Not CreaVures: Creatures IV

By Alec Meer on May 27th, 2011 at 5:01 pm.

Is Nightmare Creatures coming back too?

Ah, how I remember artificial life sim Creatures. How I remember being enthusiastically told THIS IS LIFE only to discover something sickeningly cute that I was too lazy and impatient to successfully poke any emergent behaviours from. After a few decades spent lost in endless spin-offs (some of which still dustily lurk on the lower shelves of my local budget supermarket, somehow), the series is due for a full-on reboot. Creatures IV gets a new team, a new publisher and a new-but-old approach.

It’s going to be free to play, which I guess will entail the optional purchase of additional traits, toys and habitats for your genetically modified pseudo-beings. Never heard of Creatures before? Allow this vintage trailer to explain:

CD-RRRRRRRROM DRIVE.

I didn’t play enough of any Creatures game to offer a real judgement, but I can remember having the theoretical capabilities of the Norns being explained to me, desperaretely wanting the game as a result, then being pretty dramatically underwhelmed when I finally laid hands on it. Again though: I was a lazy and impatient child, and it’s quite possible I simply searched for ways to torment the little bastards instead of nurturing them to bigger, better things.

Here’s some PR blurb about the new game:

“None of the behavior you see has been specifically programmed. The Creatures make their own choices, and learn from their mistakes. You guide them through their lives, helping them through the bad patches and enjoying the good times. When they become adults, your Creatures can mate, and their children have their own unique genetic material.

The possibilities are boundless. Everything from their poses to the individual chemical reactions inside their bloodstream are genetically specified. Who knows? A tenth generation creature could possibly be considerably more intelligent than those you start with.”

It also claims that “the approach will be to maintain the characteristics and integrity of the earlier games.” Original creators Millennium Interactive (with UK scientist Steve Grand its lead) do not appear to be involved in any way, with duties passing instead to a Belgian lot called Fishing Cactus. Rights, however, are held by a UK group called Gameware Development – who also own the James Pond IP. Oh no. Oh God no. We don’t need that.

Creatures IV (not to be confused with indie puzzler CreaVures) launches later this year. No screens, footage, website or murderous rogue AIs have been released as yet.

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41 Comments »

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  1. konrad_ha says:

    Unfortuntely, the original game’s design wasn’t as intelligent as the creatures. But I still have high hopes for the basic concept.

  2. Archonsod says:

    Enjoyed the originals, hopefully this will be just as entertaining.

  3. cliffski says:

    steve grand recently raised donations to fund doing another a-life game. Should be worth a look. He is a bit of a genius, methinks.

    • dadioflex says:

      Yeah but those android videos were kinda creepy…

      Steve Grand will deliver something interesting, scientific and probably flawed. Creatures IV will be Nintendogs.

    • Premium User Badge

      James G says:

      Yeah, my eye is more on Grand than this (I donated to the kickstarter), while I’m sure this will end up being the shinier version, my money is literally on Grand to achieve the interesting messy biology simulation.

      But the first Creatures games are very much the games wot made me. While a career in the sciences was always inevitable, Creatures was responsible for sparking my interest in genetics. It took me to an undergraduate degree, and then to A PhD. I went from modifying the genes of norns, to modifying the genes of E.coli and S.pombe. I’ve now left the lab, and am looking at moving into journal publishing, but the games still stick with me and influence the way I understand biological systems.

    • Wulf says:

      Definitely interested in what Grand is doing. I backed his project, too, for as much as I could afford.

  4. BurningPet says:

    While at it, check out steve grand blog, he recently set up a pretty profitable kick start for a new 3d Ai project called grandroids.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1508284443/grandroids-real-artificial-life-on-your-pc

    Theres no doubt grand’s game will have superior a AI, but will he be able to create a platform for it all by himself that will also be fun to mess around with? time will tell.

  5. NumberNine says:

    I spent an afwul lot of time on the original, achieving absolutely nothing, but it was still great.

    Definitely a Day 1 buy. I hope they’ll make it a First Person Shooter.

  6. Unaco says:

    Oh Dear. Am I going to end up hurling computer hardware and peripherals through my window in frustration at stupid f*cking Norns again? Probably not, as I’m an older and wiser man these days, and gone are the fires of my youth. But still, if the starving Norn won’t eat the delicious cheese sat half a metre to it’s right, I might have to find something interesting to inject it with.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Coccyx says:

    Creatures! CREATURES! I remember it fondly.

  8. Justoffscreen says:

    I loved the game and concept itself so much, but the just looked so damn *creepy.* Don’t look straight at the screen you creepy thing! ARG!

  9. Premium User Badge

    Skystrider says:

    Steve Grand is working on his own project tentatively called “Grandroids”. Most of it is kept under wraps, except for us who supported his project on Kickstarter. It’s looking really interesting as well.

    Edit:
    Ninja’d. Oh well.

  10. pakoito says:

    I expect tamagotchi + petz and absolutely no theoretical self-taught artificial intelligence stuff behind the game.

  11. Dave Mongoose says:

    I played the original and the first sequel, but my main gripe with the games was that the core gameplay of training your creature was so frustrating.

    Much like in Black and White, there was no real feedback on what you were actually punishing or rewarding your creature for or whether they had actually learned anything.

    With a complex AI I suppose it’s hard to express those things to the player, but I think it really needs some more transparency to the system so you actually feel like you’re achieving something.

    My creatures always ended up sick, depressed and thinking their name was ‘carrot’…

    • Salt says:

      Black and White 2 ‘corrected’ that issue from the original game, by displaying exactly what you were punishing or rewarding the creature for at the time.

      It was very practical, but also in my experience removed all sense of mystery and life from the creature. It went from feeling like an unpredictable but powerful pet into a mindless automaton for you to spend a few minutes programming and then leaving for most the game.

    • Matt says:

      Ahh yes, Black & White… the only game where you can slap your pet into not defecating ever again.

    • noerartnoe says:

      Or slapping it too much for kicking a villager – causing it to go on a quest to punt every single villager in the game.

  12. Chauvigny says:

    I loved the Creatures series.
    In the third game was some sort of merging machine, where you could put creatures in (if one of your Norns discovered the “power up” which gave your mouse pointer that ability) and merge them into one new baby.
    Didn’t experience any inteligence changes, they were just changing their look.
    Was fun though.

    Looking forward for this one!

  13. RegisteredUser says:

    These things need to be put into a 3D setting, maybe imported into a portal game or three.

    I played Creatures 1 when it came out. Many spanks were given, many noses scratched, and words were learnt.

    Behold – nothing really happened.

    They supposedly learnt how to fly airplanes in military sims though. Or, like, something.

  14. Longrat says:

    WARNING
    PUN OVERLOAD
    BRAIN MUST SHUT DOWN

  15. Ergates_Antius says:

    Whilst at uni I told a friend about Creatures. She bought it and ended up loving it. Loving it so much she started writing mods and stuff for it. Ended up being employed by Creature Labs.

    Not really relevant here, but hey…

  16. somnolentsurfer says:

    This trailer perfectly illustrates what was wrong with the original: badly animated nothing happening, very very slowly. It was never as fun as a giant tiger shitting on a house, then picking up it’s own poo, throwing it up a hill, and watching it roll down again, time after time after time.

    • GHudston says:

      I get the impression that you didn’t really “get” Creatures. It wasn’t really a game, so much as a sophisticated artificial life experiment with pretty artwork.

      If that’s not your thing, fine (and Black & White was a gem of a game, too) but there was nothing “wrong” with Creatures 1. It was utterly groundbreaking if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Yeah, I remember the prerelease talk getting me really interested, then just never really playing it ’cause they just wasn’t very fun. I’m sure it was very clever, but the sense of life was never anything like as deep as Black and White, just because the creatures were so limited, and it felt like you were having so little impact.

    • Wulf says:

      I enjoyed both, personally speaking… not so much a fan of Black & White 2, that had too many problems with creature AI, and I felt that the creature AI was very, very limited compared to the original. But the first had a really interesting creature, and it did such bizarre things at times. I remember at one time it tried to invent a new form of baseball using trees and poop/people.

      I ended up as a very neutral god because I was kind to the people, but I had a “Sure, whatever!” approach with my creature, because it was far more entertaining to watch it develop naturally and only chastise it when it was absolutely neurotic. Also, the whole thing with dragging a villager back to its pen to cuddle was just too adorable. And now I want to install Black & White again.

  17. Defiant Badger says:

    The morality of the creatures really, really depressed when I was 6-8 years old.

  18. misterk says:

    This is what happened during my time with Creatures 2.

    The game would start. I would desperately attempt to teach the creatures to eat. They would fail at this, and die. One time I got sick of this, and went exploring, and found a really interesting world full of interesting things. Then my creatures starved to death.

  19. man-eater chimp says:

    I played Creatures 2, and when my first Creature died I refused to play the game again.

    My childhood was scarred.

  20. KaL_YoshiKa says:

    This game was far too depressing to play with you watching dozens of generations die. As a result of my long hours spent on the game Norn talk is permanently engrained in my psyche. Although I never quite played the sequels as much since I preferred the furry look of the Creatures in the original game than the ones in the sequel even if it had by far the best world. Creatures 3 felt like a bit of a flop though.
    I’m definitely more interested in Mr Grands next project.
    This bug in Creatures 2 though sort of sums up how fascinating the series is
    http://creatures.wikia.com/wiki/OHSS
    “According to Lis Morris, the root cause of OHSS was an imbalance of brain chemicals – specifically, the reward and punishment chemicals. Too much of these chemicals were being generated by the norn’s actions and building up in the brain – the net effect being that the brain was being rewarded all the time, whether or not it was doing something “right”.”

    /edit

    http://creatures.wikia.com/wiki/Worker_Ettin

    “Their genome also causes them to feel tired and in pain all of the time, which caused an uproar when discovered. “

  21. GHudston says:

    For ten years I waited! You all thought I was crazy but I knew this day would come!

    In all seriousness though, the fact that it’s on PC/Mac AND iOS scares the hell out of me. Unless there is a separate, simplified version of the game specifically for iOS, I honestly have no idea how the PC version can be any good…

    Please don’t suck…

  22. Cradlejoe says:

    I remember Docking Station very well. Bit of a twisted game really…

  23. Ridnarhtim says:

    I loved Creatures so much!!!

  24. Kadayi says:

    The principles of the game were great, but IIRC they had a fixed aging process (8 hours or so) and it was quite an achievement to manage to raise a pair to the point where they’d successfully breed (worse than pandas in that respect). Still somehow people out there managed it and I doff my cap to them. Definitely a title that required extreme patience to play. Interesting to see what this leads to.

    • Wulf says:

      I managed it! I quickly learned that certain plants worked as a sort of aphrodisiac.

      Step 1. Catch the attention of two playful norns.
      Step 2. Get them to chase the cursor.
      Step 3. Convince them to eat the aforementioned plants.
      Step 4. Much kissing.
      Step 5. Profit/New eggs.
      Step 6. Try not to have weird mental images about Guild Wars’ norns whilst reading this.

      I also remember managing to convince a norn to get it on with a grendel, but nothing comes out of that without mods, as I recall. :|

  25. Squire says:

    I love James Pond so much

  26. Foxfoxfox says:

    Man Creatures 1 was utterly awesome. Modded a little to fix all the terrible interface flaws it offered me and my sister endless hours of fascination, raising, teaching, watching norns. Observing ‘wolfling’ runs (where we offered no intervention and left the norns unmediated).. watching them teach each other language – incredible.

    Then the sequel came and suddenly our norns were saying things like ‘ron desperately needs potassium’ and it wasn’t a game a 10 year old could play any more..

    still, excited for Steve Grand’s new thing – I totally would have offered funding if i’d heard about it in time.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    The problem with Creatures was summed up in the last line of that video; “you can never predict what a norn of the future will be able to do”. Well … yes, you can. They’re not going to become murderers, and have to form a society to deal with the miscreants. They’re not going to be able to evolve wings and start flying. I know that sounds like asking too much, but that’s the boundary that would make it truely fascinating.

    Creatures was great though. People released all kinds of modded items; I remember putting a Coke machine my world.

    • Wulf says:

      Aaactually…

      I had one creature who was so fond of grendels that it would slap any creatures that tried to get near said grendel. To death. That was a very psychopathic and overprotective norn. I have no idea what was going on there. I probably made it kind of neurotic with all of my attempts to get it and that grendel to breed.

  28. RodeoClown says:

    Creatures proved to me that it was possible for a game to make you cry.
    All procedural, nothing forced, but the music that played when your Norns were rapidly approaching death, and the look in their eye of “it’s ok, we all die. You did your best. Rosebud”…

    I’m fine. Stupid dust in the air.

  29. roman2 says:

    Interesting… I bought the original Creatures a looooong time ago. But just like you, in the end I was too impatient, probably too young, to really dig into the game.
    The original mind behind Creatures (Steve Grand) is btw working on an inofficial sequel too right now. It just recently got financed via kickstarter.

  30. wererogue says:

    I think about this every time someone posts about Norns in Guild Wars 2.