Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some Downloads Broken

Hey all, just a heads up that I'm having some problems with the host for several of my downloads right now. It's only temporary and everything will be back to normal on the first of January, but I'll try to get some of the more popular ones rehosted sooner (I've been needing to do that anyways), Sorry!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Speech Bubble Update In Progress

The CCSF has come and gone and my goodness, I blinked and it was over. These past few months have just been absurdly busy for me I was unable to get anything out. As I think I've mentioned in a recent post, I've been frustratingly at a standstill for years it seems wherein the only projects I have motivation to work on are those so big, so absurd, that the chances of actually ever getting them in a releasable state is slim to none. If only I could stick to smaller and more manageable projects, I might actually finish something one of these days.

Anyway, one of the CCSF releases that caught my eye was Splincer's Protective Tub Short Name List. This list address a problem with Protective Tub that's been low-key nagging at me for years-- the fact that no one is going to want to type out a long and obnoxious name to address a particular norn directly. So during a rare afternoon off I decided to try and see what I could do to address this. 
The solution I eventually came to was a modification to the speech bubble script that intercepts any typed command that begins with the word "hey" and changes it to be prefaced with the name of the currently selected norn. This makes it easier if you just want to give a command to one specific creature and not everyone in the room. I had thought of other words to preface the command with, like 'selected' and 'creature' but in the end I wanted it to be something short and quick to type, since that was really the point of the whole thing. It came down to 'you' and 'hey,' and well, 'hey' just sounded more fun to me.

 While I was at it, I tried fixing one of the other problems with really long names-- the speech bubble occasionally cutting off due to the names just taking up so much space. I still really don't like how huge and cumbersome the speech bubble is, but hopefully it won't be seen all that often with your average Protective Tub name.

There's still some quirks that I have to iron out before it's in a releasable state, but hopefully that won't take too long. In the meantime, there's some other things I would like to fix about my older agents, such as the plane for the nametags being set way too high, and about a million little bugs in the Garden Box. But we'll see what I find time and motivation for.

Is there anything else you all have noticed in my agents that needs fixing/tweaking, before I get bogged down in another impossible project and you don't hear from me again for three more years?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 7

Why do you like Creatures? If your interest in it has come and gone and come again, what brings you back? Despite how hard it can be to run on modern machines and the total lack of official support now, why do you play?

I guess I have quite a few reasons for this one. A pretty big reason I keep coming back is that there's just no modern replacement. Even after twenty years, no one has developed a sim game with the same or greater level of detail when it comes to biology, genetics, and brain simulation. When I'm itching to raise some A-Life, Creatures is simply the best way for me to scratch.

 Another reason is just plain nostalgia and attachment-- I've been playing this game on and off for so long that even if something more interesting does come along, I'll probably still come back to raise norns occasionally.

But really what usually draws me back in the first place is getting a message, comment, or email from someone who has a question about the games or something I've developed. I think it's seeing that interest from other players that inspires me to play again too. Sometimes life gets so busy I forget Creatures exists, forget games in general exist! But having those reminders once in a while from other community members helps me remember how much I really do love this game and how much I enjoy playing and developing for it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 6

What do you think of the mythology and backstory of creatures? Do you have any favorite background details in the world? Any pet theories or thoughts, or questions you would like answered?

The general mythology behind the series is alright, if a little weird (Some smart aliens made life, abandoned the planet, went to space, abandoned the ship...? Apparently invented the warp at some point and sent newly created breeds through it..?) I think I mostly enjoy reading and writing extended lore about the Shee and Albia. I love backstory in general, about metarooms, breeds, agents-- this community can be so creative when it comes to that stuff. Ghosthande's metarooms in particular often have fascinating stories behind then and secrets to discover within.

Hm, and when I was a kid I headcanoned that MerNorns were extremely rare because they were born terrified of the water, and unless they overcame their fear before they became adults, they would die. But I think I mostly just developed that concept so I could write a corny love story about a norn who manages to overcome his fear to join his lover in the sea.

Edit: Check out this comment Steve Grand wrote explaining some of his thought processes behind the mythology of Creatures! It's so neat to have some insight from the creator!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 5

Do you create content for Creatures? If so, what sorts? What do you use to make things, and what would you like to make in the future? If not, what would you like to make if you could?

Why yes, yes I do.

My tools of choice are the CAOS Tool and Jagent, along with helpers like the CAOS debugger. I've also found Windows Grep to be invaluable when trying to remember the best context in which to use a CAOS command.

There are so many things I'd like to make in the future; it's just a matter of finding time and energy and prioritizing reasonable projects over crazy audacious ones. I'd love to rewrite the Garden Box from scratch but that probably isn't the best use of my time. I'm currently messing with some scripts to log every creature action to a file that can be parsed to gather all sorts of fun data for analysis purposes. I've also got at least a dozen scenario scripts in concept that I'd like to implement but then I wonder if I should just write a central scenario core agent with a ton of parameters you can set by hand to make your own scenarios, with the ability to write, export, and import others' parameters (similar to C3 blueprints). But that's such a huge project that if I started it you'd probably hear an update a decade later, so maybe I should just stick with the small standalone scripts. I'm also still really in love with a lot of the concepts in Project Underground and even wrote a ton of lore for it a few years back, but that's probably a life's worth of work. I guess I'm just at a rather frustrating point where the only projects I want to work on are too large for me to reasonably complete, so I tend to spend more time just enjoying playing the games and hoping I'll get inspired enough to tweak a few things along the way without feeling compelled to rewrite the entire game. I guess I'll see where that takes me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 4

What COBs/agents/breeds/metarooms/etc do you use the most? What would you like to see more of? Less of? What pet peeves do you have with add-ons? What do you love to see?

To be honest, I don't actually use that much third party stuff on a regular basis unless I'm going for a themed world or playing C1/C2, aside from a few of my own tweaks like the nametags. I guess I don't really like to clutter my worlds with agents I don't really need. As long as there are accessible food, fruit, and starch sources, along with appropriate toys and ways for creatures to get around, I don't feel the need to add much extra. Often I run my worlds with a purpose in mind, and don't often want to add anything that doesn't contribute to that purpose.

There is one huge exception to this, however, and that's the CFE Norns. They are so far improved over the stock genomes that I have a hard time using anything else. I haven't had a chance to try out their successor, the CFF Norns, but I've heard a lot of good things about them too.

What would I like to see more of? Anything, really. Even though I don't personally use them very often, I love to see people planning and developing-- I believe fanmade content is the reason this community has lasted so long and I think it's important that stuff continues to be developed to keep the game interesting for the majority of the playerbase. One of my goals in developing the Garden Box was to create easy-to-use templates to get others developing their own stuff, and a lot of my future goals lean towards creating tools and guides to make development even easier. I think I would especially like to see more large collaborative efforts between community members, in which developers of all skill levels can contribute in some part (the Biodome was pretty fantastic).

If we're talking personally though, I would like more than anything to see the development of external tools to assist the Creatures game engine, or just total rewrites like openC2E aimed to do. I would love to be no longer be limited within the constraints of the engine when developing.
I would also love to see the exploration of ways to make Creatures multiplayer, whether in a "Twitch Plays" fashion or with another web interface such as Netures. I would love to see the warp brought back in any form or fashion. These are all fairly tremendous undertakings that are far outside my range of skill, but I guess I still hold out hope that one day they might be real.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 3

How has the way you play Creatures changed since you started? What has stayed the same? Do you play a different game more, have you picked up a different play style, have you thrown out one species and embraced another?

When Creatures 3 came out, I totally abandoned C2, and when Docking Station was released, I ditched the others as well. For a very long time I was focused entirely on DS and didn't touch the other games at all, with the exception of dabbling a little in C1 when I got a copy of Albian Years. It was actually reading Discover Albia that prompted me to give the original Creatures another go. Then nostalgia brought me back to C2, and even occasionally C3 standalone and Creatures Village. I think I'll always be mostly focused on DS because that's what I'm most comfortable developing for, but I'm a lot more open to playing the other games now, understanding that each has its own charm, and one can never completely replace the other. Maybe eventually I'll do some development for the older games, too.

When I was first starting out with Creatures 2, I did a lot of  what might be termed 'norn torture' with the advanced science kit merely in an attempt to figure out exactly how my creatures worked. Wolfling runs were only barely possible until C3 came along and creatures could actually fend for themselves. I remember initially those were a lot of fun-- going to bed at night and hoping some awesomely color-mutated norns will be there in the morning. When the warp was active, it was a ton of fun just swapping random creatures with people and creating a highly diverse world. When I started streaming my worlds, it became a totally new and interesting interactive experience (I always lament that I couldn't make LNA engaging enough to gain much popularity). But after the warp went down, my play styles evolved along with my ability to script stuff. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm always looking for interesting ways to play. I think I will always fall back on plain old nurturing worlds though, especially in C1/C2.

Funny that species was mentioned-- I've always been almost exclusively a norn person, sometimes to a fault. Maybe that's some bias carrying over from C2, where norns had almost twice as many genes as ettins/grendels and seemed just far more interesting/intelligent in my view, and ever since, I'm guilty of just kind of forgetting that ettins and grendels even exist at all. I've tried to incorporate them into my worlds in the past, but it's a rather conscious effort, and most of the time I just find it simpler to stick to once species.

Monday, November 28, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 2

How would you describe your playing style? Do you have lots of worlds, or a few? Do you have strict wolfling runs or do you individually nurture your creatures, or both? Any particular habits or quirks?

I feel like the best way to describe my playstyle would be 'a little of everything.'

When I first created this blog and was trying to come up with a title, I was hoping to encompass this range of play styles. I do wolfling runs, I have nurturing worlds, I have downright strange scenario worlds. I even dabbled in norn fighting back in the day when The Creatures Match was popular.

I like to try out different styles of play to keep things interesting. A lot of these play styles I write assist scripts for, such as Hera, an all-female world where offspring are created from the genetics of the fittest norns. I think a lot about what would make a world interesting without being tedious, and scripts help a lot both in avoiding the amount of work involved (manually exporting every male and tracking the scores of the fittest females by hand would start to kill my interest after a few generations) and in the suspension of disbelief (SERU is probably my favorite example of this).

I hope to develop more scenario scripts and agents that prompt new and interesting game play in the future!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 1

How did you get into Creatures in the first place? What game did you start with? What intrigued you about it or was the most fun? Do you have any special or fond memories?

I first heard of Creatures through a mail advertisement that I received. Alongside advertising the latest Petz game, there was one page advertising Creatures. I initially was a little weirded out and thought the norns looked rather strange. I remember my father was playing a lot of Myst at the time, and I think I got a sort of Myst-like vibe from the advertisement. I was very curious, but not exactly excited or felt like the game was worth saving up my meager allowance for.

I was however very much into Petz and when I was allowed internet access I spent a lot of time looking up Petz websites. One thing that was kind of controversial at the time was the idea of petz 'fighting' in which two petz were brought on screen and encouraged to antagonize each other (often by petting one pet until the other got jealous enough to attack). At some point during one of the many community debates about whether or not this was considered "abuse," someone posted a link to Tortured Norns. That was when I finally learned more about that mysterious game on the flyer.

It was actually all the controversy that drew me in. The hate mail page was understandably blocked by the webfilter my parents had installed, but I got the picture that people felt extremely passionate about these little digital lifeforms and I thought, moreso than I had even seen in the Petz community. Kid-me drew the conclusion that if people got this upset over the suffering of these 'norns', then there must be something very realistic, compelling, and endearing about them. I wanted something that emotionally compelling, I realized. So I started saving.

Creatures 2 was about to be released by that time, so I decided that was the better target to save for, since it would of course be better than the first one. (Lord, if only I knew). I saved every penny. It was summer then and I spent a lot of time at the pool scouring around for loose change that people often dropped. At one point I found a $20 bill and thought my saving days were finally over, that soon I would have little norns of my very own, until my mother encouraged me to turn it in to lost and found. It was the right thing to do, but I was a little crushed. I tried other methods, like starting a 'beanie baby camp' in which the neighborhood kids would give me a dollar to 'take care' of their beanbag toys for a week. Somehow, I actually got a few takers, until my mother found out again and made me give the toys (and money) back.

I eventually did save enough through honest means to order the game online, or rather to give to my mother in exchange for equal use of her credit card. The shop online was cheaper than the normal retail price because it had an option to purchase the game without the norndoll. At the time, I cared much more about getting the game as soon as possible than having the doll, but when my box arrived with the empty side compartment, I felt a little sad that I didn't get one. It was actually only a few years ago that I was able to find on on ebay at a reasonable price and finally fill that void.

I saw a bunch of people in the CC naming the first pair of creatures in their world Adam and Eve, so I followed that naming convention. Around 40 minutes into my first vanilla C2 world, Eve collapsed and died. I didn't have any of the tools to help her, and even if I did, I wouldn't have known how to use them.

But I kept trying, and eventually tried out third-party COBs. I found one that activated all the kits, and that was enough for me to keep my norns alive. Through trial and error and a lot of poking around in genetics, I learned what made my norns tick. Even if they weren't smart enough to take care of themselves, with the right chemicals I could take care of them. When I finally took a biology class, I was actually surprised to realize just how much of Creatures was indeed taken directly from real life; it's a little silly, but at the time I didn't realize just how realistic they actually were-- it was just all part of the game to me.

I guess I could go on and on about how my love for creatures progressed, but there are other prompts that cover those stories, and I've probably given you way more information than you ever wanted already! I didn't really intend for this to get so long, but as I was writing, the memories came flooding back to me. I'm interested to see what other bloggers have to say in response to these prompts, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Nothing Exciting, Part 16

Pixie mom decided to take a refreshing dip, but thankfully the puffer fish is there to keep an eye on her. I'd like to think she learned her lesson after that, but past C2 experiences have taught me otherwise.

Last I saw, this goldbaby was still hanging out under the incubator room, so it surprised me a little when I tabbed around to find him all the way out here! Jessica suggested a while back that the young and unjaded might help the world along in their own curious ways. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see him wandering so far!

After having very little luck with goldie dad, I tried to teach this younger one some words while he was alone, but that seems to have backfired and now he's calling himself "fwuit."

Looks like the older goldie has crossed the bridge from the desert to come say hello. Young goldie is shocked!

Or maybe just smitten.

She seems unimpressed, however, and joins her emerald friend for a vacation.

A relaxing nap on the beach will rejuvenate anyone. Seeing all this sand and sunlight had me craving some lemonade, so I stepped away just for a moment to grab some.

When I come back though, I caught these two kissing behind the bush. Come on guys, I really don't need another pure goldie egg!

...Sigh. Well, okay then.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Nothing Exciting, Part 15

I managed to finally get the emerald to try out the lift, and the first thing she did after finding a little peace and quiet was to take a long, restful nap. 

A ton of frustration later, I managed to get the other three up too. Goldie mom is hiding in that lift too, though you can barely see her.

Goldpixie also discovered and embraced the joy of quiet naps, but she seemed a little disoriented and upset when she woke up staring into the wide blue sea. 

Meanwhilethese three explore and ask questions about their environment. What is this funny implement that shoots out pellets? What is this pricky green thing? What is this hot grainy stuff between my toes?

O-oh. Well it seems Goldpixie wanted to try to catch a pufferfish for breakfast. Good luck with that. It's always mildly hilarious to watch the puffer fish sling norns up onto shore.

I grabbed the honeypot for them but they're still all wandering the desert complaining of hunger. Goldpixie jerks her head backward to dodge some particularly grabby emerald paws. Maybe she's mistaken her for the honey!

I haven't totally forgotten about the guys. It actually occurred to me that while this norn is alone in the incubator room, I might actually have a chance to teach him for the first time. I'm having a ton of difficulty trying to teach him 'fruit' though as he seems to only want to look at the hand when I'm around. Eventually, I guess he got tired and took a nap.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Nothing Exciting, Part 14

I was a little surprised Goldpixie didn't need any coaxing to do this. I remember spending what felt like forever in vanilla C2 trying to get someone to push this.

They seemed to be a bit confused as to where to go next, though, so they just wall bonked this invisible wall for a while. I think there's a cob that puts a bridge or something here? Maybe I should seek that out.

I'm not sure when or how that egg ended up in the water. Maybe these two are just looking for a way to kill stress after their youngest abandoned them. Maybe they plan to leave soon too, but want to hide all the eggs first.

I spent some time trying to coax Emerald and Goldpixie to use the lift again, and totally missed whenever goldie dad got back up into the incubator room! What's more though, the egg moms were gone!

They did it, friends! They've finally touched the surface! 

..But it seems getting to the surface wasn't the goal. Perhaps they were just trying to find Goldpixie all along.

What should probably be a touching reunion is tainted by the fact that everyone is exhausted, hungry, slappy, and now there are four norns crammed into a tiny space where the lift seems to invisible to them.

Well, at least these two mischief makers are getting some quality time together.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nothing Exciting, Part 13

It seems there's lots of turmoil among the egg-sitting trio. Slapfights breaking out, threats to eat each other, the usual drama in nornland

Maybe it's time we finally run, goldpixie and goldie mom wonder.

But its's the goldpixie that finally takes the leap. One last goodbye to the egg she's watched for so long...

And she descends with barely a farewell to her mother looking on.

The goldie boys are so busy playing with their pet robo-dog they don't even notice as she blitzes past them on her way to the next lift.

The goldie mom attempts to comfort the pixie mom after she has watched her child leave the nest. Taking her paw in her own, she promises a future of brighter times ahead.

Meanwhile, the Emerald informs her hebe lover that the time has come for her to part from him. Why? Where are you going? He implores her to answer.

Adventure comes the reply as the lift ascends.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nothing Exciting, Part 12

Some of these norns are more excited about leaving the incubator room than others. This emerald seems downright horrified.

So she goes to hide behind a pillar while everyone else is, for the first time, learning how to express themselves! I've gotten so used to nornish bibbling, I wonder how actually hearing their needs expressed will affect my attachment to these creatures.

Mama Goldie angrily mashes the lift button! Is she perhaps fed up with her respons-egg-bilities (wow, sorry, that was bad) and wishes to explore the world below?

...Or maybe she knows that below, there are more eggs (and potential eggs) that need her attention. The emerald gently caresses her lover's cheek. Get a room you two!

No, it looks like mama goldie is back to check on her regular eggs. Maybe one day she will get down there, whether through courage or total accident.

But this crowd might be tiring of their adventure. It looks like someone just hit the lift button in hopes of getting back home.

'Stop Nature'? Uh, I mean, I guess you can try. Wow, there really are a lot of toys down here. I feel kind of awful for not picking one up and bringing it up to the incubator room early on.

Maybe it's time for another round of nutrient injections, if they're considering resorting to cannibalism.

Or maybe they're talking about those delicious tomatoes down below. Come on down, girls! It's not really all that bad, and there's eggs here too!

I'm not really holding my breath for that to happen, but it would be nice.