Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ever wanted to watch someone else's feral run?

...probably not, but now you can!

There's an old computer sitting in the family room that serves as a "public" computer... it's the one we let guests use when they visit, and it's pretty much free-for-all for the family to use too, even though we all have our own computers. Since I can't remember the last time anyone used it though, I decided to load Docking Station onto it and start a live Ustream of a vanilla Chichi feral run.

The world is also actually online at the moment, so if you send a creature through the warp to BluburryNorn, it may show up on the screen... as a chichi though, I haven't installed any other breeds yet. In fact, the only thing I have installed is the Supernamer and a homemade script made to automatically cycle through the norns every few minutes so it's not targeting the same one for hours.

I suppose this would be a fun way to do a community feral run-- have several people send in their norns and then watch the run unfold. But I really haven't gauged if there's enough interest for such a thing yet, or if I have the technical capabilities.

See, the computer I'm streaming the run from is quite dated, not to mention full of various applications that strangers have downloaded onto it over the years. That means I have to keep the population low and can't really inject a bunch of extra agents and metarooms or the computer will slow down dramatically. Streaming the video takes an awful lot of resources as it is. Not to mention that since it is a public computer, anyone at anytime could just come by and use it to check their email or something, or just turn it off.

Streaming from my own computer is an option, but a complex one. While I would be able to have a lot more world variety, I wouldn't really be able to have sound. My sound card doesn't support recording from anything but my microphone (most newer soundcards disable it as a form of music piracy prevention... frustrates the heck out of me), so there would be limitations there. Plus it would tie up my computer and prevent me from doing anything else on it, so I really wouldn't want to use it to stream constantly.

Still, I could use it for events that only ran an hour or two and benefitted from narration. I am tossing around silly ideas in my head like a Truman show knockoff: "The Trunorn Show" which would run for an hour per session for six sessions (since most norns live about 5:40) and track a single norn throughout his life (among other norns, of course). But since watching a norn grow up and live its life isn't the most interesting thing in the world, a lot of the show would rely on exaggerated, interpretive narration. I would need a cohost or two and I really don't know a single person that would be interested in such a thing right now. Not to mention getting enough people interested enough in watching live norns to actually set aside a scheduled hour of their day to do so would be a feat in and of itself, considering how small and scattered the CC is.

A lot of these are just overinflated dreams right now, but they're fun overinflated dreams. For now I'll just have to wait and see how much interest this silly little feral run gets.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lifts can go die in a fire.

So.... that metaroom I'll never make.... yeah...

Despite my painful lack of knowledge in CAOSing I've spent the last week and a half mapping out the room (which wasn't too bad) and then... trying to make it navigatable. Which... means trying to add lifts.

That... was pretty much the most painful thing I've ever done, CAOS-wise. But after trying about ten different approaches and ripping apart countless other versions of lift scripts, I finally managed to piece together some working lifts.

The hardest part by far was my four-level lift in the center of the room. I'm not sure I coded it in the most efficient manner, but it works beautifully.

I believe scripting lifts must be a Creatures developer's rite of passage. I certainly feel a lot more confident about my ability to... dare I say it... maybe... someday finish this room. Gasp.

I mean, I already have done far more than I ever thought I could do. I now have a fully-functional, if quite barren, metaroom. Built from the ground up with my own two paws.

I've been referring to it in my notes as Project BattleStance for some time now. The name may or may not change as time goes on, but right now it's rather fitting. I have developed quite a list of things to do for this project... next I figure I'll add in the foreground overlays, then I'm going to start working on the plants and critters so it will at least function as an inhabitable metaroom.

Then I get to start working on all the fun stuff that makes the metaroom unique... the grendel egg-layer, the invisible mind arrows for the nesting/breeding/fighting behavior (I've been referring to them as "enviromental instincts" in my notes), and all the tools to help against the killer grendels... I have an interesting complex system planned for that...

It's certainly not going to be an average metaroom in the least. I'm not sure it'll even go over well, but I suppose I am building this for my own personal use, and if it satisfies my needs, I'll be happy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Metaroom I'll Never Make

So remember that crazy metaroom idea I had? The one I don't have the skills to actually bring into existence? Well, apparently that didn't stop me from at least trying to sketch up a layout for it. And then that layout turned into adding a little color... and texture... and then... well.. yeah..

So the little upper-right "pit" I figure will be the grendel hatchery and the area above it the "battle zone" so to speak... the right cave entrance will have that funny little barrier I was talking about earlier, that will attempt to keep the women and children in the cave and the adult males out to fight. In the fall that barrier will switch off and instead all norns will be encouraged outside to the tree, where delicious fertility fruit will grow.

Pregnant norns and norns holding eggs will be encouraged to make their way to the tiny cave all the way to the left to lay/drop them. The cave and the tunnel below it will be barren for the most part-- so the babies have to undergo a sort of mini-IQ test before they can enter the normal population.

The bottom right tunnel will be a training, resource, and recovery area for male norns. Fake grendels to teach them to beat on and a variety of medicines to heal their injuries.

Which leave the two middle caves as general living areas for the population. I suppose there will be some sort of sea-critter for the pond and some other little edible plants and animals.

The room is no work of art... but it's suitable enough for my purposes. Buuut... again, I lack the CAOS skill to actually bring this to life. For the most part, this is still a dream. That's not going to stop me from continuing to develop it until I hit a wall of confusion though, so maybe twelve years and a ton of trial and error later, I'll actually finish it.

So I'm going to add onto my little daydream here. It would be interesting, just to sort of add to the "game" element this room is meant to create, to have a plant, or series of plants, that generally bear poor fruit with little nutrition. To get them to bear proper fruit, you have to get a norn to hit a certain critter (killing it) and place the critter's corpse near the plants to act as fertilizer. The plants will then bear proper fruit for a period of time.

As a secondary plant idea, somewhat inspired by Animal Crossing, perhaps a plant would only seed itself if close to another plant, and the offspring plant would have a chance of mutating into a different color.. and different colored plants would bear fruit with different properties. Would sort of give the hand something else to do other than tend to norns... trying to breed rare plants and the like. And just to add a level of difficulty to the whole thing, while the hand could uproot the plants to arrange them according to how they want them to breed, there would be a chance of the plants dying after transplanting.

...Or if I wanted to be really cruel, sometimes tiny weeds would sprout around the plants that would stop breeding as long as they were present. And one would have to be careful to pull the weeds without uprooting the plants.

Gah. Leave it to me to try to turn something like Creatures into a gardening sim, haha. I guess I am just always fascinated by the possibilites of CAOS and trying to think outside the box in that sense.

Now if only I was knowledgable enough to fulfill these ideas. I know enough about CAOS to know that these things are possible, and I could probably figure out how to excute them in a very basic sense, but I tend to just get stuck on all the little details. Scripting complex objects really is not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, back to the actual metaroom. I still want to tweak the background a little and add some details to make each of the caves room at least a little unique. Then the real fun starts.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Agent: Mind Arrows

You know, with all the messing around I've done in CAOS, I don't think I've ever actually compiled a complete agent before. Not for C3/DS anyway. But just for the sake of my own learning and amusement, I spent the better part of the day scripting these Mind Arrows.

They're quite simple, and contain some of the concepts I mentioned in a previous post about mind control. If a creature comes within range of the arrows, his mind is bombarded with very strong suggestions to go right or left. I dropped a sezz line in there too, just so I could tell easily if the creature was acting out of his own will or under the control of the arrows. I suppose I might comment that out in future versions if it gets too annoying.

Scripting the commands for the up and down arrows was a little trickier; after trying multiple solutions I finally set the agent to first check if it is touching a lift-- if so, the creature will be told to push/pull it in accordance with the arrow's direction; if not, the creature will be told to push the call button until the lift appears. For this reason, arrows pointing up or down need to be place in a position where they will be touching the lift when it is called; otherwise the creatures will be pushing that call button until they starve.

They're astonishingly effective. I was able to use the arrows to get all my norns in the meso crowded into a single corner fairly quickly. If I do develop this further I would like to add a similar concept to the left and right arrows for doors and teleporters, so the "walkways" don't have to be limited to the metaroom.

What you actually do with this agent is up to you. You might use it as sort of mental forcefield to keep creatures away from a certain area, or as a way to encourage norns to travel more if they start crowding together in one place. I think I'm going to see if I can create a path that wraps around the entire C12DS world so my norns can take a tour of the world rather than sitting by the incubator all day.

Of course, in case you couldn't guess it already, I created this agent as a very, very early prototype for that mental barrier I was thinking about in my last post.. you know, for that metaroom I'll never actually be able to make? Despite my complete lack of skill I've been plotting it out anyway... you know, just in case I end up with the necessary skills someday.

So I do plan on expanding/specifying this agent...trying to figure out how to only make it activate in certain seasons, how to make it distinguish between male and female norns. It's got a ways to go, but right now it's a fun little toy for getting your creatures where they need to go.

Anyway enough rambling. Download the Mind Arrows here!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The ADD Developer

Initially, I just wanted to create a interesting scenario in a world in which the male norns were trained from birth to be grendel-killers, and stationed next to the grendel egg layer to protect the women and children from incoming dangers.

But the grendels really weren't enough of a threat to keep it interesting, so I went about creating a genetic breed of carnivorous grendels that gained protein and starch from hitting other creatures, and fat from getting creature eggs. I also made their anger and boredom decrease from watching creatures retreat from them and a few other tweaks here and there to keep their drives in check.

But in the process of development I got tired of hatching "feeder" norns to test the breed with, so I stopped to write a quick agent that would automatically lay a norn egg of a random genome every few minutes. Then I accidentally left the world alone for a while and apparently the norns had managed to beat the grendels to death and were taking over the meso.

So it hit me; maybe to make this scenario I'm developing a bit more interesting, I could create an agent that would lay these carnivorous grendel eggs periodically, regardless of the current grendel population. It would be like a sort of survival game... keep the grendel population down or it'll eventually overrun everything.

Of course, then my mind ran wild. Why not just create an new metaroom for this scenario instead of trying to make pre-existing rooms meet my needs? I could create quite distinct "grendel territory" for the grendel eggs to hatch from, and a den that all norn eggs are teleported to where they have to pass a mini-version of the IQ test to get to food. Maybe even add in a training area with tools to teach the young to fight grendels.

Part of the scenario is to keep the males and females separate most of the time... with the males at the front lines doing the fighting and the females staying safe. Instead of using forcefields to keep this restriction I could put some of the knowledge of mind control I mentioned in my past posts to create an invisible agent at the boundries of grendel territory that encouages males to stay and fight but instills females with great fear and encourages them to stay away.

But another part of the scenario is that during the autumn season, the creatures are allowed to mix and mate to ensure the survival of the species. So perhaps when autumn rolls around, the grendel egg layer will temporarily deactivate-- as will the invisible "barrier" so the creatures can relax and return home to their loved ones for a while.

But the fantasy breaks down about here, because I am reminded that my skills are not up to par for any of that. While I might be able to write a few simple scripts, coding complex agents is beyond me and designing metarooms and sprites for agents is even further. Le sigh.

I'm always having these ideas for "scenario" metarooms though... metarooms that are far from just new scenery to raise your norns in... metarooms that are essentially their own minigame within Creatures. At least I can blog about them. Maybe someday I'll inspire someone more capable than I.