Saturday, December 3, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival 7: Community

I just realized that this is my 50th blog post! It doesn't change today's post any, it's just a neat milestone. Today's prompt was basically why do like the Creatures series and why do you keep coming back. It was also the hardest prompt to answer. My poor notepad file has three mostly complete drafts, and yet I'm writing a another one. I tried talking about how I'm still in the community because it's to creative and welcoming for me to want to leave forever, but then I remember that I have wanted to leave before. I tried talking about how I'm still playing mostly out of habit, and, while that's partly true, it isn't the whole reason I continue to play the games. To actually answer the prompt, I still play because because there isn't another game like this and the community is amazingly creative.

Creatures is a unique series and fills a niche in the virtual pet genre I didn't even know I wanted until I discovered the series. Despite it's age, it's still fun and surprisingly educational. It's taught me the basics of programing, how to organize projects and fight off procrastination, and it's helped keep my writing skills sharp. Add a wonderful community to that, with creativity only bound by time and motivation, and you get people like me hooked on a 20 year old series. It's the community that has brought out the potential in most of the games through addons and inspired people to take a second look at their norns through fan fiction and art. I can't help but keep coming back, I might miss something amazing if I don't!

It also doesn't hurt that I haven't had to change computers in almost four years. My machine is still running Windows 7 and still runs all of the games nicely. So technical problems aren't really a factor for me right now. That's going to change eventually, especially considering my hard drive is old and heavily used. I'll also eventually upgrade to Windows 10, even though I still hate it. And I can't say I'll be all that motivated to play the games if it means dealing with frequent technical issues or whatever it throws at me. Then again, old habits are hard to break, and playing Creatures off and on has been a habit for years now.

These guys are from CCSF 2012.
And I couldn't leave this post without salvaging one thing from my old drafts: my history with the CCSF. I honestly can't separate my personal history with the Creatures series from my experiences with the CCSF, both the older ones and the ones from the past few years. A part of the reason I'm still here, and even in the community at all, is because of the CCSF. One of the first Creatures websites I found was the old CCSF 2008 site, and I found the idea of a festival for an ancient game to be absurd and amusing. I thought it would be the last year,  but they kept happening. So I kept coming back. It was like a beacon from the community to the rest of the world saying that there was still some life left and new things being made.

By 2012, I wanted to be a part of it and so I submitted some creatures. I did the same for 2013 and almost did the same for 2014. That year, though, it looked like it wasn't going to happen. So I stepped in and coordinated it. It was stressful and Creatures Caves died right in the middle of it, but I'm glad I coordinated it. Hosting it helped me realize what an amazing community I had stumbled into. It's not perfect, we don't always get along and it's not the thriving community is used to be, but there's something just something about the combination of weird niche game and tiny, creative community that keeps me coming back.

Friday, December 2, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival 6: Mythology

Today's prompt is about the mythology and backstory of Creatures. I'm the worst person to ask this since I haven't really thought about the backstory in any real detail. It's been over a year since I've read the backstory for C1/C2 and even longer for C3/DS. I remember liking both of them, I just don't remember that much of it. The two bits of lore that have stuck with me over the years are: the Shee left Albia/C1 with only 6 eggs to continue the species and the Shee were master space ship builders and were prone to abandoning spaceships. These two bits of (possibly incorrect) lore have informed my own version of the creatures universe, and the few bits of fan fiction I've written for the Creatures games.

Like many players, I used to occasionally write down what happened in world as a story. Over time this evolved into a fan version of what a Shee society would be like. In my fannon, the Shee had found their fabled 3D world, and were so unimpressed about it that most Shee left for other planets. So there were quite a few Shee, but most were scattered around the galaxy. The Lone Shee's warp was still a thing, but most of the ships weren't compatible with it yet. Communication between them was possible within a certain distance, but they could go quite a few years without bumping into another of their species. Even still written letters and packages of strange new tea were a favorite thing for Shee to send to each other. Who delivered the mail though? It was often a species of immortal norn and, rarely, a grendel. These mailnorns and mailgrendels were smart enough to pilot simple mail ships, and deliver mail.

This has nothing to do with the actual post.
Ships filled with genetic experiments and frozen specimens were common and abandoned ones were also somewhat common. (This was partly inspired by the Seru agent.) So it was fairly common to see a few Shee and their assistants exploring old, abandoned ships to salvage something from them. One of these explorers is Balmora and she was an assistant to a Shee version of myself. From what I remember, my Shee was the owner of the Mobula Ray, and Balmora was her assistant. She could pilot the ship without the Shee and knew quite a bit about ship engineering and maintenance. She was also prone to forgetting things and ruining experiments, so the Shee eventually fired her.

Balmora became a freelance assistant while the Shee went on to do other things. I didn't do much with the Shee character, but Balmora's whole freelance assistant thing has stuck around. I've even thought of starting a more story-based world again, though that idea is quickly killed. I have enough projects on my list of Creatures list already.

A side effect of the many, many abandoned ships is that the Grendels of Minimordor, or GoMs, were able to breed and take over small sections of the galaxy. The GoM queens were smart enough to be able to direct their hoards of males to salvage parts and repair broken down ships. They could also pilot ships, and raid Shee ships for norns to eat and eggs to enslave. They tried to leave the Shee ships intact and didn't hurt the Shee if they didn't fight back. After all, they were dependant on the Shee for food.

Inspired by my own Cattle norns I also eventually added Shee that tried to appease the smarter GoM queens with immortal norns for slaves and fast breeding norns for food. This worked out well for the GoMs, they got a stable supply of food and cheap labor, while the Shee were left alone. Until those smart GoM queens had female children and the GoMs took over more sectors of space. The GoMs weren't invincible though, space could still kill them and most of the queens weren't immortal. So they couldn't take over the galaxy, just make it a miserable place for some Shee.

This is long enough and I don't have many questions about the mythology or backstory. So I'll talk about my favorite bit of C1 lore instead. I've always been facinated with the idea of a limited population, like the Shee only leaving 6 eggs behind. In C1, it made you extremely careful with those precious few eggs... until you realized how to get more anyway. I've tried doing a similar thing in C3/DS where I limited myself to 6-10 SERU eggs. The run ended horribly when all but two females died and I had to import a few gen 1 males. I've considered trying it again or trying it in a different game, but, like the story-based worlds, the idea is killed before it goes to far... Anyway, I'm really curious to read the other post's for todays prompt. This isn't a subject I've thought about in any real detail for years now, and I'm interested in others weird versions of how the Creatures universe could work.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

CCSF Blog Carnival 5: Modding talk


Today's prompt is to talk about what sort of things you make for Creatures, how do you make those things, what you want to make in the future, and, if you don't make things, what would you like to make. I do create content, and I usually create things I'd like to see. If they turn out well, and aren't horribly buggy, I eventually release them. I've only been developing for a year, so I pretty much create whatever I can code and find sprites for. So far the things I create are either solely for the hand, or objects creatures and the hand can interact with. Objects that creatures can interact with but the hand can't are a minor pet peeve of mine, so I try and avoid that when I can. On a random tangent, the flowers and grass you've seen in some of the screenshots are a good example of a buggy things I don't feel are worthy of release yet. They work, there's just a problem I haven't bothered to fix yet.

Some agents end up going nowhere for months.
I'm going to read "what do you use to make things" as "how do you make things." Otherwise my answer is short and pretty boring. I use gimp to tweak existing sprites, the caos tool for the coding, and Jagent for everything else. Anyway, how I make things isn't very revolutionary. I start off with a problem I want to fix or an idea for an agent and figure out what I need to do to make it. If I know I can make the sprites myself or have someone making them for me, I then start planning out the code for the agent. I usually start with a description of what it does down to as much detail as I can manage. If there are any parts I know will be tricky, I even write out some pseudocode like "If creature has a Bengal face, target it and make it dance. Else do nothing."

I also prefer breaking the agent into chunks that can be worked on and tested individually, if I can. I've found that quiets the inner procrastinator a bit. Otherwise I tend to get interested in Facebook or literally anything else. From there I work on it, often testing as I go. These tests usually involve me creating buttons to test caos commands I've never used or specific chunks of code. (And, honestly, I've created more buttons then I have actual agents.) After it's done, I usually sit on the agents for months and release them when something like the CCSF or a holiday comes along. So most of my agents sit around as loose .cos and image files until the last minute. Also I use Caos2Pray to make the agent files because writing pray files is the worst.

As for future projects, the biggest one is to finish the Stinger Norns. I've been working on them, on and off (mostly off) for a good year and a half. I finally have a stable base genome for them and it's just a matter of working on the different variations of them. I also have two ideas for genomes after the Stingers are done, a swimming ettin breed and something I've been calling Interactive Norns. The Ettins are the farthest along, and I even started working on a genome for them a few months ago. The Interactive Norns, meanwhile, are still being planned out and I'll probably make a thread about them on one of the forums when I'm ready to start on them. They're meant to be a genome geared towards nurturing players and, if these past days of blog posts have taught me anything, I'm definitely not the most nurturing. So other's input on that is going to be more valuable then my own.

As for agents, I've hit another lull in ideas. The ones I have are either nearly complete, or . One thing I have been working on is a simpler version of the Hoverdoc, and it'll probably be release next year. It's simply a little circle that floats near a norn and tells you it's highest drive and whither or not it's currently sick. I've been documenting how I created it and what sort of problems I've run into. I'd like to turn that into a blog post or two eventually. I'm always interesting in how things were made, and hopefully others are as well. I also have an idea for a potted plant, but I'd like to finish the simpler Hoverdoc and a few other things before starting it. Plus I still need to find suitable sprites for it.