Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nothing you see out there is real

Oof, this is a bad blog to fall back into that old 'title posts with a line from the song you're currently listening to' habit. Ah, well, it's apropos in a way, given what I did to those poor testers yesterday.

Ahem! Development of Abyss Dragons v2 is coming along very well. I've finally fixed their problems with nutrition, adipose tissue, and premature mortality. I can now consistently establish breeding, self-sustaining wolfling colonies and the Norns, while not usually actually making it as long as they theoretically could, are now typically dying between four and five hours of age, which isn't bad at all - and to tell the truth, it's not unrealistic. I mean, humans have the theoretical potential to live 120 years, but how many of us actually do?

They're still not quite as pack-oriented as I'd like. They spend more time trying to retreat from each other than I want them to, sometimes rather obsessively. Slap-fights are common, too, but oddly enough that hasn't lead to them all hating each other. Rather, they form rather polarized groups and then argue about it. It's pretty funny. They use the word 'love' more often than any other Norns I've ever raised, and I haven't seen one use the word 'hate' yet, but 'dislike' is not uncommon, and they don't always agree, at all. Say Da Vinci loves Picasso, and says so. Monet may instantly pipe up with, "Monet dislike Picasso!" This can go on for a while, and I'm pretty sure it's not looping since they go on with other business at the same time rather than getting stuck and failing to care for themselves while expressing as I've noticed happen other times. It has the appearance, rather, of a genuine argument. Which is why it amuses me so much!

Yes, that generation of testers were all named after painters. The next batch became famous classical composers. Next I'll probably resort to band names. I already used numbers in all the languages I know, plus various misspellings of 'A' 'B' 'C' and so forth. So, randomness.

The appropriateness of the title has to do with a mistake I made yesterday. In trying to figure out their mysterious dying problem, I decided nutrition might be to blame, and I'd discovered that using detritus as a primary source of carbs wasn't going to work because most detritus sends very strong 'don't eat me' signals. Not strong enough to stop them from munching it anyway once in a while, but far too strong for them to eat it often enough to be a useful primary food source. Someone suggested I allow them to survive on animals alone, by using a two-stage chemical reaction. It's really quite clever, actually. I think this was Dragoler's idea? Hmm. I should look it up and give proper credit, give me a minute... Yep, Dragoler suggested it. He (she? pretty sure Dragoler's a guy but I'm not certain... oh well. Creatures is in my experience about 60-70% male fandom, minimum, but I know of several prominent CC members who are definitely women, so who knows?) has built his/her own carnivorous breed(s) in the past and used that setup for them, I guess.

(Come to think of it, that's weird... my games interests don't stick to traditional gender roles, so I've gotten used to the sort of gender biases you find in the fandoms of typical types of games and Creatures is the type of game I'd expect to have a very female-dominated userbase. Maybe it's all the emphasis on coding in the community aspect of the game - genetic engineering is essentially a form of programming using advanced utilities, after all. Or maybe males just tend to post more so it only SEEMS like there are more of them. Or maybe it's just a small sample problem - I'm only drawing on my own experience, after all. Hm. I think this tangent is long enough now.)

Anyway, it works like this. You go to what I think of as the 'carnivore gene', the 'Eaten an Animal' stimulus. You completely redo the chemistry so that each time an animal is eaten, the creature gets a strong hit of each type of hunger reduction, plus a similar-sized hit of an unused unknownase. I used 196 and 197, but any pair of unknownases will do so long as they're not being used for anything else. (Now, remember that, because that problem is going to lead to something really funny in a minute.)

Then you make a pair of reactions. The first unknownase, in my case 196, decays into Protein and 197. 197 in turn decays into Fat and Starch. I had to tweak the specific numbers a bit to make the nutritional balance work, and I left them the option of eating food and detritus as backup sources of fat and starch, and I might restore fruit as a backup protein source. But in general, they are now quite capable of surviving 100% on critters.

Now for the funny part, and the bit that the title references (other than just being a line in New Model Army's 'Modern Times'.) When I first went to set up this system, I made the reaction genes correctly. But somehow - I really didn't do this on purpose, I don't know how it happened - I selected chemical 130 instead of 196 when I did the stimulus.

For those of you who have read my previous post about chemical 130, or who have experimented with it yourselves (either on your Creatures, or in real life, as the case may be... ) you will instantly understand just what I did to these poor tester Norns.

For the rest of you, here's what happened. And it took me hours to figure out what was going on, mind you, so this was going on for AGES. Every time these Norns obeyed their strong instinctive need to eat critters, they were not only failing to get the nutritional results I wanted, but they were getting a massive dose of a powerful hallucinogen.

Yes.

In effect, since their "symptoms" were periodic, they were schizophrenic Norns.

Mmm-hmm.

Do I feel guilty? A little.

Do I feel amused? Oh GOD yes.

So, so, so much weirdness ensued.

One Norn developed a paranoid terror of critters so intense he would hardly acknowledge their existence or look at them, much less eat them. Nothing I did would change it. Yet at the same time, he had a weird fetish-like fascination with bugs.

Another lay down in the middle of the water and swam back and forth/in a circle (for them it's the same thing) for quite a while - my sense of time is bad, but it was somewhere between five and ten seconds, maybe ten and fifteen. While doing this, she was continuously thinking, and occasionally saying, "Eat self."

A third Norn seemed fairly normal, but shortly after eating a fish, he suddenly grabbed a C2 crab and began hitting things with it. He spent at least five seconds battering the Sacred Dragon Skull with the crab in hand. Now, Norns hit objects a lot, but I've never seen one spend so long hitting stuff while holding another object. I have no idea what the point of that was, or if it even realized it was holding the crab while hitting things. For all I know it forgot it was holding the thing because he was too preoccupied with whatever hallucinations were prompting him to hit things in the first place.


I don't even remember everything weird or funny that happened, but this sort of thing went on for hours until, by coincidence, going over the genome again I discovered my error. At that moment, I realized what had been going on, and like I said above, I felt kind of bad, but I also laughed a whole lot.

I mean, let's be honest - I'm over 30 and I've done some stuff in my time. I know what those Norns went through a little better than some. It wasn't so bad. If I can judge by how often Norns that have gotten 130 say 'love hand' shortly after, actually, most of them really enjoy it. But it isn't cool to give them no way to avoid it. Violates basic drug ethics. Plus it just offended my sense of reality - to make it work in the long run I'd have to make 130 decay into food nutrients. Tryptamine doesn't decay into food. It just doesn't. My sense of reality is mutable enough to imagine some other chemical that does, but not 130. So yeah.

But I admit, my dark/sadistic/coldly curious side is intrigued by the idea of making a schizophrenic breed on purpose... mmm. Maybe after I finish the Abysses.

Well, anyway. Fixed that, so the nutrition system is working fine now.

They seem to get stuck in loops a little bit as they get older, which I think is why they're dying a lot in the third, forth, and fifth hours, but I'm not entirely sure what to do about that. I was always annoyed by the stronger 'go down' genes in other aquatic breeds, but I suppose this sort of thing is why they have them. I'd like another solution, though. Maybe I'll remove some feeding instincts and only leave the ones for primary food sources. Makes more sense that way anyhow - they'd come out of the egg knowing to seek meat for food, and thus prey, and have instincts to help them hunt said prey. But they wouldn't necessarily realize they can also digest fruit and food and detritus until they try it and notice it works. I'll have to give it a try.

Right now, since I've solved the major problems with the genome, I'm getting more into color choosing. Since recently learning a bit more about how Pigment Bleed genes work I've been obsessed with making ever-more random testers just to see what this or that combination does. I sort of wish the bleed only affected the underlying sprite and not the pigment, or that there was some kind of genetic switch allowing that to either be the case or NOT be the case. Makes it hard to get the colors I've been trying for. But I'll figure out something I like in the end.

OK, I'm tired and hungry. Time for some weed and Epic Rap Battles. But I'll be back! ;p

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Abyss Dragon Woes and Hardman Norns

So, I officially began work on Abyss Dragons v2.0, starting with the Norn version. I'm going to make a Grendel version too for people who like Grendels (myself included). The Grendel version will be mostly the same as the Norn version only with the species references in its genome reversed. I might try to give the Norns and Grendels some unique traits but I haven't decided yet, and if so, what those might be. For now I'm just trying to get the basic Norn version working.

Detritus is presenting a problem. In the original version, I made them seek out critters for protein, bugs and pests for carbs, and food for fat. This worked fairly well, but with a couple of problems. First, there are less bugs and pests than I thought there were, because some things I thought were bugs are actually critters (such as the dragonflies in the Norn Terrarium). This isn't a huge deal, but it irked me. Secondly, since I fed them largely on Zander Fish and the two kinds of Stickletrout available in the Flooded Norn Terrarium, they tended to make huge piles of bones. Then they'd become curious about said bones and try to eat them, meaning there was a lot of glycotoxin poisoning going around. They usually didn't die of it, but it was still annoying.

So yesterday I was working on the V2.0 genome, and grumbling to myself about the lack of a specific 'ate a bug' stimulus - there's only 'ate an animal' which counts for both critters and bugs, meaning when they eat bugs they only get carbs if the bug or pest agent itself is set to give carbs when eaten, another problem with the bugs/pests for carbs design. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to change them so they got starch/carbs from eating detritus and removing the glycotoxin, then giving them instincts to seek out and eat detritus when hungry for starch/carbs. That way they'd be able to eat the fish, then eat its skeleton. No mess, neat and clean.

Sounded great in theory, but in practice, it turns out not to work so well. It turns out that while they might occasionally experiment with detritus, often enough to get sick, they are not willing to eat it often enough to sustain themselves. It works better with stuff specifically designed for Toxic Norns, but the stuff that isn't seems to have some intrinsic punishment or disappointment effect that discourages them. Sigh. So I'm going to leave the detritus eating as an option for carbs, but scale back its importance and re-emphasize the seeking of bugs and pests. At least they'll be able to get carbs from multiple sources. I may also just go 'screw it' and change to a system that lets them get all three kinds of nutrition from eating animals. Haven't decided.

Feeling frustrated, after my last batch of testers died I decided to take a break and raise a pair of basic Norns. I spend almost all my play time messing with my own genetic creations, or with other people's creations, and very little with the official breeds. So, given that, I decided to raise a pair of Hardman Norns for a while just to take a break. I've never raised Hardmans before so this should be interesting.

I made them from the egg layer so I'm pretty sure they're just normal Hardmans, not CFF or anything, but they're fairly smart. Although, REALLY angry. Angrier than I see any real purpose for honestly. They're just constantly pissed off for no real reason. Still, they're fairly good at taking care of themselves and they seem to make better use of smells than some other breeds do. I've been able to allow them to roam the whole ship without worrying they'll get lost in some foodless corner and die. (Although I do have Norn Terrarium blocked off because it's flooded and they'd drown.)

They started in the Norn Meso, but left it to explore the rest of the ship, occasionally returning to grab some fruit or other edibles before heading out again. (I was impressed by their ability to do that, actually - even with the change to the Umbilical that makes it a door, not all Norns figure that one out so quickly.) Around adolescence, if I remember right, the female suddenly began thinking a lot about hitting grendels. She'd been hanging out in the bridge a lot, going back to the Meso for food when hungry, but then she just took off and headed to the Jungle. I took the male there too so they could be together. True to her word, the female has killed at least two or three grendels by the time I'm typing this, although not single-mindedly. They actually coexist fairly well until a Grendel throws a punch; once that happens, a real fight breaks out, and as often as not, Smash beats the Grendel to death.

Now Smash and Bash are just living in the Jungle, killing Grendels when they feel like it and browsing on the fungi and the akwood vines or whatever they're called. They even have a baby now, whom I named Boom. Boom seems obsessed with catching and eating Rocklice. I didn't think Hardman Norns had any carnivorous tendencies, but she seems pretty committed to this idea. I've seen her even pick one up and go through the motions of eating them. I'm not sure they're edible at all because the rocklice never disappear when she does this, but she's definitely doing her best to try. Weird. Makes me want to take a look at the Hardman genes and see what I can do to make the Dragons more into beast eating with such little consequence. Might not get them much nutrition but it'd be interesting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

TWBs Win


As I said in my last post this morning before going to bed (my sleep schedule's gone back to its natural state again, bah, but that's another topic) I left the Bloom world open. Returning to it now about nine hours later, with a total runtime of somewhere between 12-15 hours probably, the TWBs have become decidedly dominant over the CFFs. The CFF colony is hanging in there, as you can see above, with enough eggs and a few non-old Norns to keep it going when the largely-senile population dies out, but the TWBs are swarming, with a largely breeding-age population and SO MANY EGGS. They're perilously close to Yellowstone Elk Syndrome, actually. If they didn't have couple of vendors in addition to the Norn Terrarium's natural bounty they'd be in much worse shape. (I forgot to label the second image, but whatever, you get the idea.)

As you can see, the TWBs are basically elking it.

Actually that might be what happened to the CFFs, come to think of it. They have some decent food sources in there, including one Justanut tree and a few Starseed trees, but they've extincted the Golden Mushrooms while I slept and severely drove down the numbers of Watercup Mushrooms. The pebble plant things also appear to be extinct. All that still seems to be growing besides the aforementioned trees are reduced numbers of Glowlillies and Watercup mushrooms, the Ordin and Fantazy grasses, and the Bramboo. For some reason they're all clustered up to the far left side of Veridia, too, whereas the TWBs are fully occupying the outdoor ground level of the Norn Terrarium and occasionally going up onto the hill above the indoor part. I'm not sure if they're using the elevator or not but they don't seem to be. (What is it with CFF type breeds and totally ignoring elevators? Has their genetic interest in them been turned off completely? It's certainly better than obsessive button-pressing, but I'd prefer if they were more willing to make use of their full space!)
At this point, I'm pretty much decided that I'm going to use the TWB Blooms as my basis for work, but not 100%. I plan to check out a few more TWB breeds just in case there's one that works better for what I have in mind.

I do like the Blooms in general, though I think I may need to dial their fertility back a little bit if I do use them for the Abyss Dragons' V2 base. I want the Dragons to breed more readily than the original version does (you practically need Cupid's Lyre if you don't want most of your Abysses or other Dracos to breed even once in their very long lifetimes). But I don't want them to breed this rapidly, especially given they are predators and thus much more able to extinct their food source than plant eaters are. (And they are, as we all know, quite capable of engendering mass extinctions, so you see my concern, I'm sure.)

Chemical 130

Lucy


I've never actually observed a CFF or TWB after consuming Chemical 130 (aka Tryptamine). So I decided to snag one of the adults TWB Bloom wolflings, walk her over to the Amethyst Berry bush, and tell her to 'eat fruit'. I figured the CRC's Eat button would work if the spoken order didn't. I did end up having to use the button, but in the end she ate them. I noticed each time she ate one she'd briefly get the 'scared' expression, yet somehow intuitively I don't feel like it was actual fear so much as a 'whoa!' reaction, but I'm not 100% on that - for all I know, eating those berries is inherently a little scary! After eating a few berries, she picked her way slowly downhill, ate some seeds, went slowly back uphill, and stopped. Then she declared, "Eem love hand." Twice! I've barely ever seen Norns even use the word 'love', and never before toward the hand. I suppose I must assume she thought eating the berries was a great suggestion.

Then she decided to contemplate eating a nearby toy. I paused the game to type this up. I'm going to unpause now and watch her for a little while, then come back.

This is so interesting. She remained obsessed with eating for a little while, probably because of the CRC command. But she was still acting oddly, walking around a lot with frequent changing direction, sometimes pacing, but occasionally she was essentially spinning in circles, which I've never seen a Norn do before unless it was a predator chasing constantly moving small prey. During this she was, as I said, eating everything in sight that was edible. I realized this probably had to do with the CRC after about ten seconds and hit Stop on it, then tickled her and led her back and forth a couple paces to help her get her own thoughts going again. (No idea if that actually helps, but it seems to be better than just leaving them alone.)

As a wolfling, she had no name, but given her participation in this little experiment I decided she deserved one, so I named her (for obvious reasons) Lucy. She was not in the sky with diamonds, but she did seem a little weirder than before, albeit not in the way I expected. While I was changing her name I had my gaze off her briefly. When I looked back to her, her previously happy expression had faded into a tired or unhappy one - I'm not sure what that expression is meant to be, whether tiredness or general unhappiness, but they tend to get it when tired, in any event. I tickled her and she brightened briefly but then lapsed again. I tickled again, with the same result. I was wondering what was wrong, if she might be about to fall asleep, when a few seconds later she spontaneously grinned big without being tickled again.

That's when the really interesting stuff started. She lay down and began looking at... nothing. The little green indicator used to show focus of attention actually vanished completely. Every now and then it would flicker back into being focused on one of the butterflies flying above her head, and then vanish again. I looked VERY carefully all over the map for the indicator, but it's just not there. She is just not looking at anything in the metaroom. Not even herself.

I've seen the indicator disappear before, I think, but only very rarely. When Norns look at themselves, the green thing sits right next to the red one above their own heads - the difference between that and the vanishing going on here is easy to see. Far more often they fixate on themselves, on something else near them, or even on something that is invisible or doesn't actually exist - the little pointer will just hover in apparently empty space, as far as I can tell. And that's what I was expecting when the hallucinations started - the pointer would indicate stuff out in the world that she could see but I could not. But apparently the reality disconnect is a little more profound for her. She is seeing her 'real world', and yet at the same time, she is seeing -other- things, things that are so unreal that her attention pointer can't even show where she thinks they are. I assume, anyway. Because right after she suddenly began grinning, and just before lying down, she said, "Look." Nothing else. Just that. And then the weird looking-at-nothing began. She's stood up again, just before I paused, too, but she lay there for at least 20-30 seconds. So I think it's safe to assume she is fully trippin' out now, and I should unpause the game and let her enjoy herself. At the moment of unpause, she's facing the screen, grinning, Let's see what happens.

I think she's staring at the ground?? She keeps standing up and sitting down every three or four seconds, staring fixedly at... I think it's the ground. The green pointer is hovering right above the soil line. But it's hard to tell what exactly she's seeing there... she's thinking 'seed'. Clicking around, I found a tiny seed, I guess it was that.  She said 'look' again, too.

I forgot to pause while typing and she said something I missed, unfortunately. I wish I was one of those people who understands bibble by ear. She stood around, then crouched, then finally lay down over several long seconds, constantly staring at what I assume is another of those teeny seeds. Then she abruptly fell asleep. Trip over?? It's only supposed to last a few minutes, as I recall.

She just woke up. She stayed lying down, looking at another Norn nearby, then a toy, but not moving. I tickled her to encourage her to act on whatever she was thinking. She stood up, turning to face me as she did so. She had a frightened look briefly as she stood but grinned at me once she was facing me, while receiving the tickle. Not sure how to interpret that look, but she seems to be getting back to normal, more or less. She only ate a couple berries, so I wasn't expecting it to last too long. I was thinking of asking her to eat a few more, but I'm getting tired. Going to sleep soon, I think. So she can live out the rest of her live as she pleases since I'm going to leave her world running.

Actually you know what, I think she's still stoned... she's gone back to looking at nothing while just standing or sitting around. Heh! Another Norn is trying to get her attention. She's looking at him, but even though she expressed boredom twice she failed to respond to his bouncing balls near her in a clear attempt to lure her into playing with him. Now he seems to be flirting with her. I wish him luck. He's competing with some very interesting alternative diversions. She did giggle though so we'll see.

He gave up and went away. She's back to obsessive seed staring. Or maybe it's a bug - she's thinking bug. I can't see it because it's behind that little mound that rises up near the berry bush and the pond.

Oops/. I could've sworn you could put a Norn on that hover thing but I guess not - she fell right through it twice. After the second impact she got a sad look - I guess the fall was painful. I put her by the berry bush again and tickled her but she's still sad right now.  I don't know why I thought putting her up there was a good idea anyway. I guess I wanted to see what she'd do with less stimuli around her.

All of a sudden she's up and about trying to push bugs.

She just declared her love of the hand again. There she goes, finally a toy bounce. Maybe now she's coming out of it. Another Norn - I think the male who was trying to get her attention earlier - just bounced one of the toy bones at her; this time, she took it and bounced it herself, toward the pond, and is now pursuing it as if she means to continue playing with it. She seems pretty much back to normal now. That was fascinating, though. I'll have to try to get another TWB Bloom to eat a larger dose tomorrow, or maybe bring over a CFF for that specific reason to see how their reactions differ. For now, Lucy is being followed by a baby while she plays with toys and she's moved back toward the other Norns, which she seemed very uninterested in while tripping. I'm going to let her live the rest of her life in peace as a wolfling the way it began. And I'm going to bed. I can't help but wonder  if she'll visit the bush again on her own, though, and how she'll regard fruit in general from now on... more things to ponder tomorrow.


CFF vs TWB Bloom Norns

So the CFF Chichis ended up establishing an entirely ground-based (I have no idea why they ignore all those tempting elevators and platforms but they do) but quite stable little ecosystem. I'm pretty impressed, to be honest. I expected them to be the sort that either dies out eventually, or breeds too much and ends up in an elk-in-Yellowstone situation, with not enough food to feed the teeming hordes of Norns, resulting in huge die-offs, and I come back to huge piles of both eggs and corpses. Usually there are some survivors in the latter case, but it's hardly a balanced situation and often the ecology of the metaroom is devastated. The only remaining food sources tend to be whatever vendors may exist and plants that the Norns (or Grendels, when I'm working with them) can't graze into extinction, like the big tree that makes apples (and pears, with the Shee Pears agent) in the Norn Terrarium.

Whereas the Chichis maxed out the population meter, but did it at a low enough level that there were still two grendels alive in the game after 24 hours, meaning Norn populations were low enough that new Grendels were getting a chance to hatch often enough to maintain two Grendels at a time. (Amusingly, Ettins were extinct, even though they're usually the quicker hatchers compared to Grendels when both come from the Egg Mothers.) And there were sufficient eggs to keep the population going, but there weren't just huge numbers of them all over. There was a wide age range of Norns, from babies to senile, and I left them running long enough this evening to determine that the vast majority of deaths in the population are due to old age rather than starvation or poisoning from browsing on detritus - in fact I noticed no such deaths at all while watching them. (I have the Roamer released but I don't know if it can get to Veridia - I've never seen it there - but even if it can't, disease did not seem to be much of an issue for them.)

I am rather interested in these Chichis for their own sake now, which is very unexpected. I exported all of the ones showing any pigment or bleed mutations for a separate project later on, leaving all the 128s, and allowed the world to run for a while longer. They had wolflinged totally unattended for at least 12-14 hours, while I slept and did other things, and they ran mostly feral/wolf while I was at or near the keyboard for several more hours. Eventually, when the world had been going for over 24 hours of real time, I decided it was time to give the Blooms another try and the TWBs a fairer trial. So I closed the Chichis' world and made a new one, intending to use the Norn Terrarium and Veridia this time, though I injected Norngarden 1 as well just in case I wanted it later.

This time I equipped the Veridia room with a less barren, more realistic and functional ecology. I used far more Golden Mushroom packets to get them started in hopes they wouldn't go extinct, put in the Glowflowers, Rainbow Bamboo, and Watercup Mushrooms again. But I also stole those little rock-plants from the Norn Meso this time, and the Bramboo things, successfully getting both to grow. I was unable to get the mushrooms or other plants from the Jungle to transplant, alas, and the same with the Starseed and Justanut trees from the agents, though I guess they might randomly spread there later since they seem to just pop up in metarooms over time despite always starting in the Meso. (In fact, that's just what happened - I just noticed a Starseed tree in Veridia where there wasn't one an hour ago.) I have trouble keeping the Fantazy and Ordin Trees to stay alive so I didn't bother with them, but I did thoroughly seed both kinds of grass. I tried Cana Aubergine again but like usual it overran everything even when being heavily grazed so I removed it.

Once all those plants were established, I took the extra step of moving in butterflies and other critters. The ants, unfortunately, failed to nest, and the birds did not survive. Not sure why. The butterflies seemed to be doing fine at first, but at this point almost all have died except the Feuerlings, and those seem unable to get any benefit from anything but the grass, as if the Rainbow Bamboo and Glowlillies aren't registering as flowers to them, which sucks. There's huge numbers of Feuerlings - I could probably keep Draconians comfortable in there, assuming they didn't eat them all - but they constantly hover right above the grass in this weird carpet of burning bugs. I'm thinking of just removing them, although I didn't want to. I think the other little critters I moved in, the hedgehog things, are also dead. So yeah, critters didn't work out well. Oops. Oh well then.

The actual Norns are doing fine, though. Once I had the ecosystems, vendors, and toys all placed the way I wanted, I hatched eight Bloom Norns. Four were TWB and four were CFF. Since the CFF Chichis were so happy in Veridia - and in much poorer conditions there - I decided to put the CFF Blooms there, which left the Norn Terrarium for the TWBs. Later on, I was educated about the wonders of pigment bleed by the fine folks at CreaturesCaves.com's forum, and made some altered Grendels to play with it, putting them in the Norn Meso and locking them in. So the world now has three colonies, or will hopefully if the Grendels get established. I might move them to the Jungle if they don't do well in the Meso/Norngarden (since they can open that door, although they can't get out of the Meso.)

So far, the TWBs are doing much better this time. I think for some reason that they didn't like the Norngarden room much, or just didn't do as well there. Not sure why that would be as I use NG all the time successfully with Grendeltails and others. But they're doing just fine in the Norn Terrarium. This time the TWBs were the first to lay an egg, but the CFFs were not far behind, and both groups have now grown significantly. All four original members of each group are still alive and over an hour old. So far, so good, although the vast majority of the offspring are male. I thought I had that no-seasonal-bias thing working, but I guess it had just been summer. Sigh. Not sure what I'll do about that... but if the colonies fail because of it I won't blame the Norns, that's for sure. At the moment they're both looking quite good, which I guess doesn't surprise me really since TWB is based on CFF anyway.

I think in the end I will be using the TWB Blooms as my basis for work, but the CFFs also have a lot to recommend them and I've enjoyed both a lot. We'll see what happens with those Grendels - I'm trying to get them to mate in cross-type pairs but the same types keep wanting to kisspop, so we'll see. Also it irks me that 0 and 8 on EasyGMS are not 0 and 255 like I expected, but something like 16 and 233. Oh well. I'll just have to do the true extremes with Genetics Kit.

Monday, March 21, 2016

CFF Chichi Norns vs. TWB Bloom Norns


So, since I'm not sure quite what I want to do yet, in reference to the last entry here and my decision to redo the Abyss Dragons, I decided to do a couple of feral runs - keeping an eye on them but generally leaving them to their own devices, and in somewhat more challenging circumstances than I usually set up. Basically, I wanted to give both a CFF breed and a TWB breed a couple of good solid test runs, to see how they function in practice as opposed to how they look when scrolling through the Genetics Kit. After some thought I decided to use the CFF Chichis, since I had them already, and the TWB Blooms, since they were the only TWB breed I had already downloaded. (I probably should have used CFF Blooms as well, in retrospect, if nothing else than to be a control group of sorts. Oops. I guess I'll do that tomorrow.)

I expected the Blooms to ultimately be superior, not only because I like the additional edits added to them by their creator above and beyond the TWB edits, but because I have such bad associations with the original Chichis. I fully understood that the CFFs would be better, but I still couldn't help thinking of the Chichis as they were back when I first had Docking Station alone without C3 years ago. But I did my best to set things up more or less fairly if not exactly evenly. Two males and two females were made of each breed. The Chichis got to go live in... oh, drat. The big jungle-y metaroom. Veridian, maybe? Something to that effect. And the Blooms went to Norngarden 1. 

Obviously Veridian was not stock since it doesn't come with anything in it, so that would've been pointless. I did not, however, stock the room very generously, compared to my usual style. I did my best to seed golden mushrooms and popper plants (they died out fairly quickly though, the poppers even before the Norns were added - sigh). The Mossy Shee Trees survived rather longer but still eventually died out as they always do. It figures the plant agents I like best are the ones that refuse to get established and the ones I don't like are the ecosystem-devouring weeds... Anyway, the Chichis have a potted Rainbow Bamboo that provided some growth of that species as well. So there was some "native" food even after the other stuff I tried to establish died off. But for the most part, there was no effortless forage available after the initial group extincted the mushrooms, which took all of ten minutes or so.

As you can see in the above screenshot, the vast majority of the Chichis' food relies on them knowing to work the vendors when hungry, or at least randomly pressing them for shiggles often enough to provide sufficient food, whereas the Blooms had the benefit of the Norngarden's built-in agents, plus a few added agents (they also got a Cornucopia for example). 

To my not-very-great surprise, the Chichis were very fecund and bred rapidly. What I WAS surprised by was how well they managed to take care of themselves and be happy in the relatively bare room. They found the fairly widely-scattered toys and played with them, worked the vendors often enough to provide food for the group even as it grew bigger (I can't tell if it's hunger-related or random but they don't sit there spam-pushing it, pushes are single and seem purposeful). 

Meanwhile, the Blooms surprised me by crashing and burning. All four were dead by the time the Chichis were producing their first second gens and I don't think a single egg got laid in the Norngarden.

I'm going to give TWB another few tries before I choose CFF over it, but man, what happened to those Blooms? I might have to do another set and actually watch them closely this time to figure out why they died off. So far though the Chichis have shown that they would definitely be an acceptable base for the Abysses - with a suitably lengthened lifespan and slightly reduced fecundity, though! 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Abyss Dragon Rebuild

My major Creatures project at the moment, genetically speaking, are the Abyss Dragons. They started out humbly enough. I was tinkering with Amphibian Draconian DNA and happened upon a color that I thought looked particularly good in the Deep Abyss metaroom (one of my all time favorites, at least of the few this stupid computer is willing to allow to work - no idea what's wrong with so much of the stuff I download because it works for everyone else and I've tried all the suggested fixes; some stuff did help, like I was able to get the Genetics Kits to work, but the problem with some agents and metarooms just plain acting like they don't exist has never been solved and it sucks.) It's 0 red 0 green 127 blue 128 bleed. With the color variations in the underlying Draconian sprites, it looked really neat on that map.

Then I started tinkering with the Amphibian genome more, improving their ability to act as predators (as opposed to merely normal Norns with the ability to digest meat and a preference for it but who were still perfectly willing to spend a lot of time browsing on other foods even despite getting little nutrition from it, which is what the basic Draconian is like, essentially.)  I kept using the blue color to distinguish my edited test individuals from my normal Amphidracos. Eventually, due to the improvements being successful, I began to favor my edited dragons over the originals. That was when I began thinking about them in terms of being a genetic breed. I kept going with the improvements and changes I had in mind, and when all of my own additions and alterations were working as I wanted them to be, I released them as a genetic breed on CreaturesCaves.com.

Unfortunately, in the process, I failed to notice a lot of flaws in the base genome I was editing. Some may have been mistakes or bad design choices on the part of the original Amphidraco creator (I have yet to figure out what all the uses of chemicals 110 and 111 were about - they may well make perfect sense if understood in total). But most are probably flaws left over from the original official build. I've noticed several people say that they think the released C3DS genome is rushed and sloppy in some ways compared to the C1 and even the C2. The genetics engine seems to be better and more powerful, but in terms of the actual genomes released, I can't help but agree to some degree. In trying to upgrade the Abysses I ran into a couple of these flaws, and the more I worked the more I discovered.

So in the end I threw up my hands and gave up entirely, as much as it pained me to do so. Now I'm trying to decide whether to use a CFF or TWB genome as my new basis for work on Abyss Dragons 2.0. In some ways, the TWB system is very attractive, but in others, I get flashbacks to my early days raising Draconians and how frustrating it was that they shivered constantly and I couldn't do anything about it. Of course, with TWBs I -can- do something about it, but still, worrying about temperature stopped being an interesting dragonish gimmick and became an annoyance for me a while ago.

With that said, now that I've conceptually broadened the project to include more than one color, maybe I should make more than one variation, too. One might be based on the Magma TWB genome and be a fire dragon that prefers the bottom area of the Abyss, near the vents, or other warm places. I'm not too concerned about interbreeding since I tend not to much like interbreeding anyway - the jumbles of sprites just look bad to me after the mixing gets too much. The base official breeds don't mix too badly for the most part, but even there sometimes it just looks damned odd - spotty chichi legs on a harlequin body for instance. (Then again, I think slapping a Grendel tail on an otherwise normal C3DS Norn looks pretty cool, so maybe I'm not one to talk.)

So that's what's on my mind right now. Advantages of CFF versus TWB is temperature won't be a worry and if any later CFF edits are missing from TWB I'll get the advantage of them. Plus I already started editing a CFF Chichi genome before I realized TWB was an option.

On the other hand, TWB is based on CFF and probably does contain everything important. And I didn't get THAT far in changing the CFF Chichi genome. It's not that big a deal to start over again.

Back to the first hand, part of me really doesn't want to do those edits a third time. :p So we'll see, I guess. I'm going to muse on it while doing other things for a while. Hopefully the brief distance from the problem will help me resolve it.
All righty. I know it's 2016, and that Creatures blogging, and Creatures itself, are things of the past for the majority of people who'd ever heard of them at all. But, to borrow a cliche'd yet still relevant quote - frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. To me, Creatures is a very current fascination, even though my interest in the series began many years ago when the first game was still relatively new, way back in the mid to late '90s, and even though I lost track of the games for several years. I lost my own CDs in my mid to late teens, probably, and I was never able to afford to get Creatures 3 at the time. And as the years went by and I became an adult, I assumed (foolishly, as it turns out) that the Creatures franchise was a series lost to time. That, even if I did still have install files or discs for the games, they probably would not run on modern Windows.

Then, a month or two ago, I discovered GOG.com.

No exaggeration, within seconds of discovering that Creatures - all three games of it! - was still available, I bought both Albian Years and Exodus and was downloading them. I'm not rich, and I often have little or no spare cash. But this was more than worth it. It was like getting a piece of my childhood back in my early 30s, a time by which people tend to wistfully conclude that childhood is gone, never to return. And I've been playing with them obsessively ever since. Mostly C3/DS since I never got to buy C3 back in the day and only had very brief experiences with undocked free DS. But also plenty of nostalgic time with my beloved C1, and time spent getting to know C2 better without the scourge of One Hour Stupidity Syndrome that had ruined C2 for me back in the day.

And I have to say, as delighted and amazed as I was by these games as a child, they are ten times as fascinating for me as an adult. Back then, these games sparked my interest in genetics and nurtured my pre-existing interest in science generally. Now, with an adult's education and years' worth of personal study on real life genetics under my belt, not to mention a much better understanding of how real brains and bodies work, I'm that much more impressed by Creatures and its systems and engines. I visit CreaturesCaves.com every day now and I'm constantly working on Creatures-related projects. I suppose I'll burn out on it for the moment eventually. But Creatures will always be part of my life to greater and lesser degrees, as long as I own a computer that will run it. And while CC.com is a friendly place, I have, several times, browsed other Creatures blogs and felt a need for one myself, as a place to ramble about and verbally work out my projects and experiences playing the games.

Despite the name of the blog, it won't all be about CAOS or agent making. That will certainly be part of it, as learning CAOS is a major goal of mine right now, and I'm hoping to make at least a few agents in my time. I'm also very interested in making at least one full breed and a metaroom or two. I've already made two genetic breeds, although one of them is still very much a work in progress. There will also be plenty of gameplay posts in which I discuss currently running Norns and Grendels (I don't like Ettins much so I don't usually bother with them except as bait or training objects for aggressive Norns and Grendels - call me an Ettin torturer if you like. :p)

I don't really expect anyone to read this. Creatures is a dead franchise to most of the world, after all. And within the remaining community, I don't have a lot to offer, as do the other remaining active bloggers, with their years' worth of CAOS and art skills. I've got the art skills, but not the agenting abilities - not yet. And my genetics knowledge for Creatures is inferior to that of people like Evolnemesis or Dragoler. I'm writing to write more than to be read. But anyone who does come along and decides to peruse my ramblings is more than welcome to leave any feedback that may come to mind. In fact, please do! I can't improve without feedback. :)

So. On to the show.