Thursday, December 1, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 5

Do you create content for Creatures? If so, what sorts? What do you use to make things, and what would you like to make in the future? If not, what would you like to make if you could?

Why yes, yes I do.

My tools of choice are the CAOS Tool and Jagent, along with helpers like the CAOS debugger. I've also found Windows Grep to be invaluable when trying to remember the best context in which to use a CAOS command.

There are so many things I'd like to make in the future; it's just a matter of finding time and energy and prioritizing reasonable projects over crazy audacious ones. I'd love to rewrite the Garden Box from scratch but that probably isn't the best use of my time. I'm currently messing with some scripts to log every creature action to a file that can be parsed to gather all sorts of fun data for analysis purposes. I've also got at least a dozen scenario scripts in concept that I'd like to implement but then I wonder if I should just write a central scenario core agent with a ton of parameters you can set by hand to make your own scenarios, with the ability to write, export, and import others' parameters (similar to C3 blueprints). But that's such a huge project that if I started it you'd probably hear an update a decade later, so maybe I should just stick with the small standalone scripts. I'm also still really in love with a lot of the concepts in Project Underground and even wrote a ton of lore for it a few years back, but that's probably a life's worth of work. I guess I'm just at a rather frustrating point where the only projects I want to work on are too large for me to reasonably complete, so I tend to spend more time just enjoying playing the games and hoping I'll get inspired enough to tweak a few things along the way without feeling compelled to rewrite the entire game. I guess I'll see where that takes me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 4

What COBs/agents/breeds/metarooms/etc do you use the most? What would you like to see more of? Less of? What pet peeves do you have with add-ons? What do you love to see?

To be honest, I don't actually use that much third party stuff on a regular basis unless I'm going for a themed world or playing C1/C2, aside from a few of my own tweaks like the nametags. I guess I don't really like to clutter my worlds with agents I don't really need. As long as there are accessible food, fruit, and starch sources, along with appropriate toys and ways for creatures to get around, I don't feel the need to add much extra. Often I run my worlds with a purpose in mind, and don't often want to add anything that doesn't contribute to that purpose.

There is one huge exception to this, however, and that's the CFE Norns. They are so far improved over the stock genomes that I have a hard time using anything else. I haven't had a chance to try out their successor, the CFF Norns, but I've heard a lot of good things about them too.

What would I like to see more of? Anything, really. Even though I don't personally use them very often, I love to see people planning and developing-- I believe fanmade content is the reason this community has lasted so long and I think it's important that stuff continues to be developed to keep the game interesting for the majority of the playerbase. One of my goals in developing the Garden Box was to create easy-to-use templates to get others developing their own stuff, and a lot of my future goals lean towards creating tools and guides to make development even easier. I think I would especially like to see more large collaborative efforts between community members, in which developers of all skill levels can contribute in some part (the Biodome was pretty fantastic).

If we're talking personally though, I would like more than anything to see the development of external tools to assist the Creatures game engine, or just total rewrites like openC2E aimed to do. I would love to be no longer be limited within the constraints of the engine when developing.
I would also love to see the exploration of ways to make Creatures multiplayer, whether in a "Twitch Plays" fashion or with another web interface such as Netures. I would love to see the warp brought back in any form or fashion. These are all fairly tremendous undertakings that are far outside my range of skill, but I guess I still hold out hope that one day they might be real.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 3

How has the way you play Creatures changed since you started? What has stayed the same? Do you play a different game more, have you picked up a different play style, have you thrown out one species and embraced another?

When Creatures 3 came out, I totally abandoned C2, and when Docking Station was released, I ditched the others as well. For a very long time I was focused entirely on DS and didn't touch the other games at all, with the exception of dabbling a little in C1 when I got a copy of Albian Years. It was actually reading Discover Albia that prompted me to give the original Creatures another go. Then nostalgia brought me back to C2, and even occasionally C3 standalone and Creatures Village. I think I'll always be mostly focused on DS because that's what I'm most comfortable developing for, but I'm a lot more open to playing the other games now, understanding that each has its own charm, and one can never completely replace the other. Maybe eventually I'll do some development for the older games, too.

When I was first starting out with Creatures 2, I did a lot of  what might be termed 'norn torture' with the advanced science kit merely in an attempt to figure out exactly how my creatures worked. Wolfling runs were only barely possible until C3 came along and creatures could actually fend for themselves. I remember initially those were a lot of fun-- going to bed at night and hoping some awesomely color-mutated norns will be there in the morning. When the warp was active, it was a ton of fun just swapping random creatures with people and creating a highly diverse world. When I started streaming my worlds, it became a totally new and interesting interactive experience (I always lament that I couldn't make LNA engaging enough to gain much popularity). But after the warp went down, my play styles evolved along with my ability to script stuff. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm always looking for interesting ways to play. I think I will always fall back on plain old nurturing worlds though, especially in C1/C2.

Funny that species was mentioned-- I've always been almost exclusively a norn person, sometimes to a fault. Maybe that's some bias carrying over from C2, where norns had almost twice as many genes as ettins/grendels and seemed just far more interesting/intelligent in my view, and ever since, I'm guilty of just kind of forgetting that ettins and grendels even exist at all. I've tried to incorporate them into my worlds in the past, but it's a rather conscious effort, and most of the time I just find it simpler to stick to once species.

Monday, November 28, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 2

How would you describe your playing style? Do you have lots of worlds, or a few? Do you have strict wolfling runs or do you individually nurture your creatures, or both? Any particular habits or quirks?

I feel like the best way to describe my playstyle would be 'a little of everything.'

When I first created this blog and was trying to come up with a title, I was hoping to encompass this range of play styles. I do wolfling runs, I have nurturing worlds, I have downright strange scenario worlds. I even dabbled in norn fighting back in the day when The Creatures Match was popular.

I like to try out different styles of play to keep things interesting. A lot of these play styles I write assist scripts for, such as Hera, an all-female world where offspring are created from the genetics of the fittest norns. I think a lot about what would make a world interesting without being tedious, and scripts help a lot both in avoiding the amount of work involved (manually exporting every male and tracking the scores of the fittest females by hand would start to kill my interest after a few generations) and in the suspension of disbelief (SERU is probably my favorite example of this).

I hope to develop more scenario scripts and agents that prompt new and interesting game play in the future!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival: Day 1

How did you get into Creatures in the first place? What game did you start with? What intrigued you about it or was the most fun? Do you have any special or fond memories?

I first heard of Creatures through a mail advertisement that I received. Alongside advertising the latest Petz game, there was one page advertising Creatures. I initially was a little weirded out and thought the norns looked rather strange. I remember my father was playing a lot of Myst at the time, and I think I got a sort of Myst-like vibe from the advertisement. I was very curious, but not exactly excited or felt like the game was worth saving up my meager allowance for.

I was however very much into Petz and when I was allowed internet access I spent a lot of time looking up Petz websites. One thing that was kind of controversial at the time was the idea of petz 'fighting' in which two petz were brought on screen and encouraged to antagonize each other (often by petting one pet until the other got jealous enough to attack). At some point during one of the many community debates about whether or not this was considered "abuse," someone posted a link to Tortured Norns. That was when I finally learned more about that mysterious game on the flyer.

It was actually all the controversy that drew me in. The hate mail page was understandably blocked by the webfilter my parents had installed, but I got the picture that people felt extremely passionate about these little digital lifeforms and I thought, moreso than I had even seen in the Petz community. Kid-me drew the conclusion that if people got this upset over the suffering of these 'norns', then there must be something very realistic, compelling, and endearing about them. I wanted something that emotionally compelling, I realized. So I started saving.

Creatures 2 was about to be released by that time, so I decided that was the better target to save for, since it would of course be better than the first one. (Lord, if only I knew). I saved every penny. It was summer then and I spent a lot of time at the pool scouring around for loose change that people often dropped. At one point I found a $20 bill and thought my saving days were finally over, that soon I would have little norns of my very own, until my mother encouraged me to turn it in to lost and found. It was the right thing to do, but I was a little crushed. I tried other methods, like starting a 'beanie baby camp' in which the neighborhood kids would give me a dollar to 'take care' of their beanbag toys for a week. Somehow, I actually got a few takers, until my mother found out again and made me give the toys (and money) back.

I eventually did save enough through honest means to order the game online, or rather to give to my mother in exchange for equal use of her credit card. The shop online was cheaper than the normal retail price because it had an option to purchase the game without the norndoll. At the time, I cared much more about getting the game as soon as possible than having the doll, but when my box arrived with the empty side compartment, I felt a little sad that I didn't get one. It was actually only a few years ago that I was able to find on on ebay at a reasonable price and finally fill that void.

I saw a bunch of people in the CC naming the first pair of creatures in their world Adam and Eve, so I followed that naming convention. Around 40 minutes into my first vanilla C2 world, Eve collapsed and died. I didn't have any of the tools to help her, and even if I did, I wouldn't have known how to use them.

But I kept trying, and eventually tried out third-party COBs. I found one that activated all the kits, and that was enough for me to keep my norns alive. Through trial and error and a lot of poking around in genetics, I learned what made my norns tick. Even if they weren't smart enough to take care of themselves, with the right chemicals I could take care of them. When I finally took a biology class, I was actually surprised to realize just how much of Creatures was indeed taken directly from real life; it's a little silly, but at the time I didn't realize just how realistic they actually were-- it was just all part of the game to me.

I guess I could go on and on about how my love for creatures progressed, but there are other prompts that cover those stories, and I've probably given you way more information than you ever wanted already! I didn't really intend for this to get so long, but as I was writing, the memories came flooding back to me. I'm interested to see what other bloggers have to say in response to these prompts, too.