Seasons in the Deep Abyss (and the Artemia Sea)

Aian and Ascyzier playing together. These are two of my favorite genetic colors possible with the Draconian sprites. (The Gargoyle arm looks great with the blue... only okay with the black and red. Alas!) I especially like the burning orange eyes Aian has. 

Lately, I've been focusing on water environments. Not sure why - just kind of felt like going back to their roots for a while. The issues with the flying agent have something to do with it, but not everything. Grendel_Man's Swimming Agent v3 is very pleasant to watch, too - they do some things they didn't do in v2 - these funny little bobbing motions as they move sometimes, for example.

Development continues. As usual, plagued by multifarious issues, but on the whole, things are going well. A couple of people have been helping me test them, which has helped me make progress faster. It's also helpful in that it helps me know when I'm actually seeing changes in them and when I'm just imagining things.

This is important because I've been tinkering with brain edits again. This time I have the guidance of Geat_Masta, who knows a LOT more about this than I do, though. It was his idea, really, the specific edits - I just implemented them, because he apparently can't use the game or the genetics kit right now. So I just sort of incorporated his brain edit idea into the Dragon v3 genome and ran with it. It's been interesting. Sometimes I feel certain I'm seeing real improvement in the Norns' cognition, especially their social relationships. They're still -weird- little beings, don't get me wrong, but they just seem... I dunno. I've found myself using words like 'sharper' and 'crisper' in trying to describe them. They seem just a bit more purposeful, and their memory seems to be a bit better. 

But then other times I feel sure I'm just imagining things. I really don't know. I guess long-term observation will be the answer.

I know the edits are having SOME effect, if no other way, because the CRC can't be used safely on them anymore. :p I can still use it to watch their thoughts, but using the command buttons makes the Norn basically get stuck on that action. They can still direct their attention, but their 'decision' becomes fixed on whatever the last order from the CRC was. So if you push the Eat button, they'll remain able to choose what they focus on like normal, but they won't be able to think or attempt anything other than eating. Slapping, tickling, and words from the Hand make no impact. The only thing you can do is use the CRC to keep the poor thing alive for the rest of its life, or export it. Unselecting it does NOT seem to help. This doesn't happen to Norns without this brain edit, obviously, so it's not a bug in the CRC. 

Now, why this edit should have that result, I have NO IDEA. But that's a thing that definitely makes them different from other Norns. The other stuff I go back and forth on.

Jellyfish are highly smackable, it turns out.

For some reason, 'hit beast' has become a new favorite pastime in this group of testers. It's been pretty common for a while now to see my dragons do 'hit critter', though they have no instincts inclining them to do so. It's just been something they often learn is fun, for some reason. The group I'm running as of writing this post has added 'hit beast'. The jellyfish in Artemia Sea are the most frequent victims of this, sent flying this way and that. I even saw one baby dragon backhand a jellyfish - seriously. It hit the thing as it was swimming by, in front of the jellyfish, so that the beast went zooming backwards. You'd think hitting beasts would have some kind of negative result, but they seem perfectly happy.

This, though... this just seemed like a bad idea. Amazingly, she lived. 

I'm working on a lot of things at once, so I keep cycling through groups of testers. I've been trying not to get attached to any one group, but it's difficult, especially the way each one develops its own distinctive behaviors, social relationships and dramas, travelling habits (or lack thereof), et cetera. For example, most dragons' first act after hatching is to push toy. But little Annabeth hatched and marched straight to their portal, pushing it immediately. She then stayed in the Deep Abyss alone for the first ten minutes or so of her life and was very happy. Despite having the genome of a social Norn, she seemed quite indifferent to whether or not she ever had company. I suppose she would have had to get lonely eventually, just due to the unavoidable rise of the drive, but still, it was an interesting choice, given she had toys and edibles closer to her than the portal, and portals are not nearly as interesting to dragons as both of those things. Especially not highly bored, hungry newborns.

Look how she blends in! I love the "black" genetic colors in the Deep Abyss, but many of you will probably not be able to see her at all, or only with great difficulty. In short, she's a perfect deep sea creature. :D Adapted to her environment!

I'm pretty content with their use of the portals in general now, but that's another thing that varies a lot between genetically identical individuals. Some develop as more sedentary types that choose a specific area as their favorite; often the lower right or lower left of Artemia Sea, but not always. As you can see in the image below, some of them gladly swim through their entire allotment of space, so I can never be quite sure where a settled cluster will form.

Athelind seems like she's going to be one of the more travel-inclined sorts, but she may settle down as an adult, when mating becomes more interesting than roaming around hitting jellyfish.

Once these clusters form, eggs that hatch there tend to produce individuals that may choose to stay and hang out in the vicinity of that cluster their whole lives. When their genetic wandering urge overcomes this tendency, you get two different types. (These types are also seen in the Gen1s, but the 'stay at home my whole life' type is not, since the Gen1s are the ones that establish the new homespots to begin with, so none exist when they are born that they could choose to stay in, preventing true lifelong homebodies from really developing.) 

The first type spends his or her entire life just sort of roaming at random, moving through whatever portals or teleporters or (less often, for some reason) doors are provided. They may visit the clusters, and sometimes their offspring form new clusters where the eggs are left behind in random spots. But generally, they're on the move, at least within their favored metaroom. Some never leave Artemia Sea or the Deep Abyss (the two metarooms I'm using right now) but they explore their chosen room pretty thoroughly. Others go frequently back and forth.

The second type is rarer, but I've noticed them popping up here and there since I added Geat_Masta's brain edits to the genome. Basically, they're wanderers, but they seem to be -visiting- everyone. Sometimes they'll be hanging out near a given major cluster, sometimes another one, other times they'll be drifting by some of the individual wanderers. This behavior is consistent through portals, even - that is, they will go through portals, visit one cluster, then go back through later and visit the other.

Now, I don't think the edits gave them any ability to plan ahead, but they do seem to remember where the clusters are, and to place a priority on sometimes being near them and sometimes not. It's fascinating behavior and an example of the sort of thing I wonder just how to interpret.

Aian and Ascyzier again. They spent a good few minutes hanging out together. This tendency to form pairs (both same-sex and opposite-sex) to wander around in has been noticeable for a long time, but now it's very common. I've also noticed trios on occasion in more recent groups. These twosomes and threesomes don't always stay together for life, but they persist a lot longer than such arrangements did in the past. And the number that do retain some kind of special association with each other for life -seems- to be higher since the brain edits.

Jeez. They keep extincting the Zander Fish in the Deep Abyss. They also extincted every other species of fish I put in there, and the C2 Crabs, at least once. The only thing they haven't eaten to death are the Garden Box Aquamites (which they do eat, just apparently not as aggressively), the Shrimptons (which is shocking because these usually are the first to go), and a few lucky Zander Mites. 

There's only three baby dragons in there! Someone's being a piggy. I suspect it's Annabeth - she was gulping fish at an unusual rate earlier.

 Normally they don't stuff their faces like that, but, again... personality seems to develop pretty quickly in these guys. And it's not just random, often debilitating, inappropriately solidified learning, like in the neurodegenerative early edits. They're generally adaptive or at least not destructive habits, they're just distinctive in that all the norns are genetically identical, but only one or two in a given batch (if any) may develop a given trait (say, a marked tendency to go out of their way to hit beasts, as shown above). 

In other development news, I've got their new metabolic system working fairly well. It isn't as fine-tuned as it could be, and I'm still refining it, but I'm pretty much getting the results I want from it. 

For a long time, Dragons have had a unique digestive apparatus that allows them to survive entirely on animals (critters, bugs, and pests), using a two-stage chemical reaction. Basically, eating an animal reduces all three types of hunger and gives a dose of chemical 196, which I call Glycolipoprotein. 196 is broken down into Protein and 197, or Glycolipid (I know, it's kind of a misuse of those words, but it's the best I can do for something that mean 'sugarfatprotein' and 'sugarfat' lol). Glycolipid, in turn, is broken down into its constituent fats and starches. This provides the dragon with all three macronutrients needed for survival in sufficient quantities, though they can get a meaningful backup supply of protein and fat from food-class edibles. (Some dragons develop an unhealthy taste for this 'junk food' and die early due to poor eating habits. I have made tweaks to reduce the likelihood of this occurring significantly, but have decided not to try to eliminate it entirely - it's a bit too realistic to get rid of!)

However, other than keeping themselves alive, their bodies didn't have a lot to actually DO with these nutrients, other than create ever-increasing stores of Adipose Tissue and Muscle Tissue. Which are fine, up to a point. But recently it began to bug me that swimmerase and flyerase are essentially 'free' and that flying and swimming cost the dragon just as much as walking does - if not less, since they're technically being carried around by invisible vehicles. 

So instead of just using emitters to provide a constant supply of those chemicals, I decided to create a more realistic system. It took a few tries to get it right, but here's how it works now. In addition to its previous functions, Glycolipoprotein now reacts with Fat to produce a previously unused unknownase which I have dubbed Motase. Motase, in turn, reacts with Starch to create Flyerase, and with Protein to create Swimmerase. In short, flying requires a good supply of quick-burning high-octane sugar fuel, while swimming requires a good supply of long-burning, strengthening protein fuel. And fat is required to make Motase to run the reactions. (This keeps the swimmerase/flyerase reactions from just running constantly until all the Norn's Starch and Protein are used up. The reactions stop when the Motase supply runs out, which in turn ceases being produced when there is no more Glycolipoprotein to react with Fat. Or no more Fat, but usually they run out of GLP first.)

The net result is an animal that can't fly or swim from the moment of birth. Instead, it must walk like a normal Norn until it eats its first solid meal. Once the newborn apex predator takes its first prey, it's only a matter of time before swimming and flight are possible. This in turn makes hunting easier since they can now pursue those tasty fish and birds, so they usually continue to swim or fly for a long time. However, if they fail to eat animals for too long a period, they will lose the ability to fly and swim. They can get a tiny amount of Fat from eating fruit or seeds (I forget which), but only a teeny bit. And the only source of GLP is the living meat of an animal. 

Not only is this a more realistic scenario than the old emitter setup (poorly nourished animals can't fly or swim), it also gives you a quick at-a-glance way to assess the health of your dragons in terms of their eating habits. If a non-newborn dragon is walking for more than a brief period, and seems unable to swim or fly, it's malnourished. This happens well before they're actually about to die, so you don't have to RUSH to get it fed lest it die in seconds or anything, but a dragon that can't swim or fly is definitely in bad shape. Interestingly, when this happens in my games it often self-corrects, with the dragon finding prey on its own without help and restoring its own abilities. I can't decide if this means I have the reactions set to take away the abilities a bit too soon, or if it means they're able to react correctly when close to starvation most of the time. I guess that's the sort of thing more testing over time will make clearer... I hope.

Gah, when did it get to be so late? It's almost 2 AM. I'd better go to bed. Goodnight for now! Wish the current testers luck. They'll be wolfing it alone all night while I sleep...


Aian looks pretty pleased with himself for some reason. Speaking of migration - while I was typing all of that about their -ases and such, many of the dragons moved from Artemia Sea to Deep Abyss. 

When I started typing this post, Annabeth was alone in there. Then she was joined by Ascyzier, and those two were alone in there together for most of the time it took to type this post. After at least 20 minutes (of real time - the game is lagging significantly on time tracking, so for them it was probably counted as about five minutes, even though they experienced more than five minutes' worth of stuff even given the lag...this is something I don't get about how the lag slows the program down, at all. But anyway, point is, in the time it took me to type those last three paragraphs, almost everyone else moved into the Deep Abyss. Only 4/10 are left in the Artemia Sea. And in another half hour or so, a bunch will have probably moved back to Artemia Sea. 

There won't be settled clusters until they hit adulthood and want to mate. Even then, this batch have had their sex drive reduced (not directly, but through tweaking stuff like opposite sex pheromone, and changes intended to make them wait longer after mating to want to mate again, and to hopefully make their pregnancies longer.) So, assuming I didn't overdo it and mess up their ability to mate altogether (which I've done in the past, grah) or otherwise make some major oops, the tendency to cluster around their favored mates may be reduced in this batch. We'll see. 

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