Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A New Base Genome: The Starting Point

As I continue to play and rediscover what I liked about Creatures in the first place, I'm finding I'm already drifting back towards the developer mindset. I've been bouncing in and out of the Genetics Kit and the CAOs Tool, figuring out how things work and how to change them to make them work better. Turns out I do remember a little more than I was expecting, enough to change a few .cos files to better suit my preferences (in particular: I've changed the keyboard shortcut for pausing to Ctrl + P because my current laptop lacks a Pause/Break key).

So it's really not surprising that I'm already considering making a new base genome. As I've said in the past, the one I used to use has been getting pretty bloated and more importantly it's also not that compatible with other genomes. I distinctly remember sending in some grendels to a community wolfling run only to have most of the offspring turn out to be sliders.

My original plan was to start from scratch with a fresh CFE genome. Then figure out everything that outright doesn't work with it and fix it, all the while aiming for maximum crossbreeding compatibility and compatibility with the game as a whole.

So I started looking through old posts to track down everything that's been noted...and wound up coming to the conclusion that I'm trying to reinvent the wheel.

I guess increased compatibility isn't a bad goal to shoot for. But ultimately, there's genomes already out there that fix all the worst nonsense. Why should I put myself through a lot of tedious testing and balancing to fix things that have already been fixed? Is my ego really so big that only reinventing the wheel will prove my genius?

...Yes. Yes, it is. But I'm trying to be better than that. More importantly, I think I'm looking at it the wrong way. The genomes that exist now weren't created completely from scratch; they were built on what came before them. I'd just be doing the same with whatever I created based on them. Standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were.

So with all this in mind, I continued my research and saw what each of these brought to the table.

Like I said in my last post, I'm not going with the TWB/TCB genomes. They seem just a touch too finicky for my liking; I like to be a hands-off player, and all the temperature-related stuff feels counterproductive to that goal (even if only in a psychological sense).

But while I don't like the temperature-related stuff, everything else about the TWBs/TCBs actually sounds really cool. To the point that the temperature-related stuff is basically the only reason I haven't really checked them out.

There doesn't seem to be a genome that includes all the other changes without the temperature stuff, but there is a genome that comes pretty close to everything I'd want: the 2017 genomes. I've mentioned them briefly before when talking about making a new base genome in the past, but I don't think I've ever actually properly tried them out and see how they work on their own. It's time I rectified that.

So now I have a world for some 2017 ChiChi Norns, observing their behavior and seeing what I like and don't like about it. My actual conclusions will be for another post, but I will say that so far I'm liking what I'm seeing.

Until the next one, folks.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Let's Try This Again

After...what, a year?...I found myself looking at Creatures stuff and decided I wanted to try playing the Steam version of C3/DS again. I'm starting from scratch again with the game almost as it is (so far the one big edit I've done is adding the Activate 1/2 split from Vermidia's Agent Pack Big and Tiny slightly edited to be compatible with the Grendel Upgrade, and the only third party stuff I've added are the CFE breeds and Advanced Muco). 

My advice to anyone else using the Steam version: Do not outright replace files in that version. If you need to validate the files for any reason, Steam will replace your replacements with the original versions and undo all your hard work, making you have to remember everything you changed and do it all over again, potentially making you forget what it was you changed in the first place, completely kill your motivation for playing the game, and decide to stop playing completely. 

To make sure that doesn't happen again, I'm instead opting to make use of the Patches folder in the Steam version's bootstrap for .cos file edits. Sure, editing old third party .cos files so they're compatible with that change is going to be a little tedious, but the futureproofing's worth it. 

Now that I have a gameplan, the next trick is figuring out all the changes I actually want. I've already decided I'm not using the TWB/TCB breeds for the most part. They're an absolute marvel of genetic engineering, for sure, but they're really not compatible with the game as it is and also with all the mods (especially metarooms) created before them that don't account for them. I'm sticking with the CFE instead; they're more compatible with all that stuff while still being a massive improvement over the vanilla genomes. 

 So that just leaves fixing stuff that's outright broken in the vanilla games. The Steam version patches a ton of stuff just out of the metaphorical box, which as far as I can tell the Community Patch Guides on the Creatures Wiki don't account for. So figuring out what those do and don't fix is going to be a bit of a pain (it doesn't help that those .cos files crash the CAOs Tool; fortunately I can open them up in Notepad+ instead, but that's yet another inconvenience to deal with).

Which, beyond just allowing creatures of the same sex and creatures of different species to have friendly interactions with each other (seriously, C1 and C2 got that right...well, mostly right, C1 still had the thing where grendels always hit even if they try to be friendly, but still. It's something C3/DS should've had out of the box), is...uh. Um. I'm...not actually sure. Fixing the ecology? Giving a bunch of things navigable CA that should've had them to begin with (though I'm kind of reluctant to do that seeing as most patches for them just feel a little clunky to me. Might just be neurodivergency-induced stubbornness, though)?

Well, I do think I should add a Water Eggs patch. And a fix for the death script in DS so you don't need to scroll the camera over dead bodies to make them vanish (vital for me, who's normally a pretty hands-off player). And also change the Birth/Death/Near Death music in DS to the C3 music, because the DS versions suck. 

After I figure that stuff out, the next trick is to grab all the agents, breeds, rooms, etc. I want. And there's been a lot of them released since I last stopped playing frequently (special shoutout to the Angler Grendels, who are straight out of younger me's dreams). 

And after that...? It may be high time I got back into developing stuff. Maybe. While my motivation lasts. But those plans are for another post. 

How long will this Creatures kick last?...I don't know. Knowing me, I give it a week at most. But in a way, it does feel like coming home.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Revival of an Old Idea

As far as my getting back into Creatures goes: I wound up falling out of it again, mostly because as it turns out validating the Steam version of C3/DS not only fixes bugs (which I did to get the Genetics Kit working again) but also changes any file replacements back to their original versions. Which includes the changes to the .cos files I made and to 99% of .cos files made by the community. After that I uninstalled it and have yet to try again. 

But every now and again I think about picking it up again. Not only that, but I think about making something for it again. I figure that it'd be nice to bring a proper closure to my Creatures development journey with something spectacular. I've thought about reviving my old Flesheater Grendel project (grendels that can properly serve as population control without completely wiping out the norn population as regular grendels are wont to do), or a big pack of four genetic breeds (two grendel, one norn, and one ettin).

But ultimately, I think the best candidate would be an outright full breed: the Kraken, one of my oldest ideas. 

After all this time their Creatures Wiki page is still there, mostly the same as I wrote it back when I was a dumb teenager who didn't consider that creating a whole new page for an idea probably wasn't the best decision. Back then I wanted them to be geats who ate other creatures.

Now? Well, it seems like people have mostly figured out what causes the Wasteland Glitch, but there's still enough other problems with geats that I don't think I'd like to stick with that. And the idea of them eating other creatures is also not a great idea as I've long since learned how prone creatures are to cannibalism if you give them that ability (especially if you're using a genome that has better learning capability like the CFE). 

So as the page also mentions, present-day me would want to make them grendels, who genetically would likely just be pretty standard aquatic grendels of the kind I've made dozens upon dozens of before (if more aggressive than what I usually liked to do). I do think it'd be interesting to give them traits reminiscent of actual cephalopod behavior to set them apart from other such breeds.

It's their appearance I've put the most thought into. Over the years I've come to appreciate more simple designs, and I've also been putting a lot more thought into speculative evolution. So rather than going with the description I initially came up with, I figured something more evocative of a cephalopod that evolved into the shape of a grendel, with four of the arms moving further on down the body to become the arms and legs. The remaining arms would remain around their face, and the tail instead would have fins reminiscent of squid. 

If you're familiar with Splatoon, imagine a grendel version of an Inkling and you probably won't be too far off. Just instead of tentacle hair it's a tentacle beard (for both genders, I might add; I'm not sure what I'd do to make the genders visually distinct, but it'd definitely be something more naturalistic).

However, I've also had another thought. It just so happens that everyone's favorite C Monster Borland has a body plan that's much like a grendel's already, and converting Borland wholesale to C3/DS might be a bit of a pain due to how wonky his sprites are. The idea of just making outright Borland Grendels sounds really fun, but combining Borland with the ideas I already talked about is another option, both bringing the Kraken's design more in line with the mythological beast they're named after and to reference the greater Creatures mythos. 

Everything else on their page? Still something I'd want to include with them. I just love the idea of the Kraken bringing their own ecosystem along with them, be that in the form of a metaroom or just an agent pack. And that toy ship still sounds cute. 

But...have I made any progress towards getting past the roadblock that kept me from making them long ago? That being, the graphics? Well...no. I have picked up some skill in photo manipulation courtesy of learning to edit RPG Maker's default resources, but I don't think I'm at the level where I could make all the frames necessary for a breed that way. Far from it, in fact. And my other visual art skills are still horribly lacking and my brain still woefully unsuited for the process of learning. 

There has been an exciting development for breed development in the form of GeneForge, which to my understanding eliminates a lot of the tedium of making breeds and brings them in line with the official breeds to boot. However...that still requires a 3D model which I can't provide. So ultimately, I'd still need someone to handle that part while I handle the genetics and coding.

And also I'd have to overcome a f-argh-ton of inertia from not playing the games for so long and having to remember all the basics. And I'd also want to make a suitable base genome for the breed before anything else, which would take a while. 

So...is there hope for the Kraken to finally become reality after all this time? Definitely not right now. But maybe someday. Maybe even sooner rather than later?

If nothing else, I can at least do a concept sketch. My art skills may be unsuited to for the breed proper, but I think I can do that much.

In any event, I needed somewhere to dump my thoughts, and my blog was as good a place as any. For now, back to silence I go.

Friday, January 21, 2022

It Lives...?

Well yes, but actually no. Maybe? 

Truth be told, I wasn't expecting to ever come back. I just wasn't getting a whole lot of fulfilment out of the community at the time, at least compared to the other communities I was a part of. Then my life suddenly took a nosedive for reasons I'd rather not get into publicly, and I found myself in search of a new internet home. 

I started getting back into science-y things as part of that, which in turn made me long for a good life simulation game. And a couple decades later, there's still no better game for that than Creatures. But I wasn't sure if I was really in the mood to reinstall the game considering my current computer has no CD/DVD drive, which is inconvenient to say the least, and...well, it's still really quiet around here. 

But what really brought me back was the discovery that the Creatures series is now on Steam. Not only that, but the Steam version is much more convenient to use than the GoG version and is in the hands of people who are willing to update it (well, as much as they can at least). 

I hope this can bring in some much-needed fresh blood into the community. It's not quite as huge as a new game, but it's great for the series all the same. So now I have the Steam version of C3/DS, and am in the process of figuring out what patches, breeds, agents, etc. are generally recommended nowadays and figure out which of those are things I want. 

As of this post it seems the community in general is as quiet as when I initially left, but maybe that's just because the hotspots are in places I haven't thought to look? There's definitely still stuff going on, but it doesn't seem like Creatures Caves is that active anymore. 

Don't expect me to get back into active development anytime soon. I still plan on fiddling around with genetics if only to make my personal gameplay more interesting for me, but as of right now I don't have any plans to make any new full-blown addons. At most I might update an older release. After all, it's been a long while since I've actually played the games. 

If I decide I have something interesting enough to post about on here I'll post it, but otherwise this blog's probably going to continue to remain silent. 

One last thing to note is that I've changed my global username a second time and now I go by Risen Angel or Rise Engel if the former happens to be taken on any particular website. I just figured it was time for a change and I think this name suits me.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The End

Let's get straight to the point: I'm leaving the Creatures Community. 

I'm not going to repeat my reasons why. I've been over those time and time and time again. I'd prefer to go out with something a little more dignified than a burst of negativity. 

What I'd most like to do is go out with a massive bang. A whole new slew of releases; genetic breeds, agents, maybe even a metaroom. Despite all that negativity, the Creatures series and the community around it's been one of the biggest parts of my life, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated it. Alas, I can't do this either. 

As such, my final gift to the community is instead a change to my terms of use (which is funny, considering my last post here was about just those). Do whatever the heck you want with my work. Share it, rehost it, edit it, preserve it for future Creatures players to enjoy. 

There's a lot of people that I've enjoyed talking to and working with over the years, to the point where I honestly can't remember them all off the top of my head. However, there are two people in particular I'd like to give a special thanks to:

Mea, for helping so much with the artwork that I'm lacking in. Without her, a lot of my crazy ideas would have never come to life. I only wish I could have given more back to her; I do feel like I asked a lot of her without offering much back in return. 

Ylukyun, for hosting the server that has all the downloads here on it for so long, and without asking any compensation from me in return. As with Mea I can't help but feel a little guilty that I couldn't offer much in return but gratitude. 

For everyone else, I wish you the best of luck in keeping the spirit of these old games alive. Who knows? Maybe someday one of these attempts at a new game or a spiritual successor will actually come to fruition, and you'll be the reason why that person had enough determination to see it through.

Well, I think this goodbye's gone on long enough. Farewell, folks.