) (U)-Menu.png

The menu icons were recolored and given some additional shading in the US version.

Overlay Map

Japan US
Snes simant jp overlay map.png Snes simant us overlay map.png

The minimaps in the closeup views got some very subtle changes. If you noticed the difference, you were probably too close to the screen.

Status Bar

Japan
Simant status bar snes jp.png
US
Simant status bar snes us.png

The status bar received a few design improvements. Scrolling messages were given space to display more characters, and were moved to the middle so that stats for the different colored ants could be better grouped: black ant population and health on the left, red ant population and health on the right, and yellow ant life count and health in the middle. Health bars were also given black backgrounds to make it clear how far they were from the maximum value. The color for black ant health became blue to distinguish it from the background, and the icon for black ants was changed from white to black, since there was no longer a need to contrast it with the black text of the scrolling messages.

Behavior Control Screen

Japan US
Snes simant jp digger ants.png Snes simant us digger ants.png

In the behavior control screen of the Japanese version, when the percentage allocated to digging is low, the cartoon digger ants take a smoke break. In the US version they go to sleep. Foraging and nursing ants go to sleep under the same conditions, so this makes their actions more consistent too.

Pause Support

In the Japanese version, pressing Start makes the cursor jump to the magnifying glass icon. In the US version, Y serves this purpose (it was previously unused) and Start pauses/unpauses the game. In the Japanese version, you can pause, but it takes several steps - you need to select the musical note icon, then "じかん" (time), and then "とめる" (stop).

Nest Digging

At the start of the Full Game, the pop-up menu for the yellow ant gives two options: "dig nest" and "lay eggs". In the Japanese version, both options are always available, even when you're already inside a nest and can't dig a hole. In the US version, "dig nest" won't appear as a choice unless you're on the surface.

Scenarios

Most of the graphical changes were to remove things that were distinctly Japanese (Japanese text obviously, but also food, toys, etc.) and items not suitable for children (coffee, alcohol, tobacco, lighters, etc.).

Scenario 1 (In the Park)

Japan US
Snes simant jp scenario 1 tiles.png Snes simant us scenario 1 tiles.png

Text was removed from beer caps, toy cars, soda cans, and glass "wisky" bottles. Soda can pull tabs, cigarette butts, and kewpie dolls were replaced with other objects or simply removed, but the kewpie doll graphics remain in the ROM.

Scenario 2 (In the Garden)

Hmmm...
To do:
Double-check transcription of "どびー" sign and find out what it means
Japan US
Snes simant jp scenario 2 tiles.png Snes simant us scenario 2 tiles.png

Signs labeling the flowers were updated. "パンジー" (pansies) became "marigolds", "TOM CAT" (random shameless promotion of Tomcat System) became "violets". A partially buried sign reading "どびー" was removed, though its graphic tiles still exist in the US ROM.

Scenario 3 (In the Yard)

Snes simant jp snail.png

Snails roaming through the yard were kept in the US prototype, but removed from the US release. Their graphics still exist in the ROM, though.

Scenario 4 (In the House)

Japan US
Snes simant jp scenario 4 tiles.png Snes simant us scenario 4 tiles.png

Crayons labeled "クレパス" (pastel crayons) were changed to say "Yellow". ¥5 coins were replaced with US quarters. Shōgi (Japanese chess) tiles labeled "歩" (pawn) and "と" (promoted pawn) were replaced with dominoes. The "HORE" playing card decks, likely a reference to the real-life Hoyle card company, were redesigned. Cigarette lighters were altered to look like erasers. Packs of Lotte Coolmint Chewing Gum (a real-life product) were rebranded as Maxis Chewing Gum, though the penguin logo was left in.

Despite removing other Japanese elements, the eastern half of the floor is still covered with tatami mats in the US version.

Scenario 5 (On the Road)

Japan US
Snes simant jp road with haze.gif Snes simant us road without haze.png

The entire background shimmers to simulate heat haze in the Japanese release and the US prototype. In the US release, it's static.

Japan US
Snes simant jp scenario 5 tiles.png Snes simant us scenario 5 tiles.png

Labels on the man and cat were localized. "てつじん" (iron man) and "にゃあ" (meow) became "man" and "cat". Popsicle sticks labeled "ハズレ" ("lost", as in not redeemable for a prize), were relabeled as "ice cream". Matchbooks were redesigned to be generic tiny boxes. Cigarette butts were replaced with bottlecaps. Some kind of metal clips in the southwest and northeast corners were redesigned. Burnt matches became chalk, and other objects resembling a bomb(?) and rings were replaced with nuts and bolts.

Snes simant us red pixels around nuts and bolts.png

Due to how the nut and bolt graphic tiles were copy/pasted and inserted in random places on the map, you can see that clovers next to them have red pixels that don't belong.

Interestingly, the car in the US version is still labeled as a "ベンツ" (Mercedes-Benz).

Scenario 6 (By the River)

Japan US
Snes simant jp scenario 6 tiles.png Snes simant us scenario 6 tiles.png

Coffee cans became cans of "quality blend" orange juice, whatever that means. More pull tabs were removed, though the graphics remain in the ROM. Empty packs of "すこんぶ" (vinegared seaweed), modeled after an actual product design, were rebranded as generic candy bar wrappers.

Scenario 7 (Under the Porch)

Japan US
Snes simant jp scenario 7 tiles.png Snes simant us scenario 7 tiles.png

This one suffered from inconsistent localization. In the Japanese original, it's a Shinto Shrine where a festival appears to be underway. Children randomly slam menko onto the ground, with the potential to crush passing ants.

In the US version, it's supposed to be "under the porch", where the hazard to watch for is children's "feet". But in the level, the short name for the area is still "Shrine", and the hazard is actually children's hands. Trinkets on the ground pertaining to the shrine were removed, though the graphics remain in the ROM. Cards showing a happy-looking cat were mostly removed, but one was left in the northwest corner. Marbles were redesigned to look like plastic instead of glass. Instead of menko, tiny handprints appear, implying that children are swatting randomly at the ground.

Scenario 8 (In the Woods)

Snes simant jp chestnut.png

Chestnuts were removed for some reason, though the graphics remain in the ROM.

Full Game

Hmmm...
To do:
Double-check transcription of can opener text and translate it
Japan US
Snes simant jp kitchen tiles.png Snes simant us kitchen tiles.png

Not much is different graphics-wise, except in the house levels, where coins, crayons, and playing cards were changed (as in Scenario 4), and labels on milk caps were translated.

Can openers in the US version appear to have untranslated Japanese text ("バンビー"? "ハッピー"?).

Mixed-Up Stats

On the History Graph screen, you can plot cumulative "Starve" and "Eaten" over time. But these labels should be swapped - "Starve" actually counts the number of black ants eaten by the spider, and "Eaten" counts the number of times the yellow ant starved to death.

On the Status screen, "Fights Won" actually gives the percent of fights lost against the red ants.

Unused Graphics

Menu Icons

Japan US
Snes simant jp unused house icons.png Snes simant us unused house icons.png

Graphics tiles loaded on the house screen show unused menu icons and more. They were even updated in the US version to match the new colors and styles.

The checkerboard icon presumably switched off the population bar graphs and switched on the colored tiles indicating which territories were controlled by which colonies. In the final game, this is done by clicking on the house icon.

The winged ant icon is more mysterious. In the SNES release of SimAnt, breeders spread to adjacent tiles during mating flights automatically based on RNG alone, but there may have been more user involvement in a previous revision. (The PC/Mac versions let you allocate newly mated queens to nearby squares of your choosing.) The unused winged ant and square next to it with transparent backgrounds add to the mystery. Since they use transparency, it's possible that they would have replaced the hand cursor.

Snes simant unused closeup menu winged ant.png

The closeup and overview screen tile set has a different winged ant icon, also unused.

Unseen Queens

Snes simant queens on surface.png

When on the surface closeup view, the loaded graphics tiles include unused ones for queen ants. The north- and south-facing graphics are identical to the ones for queens in the nest, but the rest are unique. They're unused because computer-controlled queen ants never leave their nests, and while you can leave the nest as a yellow queen, yellow queens use their own distinct graphics. You can force these tiles to display by editing RAM values to put a queen on the surface, but for some reason the rear half of the queen gets deleted when the game is unpaused.

Unseen Trees

Normal Without Sprite Layers
Snes simant ending with bushes.png Snes simant ending without bushes.png

In the Full Game ending cutscene, some trees in the background are fully hidden behind foreground bushes.

Another Game

SimAnt (SNES) (U) Sumo Wrestler.png

Leftover animation frames for a sumo wrestler from Wakataka Oozumou: Yume no Kyoudai Taiketsu, another game developed by Tomcat System, exist in the US ROM, but are absent from the US prototype and Japan release. The colors shown here are educated guesses.