Saturday, December 2, 2023

A New Base Genome: What Do I Want?

Over the course of the past couple days, my test world for 2017 ChiChi Norns has blossomed into an outright feral run. Over the course of it I've been adding food, toys, and other necessities to make sure they have what they need, and it's progressed to the Generation 7-8 mark at the highest. It's actually been a while since I've been this invested in playing Creatures.
After such a ridiculously long time of sticking with the CFEs, I'm upgrading to using the 2017s in my regular gameplay. And it's the 2017s that'll be the starting point for my new genome. 

Now that I know where I'm starting from, the new question is: what am I looking for in a base genome, anyway?

A lot of the things that went into my old CFE-based genome are things that were already part of the CFFs and beyond. So based on that alone, one would think the 2017s are usable right out of the box. Just add some extra pigment and pigment bleed genes and I'm off to the races, right? Alas, it's not quite that simple.

First and foremost, I'm looking for creatures that are good at taking care of themselves. I've noted in the past that CFFs and beyond aren't so great at that. The biggest culprit was a slight edit made to their noun and verb lobes that supposedly made them more curious and interesting to watch and care for. When I tried playing with them, I remember that translating into creatures that had a tendency to forget how to eat. Maybe that's fine with all the players who do like actively caring for their creatures, but not so much for me since I tend to be more hands-off.

How true is that now? Well...I'm a bit mixed. At first, it seems what was really going on was that the norns were more likely to try pushing their food before eventually putting it in their mouths before too long. Not bad; maybe it'd be worth it to see more interesting behaviors. 
But as the run and generations went on, I've also noticed that they're quite likely to starve to death; it's actually pretty rare I've seen them die of old age. That would be interesting, if the cause of death was something like illness, inter-creature violence, or just getting lost and starving despite the creature's best efforts. I also don't think there's anything wrong with creatures going senile in their old age. But when even younger creatures are starving to death surrounded by food...I don't think that's really what I'm looking for. 

So suffice to say that edit's getting reverted back to how it is in vanilla and CFE creatures. I've added some creatures with this change to the run already, and I've definitely noticed that they tend to be better about keeping their needs satiated. Though at the same time, they're also not immune to forgetting how to eat; in fact, out of the six initial Gen 1s, only three made it to old age (compared to four out of six for the unedited 2017 norns). So the jury's still out here; I guess I'll see as I add more norns with the changes to the run in the future. 

The other thing I've noticed about 2017 creatures is their diet. Much ado was made about vanilla and CFE creatures not having a realistic biochemistry (among other things, they had too much adipose tissue and couldn't build muscle tissue), and there's been great efforts in fixing that in the CFF and beyond. One of the big features of 2017 is that their hunger drives are based on their long-term energy stores (glycogen/adipose tissue/muscle tissue) rather than being arbitrary as in vanilla and CFE genomes, which is something I very much want.

However, I've noticed that 2017 norns tend to get hungry for starch and hungry for fat quickly but almost never get hungry for protein. When I looked at an unedited norn with the Biochemistry Kit, I noticed that they seem to have an excess of muscle tissue, effectively trading off one excess energy store for another.
The cause seems to be in part due to how they build up muscle tissue. Since a vital emitter relied on something in the engine that doesn't work quite right (there's a lot of that in C3/DS, which I'm learning suffered just as much from being rushed out the door as C2), they instead rely on the normally-unused chemical Activase generated from stimulus genes tied to movement for the purposes of the emitter gene. Also part of this system is a pair of reaction genes that consume glycogen and adipose tissue when combined with Activase. 

My end goal, ultimately, would be to have a creature whose hunger drives raise in equal measure but not overly dominating. So that's a bit of rebalancing I'm going to have to do. Fortunately for me, the TWBs have a similar method of checking long-term energy storage to determine hunger drives, so that's something I can reference if I get stuck. 

Speaking of the TWBs, I'm planning on porting over some of their non-temperature related changes. In particular, requiring female creatures to have sufficient muscle tissue to become pregnant and consuming it during their pregnancy. It also might be worth it to replace the non-functional neuroemitter in the 2017s with the equivalent TWB emitters. 

I'd also love to copy their new brain lobes and tracts, but...basically everything about the creature brain is eldritch gibberish to me and I have no idea where to even begin to understand it. I've also made it a point to not blindly copy anything I don't understand, lest I wind up breaking something. So I'm not touching the brain beyond the aforementioned noun and verb lobe reversions. 

Beyond that would just be some minor things like making it so gaits and the associated emitters to trigger them can't mutate as a personal thing, re-adding the extra eat instincts that the 2017 genome removed (this'd be a band-aid fix for the problem of 2017 creatures never eating fruit, but I'm going to try and fix that properly), and so on.

I've also had a thought to mess with facial expressions, changing them to what the Osiris Norns use as a callback to the original expressive creature (the Osiris Norns pre-date even Creature Lab's official expressive breeds). I'm still pondering that one, since people in the present day are more used to what the official versions use (incidentally, the 2017s do have a facial expression change in that the same face they make when hungry also happens when they're bored, something I've considered reverting since it makes it harder to tell who's eating and who isn't).

Beyond that? The 2017s feel about right to me. With any luck, figuring out their digestive system shouldn't be too big of a hassle, and everything past that point should be smooth sailing. And then once I'm happy with the norn genome, I'll base my grendel and ettin genomes on it as I did with my initial base genomes. 
Not that I ever made any ettin breeds with the base genome I made that way; it just felt like any idea I had for an ettin breed would work better as a grendel or a norn breed. But that's besides the point.

Until the next one, folks. Hope y'all enjoy CCSF 2023!


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