Thursday, June 23, 2016

Setting up DS from Scratch

Since I just had to go through this process myself, I thought I would do a quick write-up on how I set up my computer for C3/DS play and development using only the tools available readily online, for both my own future reference and others who might benefit.

As a disclaimer, I'm running Windows 7, and this is what works for me. It might not work for you. Follow this guide at your own risk.

I start with my Exodus install from GOG. The GOG installs, in my view, are well worth the $6 (sometimes they drop to under $2 during sales) and if you're going to be installing creatures games with any level of frequency more than "never," I think these installs save a lot of time and annoyance compared to installing from disk.

The only thing to watch for is that it's really, really important that it gets installed into the correct directory, because Exodus does this obnoxious thing where whenever you inject a new agent, export a creature, or do anything that might create a journal file, instead of putting those new files into the install directory, Exodus sticks them into C:\Users\YOUR_USERNAME\My Documents\Creatures. And this causes problems, because even though the game put those files there, it doesn't always know where to find them again, especially in the case of catalogue files, leading to problems with certain agents.

Thankfully, there's a simple fix to this: you just need to make sure Exodus is installed into that same directory (again, that's C:\Users\YOUR_USERNAME\My Documents\Creatures), so it's running the game from and extracting files to the same place. When you fire up the installer, it's really easy to miss that little Options button in the bottom left corner, but clicking it will allow you to change the install directory and make sure it is correct.

Once that's done, the next thing I do is set up a 16-bit Color Switch (more information at that link). This is totally optional if you don't mind manually swapping between 32 and 16-bit color yourself, or if you don't run any 32-bit applications and can just leave your PC set to 16 all the time, but since I switch a lot, it's useful to have a little batch-file that switches me to 16-bit while running DS and back to 32-bit after I close it.

Again, follow these instructions at your own risk. If you mess up your computer, don't blame me.

I start by downloading QRes and extracting the exe into my C:/ folder:

I then go into my Docking Station folder and create a new, blank text file:

I name this file 'launch.bat'. Make sure you don't name it launch.bat.txt. You should receive a prompt ensuring you want to change the file extension. Note that you need to have file extensions enabled to begin with for this to work. If you don't, this quick guide shows you how to enable them.

After I've named my file, I right-click it and select 'edit' (opening the file won't do anything yet).

The file should open in notepad. I enter the following and save it. (If you prefer to copy+paste, the text can be found on my first post regarding this switch)

After saving, I close the file, then run it by double-clicking. If I did everything right, the screen flickers a bit as it switches colors and brings up a window like this:

DS should then launch. I then make a shortcut on my desktop (or wherever I prefer) to launch.bat, and as long as I run DS from that shortcut (and don't close the launch.bat window while the game is open), the app will automatically switch color depths for me.

Okay, that's most of the image-heavy stuff.

The next thing I need is a login disabler. The one packaged with C12DS is one of the most readily available, but when I just want to get developing and don't want to download a bunch of extra stuff, I prefer MNB's version, which is archived in in the Creatures Mainframe thread on TreeSprite's Creatures Keepsakes subforum. You'll find it about 1/3 of the way down, or just search "login" with your browser's find function (usually ctrl+F)

A very similar login disabler can also be found near the bottom of this page, under "DS Offline Option."

DS is now ready to run! But there's a handful of other tools I need for development, most of them from the broken and excruciatingly difficult to navigate Gameware pages. Thankfully this post on Discover Albia maps out the broken pages and includes direct download links, making the process slightly less painful. Here are links to the tools that I use:

The first three applications in that list come with installers.

I like to install these applications to a Development folder within my Creatures folder to keep things organized, but as far as I know it doesn't really matter where you install them.

It's also important to know that the CAOS Tool, Map Editor, and Genetics Kit were once programs that had to be purchased. Though Gameware made the tools freely available long ago, they still require Licence Keys to be used, which I included in the above screenshots. These same keys are also available on their corresponding official pages linked above.

Do note that while the Map Editor and CAOS Tool prompt for the key during installation, the Genetics Kit will not ask you for the key until the first time you run the software, so be sure to take care of that so you don't have to worry about digging it up later.

The CAOS Debugger and the Biochemistry Set don't come with installers and don't need keys; all you need to do is extract the contents into your development folder and they should be ready to use.

Finally (well, not quite, but as far as development stuff goes), I download and extract Jagent:

There's a several reasons I prefer Jagent for agent development over other tools, not the least of which is the implementation of CAOS2PRAY, which ensures I almost never have to deal with PRAY files ever again. I won't go into it too deeply here but I'll just say that learning how to use this little application is probably what pushed me over the edge from just dabbling in CAOS to fearlessly creating several agents.

Finally, and lastly, I download and install the Creatures Remastered Patch. I do this last because I have occasionally had issues if I install other applications after installing the patch, and have had to patch again to get the new applications to play nicely. But this isn't really a big deal since the patch is so easy to install:

To my knowledge, the My Documents update isn't actually implemented yet, so it doesn't matter what you select at this prompt. Once you're all patched up, you're ready to go!

Just to recap, here is the list of links mentioned in this post:

Maybe eventually I'll write a few more in-depth guides as to how to go about using some of these tools. I had also originally planned to do a video demo of this setup process, but in the end I got a little impatient and went with this written method instead.

While I'm working out what to do next, if you all wouldn't mind giving your following thoughts in the comments, I would appreciate it:
  • Are there any other applications or tools that you consider 'must-haves' when setting up a fresh DS install?
  • Would you prefer to see more guides in a written format, or do you think you get more information from video guides?
  • Are there any tools in particular that you would like to see guides for?

And again, to those of you reading this, thanks for sticking with me.


  1. Thank you for putting this together! I'm sure it will be really useful, since the installation of Creatures Exodus is a little more involved than other games. Still, this makes it very simple! One thing that is really bothering me is the fact that I have some sort of automatic 16-bit color switch in place for C3/DS... And I can't remember how I got it to work. I'm almost positive I didn't use QRes, yet sifting through my files doesn't show me anything. Things just automatically switch when I enter and exit the game. I'm sure the method you included works perfectly! I just wish I could figure out how I did it, on the off chance that having an alternative method would be useful. I'll keep pondering!

    This list of tools is much more than I usually use, so no suggestions from me there! Yet I'm also a very casual C3/DS player. I can see the benefits to both text and video guides. What often works best for me is to have a video guide accompanied by a quick summary, or list of important steps. I like to see trickier steps illustrated and shown in a video, although that's not absolutely necessary. Anything works for me!

    As for guides for specific tools... Any of them? I'm very unfamiliar with developing for Creatures Exodus, and most of my learning came from doing way too much flailing around. I know how some things work basically through sheer luck and a few dated tutorials! Even going through the very basics can be a great exercise, since that might help some new people get involved with creating and developing. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is figuring out what to program to use, and where to start.

    1. Goodness, thank you for the super-thorough reply! That's really interesting that your game automatically switches; if you find any leads on that I would be very curious to know.

      Videos with summaries are often my preferred method too; but they can be frustrating when I just want to know one thing and have to sit through an intro and lots of other stuff to find the specific piece of information. So summaries are important, or maybe even a list of the times in the video at which certain things are shown?

      Hm, maybe I'll do a really basic guide on the CAOS tool next, maybe in conjunction with some really simple lessons on editing cosfiles. I feel like that's far less intimidating (and more fun) than the standard "make an entire agent" lessons. We'll see what happens though!

    2. If I remember correctly, the GoG version of Exodus has a compatibility option that causes it to start up in 16-bit mode, without putting anything ELSE in 16-bit mode when it starts.
      It definitely works, I've run both Docking Station and 32-bit stuff at once on a 64-bit machine.

      The only issues I've had (apart from lag due to Docking Station and Minecraft both being CPU-intensive) was that putting Docking Station in fullscreen mode and then back into windowed mode causes it to stop being in 16-bit mode and the graphics get hilariously messed up, which is fixed by just exiting and reentering the game.

  2. Wow, thanks for the tutorial! I like the 'words and pictures' approach over videos, because I can absorb it at my own pace. Are there any differences in setting up the GOG Albian Years from scratch? Please don't forget to link to the Creatures Wiki's new location: , as the pages are often updated since we moved.

    1. Oh goodness, thank you so much for pointing out that errant link; I thought I had doublechecked them all but I guess not.
      I can't speak as well to setting up Albian Years since it's not something I do nearly as often as Exodus. I do know that I've had more trouble getting the external tools to work in the past just due to them being so dated, but if I discover anything I'll be sure to to a write up for it (if nothing else, so I don't forget, hah).

  3. I'm a bit like Discover Albia in that I'm a pretty casual player of the Creatures games (probably moreso than DA is!), but it is definitely nice to have a guide like this. I'd love to see something similar for C2 and the various fixes it needs, given how it seems to be the most broken game in the series.

  4. Thanks for this! I was posting on Kezune's youtube channel and she asked about a creatures breed I'd made, and I realized I'd deleted everything and was going to need to reinstall! This was very helpful.