Creatures

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Fandom
Name(s): Creatures Community
Abbreviation(s): CC
Scope/Focus: Video games, modding
Date(s): 1996-
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Creatures is a game series in which the player looks after "Norns," artificially intelligent pets that are able to grow and learn. The fandom is called the Creatures Community, or CC.

History

Steve Grand pitched a "little computer ewoks game," and wanted a game where the creatures felt "genuinely alive." Creatures was the result, and the first game came out in 1996, developed by Millennium and distributed by Mindscape. Creatures went on to win an EMMA award and was a massive success.
Creatures Box.jpg

Sony Entertainment bought Millennium in 1998 while Creatures 2 was in development, and those who continued to develop the Creatures series created the company Cyberlife Technology. Steve Grand left the company and the remaining Creatures developers then went by Creature Labs. Creatures Labs released Creatures 2 (1998), Creatures 3 (1999), Creatures Adventures (1999) and Creatures Playground (2000). The final game in 2001, Docking Station, could be downloaded from their website.

Creatures was stagnant after this, as Creatures Labs disbanded in 2003. Gameware Development, Ltd bought the rights to the series. The games were re-released in packs in 2004. In 2011, Fishing Cactus began developing Creatures 4, which was later re-named Creatures Online. It appeared to be a more mobile-friendly game and could possibly have included micro-transactions. In 2015 development of Creatures Online stopped. Spil Games then bought the rights to the series in 2016, and began developing Creatures Family to be released in 2017. The game did not come out, and as of 2020 has had no official announcement of when it could be released, mirroring the poor communication and development of Creatures Online.[1][2]

A full timeline can be found on the Creatures wiki.

An advertisement for Creatures could be found in one of the copies of a Petz game. Buying a Newspaper in Northern England could land one a copy of the game. Some libraries had copies of the games.[3] There were advertisements for Creatures 1 on The Discovery Channel.[4] The offical website for Creatures had advertisements for fan forums and websites.[5]

Gameplay

Creatures 1, 2, 3, and Docking Station are all side-scrolling pet games, somewhat similar to Petz. Players are given eggs or a living set of "Norns" to begin with. Some Norns are adults and are there to help the new player produce new eggs. Otherwise, users much hatch their given eggs in an incubator. Norns are then raised from infant to adult. There are some other species in the game that can be raised as well, but they do not often play will with the Norns and are best separated.

Artificial Intelligence and Genetics

Creatures was one of the first video games to make use of alife (artificial life) as a mechanic. This not only attempted to replicate the brain, but the biological and chemical responses of the body as well. Each Norn (and other species) contains a complex artificial brain and functioning body, including organs and specific chemicals that cause different responses. They have neurons that activate under certain circumstances (such as seeing an object), and have simulated biological drives.[1]

Each creature also contains their own virtual genome of parts, colors, patterns, and behaviors. These genes are passed down to offspring. Mutations can occur just like in nature. Norns can also be born with defects in the genome. For example, a Norn can be born blind. Personality can be based on their genes, however how one raises their creatures will also affect the child as it grows. A Norn punished frequently may grow up to hit other Norns and cause trouble, while a Norn given a lot of attention who is taught manners and how to speak may grow to be well adjusted.

Modding

From the very beginning, Steve Grand intended for mods to be a welcomed and encouraged part of the games.
Mod Injector
Creatures 1 came with its own "injector," a button that allowed mods to be easily added. Later on, Cyberlife even sold a "Genetics Kit," which was a very detailed Caos code editing program that allowed players to modify individual lines of genetic code. This was later made free, though finding a copy for Creatures 1 modernly is difficult and most easily obtained with the Wayback Machine.

The practice of modding Creatures is called "developing," "cobbling," "agenteering," and "gengineering" by the fandom.[6] Modding in Creatures is an important part of the community, and a member of the CC named Slink was even hired by Cyberlife due to her modding skills (see more about Slink under controversies). There is a Discord channel specifically for Creatures modding, called the "Caos Coding Cave."

There are plenty of tutorials and players who are willing to help someone learn how to mod the games. There is even an official modding guide for Creatures 1.

Fandom

Due to the success of the Creatures games it comes as no surprise that a prolific fandom developed. Forums and websites were always the main method of communication in the fandom, with some chatrooms existing. Discord chats exist modernly[7]. Fan communities arose online as early as 1997, one year after the release of Creatures 1, as in the Creatures Usenet newsgroup "alt.games.creatures's" case. Some sub-groups formed in this newsgroup, such as The NORN Collective and the Rights for Norns Society. Millennium Creatures began in 1999 and died out in 2001. Fans could download COBs (objects), Norns, and skins there. Another 1999 site was HomeCreatures, where interviews Creature Labs and Cyberlife had been held. Unfortunetly this site was never archived on the Wayback Machine and is lost to time. Creatures Caves was created in 2000, and was originally hosted on Angelfire before being moved to Geocities. It currently has its own domain and continues to be alive with the community, albeit with noticeable lag.[8]

A known player in the Creatures Community, SteerPike, unfortunately passed away on Jan 15, 2000. He ran the website SteerPike's Curiosity Shoppe and then later SteerPike's Albian Fun House and Pandemonium Shadow Show. A digital memorial was erected on his website to honor him as a person as well as his contributions to the Creatures Community. Many members of the community sent their respects on the guestbook praising his life.

Outside of websites and forums, there are a small number of Tumblr pages dedicated to Creatures, such as "Creatures-of-Albia."

Every year since 2004 the Creatures Community has held the "Creatures Community Spirit Festival," (abbreviated CCSF) an event where members come together to celebrate the games. They make mods, they share Norns and art, competitions are held, and sometimes even write Creatures poetry. The 2017 CCSF was even more lively than the original 2004 CCSF. [9] A lovely list of all the happenings of the festival in 2005 can be found here.

Docking Station once had online functionality. Norns could wander into other player's worlds. However, the servers have been long since shut down. As of 2013 there has been a community project called "Albian Warp" to bring these servers back online. It was started on Creatures Caves by a user named Ham5ter. An alpha version was meant to release in 2014 but this never happened. The project was on the back burner for a while before being rebooted in 2015, along with a new coding system using Python and Flask. The first public beta came out in 2018, making this community project relatively successful.[10]

Between May 2009 and November 2013 a Creatures stream called "Live Nornish Action" was available for viewing. There was a hiatus a few months after its initial 2009 stream due to the player's computer having died. However, the stream was back up in 2011. Users could send their Norns to interact with the players Norns and watch in real time. The stream closed for good in 2013 after the Docking Station servers were taken offline.[11]

At least two published books make reference to, or are about, the Creatures series and its community. These include "Human Cognition and Social Agent Technology" from 2000 by Kerstin Dautenhahn (see Chapter 13) and "Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life" by Sarah Kember (see chapter 4).

Interviews

The creator of the website The Creatures Mainframe shared in a 2004 interview that The Discovery Channel reported on not just Creatures 1, but some fan sites as well. This was probably one way that Creatures fans came to discover the thriving online community during the '90s.[4] They go on to lament the way many Creatures fan sites had shut down over the years, and about how Creatures Caves was one of the last standing. Another 2004 interview with a Creature's mod development team referenced the Creatures Community having had "problems" in the past, a sentiment that seems to be shared by modern community members as well.[12][13]

In 1997 Wired interviewed four members of the early Creatures Community. The interviewer, Mark Frauenfelder, asked the group a number of related questions about the nature of their fandom. The group described how losing your first Norns can be a sad experience, how Rob Sedgebeer (creator of The Creatures Exchange) made the first Grendel/Norn hybrid (when Cyberlife said it was impossible), and some funny stories about Norn behavior. Even in 1997 breeders were quite active and a large chunk of the community. One of the most sought after characteristics when breeding Norns was a high lobe count in their neural network, among other things such as color. Some specific Norn breeds and mutations given were the "Highlander" and "Sweet" breed, which were just about immortal. Another was a breed that was completely paralyzed, eventually resulting in starvation.[14]

Controversies

Slink

During the development of Creatures 2 in 1997, Cyberlife hired on a member named Slink from the Creatures Community in the Alt.Games.Creatures newsgroup. She was to aid on designing the new genome. However, two weeks before her contract was to end she quit and did not finish the work for Cyberlife. She had disagreements with the way the company was changing the genome. As a result, Cyberlife did not pay her the full amount (they stated this was for a breach of contract, but paid her later) and the 252 genome that arrived with Creatures 2 has several issues. Creatures could become infertile, they would be too stupid to eat, and their walk-up-hill and walk-down-hill genes were swapped. Slink, though no longer working for Cyberlife, released fixes, ironically just one day before Cyberlife released their official fix. This debacle caused Cyberlife to rescind from using the fandom made Alt.GamesCreatures newsgroup, and they subsequently stopped advertising it on their official websites.[15] This strained the relationship between the online Creatures Community and the creators of the games. Slink eventually left the CC and moved onto the Sims.

AntiNorn

Another controversy in the fandom was about a user in the community called AntiNorn. This was a user who would torture Norns then release them for other users to adopt. While he said that this was to help people learn how to rehabilitate abused animals, his website's tag line was "dedicated to those who love to torture their norns."[16] AntiNorn was shunned from the CC and received hate mail for his actions. A petition (which received 60 signatures) was started to remove his website from a Creatures Community webring, but it was not fruitful. The original creator of Creatures, Steve Grand, actually commented on AntiNorn and his Norn torturing website. Steve Grand was "pleased" that the situation forced players to consider if "torturing" his artificial life forms was really torture or not, however was displeased that players were more adamant about the feelings of the Norns than the user AntiNorm himself.[17] AntiNorn, in an interview, said that he found torturing his virtual creatures fun and essentially started the website for a laugh. He found the state of the community to be too happy, and when he received hate mail was not actually bothered by it. Despite seemingly having a lot of fun both torturing Norns and bothering the community, as well as stating he had expected the reaction, he simultaneously found their reaction to be "vindictive."[16] His actions and his reactions suggest he may have been one of the communities first trolls.

The Evil Council

The Evil Council (EC) is loosely a "controversy" in that while the EC may have sometimes been an annoyance to the CC at large, they are little more than just that; an annoyance. They are not actively malicious otherwise. The Evil Council is a sub community within the Creatures Community that still exists. They currently hide in an unknown forum and one can still ask to join their ranks. They have a system of leadership, which involves voting and laws with punishment. Their goal is to spread insanity and chaos within the community completely through roleplay, and over the years have devised many plans of varying degree. Some of these plans were more annoying than others. For example, their plot to "destroy all the trees at Creatures Grove" was tedious, but their plot to "kill Santa" was more humorous.[18] A member from Creatures Caves named SpaceShipRat describes The Evil Council as preforming "harmless pranks."[13]

WikiNorn

WikiNorn (also goes by GreenReaper) has been a member of the Creatures Community since 2000 and has made a number of mods. [19] His Twitter description is "Fuzzy critter, likes cheese & carrots" in reference to Creatures, and his icon and banner are a green Norn.[20]

WikiNorn is the creator of the popular furry wiki Wikifur, as well as a slightly lesser known furry art website called InkBunny. WikiNorn, in addition to running Wikifur and Inkbunny, was also a co-founder of the Creatures Wiki itself. As of January 31, 2020, WikiNorn has publicly made it known that he is in defense of explicit art of minors on InkBunny. When questioned about his website's CP on Twitter, WikiNorn said "We just don't care what you're into," and believes that as long as minors can't actually see the CP then no err has been made. As of Jun 2020 he has deleted the Tweets, leaving his comments only available through archiving.[21]

This 2020 controversy is not the first time WikiNorn has made waves for his conservative opinions. In 2013 WikiNorn came out as having transphobic ideals when he spoke against using peoples' preferred pronouns. WikiNorn's belief is that pronouns refer to genitals and not gender, thus if he uses someone's preferred pronouns he sees it as "dishonesty," which obviously has caused much grief from the communities he resides in. [22]

Terminology

  • COBs - Creature objects. Objects in the game that creatures interact with from C1 and C2.
  • Agent - An object that creatures interact with from C3 and Docking Station.
  • Inject - The word for inserting a COB or Agent into the game.
  • Free Breed - When players allow Norns to breed freely without selection.
  • Wolfling Run - A play through in which players do not interact at all with their creatures.
  • Feral Run - A play through where players interact a little at the beginning, let the creatures go for a bit, then interact occasionally.
  • Grenorn - A mix between a Norn and a Grendel.
  • Nettin - A mix between a Norn and a Ettin.
  • Wallbonk - When a creature repeatedly runs into a wall.

More terms can be found here.

Fan Works

Art

Video

Written

Community

Archives

Meta

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatures_(video_game_series) (Accessed 1/18/2020)
  2. https://creatures.wiki/Creatures_Family (Accessed 1/18/2020)
  3. https://creaturescaves.com/forum.php?view=1&thread=6953&page=1 Circa 3/2018 (Accessed 1/18/2020)
  4. 4.0 4.1 https://web.archive.org/web/20100602121030/http://albia2000.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=11 Circa 2004(Accessed 1/19/2020)
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20041101044926/http://www.albia2000.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=22 Circa 2004 (Accessed 1/19/2020
  6. https://creatures.wiki/Modding_in_the_Creatures_series (Accessed 1/23/2020)
  7. https://creaturescaves.com/forum.php?view=1&thread=6895 1/1/18 (Accessed 1/23/2020)
  8. https://creatures.fandom.com/wiki/Creatures_Caves (Accessed 1/18/2020)
  9. https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2018/01/12/creatures-fans-mods-artificial-life/ Jan 12, 2018 (Accessed 1/20/2020)
  10. https://creatures.wiki/Albian_Warp (Accessed 1/23/2020)
  11. https://creatures.wiki/Live_Nornish_Action (Accessed 1/23/2020)
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20041101103543/http://www.albia2000.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=24 Circa 2004 (Accessed 1/19/2020)
  13. 13.0 13.1 https://creaturescaves.com/forum.php?view=1&thread=7291 Circa 1/18/2020 (Accessed 1/19/2020
  14. http://web.archive.org/web/20011129065439/http://www.wired.com/news/topstories/0,1287,5037,00.html 1997 (Accessed 1/21/2020)
  15. https://creatures.wiki/Creatures_2_(genome) (Accessed 1/20/2020)
  16. 16.0 16.1 http://web.archive.org/web/20011121150053/http://www.wired.com/news/topstories/0,1287,13293,00.html 1998 (Accessed 1/21/2020)
  17. https://creatures.fandom.com/wiki/AntiNorn (Accessed 1/21/2020)
  18. https://creatures.fandom.com/wiki/The_Evil_Council (Accessed 1/23/2020)
  19. https://creatures.wiki/GreenReaper (Accessed 2/1/2020)
  20. https://twitter.com/WikiNorn?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor (Accessed 1/31/2020)
  21. Inkbunny Controversy, Archived, Wayback Machine, Twitter. Jan 21, 2020 (Accessed 6/6/2020)
  22. https://en.wikifur.com/wiki/GreenReaper (Accessed 2/1/2020)