Saturday, June 4, 2011

In which I ramble forever about more things I will never do.

When I look through all my notes and ideas and wishes for changes to DS, sometimes I seriously want to just rewrite DS from near-scratch, using only the engine, the graphics, and perhaps the CFE genome (though it would have to be heavily edited still. I have learned a lot about the inner workings of Creatures, but the creatures' brain is the one thing that remains such a mystery to me that I know I'm best off leaving to the experts) and making DS just the way I would like it.

I know I don't have the time or skill to do such a thing, but I like to dream about it anyway, and sometimes, write up an ideal scenario of what the game would be like if I did. I just... really want creatures to be an adventure again. I want to recapture those feelings I got when I first started playing, the feelings of adventuring into the new and unknown, of closely nurturing creatures to both protect them from the dangers of the world and teach them to avoid them for themselves.

So just for fun, here is a backstory and yet more weird ideas that I will never be able to fulfill:


Albia is not what it used to be, and the Shee are to blame.

Thousands of years after the Shee had well-established themselves on their spherical planet, a few reckless Shee decided to break laws and ordinances that forbade them from going back, and did just that. With absolutely no respect or care for the planet's balance or the well-being of the creatures that inhabited it, the rebellious Shee treated the fragile world as a mere playground, making repairs to the old splicer, rounding up the norns, ettins, and grendels to splice, clone, genetically modify, and splice again, creating hideous creatures of absolutely no distinguishable species purely for their own amusement. The Shee also brought in genetic samples from their home and let loose new life on Albia; terrible beasts and toxic plants that had adapted to a much harsher (and larger) world than than this one, and had no problems thriving, completely infesting the world, ripping apart the native plants and animals to claim the tiny planet as their own, devouring both the careless Shee and the majority of their experiments.

Luckily, a hundred or so of the spliced creatures managed to flee underground-- the only place safe from the monsters that had complete dominance of the surface. There they banded together, for there was no difference between them anymore; they were all mixed freaks now, and neither had more norn, ettin, or grendel blood in them than the others. But there were so very few of them, and they quickly realized that as the only survivors, they had to repopulate in order to keep as least some semblance of their kind alive. But their genetics worked against them, and it appeared that only three of the females in the entire group were fertile. So it was that every creature descended from one of three mothers: Glias, Lyth, or Kir.

Though the creatures began their new lives as one united species, it sadly did not continue that way. Perhaps a drive to claim one's own kind as genetically superior just runs far too deeply in the hearts of all the Shee's creations, for it wasn't long until the once allied creatures divided themselves according to their heritage. Though the bloodlines were still visually completely indistinguishable from each other, they nonetheless grouped into their own clans and fought amongst themselves to claim territories and food sources in the large networks of underground tunnels they had once created together.

As the horrifying beasts above continued to rampage, the creatures learned to avoid Albia's surface at all costs. The earthquakes created by the monsters quite often damaged and caved in many of their underground hollows, and the creatures struggled to both defend their territories and keep them intact.

You, the all-seeing hand wandering these tunnels, discover an abandoned nest that has been cut off from the rest of the tunnels by one of these quakes. The two orphan eggs remaining could hold creatures of any descent. Perhaps if you care for them, watch them carefully, and follow them, you will learn more about the strange tribal culture that has evolved in Albia's Underground.


The first thing I would do is get rid of the breed/species distinctions. There would be no norns/ettins/grendels, instead those genus slots would be used to distinguish between the three tribes, which would be genetically identical other than being outwardly hostile towards creatures not of their tribe. Technically, they would still be able to befriend each other and interbreed, but would certainly not do so naturally.

Your initial two creatures would have their tribe picked at random, and be generated semi-SERU-style, basically picking from 16 genomes of that tribe, all of which would be genetically identical except for their sprite assignments, and mashing them together with at zero (or rather small) mutation chance. So basically, the creatures would be born genetically stable, but completely random appearance-wise.

You would start out in a tiny cave, a single metaroom with the basic supplies to teach, feed, entertain, and raise your first two creatures. However, when your creatures get on their feet, learn the basics, and start getting restless, they start -digging-.

There's quite a bit of a random element in this ideal-world. I guess that is because, to me, keeping things new and constantly changing is what keeps things interesting. As an added bonus, generating things randomly means I have less to design, and personally, the aesthetics of the game is much less important to me than the inner-workings. But stepping back a bit to explain:

The world map would basically consist of a series of ideally 50 or more tiny, single-level metarooms. These would likely be 5-10 basic rooms that are just repeated (like a basic small cave, a large cave, a narrow tunnel, an underground pond, a (very dangerous) surface area, etc etc). However, when the world is created, each room would pick randomly from several backgrounds, foregrounds, plants, and wildlife to make each area unique. Every world would be different.

But back to where I was, when you start out, you would only have one room. Eventually, your creatures would dig a tunnel that would essentially be a door to another random room. Creatures would dig when they are crowded or scared or territorial. More than one tunnel could be dug from most rooms, so there would be multiple branches. Theoretically, eventually, creatures would dig through the the entire system of rooms, but occasionally earthquakes would destroy the tunnels, so the pathways would be relatively dynamic. Furthermore, occasionally rooms that had been completely cut off from the rest of the tunnels would re-randomize themselves to create the illusion of infinite areas to discover. You would only be able to visit rooms that your creatures would be able to access.

But your creatures wouldn't be the only ones digging. There would be other creatures, wild creatures that you couldn't initially select, that are off in their own tunnels, digging, breeding, and carrying out their lives. These would also be of randomized tribes.

I am toying with a few ideas for how I would handle the "wild creatures" aspect. My initial idea was to just allow you to select them as soon as you saw them, but that would completely take all the excitement out of an encounter with a stranger, and that's something I really want to maintain. Another option is to have some process you have to go through to befriend or tame a creature in order to be able to select it, but I feel like that might eventually become a nuisance. Currently I'm stuck on the idea of having a limit of creatures you could track at a time, eight or so maybe, so while it would be easy to start tracking a stranger, it would require losing track of another creature, so you would have to play favorites and choose carefully. But even that sort of pigeonholes me into a role I may or may not want to take all the time. So I'm still thinking about that.

I don't want to restrict who is selectable based on tribe. I think that even though the basic instincts of the tribes are to hate and fight each other, the idea of raising a mixed group that lives together (relatively) comfortably should still remain an option. Though ideally, the player would grow a bit of a natural attachment to their starter tribe.

Home smells and territory would play a role in this whole tribal clashing thing. The longer an area is inhabited by a certain tribe, the more that area would start to smell like that tribe's home. Creatures would generally feel more comfortable in their own home and want to stay in those areas when they are not feeling well. Meanwhile, strong, healthy, and territorial creatures may explicitly seek out other areas to claim for their tribe.

Territoriality is a strange sort of "sympathy drive" I want to introduce. It's a drive maintained by an external script that assesses the general comfort of the local tribe population based on their average anger/fear/crowded/etc drive levels and then silently adjusts the territorial drive of each creature to match. Thus, the drive won't actually go down until the tribe as a whole is happier, but creatures could reduce the drive for themselves temporarily by doing things that might help their tribemates feel comfortable, like digging tunnels, approaching enemy territory, hitting enemies, and so on. I'm thinking about two of these if I have the slots, one for tribal discomfort and one for tribal hunger.

Food, I want to be a resource that has to be maintained to an extent. I don't want it to be impossible to come by, but I don't want it to be plentiful and everywhere. Food is something that creatures would actually have to forage for. Digging in shallow soil or pushing a plant may yield something edible-- sort of like a chance-based vendor. Since creatures would be instinct-less based, they won't have the half-strength instinct trick to properly use vendors. Instead, the tribal hunger drive would be what drives a creature to forage.

Since I mentioned instinctless creatures I feel that I should elaborate a bit on that. Creatures would have no genetic instincts. The wild, unselectable creatures that are generated however, would have some scripts kickstart basic instincts into them just so they are viable. But the creatures that you raise would have to be taught everything. They would find out on their own that eating reduces hunger, pushing toys reduces boredom, hitting enemies reduces tribal discomfort and so on, but only if they try it-- and they are unlikely to try it unless the hand tells them to. Your creatures essentially won't be able to survive without guidance, and creatures would act quite differently depending on what they were taught as younglings. The lack of genetic instinct also means it would be entirely possible to raise peaceful cohabiting tribes if you did so from non-feral creatures, because you could teach them peaceful ways to reduce their anger and territoriality. Handling angry feral invaders would still be a problem, however.

But creatures would have other things to set them apart from others aside from their upbringing. The action scripts and genetics would be written in such a way that a creature's reaction to a certain action wouldn't be entirely hard-coded into their genetics. Upon birth, each creature would be assigned a unique set of characteristics-- some hereditary and some random, that would act as filters on how they see the world.

These characteristics come in the form of percentages. A creature with a "pushing toys reduces boredom" characteristic of 100% would receive the normal amount of boredom reduction when they push a toy. But a creature might have a filter of 50%, meaning they simply don't find toys very interesting, and would only receive half the boredom reduction from them. Most creatures would have fairly average percentages-- between 75~125%, but a few of them would stretch further. These characteristics should ensure that no two creatures are really the same.

Creatures would have randomly generated quirks, too. These are along the same lines as characteristics, but instead of being more or less percentages of average things, they would be additional and somewhat strange things, like a creature that gets a boredom decrease in addition to a hunger decrease from eating food, or a creature that gets a fear increase from pushing creatures. These quirks shouldn't be too crippling to a creature's well-being, but should serve the same purpose as characteristics-- to give individual creatures a little bit more personality.

Since these are all done through action scripts instead of genetics, they also have the potential to change over time, though I'm not sure the average creature lives long enough to warrant that.

Really, I want to make a lot of things script-based to cover flaws in genetics. For example, genetics would not determine (as much as I can help) when a creature dies. A sort of reaper script would monitor creatures for low levels of certain critical chemicals, high levels of others, and so on. The script would decide when a creature dies (or passes out, C2-style, something else I would bring back), not genetics, so it would be extremely difficult or hopefully impossible for creatures to mutate into immortals.

Wow. Okay so I've thought way, waaaay too much into this, considering it's something I'll never have the time or energy to actually pull off. But I guess it's just really nice to daydream. A world like this... I think.. I -hope- would be something I could get attached to, that would keep my interest.

What about you guys? If you were to rewrite DS within the limitations of the engine, what would your ideal version be like?


  1. It's a shame such an undertaking is pretty impractical. I would definitely be interested in seeing this world put together. Perhaps at the very least we might hear a few more stories about it? :D

    Fingers crossed Grandroids will have better functionality for modding and this kind of world may be built in the future.

    As for me...I don't know if I could work within DSs limitations. I think I'd be starting from scratch in another program. Obviously I'd need to steal Steve's original code for the creatures too.

  2. This is absolutely possible, I'm sure... Using caos controlled drives is possible, Using randomly generated rooms is possible, Nearly everything Amaikokonut describes is possible.

  3. I like to have my brainstorms stay within at least plausible limitations of the engine. I guess that's what makes them so exciting to me... the notion that it -could- happen, even if it doesn't.

    Even though it's not practical, just knowing me, I'll probably start working on it bit by bit just to sate my mad-science drive until I get bored of it, like I did with project BattleStance and all my other insane ideas. Maybe some more lore will come of that? I will certainly keep it in mind, hah.

    Thanks for the comments guys-- they are really encouraging <:

  4. I love so many of these ideas, I would be completely willing to help with the graphics if it will help bring these ideas closer to being finished & shared. I like making the sprites, I'm just no good at coding.

  5. After i read this post I started to wonder how these things would work and now i have the urge to code something :P *Starts downloading CAOS editor*

  6. I would still keep the game as it is, just make it more detailed and realistic. It would take a ton of work though and coding knowledge to do that. What I mean is how they breed now A norn inherits only arm sprites, leg sprites, tail.. but never can a norn inherit 1 leg sprite, 1 arm sprite.. or a blending of the textures. If one norn is spotty like a chichi and the other a zebra norn - they could create a baby with spots and stripes on the same body.. or if a short rabbit norn mated with a tall chichi it could produce a norn with a size in between.. just like irl, not just different sprites.

    Also I would make the world more adventurous/dangerous/realistic with natural disasters that have a chance of happening such as earthquakes, tornados, floods, droughts.. to wipe out food supplies or devistate homes. Some real adventure and risk to put surviving something to be very proud of!

    Norns would be more intelligent too and recognise relatives (like you mentioned).

  7. We haven't spoken regarding Creatures themselves yet, but I personally find instinctless creatures insanely frustrating. I remember playing C2 with Norns telling me how hungry they were and not eating unless I told them to. That said, the need to eat doesn't mean that they should know what is *safe* to eat. Babies and children eat pretty much everything unless it tastes awful/are told not to. I don't know if a category of "bad food" exists or can be created, but I'd have one if possible.

    Dealing with other tribes would be the most interesting to handle. The primary motivator of every war ever (despite what we tell ourselves) is population pressure of one "tribe" or another. If one of the feral tribes digs into your space and starts pouring in, your tribe must rally or flee. If they flee, do they displace another tribe (does that tribe flee) or absorb (you forcibly activate their powerup and make them selectable) it? Is it possible to lose control of your tribe?

    If contact is made in a slower fashion, say with only one, non-violent individual, your tribe isn't overwhelmed with a new smell or forced to defend themselves, then that gives an opportunity for the "tribe smell" to balance out to a level that doesn't provoke hostility. Your tribe could go through the other tribe's space, where you activate their powerup and they become selectable.

    1. Heey thanks for your comment! I hadn't thought about a lot of stuff in this post for a long time and it was nice to revisit it.

      I can understand instinctless creatures being frustrating. Personally, I just like having a hand in teaching norns how to survive rather than having them hatch out already knowing everything. But that's a personal playstyle preference and isn't for everyone.

      It's been so long since I thought about this world concept and the tribal system! It feels like it has a lot of possibilities, but only time and a lot of testing would tell. That, and I'd actually have to write/implement it first, heh.

    2. Well, after I posted this comment, I read your.. er.. misadventures with the default C2 genome. When you said "instinctless", that is what I imagined having to deal with, and that would drive me absolutely insane!

    3. Hah, 'misadventures' is indeed a good word for it. Thankfully instinctless DS creatures are still pretty obedient to the hand and learn quickly compared to C2 creatures. C2-style 'intelligence' (if you can even call it that) would drive me crazy too!