Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thoughts on Favorite Games

A while back, a CCaves member named Harlequinade posted a thread about how they thought Creatures 1 was a better game than Creatures 3 and Docking Station. While I never posted in the thread, I remembered it while browsing and, in need of something to do, decided to address the subject here.

Like I said back in my first post, Creatures 3 and Docking Station are my favorite games in the series. Yes, I do own Creatures 1 and 2, and I do enjoy them. However, C3/DS are the only Creatures games I play on a regular basis - I only play C1 occasionally, and C2 pretty much exists to be torn down for parts now (for all the atmosphere and beauty it has, function outweighs appearance, and C2 does not function well even with updates). With all the other people that say C1/C2 are "superior" to C3/DS, one is probably going to be asking why that is.

Part of it is probably due to nostalgia. While I've had all three games for a very long time (I got Creatures Trilogy for my birthday sometime before fourth grade), Creatures 3 was my first Creatures game. However, there's certainly more to it than that.

I'm one of those people who believes that one's choice of game really depends on their playstyle - that despite the numbering, none of the games are superior to the others. From my observations, most people in the CC are the "nurturing" type of player. They want to get attached to their creatures and want real challenges so that taking care of them is rewarding. This is one of the biggest areas where C3/DS gets bashed - the games are "too easy." Norns can take care of themselves too well, the player can inject unlimited amounts of things with little repercussion (or none in Docking Station), all boiling down to "the game plays itself."

I'm not one of those people. I am a naturalist and a scientist when it comes to Creatures. I'm not one for mollycoddling my creatures - if I have to constantly interfere with a creature's life just because it doesn't grasp the concept that elevators are not edible, more often than not I'm just going to get annoyed. I prefer to customize environments, hatch some creatures, and set them loose to see what they do. So in essence, I actually like the fact that the C3/DS creatures are usually good at taking care of themselves (the occasional bonehead who insists on eating plant when he should be eating seed and Eat Elevator Syndrome aside). It means I have more time to watch them.

Since I like customizing environments, I also appreciate that C3/DS actually have non-creature, fairly realistic ecosystems (however flawed they were in the initial release). In C1, there's no ecosystem. Birds fly around doing essentially nothing but add decor. Same goes for the fish in the oceans. Those carrots in the garden are never going to become extinct unless you add the Albian Carrot Beetle (and even that gets thwarted if you install the Carrot Variation). Nothing in the game by default has a real life cycle. Creatures 2 addressed this somewhat, but it's still ultimately the same deal. The critters are more decor than actual parts of the world. C3/DS throws this out the window more or less entirely (although it does need fixes to completely achieve it). There's a real ecosystem and food web going on - in the Aquatic Terrarium, for example, the clownfish eat the aquamites and are in turn eaten by the rainbow sharklings and man-o-war. So in the event I don't want creatures running around, a "zen garden" containing a fully functioning ecosystem is a real possibility.

Speaking of atmosphere, C3/DS are also bashed for their graphics. Fans of C1/C2 say the ships look artificial and dull compared to the bright, vibrant colors of Albia. I say the spaceships are what give the game their charm. Just as the ancient Shee labs in C2 contributed immensely to that game's atmosphere, the hallways of the Ark contribute to C3's. It's an abandoned spaceship - no matter what the detractors might say, it's just as possible to get lost in there, staring off into the background wondering about the history of the place and how it got into its current state. Go out to the tip of the bridge and stare through the glass, and then tell me a spaceship isn't as good a backdrop as a planet is. While the Capillata isn't as atmospheric as the Ark is, the feel is still there. One can easily start musing over if there's anything lurking in the swamps of the lower Meso.

Finally, C3/DS also appeals to me as a developer. It's relatively easy to develop for C3/DS thanks to how modular it is. Unlike the past games, the default agents have their own files in their own folder rather than being lumped with the rest of the world, and these files can simply be opened with Notepad to see how they work. It's easy to add extra areas to either game without compromising too much, when in C1/C2 one often needed a whole new world. It doesn't hurt that C3/DS also happens to be the most documented of the main trilogy. C1 and C2, as a whole, are much less receptive to developers - to make a COB in C1, one can't just give it a classifier like "2 10 7" (which translates into "simple object, critter, fish") and leave it like that. To even inject it, one needs to figure out to turn that number into something like "102143." To this day, I still haven't figured that out. Nothing so confusing is required for C3/DS development.

I think that about sums up my thoughts on C3/DS. Like I said, though - the choice of game really depends on what sort of person the player is. The people who want cute furry pets that they can adore and have fun raising are probably better off with C1 and C2. Naturalists and developers, like me, will probably have the most fun with C3/DS.