Posts Tagged Inspiration

Material System

I got sidetracked.

I was working on tying volumes to bones in order to calculate mass from volume and density, when I suddenly realised I was going to have to get density from somewhere. I was this close to following the original plan and adding a simple constant “creature density” value to the game… but…

Well, quite frankly, I’m tired of making placeholders and putting the interesting stuff off until I’ve finished the boring stuff. So I decided not to, and dived headfirst into the new material system. I wonder how many of these I can fit in? Any preferences?

My initial thought was to take a leaf out of Dwarf Fortress’ book, and define materials generically, to amplify the possibility of weird, interesting and utterly horrific combinations. The problem with this, though, is that they need to texture differently depending on how they’re applied, especially for things like fur and claws. So it’s more likely we’ll need to split them up based on how they’re applied…

• Skin
    – The furry/feathery/skinny/slimy surface covering. Has a strong influence on friction and insulation. Mass determined by Surface Area * Thickness * Density. Immediately visually apparent by virtue of body texture, obviously.
• Flesh
    – The goo and meat and muscle inside the creatures body. Influences the creatures strength and flexibility, as well as their optimal operating temperature and how endothermic they are. Mass determined by Volume * Density. Visual markers are mouth-textures and corpse meat textures.
• Hard Tissue
    – Skeleton and weapons (I’ll probably split these into two seperate items, so a creature can have different claw and bone material). Density and compressive/shear strength will be the most influential settings for the skeleton, while density and sharpness will be important for weapons and chewing. Visible on hands and feet, teeth and in corpse bone textures.

These three categories will make up the outer covering (fur, feathers, skin), inner covering/organs (fibrous, porous, fatty) and skeleton/claws/teeth (keratin, chitin, osseous tissue, enamel), respectively. Each item will have its own texture/spritesheet, and a position in the mutation map.

I will likely have to have duplicates so as to allow, for example, chitin to be used as either endoskeleton or exoskeleton. One idea I’m leaning towards is storing materials as three texture objects in the same asset folder, so chitin could be a single Material asset but still be applied as Skin, Flesh or Hard Tissue. I imagine making your internal organs and muscles out of chitin wouldn’t end well, but why should we stop creatures from trying?

And as a bonus, this means creatures can have body coverings and flesh made entirely out of materials I hadn’t considered before now, like fibrous muscle, or bone tissue, or eyeball fluid or retina cords!

Wow. I am a horrible person.

This material system will likely become one of the sources of tangential learning for Species. Much the same as how playing Dwarf Fortress is an extremely effective way to drill into you what Magnetite, Hematite and Limonite are, Species will happily throw a bunch of terms I’ve stolen from Wikipedia at you until you bloody well remember what Osseous Tissue is, damn it.

The system will also have a few additional per-material values. Most of these will be placeholders until their appropriate systems are in place, but it doesn’t hurt in the long run to define them early. So far ‘m thinking these ones look good:

Compressive, Tensile and Shear Strength,
YieldRatio (a simpler way to represent Compressive, Tensile and Shear Yield Strength),
Coefficient Of Friction,
IgnitionTemperature, BurningEmission (that is, the amount of heat this material will emit while burning),
Melting and Boiling Point,
Thermal Capacity and Conductivity,
OperatingTemperature (flesh and muscle specific: determines the optimal body temperature for this creature),
HeatOutput (per unit of mass. This will be what establishes Endotherminess!),
and AcousticalAbsorption.

Of course, finding values some of these numbers is gonna be all sorts of fun. “What’s the compression strength of fibrous muscle? What’s the melting point of eyeball fluid?” It won’t be easy, but there’s plenty of dogs and cats in the area.

Or, y’know, I could just ask The Google. But where’s the fun in that?




(Edit) Oh wow. I think I promised to let somebody kick me if I did exactly what I’m doing right now.

Yep. Yep I did. Who wants to do the honours?

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To Primordial Life

I recently noticed that the link to Primorial Life in my Inspiration post no longer works (the original site seems to have been taken down), and since I’m still getting the occasional hit from google searches related to that, and can’t actually find it on the internet anymore outside of full-version torrents (which are technically illegal even if nobody cares), I figured I’d upload the shareware copy from my hard drive:

Primordial Life 3.21, by Jason Spoffard

If you’re here looking for Primordial Life, that should get you there. But a quick word before you leave: please feel free to check out the Development Video’s and FAQ for Species while you’re here. It’s based on the same idea of seeing evolution in progress, but using a macro-scale ecosystem and semi-realistic creatures with heads and legs and tails and stuff rather than microscopic biots.

And if nothing else, there’s a chance you’ll find my slow descent into irredeemable madness entertaining.

Cheers all!

“What does he mean “slow”? I’ve seen him go from normal conversation to “OH GOD THE SPIDERS” in under 3 seconds.”

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(EDIT) It’s been pointed out that the alternate link I provided doesn’t work either. Yaaay. I’ll see if I have a copy of the shareware trial version on my hard-drive somewhere: if I do, I’ll try and upload it somewhere.

In the meantime, here’s a very similar program that was recommended, and seems to be just as good:


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(EDIT 2) Okay, I’ve uploaded my copy of the shareware/freeware/trialware/whocaresware version onto Mediafire and updated the link above. There’s nothing wrong with it but it is an executable file, so if you don’t trust me (I wouldn’t trust me, and I am me) feel free to check out Biogenesis instead. Like I said, it’s very similar.

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Waxing Poetic: Inspiration

(Written by a younger me, aka. a jerk who took himself far too seriously)

Quite some time ago I spent time thinking about what separates Life from Non-life. There are many features that immediately spring to mind, but they all seemed to have plenty of exceptions. Consciousness? Plants have no sensory organs. Reproduction? A simple machine can easily duplicate itself. Organic molecules? Created all the time by simple chemical reactions. DNA? RNA creatures might object to that. A soul? I’d prefer an answer which we can verify actually exists. And so on…

At about this time I stumbled onto a small evolution simulator called “Primordial Life”, created by Jason Spofford. It reproduced small ‘Biots’, which used simple hereditary and mutation to fight for survival on the computer screen. I spent fascinated hours watching the life cycles of these simplistic collections of lines, saw entire ecosystems come and go… but eventually I got bored, and went to turn it off.

But I hesitated. These ‘creatures’, despite being nothing more than a small collection of variables rendered on the screen, had spent hours developing on my computer, had descended from creatures that had survived mass extinctions and developed brilliantly to the environment they lived in… and I was about to simply delete them and destroy their entire universe.

And I decided then what defined life, at least for me: Evolution.

The struggle of each population to survive, individuals changing randomly but being directed and guided by natural selection, made the biots more than mere lines of coloured pixels.

They might have lived in a tiny, restricted world, limited to the 2 dimensional space on the screen, but how different is that from real life, which lives on a tiny planet, limited to the 3 dimensional space it can see and interacts with? It’s easy enough to argue that the biots could never evolve things like intelligence, but this is a limitation of their environment: unlike real life, their mutations are limited to a small set of variables.

So I decided to see whether I could make an evolution simulator on a much more massive scale. A full sized 3D world with completely mutable creatures, a hereditary system, resources for the creatures to compete for and no fitness function. The only thing that would determine how well an individual survived would be its ability to reproduce. I believed that with all these simple things set up, the complexities of evolution; including punctuated equilibrium, convergence, sexual selection and geological separation; would visit my world. And if I was lucky, some people would see in what I had created the same thing I saw back then in the biots.


Welcome to Species.

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