Saturday, September 24, 2011

Begin at the Beginning, Again

I haven't been playing Creatures much lately. School has started back up, for one thing, but I've also been reluctant to play because I know that some of the older first generation Norns will probably pass away soon. I know that nature must take its course, as always, but perhaps taking a break from C1 will soften the blow when the inevitable arrives.

Creatures 2 is sort of the black sheep of the franchise. Graphically, it's a definite improvement, although honestly I have to say I prefer the old-timey look of the C1 world to the more sterile machinery that dominates large portions of C2. The C2 world is also much bigger and more varied, with rougher terrain and actua physics. C2 expanded on the concept of lifecycles for non-Creature objects, as introduced in the add-on Beelecanth Flower and Cloud Layer Butterfly for C1. A good portion of the plants and animals in the world grow, reproduce, and die, although many are also stationary to avoid catastrophic extinctions. There are seasons and a day/night cycle, but, unfortunately, the visual changes associated with those cycles are limited due to the technology of the time.

Gameplay-wise, there were also a few improvements. For one, "push" and "eat" are separate verbs. The vocabulary in C2 borders on being too large for my tastes, as I never get around to teaching any individual Creature all the words, but it's much smaller and more intuitive than in C3. Also, there's now a computer to teach Creatures emotion words without resorting to cheats. Creature genomes are more complicated and code for actual organs, which have their own life forces and can suffer damage individually. Also, the digestive system is much more complex and realistic. A Norn's life no longer depends almost solely on its glycogen level.

However, there was one enormous problem with C2 as it was shipped: the Norns were horribly broken. Due to a number of genetic bugs, the Norns would suffer from "One Hour Stupidity Syndrome," which caused them to suddenly become, well, stupid as they aged. By default, they also live shorter lives than in C2 -- about five hours as opposed to nine or ten. Even after an official update became available, most C2 players prefer to use a third-party genome. The two most commonly used genomes are the Canny Norns and the Nova Subterras.

Even with a new genome, C2 is the hardest of the three games. I've never been able to get into it quite like the first game, but it's never too late to try again! I'll be using the 10-Hour Nova Subterra genome by JayD and the Creatures Albian Years version of the game available from C2 is notorious for being the only Creatures game that won't run on Vista or Windows 7 in its original form, but I have been able to run the GOG version under Windows 7 with no problems by switching to 16-bit color before launching the game. By the way, when I run C1, I must run it as an administrator for it to work properly, but if I do that with C2, it just crashes, so make sure you try different combinations of settings when you're trying to get it to work.

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