Monday, April 11, 2016

Dragons, dragons, dragons



I haven't posted in a few days. I've been really preoccupied with my projects, and often too tired to actually talk about them once I've done working on them. But the plus side is I've made some real progress. I already announced and posted them on CreaturesCaves.com but it doesn't feel quite official for some silly reason because I haven't done it here yet even though probably no one reads this. So - Abyss Dragons v2.0 are finished (for the moment anyway) and released. I love the little wings they have now from using the Gargoyle arm sprites. I know I'm far from the first person to do that but I still really like how it looks. Plus they start out anyway with dark colors (though breeding of course tends to lead to a lot of color mutation - they do tend to stay darker colored for the most part in the earlier generations at least), so that hopefully makes them stand out from other winged dragon designs a teeny bit.

They're TWB Norns only right now, but I'm planning to do a CFF version for people who prefer not to deal with the temperature issues that TWBs introduce, plus both a TWB and CFF Grendel version. The Grendel version is challenging me a bit because part of me wants to make it look different from the Norn Abysses so they stand out, but I've had trouble finding a sprite combination that appeals to me. And anyway if I use different sprites do they still even count as part of the 'Dragons' series since the whole point was mainly using the Draconian sprites to make more dragonish breeds?


I feel like the little guy in this picture sometimes trying to decide - I just want to lie down, curl in on myself, and be very quiet for a while. :p

I was also reminded of the existence of the DS Agent Injector, too, which solved most (though not all sadly) of the problems I've been having with rooms and agents not working or being available.  I've successfully raised them now in Aquatilla Cavernis v4 and in the Biodome.

Speaking of the Biodome, its verticality, plus the wide open spaces in Veridia, has often made me want a flying agent similar to the swimming agent. And as luck would have it, such a thing exists and I was able to get ahold of it. So while I ponder what I want to do with the dragon Grendels, I've been working on a flying variant. Unfortunately the flying agent doesn't seem to work as well as Grendel Man's swimming agent. I'm almost tempted to ask him if there's any way he'd either let me try to edit his code or do it himself to make the swimmer agent work in air instead of water so it'd be a flying agent. For some strange reason the flying agent I'm using doesn't seem to... I dunno.

 I'm not sure what exactly the problem is. But even though they have the same exact genes as the Abyss Dragons right now except for a couple of very minor tweaks to their Boredom, sensitivity to heat damage in their organs, and giving them the Flyerase stuff instead of Swimmerase stuff, I'm having trouble with the Empyrean Dragons (that's the name I'm going to use for the flyers) that I didn't have with the Abysses. They're generally less competent at feeding themselves and seem to have more trouble navigating by CAs than the swimmers do. Plus they're a LOT more sedentary - they often fail to make full use of their flying range, and do not move much from their starting position, whereas the Abysses in water can be clumpy and almost never leave the metaroom they started in but they usually spread out and use most of the room.

So that's a little frustrating. But maybe I can fix it genetically, at least in part, by tweaking their instincts and stimuli and such. We'll see. I really hope I can make flyers that are just as good as the swimmers. 

Work has continued on painting Mare Draconis. Kicked around the idea of making it wrap like the C1 world does, but I gave up on that when I learned how resource-costly that is. I also had to redo several of the areas of the map based on Grendel Man's advice/observation that slopes greater than 20 degrees tend to cause problems with walking/crawling creatures and moving agents like critters. There's still a walkable in-and-out-of-the-water beach area though, and a smaller one that leads into a cave with a lift, so that's fine. The main thing is I wanted them to be able to walk in and out of the water at will rather than having to take a lift to do it.

I wasn't thinking of flyers when I designed Mare Draconis, but the way it's set up will work well for them too since there's the whole tree/walkway system and a fairly large sky region. Smaller than the ocean/land region but more than big enough to be useful for flyers. Eventually I hope to keep both Abysses and Empyreans here. (I might even make a Ur-Dragon breed that's capable of both flight and swimming, but we'll see. Research so far shows that creatures with both abilities tend to strongly favor one over the other and rarely make use of the ability to use both, but we'll see in time - such testing so far has been limited and I may be able to improve their behavior genetically, too.)

Struggling again with learning CAOS and coding. Took a look at Unreal Engine but it looks like I'll need to learn C++ in order to program effectively around it. Sigh. So I suppose that's my next task... kind of scary but maybe I can take a class. I'm usually more of an autodidact but for some things it really does help to have a teacher or at least a little guidance.

 I've been having way too much fun with the Magic Words commands 'clone' and 'movable'. :p Sometimes it doesn't work quite the way I want, but I've been able to copy and move a lot of assets I've always wanted to be able to use in other places, like the Grapes agent. My Veridia and Biodome are so choked with stuff it's crazy. I wish there were more flying/floating stuff... I'll just have to learn to make it I guess!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What kind of drugs does it take to enjoy this?

Yes, it's another song lyric (ERB is life) but it could just as easily apply to these projects. I suppose the answer is 'whatever bizarre cocktail constitutes my natural neurochemistry'. I'm no stranger to drugs, I think I've said that here before, but none are particularly involved in my life at the moment beyond weed (I'm a native-born Californian; for most of us, weed is not just medicine or a drug, it's a proud local and often family tradition - in my case, both) and legally prescribed (and taken-as-prescribed) pain pills, so I can't blame my weird fixations and obsessions on anything but my own psychodynamics. Such is life I suppose. I guess that's part of why I like Creatures so much. I feel something of a kinship with creatures so heavily influenced by drives and chemistry they were born with and can't help.

Ahem. Enough of that. I don't think much of anyone reads this anyway, but just in case, I won't bore you further with that sort of thing. Today we'll be talking about something that makes the title of this blog a bit less of a misnomer, something that actually pertains to CAOS and scripting (though nothing too detailed yet since I'm still learning). OMG, right? Yeah only nine posts in, I know. Moving on, recently I've been wanting a metaroom that fits a certain description, and while there are plenty out there that come close enough to tide me over for the moment, none are really quite there. So I decided to take a shot at making my own metaroom.

Turns out the first thing you do before you make a metaroom is to paint the image for it, which was a bit ironic as I'd gotten myself all geared up to tackle the coding side first to get it out of the way. I figured, if I had a skeleton image, it'd be good enough to code from. A little more research disabused me of this charmingly naive notion. So for now I'm painting. But while I paint - or, more accurately, while I take breaks - I've been reading up on how the coding part of it all works. Still struggling with reading script - my brain keeps half-tripping out the same way it does when I look at math, dyscalculia sucks - but the more I look at it the less I get that twisting "oh god why can't I read it anymore it looks like a mess of gibberish" sensation in my skull (it's a weirdly physical sensation, just as much as it is the actual disarrangement of what I see.)

So I'm hopeful that the more I'm exposed to it, the more familiar it gets, the less my brain will twitch, until I can deal with it as familiarly as I do Creatures genetics. Genetics, by comparison, are easy - but then again I exposed myself to those in childhood so they were pretty familiar when I looked at them as an adult, whereas I never realized I was capable of learning CAOS when I was a kid - I wasn't sure how people made COBs, and I also didn't know how to learn, so I just contented myself with doing what I thought was available to me. That is, gengineering.

So I have to say it's pretty exhilarating to be working on all this now. Even though it's hard, so hard, to force my glitchy neurons through the sort of thing they hate most, it's worth it, and every time I realize a bit of CAOS has stopped being gibberish and become familiar, meaningful, it feels really good.

I'm getting comfortable with TARG for instance via using it in-game to do stuff like age specific Norns. Those kind of tiny baby steps are really helpful because although I learn very little of the actual code that way, the format and syntax become more familiar, so that next time I look at a block of CAOS code, less of it turns into gibberish and more of it stays coherent. It's the difference between looking at a page written in a language you don't know and looking at a page covered in random scribbles that look kind of like letters but don't add up to anything. The first you can do something with, the second is just a mess.

I've been relying a lot on these two documents as my basic primer:

http://creatures.treesprite.com/CDNX.html
http://creatures.treesprite.com/CDNY.html

I'm almost tempted to back them up in case they disappear someday - I can only imagine some frustrated person ten years from now finding a copy of this page with those links broken - but I'll hold off for now. Hopefully I'll be able to replace the information with my own knowledge if they ever go down. For the nonce, that's the stuff I'm working on memorizing and taking into account as I paint.

It doesn't look like anything meaningful right now but as soon as it does I'll post a preview.