Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Story of Bibblita

I've posted a story both on Ctopia and Ccaves... a strange, amusing, somewhat embarrassing, potentially insightful piece that lately I just can't get out of my head. I figure I'll post it here, too, especially since I'm a little more comfortable spewing personal thoughts here than on forums.

Really, when I dug this story up to repost it by request of a Ccaves member, I didn't expect it to have so much impact on me. Reading through this was like looking into the mind of my child-self. It's a somewhat silly, over-dramatic journal I kept on the life of a specific C3 norn when I was about 12 or 13 years old, but it just speaks volumes about how I saw my creatures back then.

It's sort of left me a little lost, to be honest. All this time, the majority of my efforts in DS development have ultimately been working toward one major purpose: to rekindle that sense of real emotional attachment to our creatures. This story is a perfect example of what I am trying to achieve-- there's no doubting that I really cared for these creatures. And I did this in near-vanilla C3 standalone, no more!

Considering this, I can't help but wonder if all my development efforts are futile. The key element in developing an attachment to a virtual creature, in my view, is suspension of disbelief-- something that children are immensely more capable of than adults. I start to wonder if maybe it's just going to be impossible for me to reach that level again. I wonder if, in all my digging into what makes the game tick, I've ruined it for myself.

I try to find more ways to personalize the game and the creatures, make certain annoying tasks easier, make certain elements of the game more interesting, and generally make it easier to get absorbed in the game instead of alt-tabbing to something else because my creatures aren't doing anything interesting at the moment. I figure if I can accomplish that, it'll be easier for me to suspend disbelief, and maybe I'll find that spark again. But I'm really starting to think it's not any element of the game that's suppressing it. Maybe my imagination is just too jaded for me to really believe anymore.

As you read or reread or gloss through or just scroll past this little window in my twelve-year-old mind, consider this: When was the last time a creature evoked an emotional response from you? Tell me your stories in the the comments. Do you think suspension of disbelief is something that can be helped along with special tweaks or agents, or is it purely in one's imagination?


The Story of Bibblita

One beautiful morning, an egg was laid by a small but very violent norn. She laid her egg, walked off and got pregnant again. Her egg hatched and a baby norn popped out, only to be beaten to death by her own mother! I watched it in horror. Then I waited for the mother to lay her egg, and then I exported her. Suddenly, the father died! Now I had an egg holding an orphaned norn. I took it to a safe spot. I heard it crack, and then a small female norn crawled out. I named Bibblita. She had a nice tiger striped body and tail, and a Bruin head. I took her to another norn, a boy. They started to play together and so I let them be. Suddenly she started coughing and sneezing like crazy! I quickly took her to the medical pod, and saw that she had histamines A and B, antigen 2, and glycotoxin! It was the antigen that scared me most, because I had never been able to get rid of it. So I got to work; a couple arnica injections, some antihistamine and antibodies…

One day, a miracle happened. Bibblita was cured! I grew to like this norn quite well, so I checked on her often. She was released from her little hospital room to go play with the other norns. All the norns seemed to like her, and she liked all the norns. Many funny things happened from that point on, including this:

"Tangerine like Bibblita"

"Jessie like Bibblita"
"Tangerine like Bibblita"
"Jessie like Bibblita"
*Tangerine hits Jessie*
"Tangerine like Bibblita"
"Bibblita dislike Tangerine"
"Bibblita like Jessie"

She became an adult before I knew it, but she wasn’t the super breeder I thought she’d be. She liked all the norns, but no breeding! But one day she met a Norn named Kovu. They instantly bred and had a baby boy called Bibble. I made Kovu and Bibblita king and queen that day.

One day a grendel invaded the norn area! The norns were scared, and I was scared! He went through, slapping every norn in sight, I shook nervously as he approached Bibblita. I couldn’t watch. I covered my eyes until I heard the moan of a dead creature. I opened my eyes to see Bibblita standing next to the dead grendel. She had saved the norns! Shortly afterward, she had another boy whom I named Ollie. Then she had two girls, Arcin and Skittle.

One day, something awful happened. Kovu went crazy. He hit every norn in sight until it was almost dead, even Bibblita! I quickly exiled him to the desert. When I came back, Bibblita was sitting in a corner, saying, “Bibblita sad, Bibblita get norn” Suddenly, a norn called Bibble came and kissed her. They instantly kisspopped and had a baby boy named Chipper, and a girl named Scamper. I made Bibble the new king. Shortly afterwards, Bibblita became old. Her hair turned white, and her color faded. I paid extra attention to her during this time. I knew her time was getting near, and I wanted her to be as happy as possible in her last days. She was 4 hours and 42 minutes old, an ancient, when she suddenly bred twice! Now I was worried. She was so old, would she live though it? She laid her eggs and went on as if nothing had happened. Then I realized something. All the norns alive were related to her in some way! Could it be a mutation of some sort, which she passed on to her children?

Bibblita was 4 hours and 54 minutes old, Only 6 more minutes left. I nervously watched the time go by. I checked her stats. She appeared healthy, but then I saw something. Her life chemical was at 100%! The life chemical is supposed to slowly dissolve, as the creature gets older. When it disappears, the creature dies. I checked the stats of another Norn. Her life was at 25%! I checked another, younger Norn. Her life was at 75%! I relaxed. Bibblita still has a lot of time.
Bibblita. 5 hours and 31 minutes old. Has another child. Kills a Grendel. Has a check-up. Life was at 65%. Injury Level: 1. 1 bacteria was detected. This was bad, very bad. It didn’t say which bacteria though! Suddenly, It went away. I was so relived!

Bibblita had another child, whom I named Love. She was sweet and gentle. She was destined to be the queen after Bibblita! I loved her, and watched her closely. She was loved by all.

One day a Grendel came in. As usual, a crowed of norns gathered around and hit the Grendel to death. But the Grendel wasn’t the only one. After the Grendel died. I noticed a furry brown body beside him. It was Love. She had been killed in the mob.

Now, back to Bibblita. She was old and had taken quite a beating from that Grendel. With her life force at 60%, I estimated she would live about 40 more minutes. This was very frightening to me, as I started to think about what I would do when she died. Her life suddenly went down to 50%. She could go any second…

Meanwhile, Kovu (remember him?) had one minute left to live. I let him say goodbye to Bibblita, and then, he died. Although he was violent, and had to live with the ettins, He was still a Norn, and I loved him.

Bibble turned white. Now he’s old.

Once again, Bibblita was pregnant. After laying the egg, a Grendel quickly stole it! I said, “drop” and he dropped the egg. It hatched, and the girl was named Joy. Bibble was now very, very old. His life was at 5%.

Okay, I know this has nothing to do with anything, but I had a little ettin that hangs around in the basement. Her name was Daisy. She played with the baby norns and kept away grendels. Once she got very sick, but I saved her. She was very sweet.

Bibblita’s life was at 26% Bibble’s was at 4% His life dropped much more slowly than hers. Bibblita was 7 hours old. Now I’m worried. She is always tired and sleepy. So is Bibble. I knew they didn’t have much time, so I decided to take them on a vacation. I packed food and toys, and set off on the trip to the aquatic area.

The aquatic area is the most beautiful place on the spaceship. Bibblita and Bibble had a great time relaxing and watching the fish swim by. Bibblita started to go deaf. She didn’t hear me when I said eat food or push toy. But she heard me when I said rest. Strange.

One time, Bibble did the sweetest thing! Bibblita said she was hungry. Bibble picked up an apple and gave it to her! Then he did it again and said, “Bibble love Bibblita!”

Bibblita’s life was at 20%. Bibble’s was 3%. This got more and more scary. Bibblita had another child! It was a boy, whom I called June. He looked almost exactly like Bibble! I was pleased with him, and knew he would be the future king. Or should I say, king in a minute.

That’s right, shortly after June’s birth, I heard a moan. I looked over and saw a good friend, father, and king, lying on the ground. Bibble had died.

Bibblita’s life was at 17%. I decided to let her say good bye to all her children and grandchildren. She went over and kissed June, Ollie, and even Daisy, the ettin! But after Bibblita was out of sight, Scamper became old and gray, June was, “Intensely sad” and Ollie died. Poor Ollie. Poor, Poor Ollie. I brought her back, but, Ollie was gone.

Bibblita was playing with Daisy, when she turned on her! Daisy was beating Bibblita! After finally getting Bibblita away. I realized Bibblita was hurt badly! “Bibblita very scared!” “Calm down,” I said. “Bibblita very calm” Soon she was on her feet again, but as for the ettin, she would be watched carefully from now on!

Bibblita life force was at 10%. I gave her a feast of every food item in the Spaceship. She quickly ate it all, maybe she was hungrier then I thought! After dinner, I let her play with several toys. And take a nap. Visit the fish; go for a swim in the deep of the sea, one last time. Bibblita knew how to hold her breath, and she loved water. Then I took her back to the medical area and gave her the blue Norn doll, which she had grown to love over the “Years” and would not let it out of her sight. She held it tightly to her chest with one hand, while I held her other. She started to choke. I held her hand tightly and said, “Be calm, Bibblita” She said “Bibblita very calm” Then, with her norn doll in one hand, and my hand in the other, she laid down, drew her last breath, and slipped from the world of Grendels, pain and disease; and into the world of eternal paradise.

I let go of her limp hand and watched it hit the ground. Then I took the sacred Norn doll and put it in the aquatic area, along with all her other favorite things. No norn, ettin or grendel of any kind was to ever enter that area again. Bibblita, lived 10 hours and 33 minutes, was the mother of 16 children, and was my friend.


  1. First off, as an animator and movie studier, I can say with absolute certainty that any tools that allow you to become more deeply engrossed in the world will assist with the suspension of disbelief. And having tools that prevent you from becoming frustrated doubly so. There's no doubt your tools are some of the best and that they help this process.

    As for getting that emotional attachment to your Norns, I know what you mean. Even in C1 where I find the Norns a lot more approachable I've found I don't connect with them the same way I used to.

    When we first discovered the game my Dad and I used to play in seperate worlds. We both used to find it hilarious when Norns would steal food off each other and run away. Then the first Norn would give chase and slap the stealer. My Dad hasn't put the same amount of time and study into Creatures as I have, and occasionally still walks in to find me playing and has a good chuckle at this stuff. But with my understanding of their brains I now know a lot of this is relatively random, or at least the Norns don't see it in the same way we interpret it as humans.

    On the other hand my deeper understanding of how the Creatures work has led me to take much better care of them, and even though I now know they probably aren't capable of appreciating it, they are much happier as a result, which in turn makes me happy.

    I cried the first time a Norn died on me (even worse he didn't die, he fell victim to a computer bug and I lost his .exp file). I haven't cried or even felt overly sad at the loss of a Norn for many years.

    I still hold out hope of finding an AI/AL that I can feel that sense of attachment with, without having to rely on a suspension of disbelief. I don't see that coming true with C4, but I have hopes that Grandroids will be a big step in the right direction. I can't imagine it will bring us to the level of being able to befriend these new creatures, but hopefully we will at least be able to view them as valued pets, and feel a sense of loss when they leave us.

    With all that in mind, it must be said that tools and agents will only help us to delve deeper into the world, which is in itself beneficial, but at the end of the day it's the characters in that world that will cause us to emote with them. Without bringing our attention to the beings in the world we'll never be able to establish that childlike connection with them.

    This is all very deep stuff and I've absolutely been rambling here; I honestly don't have any good, solid answers for you. And that for me is the true beauty of these games, and I think one of the major things Steve wanted people to explore. It's these kinds of questions that make us love these games and our creatures and keep bringing us back for more. By wondering what it is that makes a Norn a Norn, it forces us to question what makes us human.

    P.S. Bibblita sounds like she was an amazing Norn :D

    1. You have a lot of good points; after tearing apart action scripts, genetics and even going so far as to poke around in the brain, it's been a long time since a creature has actually done anything to -surprise- me, and I guess I find that a little depressing. By taking the wonder and mystery out of everything, I think it makes disbelief that much harder to suspend.

      I have high hopes for Grandroids as well; it really looks like it's going to be something really special.

      It is true though, that at the end of the day, it's all about the creatures themselves. That's probably where I ought to keep most of my development focus, when I'm not getting swept up in massive exciting projects like the Garden Box XD

  2. Oh, just checked out the post on CreaturesCaves. Amazingly awesome you still have pictures of the Norns. Wish I still had pics of my first couple.

    If you're interested in trying to convert that RealPlayer slideshow I'd recommend 'Super'. I've found it can convert just about anything to just about anything. If you can't get it working yourself, send me a PM on Creaturetopia and I'll give you an email you can send the video to. I'll take a shot at converting it for you ;)

  3. Excellent post, and an amazing response from ArchDragon! Although I feel somewhat attached to my C1 Norns, nothing compares to the magic of playing Creatures long ago. As you pointed out, sometimes having the knowledge of how things work behind-the-scenes takes away some of the unknown. As I gained more of an understanding behind genetics, I realized that a true personality could not come out in my Norns. However, I still feel lucky that my imagination is still pretty much alive. Most of the accounts of my Norns are embellished and dramatized, yet I find that this helps to create much more of an emotional response, right along the lines of the suspension of disbelief. I can't honestly say that I feel very connected to my Norns, yet I still seem to share in their joy and sadness.

    Just as ArchDragon stated, I think questions and discussions like these are part of the life behind Creatures: Of course they're games for entertainment, experimentation, and the like, yet they're certainly much more. The fact that the games are still enjoyed today seems to point towards that idea: There is just something so evocative about these artificial life forms! I, too, hope that someday we will have artificial life which begs for real emotional attachment. For now, I think that the imagination is key. However, it's up to both user and creator to achieve a real sense of attachment in Creatures, or so I believe. Players should be open to a little bit of imagination, while creators have the task of creating a solid base to build off of.

    1. Jessica, you probably have one of the biggest imaginations in the community, and it shows in every post! I don't doubt that's one of the reasons I love reading your blog so much-- you manage to make even the smallest actions intriguing. I think reading your posts has taught me quite a bit about how to suspend disbelief myself.

      I do love discussions like this; they're the sort of discussions only games like this can spark!

    2. Thank you very much! I'm so glad I found an outlet for my imagination... Not sure what other game could have kept me going quite like Creatures. The game is not the only source of imagination, though. It's people like yourself within the community who come up with fantastic ideas, discussions, agents, breeds, etc. that make me want to bring my Norns to life just a little bit more! I suppose the whole "Are they alive?" question is grounds for another discussion: I completely agree that no other game could spark such a multitude of discussions!

  4. Aw, that was a lovely story!

    I actually find that SERU helps me become attached to creatures. The story behind it helps, and because the creatures it spawns usually have odd mutations, they need constant care to survive. Spending all my time looking after a particular creature, it's inevitable that I end up growing fond of it.

    One of the creatures I most recently became attached to was Enako, a SERU Norn who only had two organs shown as alive on the X-ray and who seemed to lack a good portion of her drives. Taking care of her and investigating her various oddities with my limited skills caused me to become very attached to her, and I still have her creature file backed up. :)

    I haven't delved into the workings of the game as much as some people, and much of the Norn genome and how the game works is still a mystery to me. Perhaps this is why I can still get attached to creatures and spend hours happily pampering my favourites and taking care of the disabled ones. I think I get attached to the weak and disabled ones out of sympathy, since I have a disability myself.

    1. Always love to hear when people are enjoying SERU :)

      That brings up a couple of good points too-- putting a story behind a creature gives it history, gives it a little more meaning than just "something that was spit out from an egg machine." Similarly, creatures that are unique and have special needs can become more dear to us, as well as just a bit more mysterious.

      Oh wow, poor Enako though! Only two organs! That sounds like quite a challenge to care for.