Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Creatures Journalling

Despite my community inactivity overall (I'm doing an extra-bad job of sticking to the 'community collaboration' theme this year), I feel like I'm playing Creatures more than ever these days. I've just switched to logging my Nurturing worlds in Google Docs files. As much fun as it is posting logs here to share, it can be a bit tedious to deal with uploading pictures and placing them nicely and writing lovely descriptions of everything. It's fun in its own sort of way, but it sometimes gets to the point where I feel like I can't really play Creatures without making a chore out of it. Keeping these more casual, personal creatures journals shared only with a handful of close friends at most feels like a happy medium to me. These peeks inside are really only the most public-worthy examples-- most of the logs tend to tangent off into rambles on things I want to develop but never will, or worse, tell stories about the creatures in the world that died of neglect while I was too busy rambling (for how long I've played this game, you'd think I'd be able to keep creatures alive by now).

One thing that I really love about Google Docs is the fact that I can paste screenshots directly into the documents themselves without having to save or upload them elsewhere first. Using a tiny application called SnapaShot (I greatly prefer the free Classic version; it's much lighter), I can easily copy a portion of my screen to my clipboard, and then paste it directly into my document-- no saving, cropping, or uploading mess required!

It's worth mentioning there's also a service called Gyazo that does something similar, but also uploads the image to their servers and gives you a link you can easily share with others. I don't use this personally for the screenshot feature (I'm still slowly going through and fixing all the photobucket images on my blog so I'm a little wary about where I host my images right now) but I love using it to take short animations to demo how something might work.

Anyway, back to journalling. The only pitfall I ran into was actually getting good screenshots. In order to be sure I get creatures into a good pose, without their eyes closed, their nametags overlapping, looking away from the camera, etc., I usually have to pause and unpause the game a few times to get the perfect shot. Personally, I much prefer using the Pause button on my keyboard to avoid dealing with that that panel getting in the way, but guess what happens when you press Pause on your keyboard? The big ugly panel slowly pulls itself out from the side, and then when you unpause, it slowly moves back into place before you can pause again. That doesn't really work well with my style of pausing and unpausing many times in succession. So I wrote up a modification to the DS Keyboard Handler which I'm calling QuickPause. You can download it here.

QuickPause does just what you'd expect-- pauses the game as soon as you tap the Pause button on your keyboard, unpauses when you tap it again. Additionally, it hides the creature and attention indicator arrows, which I feel get in the way of otherwise lovely screenshots most of the time. I haven't taken the time to super bugproof this script, so it's probably not a good idea to mix pausing with the control panel and the Pause key. I've also only tested this on my Windows 7 computer, so I don't know how it will work on Macs or other systems, but I thought it was worth sharing at least.

If you're like me and find yourself sometimes struggling with the added work of documenting your Creatures worlds publicly, you might get something out of keeping a journal in Google Docs or any other software that lets you paste images directly into the document. I guess this suggestion is actually kind of counter to the theme of community involvement, but at least for me personally, the more I play (and document) this game, the more I am inspired to develop for it. A lot of the little things I'm trying to tidy up to get into a releasable state this week were inspired by the worlds I was logging over the summer, so despite the reclusive nature of private logs, I probably wouldn't have much to post this year without them!

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