Alright I’m back.
It’s been a fairly small launch, but that was expected: it’s not like I advertised the game much beforehand. I’m kind of relieved: I can go back to working on it without worrying too much. I think I’m more comfortable with the idea of slow progressive growth than with rapid expansion.
And going back to working on it is exactly what I’m doing. I think I have a better grasp now of the games failings, and I’m looking into rectifying them, starting with the most obvious: the static vegetation.
The 0.5.0 release will contain an extensive vegetation overhaul: very little of the current system will survive into it’s next incarnation. This will provide three things that (in my opinion) the game needs: an gentler survival curve, an evolving environment, and a prettier world.
The gentler survival curve will be achieved by a new behavior: grazing. Rather than having to find a tree in order to get enough energy to reproduce, a creature will be able to gain energy by grazing from the ground. This comes at a cost, of course: it’s slow and won’t provide much energy, and will also reduce the local fertility. But it will mean that even creatures that don’t find a food source will still have a chance, and the deaths of most creatures will become a bit more interesting than the current average of “too stupid to look for food”.
Speaking of which, I’m well aware that the AI needs a lot of work. Unlike the other planned overhauls, I’m planning on slowly improving the AI bit-by-bit, since it touches upon all the other features I’m looking at and working on. The creatures will get smarter and more responsive, but to what extent I don’t yet know…
The evolving environment will be a load of fun to program. I should probably clarify: by “evolving enviroment” I don’t mean “evolving plants”. Sadly, with CPU usage what it is, I can’t spare the extra CPU cycles to include completely mutable plants. It’s on the wishlist, and anything I can make mutable I will, but there a hundred-fold more plants than there are creatures, so plant evolution will have to be limited to simple things like size and colour.
But even though the individual plants will be mostly static, the forests most definately won’t be. As temperature and humidity across the map changes (being influenced by creatures, rainfall, climate change, and even the player), the various biomes will drift about, and the plants native to each biome will colonise the newly exposed area’s, allowing (and/or forcing) the creatures to migrate and adapt.
With luck, this won’t be the only large upgrade to make it into the next version either. I’d like to get a top-down map in place so you can watch the simulation in a more symbolic/iconic format, and make a number of changes to the gene system so we can start Playing God ala. Jurrasic Park. I’d also like an ‘export’/’import’ creature function as soon as possible, so you can save your favorite creatures and bring them in as introduced species to devastate the local ecosystem.
Also, I’ve been playing Dwarf Fortress. It’s not exactly a bastion of good game design (in many cases it’s a perfect example of what not to do), but it has a terrifying amount of depth and complexity, and has given me a load of new idea’s for how I can improve Species (those familiar with Dwarf Fortress are either cheering or weeping right now).
I realise Species in it’s current alpha state is a very shallow game: interesting, but not for long, and with no actual gameplay behind it. All of that is coming: an idea I’ve had to start with is to allow you to highlight creatures by specific statistics, which could be used to tell you which creatures to kill and which to aid in order to promote certain forms of artifical development.
I won’t set a date for the next update just yet, but I won’t go more than 3 months between updates. I’ll also try to implement anything suggested in the forums or the wiki.
“For anyone trying to apply artificial selection in the current version, the best way is to bottle-neck the population around a mutant creature (ie. kill everything except that creature), then feed the population up again until you find another creature you like the looks of…”