Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dear Metaroom Developers....

Please stop making walls like this. Your baby creatures will thank you, and personally I'll be much happier.

Grendel Man

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hiatus IV

As so happens when a new college semester starts up, I've completely lost interest in doing anything related to Creatures.

I don't have any major projects going on right now (apart from an easily-finished metaroom and maybe updating the Metallophagus Pack with bugfixes), so nothing much of value is getting lost there. However, "anything related to Creatures" includes Survivor. This is unfortunate since Mahk Mako got a little too friendly with the remaining contestants, and as a result my lack of activity has kinda left that plot thread hanging.

Mea and C1anddsaddict, if you're reading this, go ahead and assume Mahk buggered off and has gone back to his usual "watch and record" style of reporting. I'm not certain I'll get my drive back before the game ends - if I don't, then I probably won't update the column again until the time comes to bid it farewell.

For the same reasons as above, I apologize for the slight delay in getting the next Freak of the Week uploaded. I had to move back in to college Sunday, and as a result it kinda slipped my mind. Which means Mea's Borgetta unfortunately lost a day for her feature here. But she's up now, so anyone who got interested by her Survivor antics can download her and see how she acts in-game. To make up for that, Borgetta might get two weeks as Freak, since I'm not certain if I'm completely willing to make a new Freak for next week.

And that's the update.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

So I can Make Videos now....

If you've been on CCaves lately, you might have noticed one of my latest bibbles was this video:
If you've been on CC Chat lately, you would know that this video is actually my own creation. It's nothing too special - just a simple recording test. However, this does open the way for other videos (previews of upcoming agents, promotional trailers for some already released stuff, a little something I had planned for a while).

That said, I'm still a bit of a n00b to video editing (the fact that I really don't have access to a proper video editing program bites a bit...I did have Sony Vegas on my old computer, but unfortunately I wasn't able to re-access the download for it from my new computer without buying it again). As such, I'm not going to be very active in the video-making department for a while.

As a final note to anyone who wants to immediately subscribe to my Youtube channel, here are two things you should know:
1. It's not a channel dedicated entirely to Creatures - it's a general video gaming channel, and in fact the video above was the first Creatures-related video I uploaded.
2. I haven't updated this channel in years, and am probably going to make a completely new channel for Creatures videos when/if I get the hang of video making. If I do anything else with my current channel (not likely), it'll probably be a continuation of what I was originally doing with it (that is, uploading my favorite video game music, making video game music-related countdowns, and doing playthroughs of my favorite games).

So yeah. I'm interested in doing videos, but for now they're going to be a rare occasion. 

Edit: You know that remark I made about not having access to a proper video editing program? Scratch that remark - I just found my Vegas install on my jump drive, and I've successfully managed to reinstall Sony Vegas onto my current computer. Learning how to properly use it is going to be a bit of a pain, but you might be seeing videos from me quicker than what I initially said.

Monday, January 14, 2013

These Parts of the CC Need Activity

After a wonderful bout of activity courtesy of Survivor and a couple of wolfling runs, the CC has hit yet another period of silence. If I had to take a guess, this is mostly due to the winter holiday period ending and people returning to their usual work/school/what-have-you schedules. It's a boring silence, as silences tend to be, but I don't think there's much that can be done about it apart from waiting.

That said, there are parts of the CC that have been silent a long while before this current one, and so I decided to blog about these parts and see if I can help snag them the activity that they really need.

First order of business: the Creatures Wiki. We all know about it - it's probably the prime hub of knowledge as far as the community is concerned. However, it's in need of a little help - no one's been actively keeping it up-to-date for a while (most likely due to the fact that there was talk of a move that never went anywhere). So, the place needs curators. I'm planning on doing my part soon, starting with the pages for my own stuff, but there's no way I'm going to be able to update the whole wiki myself. For anyone else who's interested, here's what I think we need:
  • Cleaning up the older pages. There are some dead projects that had a wild history and therefore deserve pages, but there are other projects that have but a few lines dedicated to them on their pages. I think the latter should have their pages axed and their contents moved to the "Development Ideas" page. This category also includes going through the older pages and updating them with things like new versions, spelling and grammar corrections, rewriting the pages so that they're more informative and seem less like advertisements (a lot of pages seem to have this problem...), etc. 
  • Adding new pages for the things that don't have them. This includes a lot of my own work (which I'll get to adding myself at some point), but I can think of other things that deserve to have a page, but don't have one.
That's pretty much all I can think of; perhaps other people can think of a longer checklist?

Second thing: The Creatures Repository. It has 2000+ creatures, but recently it's been suffering from a lack of uploads. The only person who's been actively uploading creatures in recent history is Ylukyun. No doubt the recently improved CCaves Download section is giving it some competition, but that doesn't mean that the place has to be shafted. It's just as viable an adoption center as any place, and submitting a few creatures is easy.

The final place that I can think of that could use some activity is the Garden Box forums. The Garden Box is quite possibly one of the greatest agents ever made, but there has been an extreme lack of drive to get anything made for it, and all in all it hasn't been making the splash that it should have been (the fact that it didn't get a spot on Ghosthande's C3/DS Must-Haves isn't helping matters). It's not so much that there's a lack of people using it; there's a lack of people making agents that work with it (even Amai hasn't been doing anything with it as of late). We either need more developers making stuff for it, or increased awareness of it so that the developers can get the motivation they need to make stuff for it.

All three of these websites can be found in the Links section, but I'll also link to them here:
Creatures Wiki
The Creature Repository
Garden Box Forums

Let's give these websites some more love; they certainly need it!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Metaroom Review: Oasis

Along with the Freak of the Week, I've decided to attempt some sort of regular posting schedule again. Rather than the "post-a-day" that I originally started out with, I'm going to try to make a post at least once a week (hiatuses aside). To start off, I think it's about time I gave the Oasis, created by Moe and Liam, a bit more fair review than my original rant. 

When one first injects the Oasis, one thing stands out: the place is absolutely gorgeous. All of the objects in the room are nicely animated (though the shrimpton sometimes swim backwards), and the crystal-clear water is a nice change from all the blue-tinted aquatic metarooms. The place isn't just easy on the eyes, though - it's easy on the ears, too. The sounds of the waves and bubbles underwater are quite relaxing (though you won't get to hear the latter much if your screen is as large as mine is).

There's quite a few things about the room that add to its overall atmosphere, and one of them are these waves that wash against the shore occasionally. I think they alter the CAs of the room slightly, but otherwise they don't really do much other than look pretty. They're a very nice touch, however - I don't think there's another metaroom that handles splashing waves in this manner.

Oasis comes with a few toys, and while you wouldn't want to keep creatures in here (for reasons I'll get to shortly), they're nevertheless fun for the hand to play around with.
My favorite of the toys is this little submarine. When you click on it, it whirls around and then swims in a random direction. If you time your clicks right, you can keep the submarine swimming for quite a while....

...To the point where you can make it start flying. The thing lacks a room check in its push script, and as a result it behaves the same whether its underwater or not.

The behavior of the dead sharks is quite possibly my favorite of the little touches this place has, for only how well-coded it is. Instead of sinking to the bottom, the sharks float on the surface after they die.

But when it comes time for them to rot, they sink and fade out at the same time. It's quite awesome to watch.

The Oasis has a lot to offer the hand - it's pretty; it's peaceful and atmospheric; and there's a lot of fun little touches to observe. What does it have to offer creatures? Absolutely nothing. For how pretty the place is, it can hardly be considered creature-friendly. The room's history is mostly to blame for this. Moe never actually intended to release the metaroom, and it was never intended to be a creature home. It was a testbed, first and foremost - and it shows.

First off, none of the critters can be interacted with in any way, shape, or form. They have a timer script, and that is all. As a result, trying to feed a creature with these won't get you very far, and you'll just confuse the heck out of the creature.

There's also a whole lot of questionable classification choices. Everything that swims in this metaroom (apart from the toy submarine) is classified as a critter, when the sharks would be better off as beasts and the shrimpton better off as bugs. Perhaps the most questionable, however, would be the anemones. Going off things like the opal sponges from C3, you'd expect them to be classified as plant. Instead, Moe opted for biological accuracy and made them critters. Granted, this isn't the big deal I've been making it out to be everytime I've brought the anemones up (they're the same ones that are included in the Biodome Agent Pack), but I still find it a bit odd given their behavior.

While the above mentioned things are a problem, for me they can be easily fixed. The critters aren't edible? Make them an eat script and change their behavior. Sharks are critters? Change them to beasts. It'd be a simple enough task for me to fix all that, and so it's really not that big a deal. The next thing, however, almost sinks the metaroom for me:

This wall. Oh my god, this wall. This is the one thing that keeps the place from being completely creature-friendly after the native lifeforms have had a bunch of scripts added. With a wall that steep, baby creatures will happily run up it and get themselves stuck, unable to get down unless they're able to swim (and the current release of the swimming agent has problems all its own). The only real way to fix this and still make it look reasonable is by taking the image for the background and editing it, but for me and my lack of artistic ability that's all but impossible. As a result, the place is completely unsuitable for non-swimming aquatic creatures, and that really, really bothers me.

All that said, the Oasis actually isn't a complete waste of space as far as creature care is concerned. The underwater area may be unsuitable for creatures, but the land area is perfectly navigable (the only real problem is the tide pool, which might cause a few deaths if you're trying to keep non-amphibious creatures there).

You might fail miserably if you try keeping aquatic creatures in here, but with some outside agents the Oasis becomes a wonderful place for your land-dwelling creatures to enjoy the beach.

Summary: On the whole, the Oasis is a very nice metaroom. It's extremely beautiful, very atmospheric and peaceful, and has a lot of unique features and embellishments. On the other hand, despite what the CCSF ad for it might say, it is not a "perfect place for creatures of all ages to enjoy the water." The critters cannot be interacted with at all, and baby creatures can easily get themselves stuck. Land-dwelling creatures will enjoy the beach though, provided you bring in some outside agents and make sure they don't drown in the tidal pool.

Final score: 7/10

Now, time for a status update: I finally managed to create a working swimming agent that fixes one of the biggest issues with the originals: creatures can finally retreat from each other (and other objects) while swimming. Even better, this new agent can be injected and removed like any other agent since it doesn't mess with the creature navigation scripts like the old ones did. Swimming creatures still have problems interacting with agents while inside their vehicle, but I'm not certain how much can be done about that.
I'm hoping to get this new agent out soon, but that depends on how long it takes to polish it - I could get it out within the next week or so, over the summer, or for the CCSF 2013. Either way, progress has been made, and I'm very pleased with what I have so far.