Saturday, October 8, 2011

CCSF Blogathon

Guys. We need more active Creatures blogs.

Every time I open my RSS reader, I hope anxiously that someone has posted in my Creatures category. And all too often I find my art/design category full of eye candy, my food category is full of delicious things I will try to cook later that day, my tea category has a handful of reviews of wonderful stuff I can’t afford, and my creatures category has nothing.

I realize I am as much to blame as anyone for this, as I’m not exactly the most prolific writer. So I have a proposal. The CCSF is coming, and there is no better time to up the activity of our little blogging community.

The concept is quite simple. To participate, simply commit to publishing one post a day during the fourteen days of CCSF. If you don’t already have a blog, there’s no better time to start!

Now, before you get scared, let me remind you that publishing one post a day does not necessarily mean you need to write one post every day! Most blogging platforms allow you to write posts in advance and schedule them to be automatically published on a certain day. If you wanted, you could write fourteen posts in advance, schedule one to be published each day, and be done with it. Meanwhile, the community will be getting a steady stream of posts to read throughout the festival!

Not sure what to blog about? If you are a developer of any sort, your blog is obviously a great place to post your releases, but usually not even the most prolific contributors have something for every day of the CCSF. If any contributors out there want to take that as a challenge, go for it, but for the rest of you, here are some suggestions:

Many creatures blogs serve as a sort of open diary detailing the events of what is going on in their creatures’ worlds. Tell us of the births, deaths, and other drama that raising creatures entails!

If you like to play creatures a bit more scientifically, blogs are a great way to document your experiments and the results that come of them. Similarly, if you are working on a selective breeding project or wolfling run with a specific goal in mind, it’s nice to be able to share your progress.

Perhaps you are a dreamer and prefer thinking of ways you might play creatures, or thinking of things you would like to develop or see developed. By publishing your ideas on your blog, you can explain them in all the detail you like, and possibly gather suggestions and general interest from readers.

You could get creative and take a fictionalized viewpoint. I think it would be neat to see a blog written from the perspective of a norn or other creature, detailing his or her daily life, like a sort of ongoing story.

Speaking of stories, if you’re a creatures fiction writer, publishing a small part or chapter of a story every day is a great way to keep readers interested. Sitting down and reading a long story can be quite daunting sometimes, but releasing small bits at a time makes it easier for casual readers to digest.

You may choose to, instead of focusing on Creatures itself, focus on the community and its creations. Reviews of agents, metarooms, breeds, and even stories, are few and far between, and are a good way to spread the word about some of the hidden gems in the community.

If you are a developer, artistically, genetically, or otherwise, other aspiring developers can get a lot of information out of “the making of”-style posts. Sharing of tips and techniques inspires more creation, and more content for the community!

If you’re really stumped, look to other blogs for ideas. Perhaps a blog you follow has written a post about why C2 is better than C1. Have a different opinion? Feel the same way but for different reasons? Write a post on your own blog in response, linking back to the post that inspired you. Multiple bloggers discussing the same ideas helps to pull the community together, and inspires quite a bit of discussion!

Honestly, you can write just about anything. During the CCSF, there will will certainly be a lot going on and a lot to to think about-- I think you’ll find that it isn’t as difficult as you think!

To kick off this blogging initiative, there is a new tab at the top linking to a list of Creatures blogs. I will attempt to keep this list as complete as possible, so if you start a new blog or know of one that isn’t listed, let me know so I can add it!

(As a sidenote, I've been fiddling with the layout of this blog, so excuse any mess in the meantime!)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stop sleeping!

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it frustrating when norns sleep a lot?

Especially when you're trying to train them to do something very specific, and they just decide to just plop down and take a nap, right there. Argh.

Well, even though I haven't bothered documenting the updates to my dabbles with my instinctless creatures, I have still learned much from that experience and have been slowly working to improve the genome as a whole.

While investigating the aformentioned lonely grendel problem, I discovered that grendels lacked the "found company" gene that reduces loneliness when approaching a member of the same species. Adding  the gene in fixed the problem quite simply.

Another problem I manged to fix was one with the sleep cycle. If you don't know, the creature sleep cycle works as such: A creature rests; as it rests it becomes less tired, but gets sleepy, and when it gets sleepy enough, it falls asleep. While sleeping, the creature's tiredness and sleepiness both decrease until it is well-rested and wakes up.

As most of you are aware, there is no "sleep" verb. A creature can decide to rest until it falls asleep, but it cannot just decide to sleep. (Nor can we!) The problem with this is that while creatures with instincts are pre-programmed to rest when sleepy, creatures without instincts cannot make the connection between resting and sleepiness reduction, because it isn't resting that directly reduces sleepiness, it's the sleeping that eventually results from the resting.

So to remedy this, I simply made resting appear to reduce sleepiness by tweaking the stimulus gene to first reduce sleepiness and then silently increase it, enough to both compensate for the reduction and bring it to a normal increase. And it worked! I was so proud to see my instinctless creatures suggesting that other sleepy creatures rest. I just love seeing evidence of creatures learning!

But, I still feel like the creatures sleep too much as a whole. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to do away with sleeping entirely, but it just feels like the frequency is a little high. So I've been tweaking the genetics a little here and there, too.

Meanwhile, I am really enjoying raising these little creatures and discovering how much impact a creature's upbringing can have on its behavior when it isn't being controlled by pre-programmed instincts. For example, I brought up a pair of norns together in an area with nearly no toys around. The norns took to pushing each other instead of toys to reduce boredom, and not only grew up to be great breeders, but very social. It was quite cute when a grendel wandered along complaining of boredom and one of them suggested he push norn!

I plan on tweaking the stimulus genes further to make traveling, pushing lifts, etc to have more of a boredom-reducing effect and see if creatures can be taught to wander around when bored.

Really, the more I play with these altered genomes, the more I wonder what the developers were thinking, putting in these instincts! Some of them I can understand being necessary, half-strength instinct trick for elevators and vendors and all, but as a whole it seems to strip the creatures of so much personality. I can't imagine going back to normal creatures now.

On a side note, I have been testing the elevines (improved "lift ring things" with beautiful sprites many thanks to mea!) in this world, I am finding them so wonderfully handy! Not only do they work great as lift-replacements, but they can also work as replacements for the boats/submarines as well. I'm still tweaking them here and there but hopefully they'll be ready for release soon.

Meanwhile, the DS server has been toying with my emotions, going up and getting my hopes up and then going down again. Oh well. I certainly have enough projects to keep me busy in the meantime.