Posts Tagged ‘creatures 4’

Tales From the Gaming Trenches

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Creatures_iOS_thumbNo need to tell you that we have been quite busy these days. Most of our teams are working on several projects at the same time excepting Creatures’ team who is focusing on finishing Creatures Online. That game really cost us an arm.

Talking about Creatures Online,  we have been releasing a “weekly update” on the forum every week for 4 months now  . The point of those updates is to show to the community where the development exactly stands. We should have done that from the beginning but the community management was not that effective back in those days. It was the first time we had to manage such a big license with such an active community. We did our best and I really hope that the community noticed it. As you certainly know, Fishing Cactus doesn’t take care of the CO page on Facebook nor the Twitter account anymore.

Algo-Bot_SGE13_award_thumbAndrea and I talked to Raphaël “Ulandar” from ProsiebenSat.1 Games, who is in charge of the whole community management of Creatures Online. A bunch of good ideas came from that conversation such as making videos to show game improvements, talking about CAOS, etc.

The sooner Creatures will be finished the sooner the team will be available to work on other games in production such as Algo-Bot which should hit Kickstarter in January. Yeah I know what you think! It’s a fact that we have deadline issues :-) I have to admit that I’ve never thought that launching a Kickstarter campaign could be that difficult. Meanwhile, you will find our Kickstarter video here and signup if you want to be informed the day Algo-Bot hits Kickstarter. Hope that this game will be funded because it really deserves to be finished. It’s not my only opinion, the awards below talk by themselves: Top 5 of the best Indie Game at Indie Prize Showcase and Best Serious Game in category HR – Training at Serious Game Expo. So, proud of our little fellow <3

To finish my post I would like to wish you a lot of Roasted Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Pumpkin Pie! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Creatures Online: News from gamescom 2013

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

creaturesonline_gamescom_booth_thumbThe gamescom in Köln, that is the biggest videogame event in Europe, has now started. For the occasion, four brave cactuses from the Creatures Online team have landed Tuesday in Germany with the very last demo of the game in their hands.

It only took a few hours before the Creatures Online booth was surrounded by a crowd of people who wanted to test our beloved game and have their picture with some crazy Norns – BTW have a look at mine with Icke from ProsiebenSat.1 Games.

About the demo, I hope that the Creatures community will enjoy the new baby Norn’s head that is smaller than in previous versions of the game. Also, may I introduce you the Kabuto Norn  – my favorite by far

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The team will go back to Belgium on Sunday, so, if you attend gamescom don’t forget to come at the Creatures Online Booth H7.1 to say “Hi”. I am sure they will have nice giveaways!

Stay tune for more Cactuses news!

Creatures Online: live session round up

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Creatures Online is now over and we would like to thank all the 85 of you who were on the chat and TUNED in to our Q/A. Special thanks to the ambassadors who helped in moderating this wonderful session. Our final thank is for ProSiebenSat.1 Games and Bigben Interactive who support us in our efforts.

Over 190 persons have seen the recorded version that was available on our twitch channel. Unfortunately this video has been deleted by Twitch.tv. But thanks to HelloInterloper, a version with the live chat has been recorded as well. And for those who haven’t seen those videos yet, you will be pleased to find below a third version with devs annotations.

We were extremely happy with the response to the livestream, hopefully we can get around to stream the game again up until the release.

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Creatures Online: live session

Friday, June 14th, 2013

shii_okay_smallAs promised the live session is coming with tiny modifications. The idea stills the same: you will be able to see the game in live and question the team on the chat. Following the feedback we got from the community, we decided to drop Google Hangout and go with Twitch instead. It came to our attention that Twitch would be more suitable due its history with the community and furthermore, the tests we carried out seem to point at a better overall streaming quality that Google Hangout.

So, tune it on the 27th of June at 8PM (GMT+1) and join us on our Twitch.tv channel. The live stream will be accessible to everyone but if you want to access the chat room make sure you have an account on Twitch.tv

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As for the chat room, moderators from Fishing Cactus and ProSiebenSat.1 Games will both be on the chat to make sure that we have got all the answers to your questions. To easily recognize us and keep the place clean, the team will be in red color, so please do not use the same color. Sometimes the chat room is a little bit fickle and the page needs to be refreshed twice to be able to see it.

C4 update: Euro distribution of Creatures Online

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

shii_yeahOver the last few weeks, Fishing Cactus has received a few visits of the nice people from ProSiebenSat.1 Games. The reason behind all that brouhaha was Creatures 4.

ProSiebenSat.1 happens to be a proper media and entertainment mogul over here in Europe. “ProSiebenSat.1 Games GmbH is the games company of ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG. As a leading publisher, the company focuses on the licensing and distribution of online and mobile games, and acts as a strong digital distribution partner for the gaming products of premium partners all over Europe.” is what the press release lingo precisely says. Not only do they distribute in Europe several hit online games, including the great blockbuster games DC Universe™ Online, PlanetSide® 2, and the sequel of the EverQuest® franchise. They also run successful television stations (their original activity) in Germany and Nordic Countries, and have ties with massive French and Italian channels too (TF1 and RAI).

This is just the ideal partner for us, as small indie developer, and Bigben Interactive, as publisher. By partnering with this ideal fit, our respective companies will be able to each focus on what they do best: us making the game, Bigben Interactive making the toys and physical goodies and handling the logistics, while ProSiebenSat.1 Games makes sure that there are many people playing the game across Europe and that we can scale up the network properly.

Cause it’s now official, the ink on the contract barely dry: we have entered an agreement with ProSiebenSat.1 Games for the distribution, maintenance and marketing of our game on the Old Continent.

There are a few consequences to this.

The first one is merely cosmetic: the official launch title will be changed from the tentative Creatures 4 to the definitive “Creatures Online” in an effort to attract new players who had never heard of the previous episodes some good 15 years ago.

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A more important shift is the fact that ProSiebenSat.1 Games is now in charge of deploying the right server network for us, which they have booked already and plan to be ready with around July or so. Once that’s in place, they will be running a first round of beta, which at first will be CLOSED. Access to the beta will be as easy as creating an user account on their network, signing Non-Disclosure Agreements and then stick to confidentiality for realsies ;-)

If you live in another area of the World not covered by ProSiebenSat.1 Games, don’t worry about a thing — We have no intention of leaving you standing in the rain alone. We are currently on the look for Northern American and Asian distributors of similar magnitude and we are in talks with several companies for that. Announcements will follow in due course.

Last but not least, a lot of you have asked us to show video footage of the alpha version we’ve recently feature locked. We’d like to do that. But rather than taking a lot of time editing a trailer that doesn’t talk to you, we’d like to combine the depth of our game with the pleasure that was the Q&A session we recently had in the CreaturesCaves chat rooms, a few months back… So! How about a Google+ HangOut event with the team sitting in a sofa in front of the running demo, everybody? Would you attend to that? Say some time this June? Let’ s hook it up!

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Creatures 4: Giant Easter Egg contest!

Friday, March 29th, 2013

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Surprise, surprise! Creatures 4 Giant Easter Egg collaborative contest – Break the Egg to free the Norns and get a chance to win yourself an exclusive limited edition Norn figurine! Starts right now. Deadline is April 1st and that’s sure not a joke. Happy Easter everybody!

http://creatures4eastercontest.fishingcactus.com/

Creatures 4 : Procedural Fur Patterns

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Many of you, in comments to our blog posts, during the Q&A chat sessions and also on Facebook, have shown curiosity regarding the procedural methods that we use to ensure that no two Norns look alike. Today we will be detailing how the Norn fur patterns are produced by our artists and coders. 

 

First things first. There are several breeds in the game, between 12 and 16, depending on what we manage to fit into the launch edition.

Up to a couple of months ago, our process for creating new breeds was rather messy to say the least, based on us trying to understand how to make the bricks turn into solid foundations that were still being designed. Uck!

We are in a far better spot now, which makes it actually fun to create a new breed :-)

It starts with one of us coming up with a cool idea for a Norn breed and defining some basic traits for the breed.

The second step is to prepare a reference art for the new Norn breed

Olivier and Antoine, two members of our awesome art team, work together to produce a concept art that conveys the traits of the breed.

WildlingNorn

 

This one above is a “Wildling Norn” by the way, a Norn that managed to escape from the safety of the Hatchery region and evolved in the wilderness.

 

Once we are satisfied with the art, Olivier’s procedural tinkering begins.

Two main goals here: first, to make sure two Norn from the same breed do not look the same (that’s one of the main perks of using procedural generation); second, to allow all the Norn breeds to be crossed together through natural breeding and gene splicing operations.

Each Norn is made of several texture layers, some procedural and some hard-set. Every element below can be swapped during breeding/splicing.

  1. One Skin texture: static picture that contains the underlying skin which is unique to every breed and can’t be “blended” with other skins. There are variations of these for male, female and elder Norns.
  2. “Belly” Texture: static texture that contains the belly spot most Norn breeds show.
  3. Eye texture & color: static texture. The color is pre-set in the texture, meaning that all Norns that are pure breed have the same eye color (of course they can be crossed with other breeds to exhibit another eye color). Heterochromia iridum is also determined by this texture. That means that a yellow and pink heterochromia will always be yellow/pink. While this is a limitation of the system, it bears the benefit that it allows us really setting in stones the look of a breed.
  4. Base fur color: while the color is not set in the texture, it is fixed for each breed during the creation in our tool (see below). At the moment two pure breed Norns have exactly the same color although we might end up adding some slight hue variations to further differentiate two same-breed Norns.
  5. Main Pattern: There are two pattern textures (which can be empty if needed). We call this the “main” pattern as it is usually used for the most recognizable visual markings.
  6. Main Pattern Color.
  7. Detail Pattern: Same as the previous one, but usually used for smaller dots and marks on the Norn fur.
  8. Detail Pattern Color.

 

Once Olivier has completed the technical design of the pattern and produced the required visual assets, the last step is to assemble all of the above in our Norn creation tool. It’s a web based tool that allows us to push new breeds into the game and preview them in real time. It’s pretty neat!

You can see that the information here is grouped into 8 boxes. This is important as they correspond to the 8 genes that define the Norn visual look. More on that in a further blog post about splicing ;-)

 

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As a side note, this creation system allows us to specify cosmetic differences reliant on gender/age but truth to be told, we haven’t gotten around to use this cool feature yet, due to time constraints.

 

The assets themselves are produced as follows:

The static textures are produced in Adobe Photoshop as standard character textures.

 

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The procedural textures are generated in an open source tool that allows basic 2D patterns to vary depending on several parameters defined by the artist. 

procedural_patterns

 

This is really cool because even if two Norns have the same pattern (eg. The gene is the same), the pattern will be generated and applied a bit differently on each Norn.

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Once that step is finished, the only thing left to do is to preview the Norn in the game. Tada!

 

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Hoping that this brief overview gives you a better understanding of how the Norn cosmetics are created. Obviously the goal of all this is simple, making sure no two Norns are exactly equal and give you bazillions of possibilities for combinations!

We’re pretty sure you’ll have even more questions after this post and we’ll do our best to answer them, just keep in mind that part of our team is at GDC next week so replies may take a little longer than usual (okaaay, we’re not THAT quick usually, but still, you get my point :-)

 

UPDATE: fixed a couple of link to full-sized pictures

Creatures 4: Q&A session round-up

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The Q&A chat session between C4 dev team members and Creatures community took place last Thursday 28th of February as scheduled. Over 60 fans attended and it was sure an epic chat, which we have very much enjoyed on our end. Special thanks to Jessica from DiscoverAlbia for moderating the questions stream, it would have been much more chaotic without her help! We tried to answer questions to the best of our ability (and without breaking certain confidentiality ties with various stakeholders). An edited log of the event can be accessed on Creatures Caves, thanks to Rascii. We’re also very grateful to our three other fantastic Ambassadors, Laura (host of the party), Don and ChosenPredator for all the effort they’ve put in to spread the vibe and sort out absentees’ questions ahead of the live show ;-)

As always in such circumstances, some questions were left unanswered. We have received a summary of those through Jessica, and in a “get bonus” spirit, game designer Andrea is going to tackle some more right here:

Q: You mention 150 chemicals ; sounds like the old versions, did you change or improve things about biochemistry or did you stick on the previous mechanism? (Dr_Shee)

A: While the main system is relies indeed on the C3 foundation, we definitely tweaked some values and adjusted the system to match some new sections that we have added in the game, and also to implement the “altruism” mechanic that regulates the Norn willingness to carry out actions that are beneficial to the Norn “society”.

Q: My question is, you’ve obviously done a lot of changes to the morphology and colour patterns of the Norns, how is this reflected in their DNA and inheritance of these traits? It seems much more complicated than in previous games! (NornsofOurAlbia)

A: Indeed, it is more complex. We’re keeping these details for an upcoming full-on blog post (which our recent Instagram photo was a tease for) but to give you an overview, each Norn is made of several texture layers, both procedural and human-made. Procedural textures mean that while the overall look of the pattern will be consistent among a specific breed, there’ll be an element of randomness in the detailing! Naturally, patterns/colors/morphology will be carried over to the offspring DNA. But I’m getting ahead of myself; more details soon!

Q: Can we 3D print our favourite norn as action figure? (MK-Grendel)

A: Love the idea! Creatures 4 would hypothetically be a good candidate for this sort of service. Nothing planned in that respect at the moment but we’re definitely keeping an eye on emergent tech.

Q: Can Norns still mutate their walking or is everything animated? (MK-Grendel)

A: Unfortunately this is one of the cuts we had to make due to the way we’re animating 3D objects in the game.

Q: I’d like to know if we still get to look inside the norn, checking out their brains and poke at the neurons, by clicking on them, like we could in C1 and C2. (Creature905Yme)

A: Not in the first commercial build that we will release. In all honesty it is a bit hard for us to justify developing and integrating this at this point, not knowing what would be the appeal of tools as advanced as those (internally, we’re still using custom-recompiled C3 tools in regards to brain!). We’ve limited ourselves to the science kit for now as it strikes a nice balance between showing the Norn’s complexity and preventing it from becoming overwhelming. We’re not excluding anything in terms of post-launch content updates though.

Q: Will the game engine run localy or will a client server architecture be used? (Gigamoi)

A: The game engine runs locally and the game will connect to a webserver that will contain all the database data and player progress. This is required for the seamless bridged experience we want to offer across all supported platforms (means: we need this to enable continuous play when user walks away from his desktop and resumes play on his mobile device).

Q: Will there be food that can only be obtained in certain specific enviroment? (YeikoVneef)

A: Not food per se, but specific plant pots are unlocked once you discover new environments. You might find a few surprises if you search Sphericus thoroughly ;-)

Q: Will Angry Nornito feature in any later parts of the game? (C-Rex)

A: Wow! We didn’t anticipate Nornito to have a fan club of his own :-) So while we don’t have plans now, Nornito might get back to C4 at one point!

Q: Why in the Gamescom 2012 demo did that Norn fly off into the air? (C-Rex)

A: Two possible answers: 1) the Norn was using the Norn hairdryer in a clever fashion. 2) A nasty coding bug we hadn’t removed yet!

Q: Being multi platform, will norns be able to travel from one system to another? (McDuff)

A: If by system you mean iOS, Android, PC, Mac — The answer is yes!

Q: Will Norns be able to call the Hand by name? Can they interact with it, liking or disliking and such? (LilyNorn)

A: They certainly look at it (they do that a lot actually! Looks cool!) but not directly interact with it (like grabbing it). At the moment they can’t call it by name, but the idea kind of makes sense now that you mention it — Let it percolate with us during the ongoing alpha-test phase ;-)

Q: Will there be a ingame breed-editor or is it planned? (dk1987)

A: The splicing machine lets you tweak some values when creating a new genome. Mostly cosmetic at the moment but there again we have some surprises in store.

Q: There seem to be some “loading” action in the demo, it’s something that was never seen in the previous version, why did you go with this mechanic? (YeikoVneef)

A: It’s mostly a matter of feedback. We’re not planning on having long-lasting Norn actions with progress bars and such. The world can get pretty cluttered when you start decorating your regions. Sometimes, more feedback on some meaningful actions is helpful in seeing clearly what is going on.

Q: If a norn loses all genes for their look – how would they look like? (eg in c3 would look like a bruin norn) (MK-Grendel)

A: Mmm… Naked? I don’t think it’s possible any more to be honest. We’ve secured that part of the genome to make sure cosmetic genes are always present as they also determine the morphology of a Norn and removing them would probably break the game.

Q: Will C4 include support for user-created add-ons? And if yes,on what level? What are the possibilities? (Eprillios)

A: At this point we don’t have plans to support user generated content. As we’ve said in the past, we’d love to look into that possibility but we need to finish and release the core of the game first.

Thank you again for everything! We sure look forward to organize another get-together some time soon :-) We’ll try to come out with a new blog update as soon as humanly possible, but please bear with us a little bit as we are knee-deep in alpha-testing here… In the meantime, you can enjoy the interview our team gave to national Belgian TV station “RTBF” last month, now subtitled in English on YouTube (click on the “Closed Captions” icon at the bottom edge of the frame to activate the subs).

Creatures 4: Q&A with the devs & Alpha-test

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

We’ll be holding a live Q&A session between game designers Andrea Di Stefano and Samuel Languy, from the C4 dev team, and you folks, from the vibrant Creatures community! You’ll get to directly discuss with them about the development so far, and about the inner-workings of the upcoming game. The event will take place in the CreaturesVillage Chat Rooms, also known as CC Chat, where most long-time fans of the series already have their habits. An active mIRC connection is required to attend. The dialog is scheduled on Thursday 28th of February 2013 at 7.00 pm G.M.T.

For those who can’t make it, a transcript will be recorded and shared publicly after the fact. Even better, you can register your question right here, ahead of the gathering and get a chance to have it asked by our Creatures 4 Ambassadors during the session, if its relevance catches their attention! The live session must be restricted to one language only, which will be English. So if you want to ask us questions in French, Dutch, German, Japanese, Swahili or any other language known to Man and Google Translate alike, feel free to do so in that same pre-show thread.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the #NornInvasion of Earth is gearing up, with little ones popping all around the globe. The limited edition figurines have been won by some lucky few during an Instagram Adopt-A-Norn give-away. If you missed the occasion, we’re prepping up more contests as we speak, so keep an eye on our social media in the coming weeks!

On the development side of things, March 4th has been formally set as the beginning of our Alpha-Testing phase. It has been decided that this one would still be internal for now and the target will be to get the game “feature locked”. The polish ‘n’ refine cycle will continue in parallel for a while (that will feel like forever to you, and like the bat of an eye to the devs), until we finally feel confident enough to open the testing to outsiders, therewith commencing beta. Alpha-testing will involve absolutely all Fishing Cactus employees, regardless of which department or team they belong to.

If you recently tried to comment to our blog articles in the section below and found yourself stuck because of not having an account, please note that guest-commenting was disabled by mistake earlier (we omitted to toggle an option off during our Disqus plug-in implementation)… Guest posts are now enabled again! So if you don’t like sharing private information at the same as your opinions, you can take it easy and feel free to speak out anonymously again!

Creatures 4: Underneath the Norn’s Fur

Friday, February 1st, 2013

shii_okay_smallUnderneath Creatures 4, like in previous episodes, there’s an entire matrix of codes and parameters that determine the behavior of Norns and their interactions with the eco-system. Today, we’re going under the hood to delve deeper into the mechanics and the inner-workings of a Norn, and present you with an overview of the in-house tools we used to debug our little creatures’ behavior.

In the making of Creatures 4, the main challenge resides in the fact that every time you implement a new feature, or change the way the Norns behave just a tiny bit, you need to go through hours of play-testing to make sure you didn’t mess up the complete balance of the game, that the various scenarios remain bug-free. This, knowing all the way that you can never truly harness a Norn’s behavior, since it’s conditioned by countless personal and environmental factors.

To this end, our tech wizards have developed several tools to monitor and debug our implementation of the original Creatures AI. As we established in previous posts, moving the Creatures engine to 3D proved to be a more daunting task than expected, for which we needed constant access to a certain set of variables.

Over the past year, our programmers have spent a lot of time on in-game debugging tools that help our game designers track the Norns’ attitudes as well as their environment. You’ll find some exclusive screenshots of these debugging tools here below.

The standard Creatures 4 in-game view, free of debugging clutter:

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 Crowd/Physics status

 This view informs us about the status of our crowd management system (avoiding collision between agents) as well as the physics for each agent in the world.

Most agents in this demo-screen have been put in “custom” state which basically means they are doing something script-specific and do not belong in special groups like physics or crowd.

01_crowd_physics_small

 Attributes and Scripts

Opposite to what all the visual clutter would have you believe, this is one of the most informative views. It shows many properties for each agent: attributes, instinctive/genetic behaviors, category, running script etc. All this determines what a Norn can do with each agent in the world (e.g. an attribute sets a flower as eatable by a Norn).

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 Facial expressions

Norns have several facial expressions that inform the player on their current status or mood. Facial expressions are triggered by a sum of parameters that determine which expression has the higher “weight” and should therefore be displayed. This algorithmic approach makes the process slightly more opaque than simple “Norn is happy –> happy face”. What expression is displayed when a Norn is both happy and hungry? Which has priority between hunger and sleepiness?

While some choices are obvious (pain often wins), some are not. Hence, the debug options!

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Senses Range

The Norn’s focus and path are partly driven by its senses. Sight, hearing and smell play an important role in an agent catching the Norn’s attention.

Below you can glimpse at a Norn’s sight and hearing ranges, represented by the blue and green outlines respectively.

Each ray tells the ability for a Norn to see each agent. If the line is white, the agent can be seen; if it is red, rather not. The environment’s geometry is taken into account to compute this: in this case, most visible agents are on the same height as the Norn.

Hearing range is pretty self-explanatory.

04_view_hearing_range_small

 This picture below shows the smell propagation. In Creatures, smells are called Cellular Automata (CA). Technically speaking, CAs are not exclusively used for smell, they can be means to other ends, such as giving the Norn a sentiment of “being at home”. Still, most of the time we use them for smells and to be honest, we still have to tweak a lot of them.

The propagation display is made of small spheres: you can see some spheres fading out on the border of the screen… At those spots, the potency of the smell is lower.

05_smell_CA_propagation_small

 Outside the game, a handy webpage allows us to monitor the Norn’s drives and decisions. We can also access all this data in the game itself, through the science kit, but this raw and dry mode makes batch-processing tasks much more efficient.

06_chem

 Please note that, like in previous installments of the series, each Norn still has a set of organs that simulate its digestive system and comes into factor to determine when a Norn contracts an illness. They also carry an artificial “brain” so to speak, and are interiorly affected by over 150 chemical elements. And of course, genomes enter into play as much as before, naturally – After all, Creatures is essentially a Genetic Game, we’re kind of going all-in on this particular aspect ;-) Our next blog article will actually focus on that: genes and what you can do with them, breeding, splicingEndless possibilities really. If you didn’t catch it yet, we’ve released a teaser pic of various breeds on Instagram earlier this week!

If you recently tried to comment to our blog articles in the section below and found yourself stuck because of not having an account, please note that guest-commenting was disabled by mistake earlier (we omitted to toggle an option off during our Disqus plug-in implementation)… Guest posts are now enabled again! So if you don’t like sharing private information at the same as your opinions, you can take it easy and feel free to speak out anonymously again!