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.