Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tutorial: Shifting Appearance Genes

A while back I considered making my own set of genetics tutorials covering things that more newbie-friendly tutorials wouldn't touch on. Since my blog has been really inactive lately, I've decided to actually make just such a tutorial.

Before I begin, I should note that I'm assuming people reading this have some idea of how to make basic genetic edits. For those who have no idea how to do that but want to learn, then I suggest giving this resource at Creatures Caves a look (everything under the "Genetics" header should be of use, but feel free to look at everything if your dream is to make a full breed).

Now, onto the meat of the tutorial. This one covers a subject that many people who have just started out, myself included when I was just a newbie, have tried but found didn't work: making a creature whose appearance changes as it ages.

As anyone who has tried in the past probably knows, it's not quite as simple as making multiple appearance genes, setting them to different lifestages, and then calling it a day. If you hatch such a creature, whatever appearance it had at birth will be how it looks for its entire life, pigment and pigment bleed genes notwithstanding.

However, it is possible to make creatures whose appearance changes depending on their lifestage. Just take a look at Mummy's Chameleon Norns or West Wind's Gremlins. But if simply adding appearance genes for future lifestages doesn't work, then how did they do it?

As it turns out, you just don't just need appearance genes for each lifestage. You'll also need to create multiples of another gene type to get it to work: the genus gene, or in other words the gene that determines the species of a creature and is needed for a genome to work at all. The grand majority of creatures only have one genus gene, and for good reason: they don't need more than one. In fact, if you try to create more than one in the Genetics Kit it tells you this:

So how do you create more than one, if you can't do it in the Genetics Kit? Simple. You use a different genetics editor. I don't have much experience with third-party genetics editors, but I do use a few of them. And one of them is especially relevant for this tutorial: GeneLab.

GeneLab unfortunately lacks a "new gene" option, but it does have something else: a copy-paste option, something I'd absolutely love to have in the official Genetics Kit. It is this option that you'll need to create the multiple genus genes that are required for appearance-changing creatures. 

And here's how you do that: 
  1. Open up GeneLab, wherever you have it placed. I have mine in my Program Files folder, though it might be different for you. 
  2. Open up the genetics file you wish to edit. I'm just using my base ChiChi Norn genome for this.
  3. You'll be greeted with this:
  4. Right click on the "Genus" gene up at the top and select "Copy."
  5. Select the gene immediately below it and select "Paste."
  6. The gene you copied will appear above the gene you selected in the previous step.
  7. Creating multiple genus genes is as simple as that! If you want your creature to change appearance just once, then you're done here. However, if you want your creature to change appearances at multiple lifestages, you'll need a genus gene for each lifestage (e.g. if you want your creature to change appearance at adolescence, adulthood, and old, you'll need three extra genus genes, one for each lifestage) and therefore you'll need to repeat the above steps. 
  8. The next step is to edit each of those extra genus genes so that they switch on at the desired lifestages. If you wish you can save your edits here and switch back to your preferred genetics editor for the following steps (I'll be switching back to the Genetics Kit, for instance), although you can just as easily keep on editing in GeneLab if you think it suits you. Do be careful not to overwrite your previous genome if it's not the one you want to add the extra genus genes to; GeneLab has a normal "Save" option in addition to the "Save As" option. 
  9. If you switched to a different editor, open up your extra genus gene. If you're still using GeneLab, then you should have another window that has the Header information in it. Change the Lifestage from "Embryo/Birth" to your desired age (I'll be switching it to "Youth" here).

The information below the header (in GeneLab there's a separate window labeled "Gene Details" can be edited; if you so wish you can change the species. However, unfortunately it is impossible for a creature to change species over the course of its life; whatever species the Birth genus gene specifies will be that creature's species for its entire life. Also, make sure that at least one genus gene turns on at "Birth/Embryo," nasty things happen if a creature is born without a genus.
10. Now all you have to do is create the extra appearance genes for each lifestage you have a genus gene set to. You can change the breed to whatever you want so long as you know the other breed's breed slot - I'll be turning my ChiChi Norn into a Bengal Norn for the purposes of this tutorial.
You can create just one extra appearance gene if you just want the head to change or something, though for this tutorial I'll be making an entire set of them so the creature's appearance changes completely upon becoming a youth. 
11. If using the genetics kit, move each appearance gene so it's with the other appearance genes of its type (for example, make sure the head genes are grouped together). For GeneLab you'll need to copy-paste the appearance genes due to the lack of a "New Gene" option, and you can do that in the same way you did the genus genes earlier. Making sure the appearance genes are grouped together is optional as the breed will still change appearance regardless of where the extra genes are; doing so just makes sure crossbreeds with normal creatures a little more interesting. 
12. And you're done! You can now export your creature into the game and watch it change breeds when it hits different lifestages. For the Genetics Kit you can just use the "Export" option; for GeneLab and other genetics editors you'll need to save your genome and get it into the game some other way (for example, by using DevThing or JayD's Egg Maker).
13. If you did everything right, your creature should change into a different breed upon hitting the lifestages you set the extra genus genes for.

It's a fun little feature to add to a breed; you can have norns that transform into grendels or ettins once they get old enough, or creatures that change breed every lifestage, or creatures that slowly transform into another breed as they age. Plus it shows a little bit about how the game works (namely, that appearance genes and the genus gene are related somehow), which is always interesting. 

A few things to note about this, however: If you have a creature switch between two breeds with wildly different body data, for instance if you have a norn who turns into a grendel, the body data from the initial appearance takes precedence and makes the second appearance look a little strange. Between this, the fact that extra genus genes are required at all for this to work, and the fact that the official Genetics Kit won't let one create the extra genus genes, I'm fairly certain this is a bug and something that was never intended. 

That about does it for this tutorial. I'll probably be posting more in the future as I think of them, so keep your eyes open. Until the next one, folks.

Silence...And an Eventual Return?

It seems like every passing year I post here less and less. Compare my posts during the first year of my blog's existence, and then look at the posts for the following years. Heck, I haven't made a proper post since September (well, excluding that Creatchi rant that I deleted some time ago; it turns out I was worrying about nothing after all and I felt it was a little a too harsh in light of that). The Featured Freak's been ongoing, but beyond that it's just been really quiet here. 

It's mostly because I've just been in a rut lately. Besides the fact that other things have been more interesting (Xenoblade Chronicles especially; I've been playing that game practically nonstop for a couple weeks now), my attempts for developing just haven't been going well. Every attempt at making a genetic breed has just been devolving into a GoM ripoff, for instance. 

Thinking about it now, developing probably is taking a lot out of me. While I doubt I'll ever stop tinkering with genetics or CAOs, the full blown projects take quite a bit of work (especially with my new standards) and oftentimes I wind up with something I'm not happy with. 

The alternative is simply to just play the game, and I've been doing just that. However, setting up a world is still a massive pain thanks to my finicky habits; it seems like every world that I don't end up deleting is just focused on the Meso and nowhere else. 

So what is my plan now? Option 1 is simply to play a different game other than C3/DS; I still have my C1 grendel world and after looking back on the first four updates I posted about it I think continuing it after leaving it alone for so long might be good. I may or may not post updates about it should I start it up again, however; like I mentioned back when I started it I really don't like having to pause the world and take pictures for a post, even if I do like the final result. 

The second option is to focus my development efforts on something less extensive. One thing I've been considering making is a spritemix; that is, creatures who do not have unique sprites or a unique genome, but instead simply opt for an interesting appearance (usually through a combination of colors and a mixture of sprites from various different breeds, hence the term "sprite-mix"). It's been something I've been wanting to try making for a while. 

In addition, I've also been considering just making packs of colored creatures, which while not very original does provide a good amount of variety for other people's worlds. If nothing else, it'd give people some CFE versions of otherwise non-CFE breeds to play with. 

Whatever the case, I should probably try to post here more often. 

To end things off, most are probably aware that the CCSF 2014 is back in action after technical difficulties killed it for a while. I'm not expecting a whole lot out of it since it took a while to get planned, but what's been released so far has been pretty nifty even if it isn't huge. That being said, you can expect at least one big release; against all the odds I managed to get out a metaroom - a complete metaroom at that, not an empty place like the initial Deep Abyss or Aquanornia Revamped were. I'm rather proud of it too, so I hope you'll enjoy it whenever it gets released. Not to mention my version of the Spam Norns was released on Day 1. I'll be posting my CCSF stuff here once the festival's over, as I did with last year's and the year before that. 

Secondly, depending on how things go I might actually be able to get out a bonus release before the festival's over; I am working on a breed now and so far it's coming along swimmingly (if for no other reason than that one big thing that kept bothering me for past projects, the idea to keep the breed as close to the official breeds as possible, is a non-issue since among other things it makes heavy use of an unknownase chemical). Failing that the next Featured Freak should be up soon. 

As a matter of fact, I was going to post a tutorial about something, but I decided to post this status update instead since the introduction was getting a bit like that. That should hopefully be up soon; I just need to take some pictures first. 

Until the next one, folks.