Archive for category General

T-minus 6 days and counting…

Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution: Alpha 0.4.0 (Proof of Concept Demo) Release is this Sunday!

Still working on getting administrative stuff done, but the game itself is ready and apparently stable on at least 3 machines. I’m only performing a few small optimisations and bug fixes at this stage (don’t want to break it!), as well as cleaning up the dead-ends and exceptions in the mod maker.

As mentioned on the comments recently, here are some system requirements. They’re not minimum requirements, strictly speaking (they’re actually taken from my development laptop, which struggles a bit but does run it), and if you’re okay with lag feel free to try it out on something slower.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo, T8100 @ 2.10Ghz
Graphics: NVIDIA GForce 8600M GT

BTW, any readers here who own a Mac and would be interested in getting their hands on the game a week early? If so, email me: I’d like to try to find a way to get it working on Mac. I’m trying to cancel out the negative karma points I incurred by using a Microsoft product to build the game.

PS: that surprise I mentioned a few weeks back? Turns out I’ve actually got two of them. Should have one in time for the release, and another within a week or two after that.

(Edit) Oh yeah, I managed to keep the entire game smaller than 25MB once it’s zipped up.

“518402… 518401… 518400… 518399…”

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No post today

Sorry guys. The awfulness of my April Fools post, combined with an unexpected backfire of temporal energy from my fourty-sided timecube doomsday device, resulted in all of my minions rising from the dead in a apocalyptic future where my stupidity caused all their deaths. The zombie minions then rode the temporal surge back to my current time, where they are now besieging their living past-selves in an effort to extract their revenge on me. This is clearly the result of an alternate offshoot future where I was born a dumbass, because I’m clearly not so blatently moronic as to build a doomsday device that backfires.

No, I’m not going to check the triggering mechanism is plugged in the right way, why would that even be necessary?

The result of all this is that, by the time my minions finish being violent towards their undead doppelgangers and the entire population of the earth is crushed under my iron fist, I won’t have time to do a proper post for you guys.

But I’ve rewritten the FAQ. Very few of the new questions over there have even been asked once let alone frequently, and some of them aren’t even questions, but to be fair it shares that in common with every other FAQ ever written. Seriously, who fills an FAQ with frequently asked questions? How rediculous. That would turn the entire thing into a complete farce.

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Design! From the Past!

aka. Requiem of a crappy blogger.

Geez, I really suck at this “blogging” thing don’t I? “You’re supposed to leave something here more than once a month, dumbass!”

Okay, rivival time. I’ll throw up another cheatpost-from-the-past for today and work on having something actually worth reading here for every weekend from now on with more links and maybe something else, at least until the world ends in 2012. No promises, though: I have it on good authority that the world might definately totally end in October, this time for realz, and if that happens I won’t be able to keep up the once-a-week schedule until the world ends in 2012. In fact, the schedule is already on thin ice, what with the world ending two months ago in May and what-not. But I’ll try to keep up with it anyway.

In the meantime, enjoy your cheatpost:

Written September 2008, prior to the billboard vegetation system

The next step will be vegetation. Trees in species will be edible to creatures with herbivorous and omnivorous mouths: how much energy they get out of it will depend on the type of tree and their (mutable) digestive system.

One of the major features of Species will be the mutability of the organisms, and the complex effects of natural selection that result. As an example, the tree-nutrition system (as currently envisaged) will work like this: Each tree type has an nutrient value, and a digestibility value, and each species has an acid value. High acid levels would allow the creature to digest the indigestible, like bark or cacti, but would mean fewer nutrients could be converted to energy. In comparison, low acid would make it only able to survive on easily digestible vegetation, like fruit or green grass, but the creature would be able to take full advantage of the nutrients.

[Present me says: Okay, this requires comment. This sort of complexity does not exist in the vegetation or digestion systems. It was planned, but like many similar features, it was removed from the design prior to being implemented. The primary reason for this is extremely simple: Species is about seeing evolution happen. Features like this are invisible. End of story]

This level of complexity applies to all the organisms traits, but I’m trying to make it intuitive and visible. For example, Shoulder muscle, Arm muscle, Arm length, Hand type and hand size would all affect that arms damage levels (which is complex), but in an intuitive manner: if you see a huge creature with massive, muscular arms and giant claws, you can instantly identify that it’s dangerous. In addition, since it will have formed by natural selection, you can make other conclusions: the species has to fight fairly often with its arms in order to reproduce. If this conclusion turns out to be right, I’ll know I’ll have set up the statistics system properly.

[Present me says: this is still mostly accurate, with one exception: combat is no longer limb-specific. It was getting too confusing and arbitrary to have creatures with 5 different damage values depending on what limb they used to attack (for example, a big muscley creature with spikes and claws and teeth could be killed by a far inferior opponent if it decided to attack said opponent with it’s tail), so this has been streamlined into a single value which takes modifiers from the limbs, head, tail and features]

It’s not only the physical traits that will be mutable – behaviour will also be dictated by natural selection. All creatures will have one or two fixed behaviours (eat and mate are the obvious ones), but other behaviour will be dictated by a special AI system. Of course, these behavioral traits will be genetic (instinct): I had considered making individuals capable of ‘learning’ behaviours, but I suspect that would be both rediculously complex and entirely useless: individual creatures don’t live very long, so learning wouldn’t do them much good. The species can learn, but not the individual. A larger brain size would allow more instinctual behaviours.

[Present me says: That wasn’t so bad. I was expecting a whole load of completely wrong detail on the behavioral system, but it’s vague enough to be fairly… well, vague. And eat and mate have been made mutable since then too!]

I could keep going on and on, but I won’t. You get the idea. I don’t really expect to appeal to a wide audience with this project, but it’s captured my imagination and I fully intend to follow it through. I’ll try to keep this blog up to date.

[Present me says: Hah! I said that back then too? I really wasn’t kidding when I said I suck at this blogging stuff, was I?]

… [/end cheatpost]

Please excuse me while I murder “Present Qu”s face until he gives me my job back. Thank you for you continuing patience.


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First! Whoo!

Welcome to the development blog for Species. I obviously don’t know why you’re here, but for the sake of the argument let’s assume it has something to do with an interest in Evolutionary Biology, Games Programming, or because you just want know more about Species.

Species is, or rather will be, a 3D game, built in C# using the XNA 3.0 game programming framework. More specifically, Species is a Life Simulator: the game prepares an environment for creatures to live in, and they grow, eat, fight, mate, reproduce (imperfectly) and die within that environment. The predictable end result of all this: Evolution.

Evolution remains a controversial subject among the lay-people of some of the most educated countries in the world. This is a strange phenomena, since within the scientific community the question being asked was settled more than a century ago. Evolution happens. We’ve seen it happening, and it is by far the most logical and supported explanation for the massive variety of biodiversity on earth regardless of how life came to exist in the first place.

My intentions for this blog are twofold, displayed below in a convenient numbered fashion:

a) To provide full, chronological documentation (and discussion) of the development process. Since at the time of writing I’m already halfway through the development process, I’m going to be going back to the start and talking about the experiences and processes I went though for this project. This will hopefully give you, the poor innocent reader, a proper start-to-finish narrative instead of a compilation of temporally confused notes. I expect this blog to catch up with the project at some point, resulting in the readers and author running the last few legs together.

b) to provide a platform for evolutionary discussions. I’m no scientist, but several years of internet discussion and debate have bequeathed unto me an “educated lay-persons” perspective on evolution, and perhaps more importantly, a thorough understanding of the horrendously common (and often just plain horrendous) misconceptions and misinformation that swarm over it like flies (no offense to flies).

I communicate in a most casual manner that is not-at-all pretentious or unseemly and should not under any circumstances be read with a upper-class British accent. However, I should warn you that I am occasionally guilty of such things as hyperbole and sarcasm, and I occasionally permit the wild throes of my twisted imagination, thrashing about like a harpooned kraken inside my cranial cavity, to influence my writing. Perhaps this will make this blog more entertaining, or endearing, than it would otherwise be. More likely it’ll be annoying and make you want to strangle me with my own esophagus.

And that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Welcome to the blog.

Some of his best friends are flies,

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