Okay I'm back, I had to do other stuff before I dove into this.
Portraying extraterrestrial life in SE should be within scientific reason, encompassing our best guesses of what extraterrestrial life might be like (obviously this will change as science progresses), at all possible taking a conservative stance on such subjects like intelligent life. It is a simulator
after all. I mean, if alien civilizations were all so common and it was so easy to get to K2 or 3, surely one of them would have a galaxy-spanning civilization that even a backwater world like ours could detect by their activity alone. That is the Fermi Paradox after all, but I digress.
The main aim of my idea for SE would be to:
a) describe alien life on a planet to as much a level of detail as possible, without actually modelling their physical appearance.
b) to program that description to be realistic within the framework of the planet's environment and position relative to its region in space. For example, complex multicellular life would have a filter applied to its generation code that inhibited it from being generated in a solar-system that resides in a stellar region near a supernova remnant, since it would have been knocked back into extinction by the nearby explosion and its attributed radiation dose.
This is very much an "Encyclopedia Galactica", as envisioned by Carl Sagan and his artistic associate Jon Lomburg:
It would use the real chemistry and biology in the generator that made life on our planet the way it is, but subjected to the different environments and timescales found on other planets. Such discoveries like the XNAs (or Xeno-nucleic acids; alternative or alien DNA
) would certainly make food for thought. Basically, it would greatly expand the already existing template for life in SE: "Temperate Terra with multicellular life (Aquatic,Terrestrial)".
Where might this entry for the planet be placed? It could go in the planetary details window, but it would interesting to have a completely separate
window for this with all the info regarding the properties of the alien life in question. If no life is present on the world, then have some details as to why not (the planet is too young, it orbits to close to its sun, its sun type is wrong etc).
This new window could also have a "human habitability" rating, based off of things like the planetary atmospheric composition, mass, temperature and sun type. If anything, this would be a great addition to the game engine itself regardless of an alien life addon, since users on this forum are always asking if we humans could live on this 'rad new planet they discovered'.
The most common type of life could probably be carbon-based, water-thalassogenic
abiogenesis-generated unicellular or simplistic multicelllar life, for the simple fact that it is what exists on Earth, the only planet we know for sure has life. Stick to what you know after all. Much more rare are non-H2O solvent life-forms (ex. ethane for low-temperature environments), utilizing a different element matrix for their biology (ex. silicones
for high temperature environments). This would be that 'exotic' life we always find on SE titan-like worlds. Theorectical yes, but Titans with life were already in SE to begin with and the game would be lacking without them
Perhaps also intelligent life would be rare, and rarer still is advanced life that has become space-faring. The fast-disappearing ruins of extinct civilizations may be the most players will encounter for a long time.
With all this info, a user interface would be useful. Players could edit how common life is for them in their SE, and even have the classic 'space opera' type universe. I believe you can already sort of do this with SE.
Sigh. When all is said and done, my attempt to simplify the issue of alien life as portrayed in Space Engine to something short of actually modelling the ETs appears to be just as complex, if not more so. In my want for an avoidance of a nightmarish No Mans Sky life-form generator (*shudders*), I may have fallen into the trap of demanding an impossibility from the [color=#8e44ad]SpaceEngineer
and any future programmers he hires for the official release of the game. I know things like this are on the To-Do list, but I thought the very least I could do is offer a concept that I would love to see implemented into the game. And in the end, it is just that, a concept. I wish I had more expertise with creating mods for SE. If I did, I would start the epic task of programming something like this myself right now. [/color]