Thursday, April 7, 2011

Norns Norns Norns! About Creatures

I just recently got back into a game I used to play back around the very early 2000's called Creatures 3/Docking Station. I used to have quite a bit of fun with it, but I could never really understand some of its features since I was too young at the time...

Let's just start by saying that this game isn't really a game at all. It's an artificial life simulator, evolution simulator, god game, whatever you prefer to call it... and it's far from being simple.
It's extremely complex for being such an old game.

In the game, you hatch creatures called Norns. These little guys grow from being babies to children, to adolescents, youths, adults, and finally they are classified as being just plain old. (If they live long enough they end up being classified as ancient)
Their appearance changes as they grow up, from size to defining features on a breed basis.
Once they get old enough they will begin to "kisspop" (their form of mating) and create eggs that eventually hatch into more norns.

Oh, those little buggers...

Now this is where it gets complicated.
Norns aren't just little characters that walk around, eat, breed, and die based on a simple script. They have "brains," so to speak.
Creatures isn't just your run-of-the-mill commercialized game. The development team actually consisted of many scientists in addition to game developers and artists. They managed to create an extremely advanced form of behavior for these creatures by designing "DNA" and a "brain" based on levels of "chemicals," "drives," and outside "stimuli" of other objects in the game.
As an example, if you hit a norn, it will get visibly upset. It isn't just getting upset however. The hit registered as pain, which triggers adrenaline levels. It may stand with its head in its hands unable to decide what to do, or may start fleeing from your hand. Hitting also adds to the norn's injury level, which might lead to death if repeated. It adds to their stress levels and fear levels.
To make a long story short, many different things are going on regarding the norn's overall health. They'll most likely remember the treatment you gave them as well, and might even become conditioned based on when it was hit. (Imagine hitting a hungry norn when it's on its way to get some food.)

And it gets more complicated.
As generations go on, their genome can mutate.
For example, their colors might change or they can gain a color tint. (Not the same thing)
Their reactions and urges may change. For instance, a more aggressive norn could be bred, or norns that can survive longer without food. You might breed a norn that loves being alone, or one that calms its fears by eating uncontrollably. Some norns might end up having a longer lifespan, or have an addiction to pressing buttons.
Of course, these mutations are all random, and can be influenced by natural selection based on their environment.

So, you can see why this game would become a lot more interesting as you get older and have quite a few years of high school science behind you.
It's like having your own little laboratory on your computer for you to experiment with to your heart's content!

I've been leaving my computer on overnight for about a month now to see how my population progresses, and have started up many different projects or "worlds" to fool around with.
My most recent project is leaving a bunch of Fallow Norns in one locked room full of food, and seeing how the population progresses.

They're kind of deer-like... and apparently they love to breed, because there's dozens of eggs scatted about.

I only started this morning, so nearly all of them are second or third generation. I have an automatic exporter set up to move any norns older than 2.5 hours out of my world to keep the generations moving along. (Most norns reach the "old" stage at 3 hours, and die at about 5 hours. In between this time they breed a lot less often, and take up space since I have a population limit set up to prevent my CPU from lagging.)
I'll add some updates as my little experiment moves along.

In conclusion, here are some links!

Docking Station is a Creatures game that can be played for free, and can be combined with Creatures 3 for a larger world to roam. It can be downloaded HERE. The system requirements are extremely low and I know some Windows 7 users have problems running it. (I'm using Vista, and I have no problem)
If you want to watch some Norns go about their everyday business, Live Nornish Action is a live video feed of Norns that have been sent in from the community.
Lastly you can see my dabbling in video recording on Livestream. I have a video or two about my Creatures experiments.

Until next time!

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