Autonomous Creature System- Useful or Nicety?

A system that autonomously controls creature population maps and creature attributes… it seems like a great idea- remove the creature placement burden, remove the creature balance burden, add extra levels of immersion, and allow for more gameplay paths.  Well, that’s the goal anyways.

Is it something that would be a major game differentiation?  Or is it just something that should be in the “it would be nice, but yeah right” category of the design specs?

In a bit of a crisis of belief on the topic I found myself questioning the realistic viability of my creature system.  In some ways it seems like it would be more along the lines of what real life animal population researchers would be interested in- and possibly find useful.  In a game world though, would it add enough to justify its development and possible maintenance- more likely possible catastrophic failure at some unspecified later time (wouldn’t it be great to have a mass extinction event, after which the world is left with Swamp Rats and a few scattered Spitting Golas?)

I think if we can figure out how to allow for a rich enough autonomous creature management system there will be a whole new level of emergent phenomena in that the creatures themselves self-balance and even create complex webs of symbiotic relationships.  Grauls eat various critters, which eat other critters, which cannot live in the presence of a certain competitor, which depends on the presence of rats and in doing so allows for Graul nests to survive long enough for its young to mature before they are destroyed by said rats, etc.  Not a very good attempt, but the point is that they system will work best if it yields a natural symbiosis of various species in any given area.   Maybe even starting the food chain off with with things as basic as plankton and green algae- that’s a bit extreme, but interesting.

I think this creature system may not be a big selling point itself, but I think it will be a sort of crucial building block that allows for bigger, better gameplay mechanics that are themselves the grand selling points.  So, in that way it’s almost part of the game engine, and thus higher on the priority list than a “that would be cool to have” item.