Creatures Community Chat

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mapping the Norn genome: Header, Half-lives, poses, apperaance & pigments

Welcome budding mad scientists to your first Norn genetics lesson. Rest assured you have a long way to go before you can be considered genetics experts, and vastly longer still before you can be considered mad. Sadly some of you will never achieve this title, preferring the safety of sanity.

My trusted assistant Tiggy...what's that Tiggy? No, you're the assistant. No I don't care that you brought your monocle! Ahem...

My trusted colleague Tiggy and I will be walking you through your first few lessons this morning. Please keep in mind all illusions of morality should be checked in at the door, along with your coats. Mad monocles will be permitted entry.

Hopefully all of you brought your essential tools today, as you're going to need them. If not, shame on you. But lucky for you extra tools have been provided for this lesson only! In future please remember to bring your copy of Creatures 1, Genetics Kit, DDNA-Analyzer, BORG addon and Test Subject.

A more detailed description of these tools can be found in your beginners pamphlet. If you haven't already gone over this, consider it your first homework assignment.

Today we will be covering the basics of the Genetics Kit, as well as taking a look at some beginner genes. We will finish with a video lesson on pigment genes, where you will be permitted to create your first genetic mutant. Won't that be fun!

If you haven't already, you'll want to unzip your '' file and install the 'genetics_kit.exe'.

Extract the 'genetics_kit.exe' from the zip and double click on the extracted file. You should get this screen.

Click 'Setup' and follow the on screen instructions.

Once installed, find the 'Genetics Kit.exe' file. The default installation location is "C:\Program Files\Genetics Kit". It might be useful for you to create a shortcut on your desktop for easier access.
Double click the icon to open up the program. You should be greeted by this screen.

Fantastic! You've just taken your first step towards becoming a mad scientist. In the same way that watching The Simpson's is your first step towards becoming a nuclear physicist. Not to worry, we'll make crazies out of you yet!

Let's start with the basics. Click the 'Load Genome' button. It's smack bang in the middle of the screen, towards the bottom. This will open up a new window, allowing you to select a .gen file to load into the Kit. Going to 'File - Load Genome' or hitting 'Ctrl + O' on your keyboard will do the same thing.

With a bit of luck the program will automatically try to open on your Genetics folder. If not you'll need to navigate to it. Assuming you have the Good Old Games version installed, the default folder can be found at:
I had one of these just last week. No, really!

C:\Program Files\\Creatures Albian Years\Creatures 1\Genetics

Here you will find all the original hatchery genomes for your Norns. As you can see there are mum files and dad files. When you hatch a new Norn in C1 the game chooses the corresponding genome files and 'breeds' the two genomes together, creating a unique Norn each time. This is why you will sometimes get a generation 1 Norn with a strange mutation.

However, we don't want to mess with these files. If you accidentally screw up one of these files your hatchery Norns might be born with two heads!*

*Your experience may differ.

Let's leave these files for now. Instead, jump to your custom Creatures folder, usually located in your 'My documents':

C:\Users\YOUR COMPUTER\Documents\Creatures\Creatures 1\Genetics

If you're like me and have been playing Creatures 1 for a long time your Genetics folder may look a bit like this:

If however you're new to this mad scientist thing, don't be alarmed if this folder has nothing in it.

Please place the tests subject's .gen file (0CAP.gen) in here for future reference. Using the Genetics Kit, open this file.

Odds are you'll get a little warning message. Keep your monocles on! This is normal. Well...sort of normal...Damn it Tiggy I said keep your monocle on!

The error message should read:

1 genetic error(s) were corrected automatically

This error message comes up when the genome has a specific mutation in it that may break the game. Not to worry, the father of Norn genetics, Steve Grand and his crew foresaw this issue and built a fail safe into the game. Serious mutations like this are automatically corrected to prevent the game crashing.

Click 'OK', the problem will resolve itself and the file will load. See Tiggy, nothing to worry about.

WARNING: Messing with genes has the potential to make creatures that are unviable. Sometimes these creatures can crash the game. If you intend to do any extensive experimentation, it is recommended you export your creatures before continuing. Don't worry too much though. We'll try and give you the heads up on any potential problems.

Gene Editor Tab

There's quite a bit to cover in the Genetics Kit, but for now let's dive straight in. Click on the 'Gene Editor' tab at the top and it will take you to this page.

This is every gene in a female Forest Norn. Aaaallll 333 of them. Notice that the first gene starts at '000'. This is a programming thing whereby numbering systems always start at 0, rather than 1. This is because when computers were created, the number 0 hadn't been invented yet. Or because programmers can't count, I forget.

Like a lot of programs with a lot of lists, you can click on the list heading and rearrange the gene order based upon that heading. It's okay, this only changes the way we visualise the gene, it doesn't alter the actual gene, so feel free to give it a go.

Try clicking the 'Switch On' heading. This will rearrange the genes so the Adolescence genes are first, followed by Adult, Child, Embryo, Old, Senior and Youth.

Can anyone guess why these are aren't listed in the order of youngest to oldest? There's a gold star in it for you!

For now, click the '#' heading, bringing the list back in order of gene numbers.

Header Gene

After that, double click on gene '000'. This will open up a new window.

This is the 'Header' gene, and it's a very special gene. Firstly, it's the only gene that cannot be deleted. Seriously, feel free to give it a try. It'll throw an error saying you can't delete it. It may also destroy all the tea in china, although that's pretty unlikely...probably.

Secondly, this gene defines what species your creature will be. Will it be a Norn, Grendel, Ettin or Shee? This option will tell the game which creatures can breed with which, as well as assigning which voice files to use.

Although only Norns and Grendels were available in Creatures 1, it's interesting to see both Ettins and Shee are available.
WARNING: The game does not seem to like changing this option to 'Ettin' or 'Shee'. I believe there are ways around this, however it crashes my game. Experiment with these at your own risk.
Selecting the 'Species of Creature' dropdown will allow you to change the species of your creature. Aside from that, this gene doesn't really allow you to do anything else. Although it does tell you what the mother and father's genome is if you want to track down lineage.

Click 'Cancel' or 'Close'. 'Cancel' will erase any chances you've made, while 'Close' will keep them.

Half-Life Gene

Next, double click on the '001' gene. These are the Half-lives. As you can see in the 'Description' column, these are the decay rates at birth, referring to every single chemical inside your creature.

As you can see this screen is quite different from the last. Each type of gene has a different window with different options. Again, the Half-life gene is unique to your creature.

Try clicking on the 'Pain' option in the menu. The bar and number down the bottom should change. The number should read '56'. You can use the scroll bar next to it to change how quickly this chemical decays in your Norn.

The values go up and down in increments of 8. Again, this is a programming thing that has to do with bits, bytes and nibbles.

These values are exponential, meaning a value of 16 will take 1 second to decay, whereas a value of 8 will take .4 of a second to decay. Notice that although the value of 8 is half of 16, the amount of time is less than half. A value of 248 will take 52 years to decay. That's in real time!

A table of all the decay rates can be found here, towards the bottom of the page.

Gait Gene

Let's close this window and open up gene '002'. This is a gait gene.

All together there are 8 gait genes, each expressing how a creature walks under certain conditions, such as tired, in pain or angry. This first gait gene is the normal walk cycle for your creature (Notice it's actually called 'nornal'. Oh those wacky scientists).

When creating animation you link several still images together to fool the eye into believe there is actually movement.

Using the drop down menus you can select which still image corresponds with which walk cycle. For example you could change the third menu to 'Crouch/Lay egg' and your creature would take 2 steps, squat down, then get up and take another step before repeating.

Interestingly none of the gait genes can be mutated naturally. They have to be manually altered. This will stop creatures from developing strange limps in future generations. I believe these genes are allowed to mutate in Creatures 3.

Pose Gene

Let's close this window and open up gene '003'.

This here is a pose gene, which defines what image to display when your creature performs a specific action. Very similar to the gait genes, however these are just single images rather than a collection.

The 'Pose Informaton' menu lists all the available poses, and boy there are a lot of them. Apparently around half the genes in a Norn genome are dedicated to appearance of some sort.
The 'Pose string' is gibberish to the naked eye, but most likely this string links in with an image file in your Creatures folder.

Altering these genes will be pretty difficult as the Pose string is rather unintelligible. Through a combination of trial and error, as well as comparing all the pose genes, you could certainly learn how to manipulate these genes though.

Appearance Gene

Let's jump down the genome a little now and take a look at gene '008'.

This gene is a little vain. It's all about appearances. The appearance genes link the body area (head, legs, arm, body and tail) to the corresponding breed images. These are the genes that define whether your creature is a Banana, Horse, Pixie Norn or any other breed you may have installed.

These genes are also linked with gene 000. Do you remember which gene that is? It's the header gene, which defines what species your creature is. Setting gene 000 to Grendel will get you very different appearance results than setting it to Norn.
WARNING: One option in the 'Body Area' menu is 'Tail + Create'. Originally I believe the game meant to make tails a separate body part from the torso. It appears this is no longer the case and adding a new gene with 'Tail + Create' crashes the game.
Should your creature happen to mutate and duplicate one of these genes, don't worry. It appears the game selects the gene with the lower 'Parts ID' to display and ignores the other.

In a similar fashion, don't stress too much if one of these genes is deleted during a mutation. The game automatically sets the offending gene's 'Parts ID' to the default '0/Only' option. This does however mean that your future generations may no longer be able to mutate body parts, giving your population a stagnant appearance.

Pigment Gene

And finally we get down to the final gene we'll discuss today, gene 016. This is a pigment gene and although I know it has something to do with a colour tint, I'm not entirely sure how all the pigment genes work together.

This gene relates to how much blue pigment (or tint) is applied to the creature.  But the question is, does this tint the whole creature, or just one body part?

All together there are 12 pigment genes: 3 blue pigment genes, 3 red pigment genes, 3 green pigment genes, 1 redness at birth gene, 1 blueness at birth gene and 1 greenness at birth gene.

Considering there are 4 body parts (head, body, arms and legs) it makes sense that these 12 genes relate to each body part, but honestly I'm not sure.

So...let's find out shall we?

Well that was pretty cool ha? Let's quickly recap what we've learned.

The pigment genes all turn on at the embryo stage, so we're not going to have creatures suddenly start changing colours as they get older (That said, you could try making a pigment gene that turns on at the Youth stage to get around this).
Each pigment gene corresponds to the whole body of the creature, not just a single body piece.
The pigments all combine together to create the final colour of the creature.
The colours are additive to the base colour of the creatures sprites.
The colours are fairly muted compared to Creature 3 Norns.

A final point about pigment genes is that they're not bunched together like many other similar types of genes. Why is this?

Well, when a Norn couple really, really love each other...Oh alright, we're all mature here. When Norns breed and mix their DDNA there are many crossover points. For example, the first 10 genes might belong to mummy, then the next 10 belong to daddy. The next 15 to mummy, the next 15 to daddy.

Now if the pigment genes were all located together it makes it more likely a new baby will inherit most of the colouration from one parent, rather than both. Spreading the pigment genes apart makes it more likely that creatures will mutate a wider variety of colours. Clever no?

Well that's all for this lesson. Feel free to post any questions you might have. If they're small I'll post a reply. If they require a larger answer maybe they'll make it into the next video.

Speaking of which, next lesson I want to cover Gene Headers and the other tabs in the Genetics Kit.
Not sure what the video lesson will be yet.

Until then, keep your monocles clean!

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