In Balance of the Planet, players must attempt to end the game with positive points. The game begins in 1990 and proceeds in five-year turns until 2035. Although the point total is zero to begin with, players start with a host of problems that virtually guarantee negative point totals in the first few turns.
To turn this situation around, players set policies (through taxation), and finance subsidies and research (funded by the taxes collected). Each turn, players can set new policies and finances with little restraint. These are evaluated at the end of the turn, and the results are reported in a screen that breaks down the positive and negative point totals into various categories. Players may also check through another screen how these point totals changed in the last turn. Although the play mechanism is simple, there is considerable complexity built into the simulation, and there is very little 'interaction' in the game. Players navigate information, set policies (using sliding boxes), and use one short menu to progress from turn to turn. Most of the interaction is internal to the player. What policies must be modified and how? Why did things go so badly last turn? Where should the money go? Players must react to the feedback and anticipate new problems.BOTP covers some controversial political and social ground for example poverty and energy provision.
One innovative feature of BOTP enables players who are uncomfortable with the simulation to change the biases built into the simulation. For example, a pro- or anti-nuclear bias may be loaded into the simulation. This mechanism lets players experiment with different "realities," also letting them see
the world from different perspectives.
Balance of the Planet supports VGA/EGA (640x200x16) and CGA
(620x200x2) graphics modes. It requires 512K RAM, and must be
installed on a hard disk. There is no copy protection of any kind.
Mouse support is provided in addition to the keyboard. There are no sounds. Note that a hard disk is required to play BOTP.