Saturday, March 24, 2012

Project: Flesheater Grendels

An adult male Flesheater
If you frequent CCaves/Ctopia and pay attention to the Development Board, you may have noticed a thread about these guys. However, beyond "more realistic predatory grendel" I've never really given them an official description. Now that I have this blog, it is as good a place as any to give the laydown on the Flesheater Project.

The Flesheater Grendels are my magnum opus - the most complex and polished breed I ever plan on making. As can be expected, I'm taking my time in making them and constantly testing them after each change I make. It's the most amount of work I've ever put into a genome, and I hope that it pays off.

The Flesheaters are designed as an answer to a particular problem about the normal grendels - as a wolfling run hazard, they're hit or miss. If you use the standard (Jungle) grendel as a hazard, they'll either do nothing or kill all your norns within a short timeframe. It's rare that you'll get grendels that actually serve the purpose as a check to the norn population.

The problem with the normal grendel is in their anger levels and aging process. Standard C3 grendels age really fast - hatch a norn and a C3 grendel at the same time and the grendel will be an adult in a fourth of the time it takes for the norn to get to that lifestage. As well, C3 grendels get angry for the most trivial things (such as running into walls). The end result? An angry, adult C3 grendel can easily end a wolfling run before any of the norns get a chance to breed. Even worse is if one decides to hatch a breeding pair - the C3 grendels will be having babies by the time the norns actually start wandering around.

Banshee grendels aren't much better. While they don't start hunting norns until adulthood, when they hit that age they're every single bit as remorseless as the standard grendel - to end an adult's killing streak, the grendel itself needs to die or all the norns need to die.

If you want an example of what I mean, read this topic about a wolfling run where the Banshee Grendels were given the aging process and breeding speed of the standard C3 grendel. It didn't end well, to say the least.

Another problem is that the standard norn really doesn't stand a chance against a grendel. In a normal world, the hand could just teach the norn to hit the grendel, but in a wolfling run a norn won't know to do that. Better yet, even if they did know that they could hit the thing, it would likely get them nowhere - normal and banshee grendels are relentless when attacking. 

This problem is what the Flesheaters aim to fix. Where a normal grendel's relationship with a norn is akin to that of a serial killer's with his victims, the Flesheaters and norns have a relationship more like that between a lion and a zebra. The Flesheaters will get angry and will kill norns, but they know where to draw the line and won't kill more norns than is explicitly necessary. They also have an altered aging and breeding process to ensure that they don't get the jump on norns if they're hatched at the same time as their prey.

Flesheaters also are being designed so that the normal norn has a chance against them. Their flight-or-flight genes are edited so that a healthy grendel fights back when attacked, but grendels in high amounts of pain will turn tail and run. Basically, a norn merely has to slap a Flesheater enough to get it to run away. If the norns have access to education, they then could pass down their knowledge to the next generation, possibly ensuring the species's survival.

This is more an introduction to the breed than anything else - the breed will get covered in more detail in future posts. So for now, I'm leaving it at that. I do want to know, however - is there anyone who's actually interested in a grendel like this? My past attempts at hosting a public beta test for them ended in dismal failure. While the files I put up are getting downloads, I'm not getting any feedback on them even though I explicitly asked for it. So I'm wondering if there's an actual need for a grendel like these.

For those of you interested in testing the Flesheaters: You can get the genome and a breeding pair for v0.5 (the latest public revision) here. They're a bit outdated, but they're still a good example of what I'm aiming for.