Genetics Lesson: Understanding Gene Header Information

Difficulty: Easy | Primary Game: Creatures 1

Denny D. Rite: The world of Creatures genetics includes many different options and properties. Before we jump into the more complex genes and determine what they do, we need to understand the general properties that affect most genes. Additionally, there are a few interesting features of the Genetics Kit. Our question for today is: What does the gene header define and where can I find extra information in the Genetics Kit? Read on and learn!

Part I: Deciphering the Gene Header

Virtually every C1 gene contains a gene header, which can be modified in the Genetics Kit. There are a few select cases where certain parameters can not be altered, but in general, the gene header has the same set of options for every gene. A gene header serves a very important purpose, in that it defines certain behaviors of each gene. These options deserve a closer look, and a thorough explanation.

This screenshot shows a typical gene in the Genetics Kit, and what the gene header looks like. The first parameter is a drop-down menu, which includes each of the life stages. As simplistic as Creatures 1 is, there are still quite a number of life stages that each Norn goes through! These are correctly ordered from the earliest to the latest life stage. This selection determines when the gene switches on and begins to function. Most genes switch on at the embryo life stage: The exact moment is actually when the egg begins to hatch, and not when the baby is conceived. This ensures that these genes are working properly as soon as the baby enters the world. Genes with a later life stage, such as youth or adolescence, usually encompass aging genes or those centered around reproduction. Some genes, like initial concentrations, only function when triggered at the embryo life stage.

The next set of options in the gene header is a series of check boxes, which probably look quite foreign to anyone not familiar with their definitions! They control how a gene is treated during the breeding process, when two genomes are combined and sometimes mutated. These are as follows:

  • Dup (Duplicate): When checked, the gene can be duplicated or copied. From my experience, I have never seen a duplicated gene mutate at the same time. A Norn can end up with two or more identical genes. This, in itself, has no effect, but further study is needed to see what happens when a duplicated gene becomes mutated. This may create additional responses, or the body might choose to use one gene over the other. When unchecked, the gene can not be duplicated.
  • Mut (Mutate): When checked, the gene can be mutated. Mutations come in all types and flavors, as many players have probably discovered! Typically, every option that can be edited is fair game for mutations. Even the options in the gene header can be affected by mutations: In particular, the life stage that a gene switches on is prone to mutations. I have never seen the check box options (Dup, Mut, or Cut) altered through a mutation, though. When unchecked, this gene can not be mutated.
  • Cut (Delete): When checked, the gene can be deleted. There are certain genes, such as the half life example pictured above, which should never be subject to deletion from a genome. However, many genes have the ability to be deleted from the gene sequence, in a similar but opposite way to the duplicate option. A deleted gene can be a minor one, although it can also seriously impact a Norn. When unchecked, this gene can not be deleted.

Almost finished! The final set of options in the gene header is a set of radio boxes. Unlike the Dup, Mut, and Cut options, only one of these options can be chosen for each gene. It defines which gender(s) will be affected by the selected gene: “B” corresponds to both males and females, “M” corresponds to males only, and “F” corresponds to females only. When going through a genome, the vast majority of genes are set up to affect both genders. Reproductive genes are typically the only ones which are gender specific, although there are other cases.

Part II: Hidden Information in the Genetics Kit

The Creatures 1 Genetics Kit is very limited in the explanations it provides, yet there is a short line of information that many may not know about! When a gene is opened up, either by double-clicking it or choosing Edit Gene, move the window to a position where the very bottom of the main Genetics Kit window is visible. If an option is chosen or altered, a bit of information sometimes appears to provide a little extra help. In this case, it shows that a half-life of zero indicates that the value can go from its maximum to zero instantly. I use this hidden information only sparingly, often because it provides very little. However, sometimes it’s just a short explanation that is needed to help us understand something a little better! Changing the value of the half life with the arrows also provides information about the different lengths of time. Half lives are actually pretty interesting: The lowest value is instantaneous, yet the highest value would take 52 years to fully decay! That’s not in Norn years, either. Hidden genetics information can be awesome!

Emmit Ter: Chemical half lives are part of a much more in-depth explanation. One gene controls every half life! This is why mutations in half lives can be frustrating to find: One must go through every chemical to find a difference! The D-DNA Analyzer is pretty helpful in showing where any differences exist, but sifting through the chemicals can still be a challenge. Think about the alternative: A gene for every half life would expand the Norn genome tremendously! And it probably wouldn’t make much difference except to awesome scientists like me.

Not all genes have a thorough notes section, but choosing this option from an open gene will show any added notes. I often overlook these, simply because there is no real consistent pattern to them. Users can add text to these notes, though, which are saved in a .GNO file. Sometimes this helps add additional descriptions to genes that other players can use. Read more about this file format at The Creatures Developer Resource. Or, check out the notes in the Genetics Kit!

Part III: Viewing Gene Headers in the D-DNA Analyzer

The gene header is quite easy to find in the Genetics Kit, since it has a clear label and section in each gene. When using the D-DNA Analyzer, however, the gene header appears differently and can be difficult to parse out from each line. Rather than its format in the Genetics Kit of life stage, Dup, Mut, Cut, and gender, it appears in the D-DNA Analyzer in the format life stage, gender, Mut, Dup, and Cut. Take a look at the following screenshot to see several types of gene headers. It’s a lot of text, but luckily we’re only looking at a section of each gene!

As shown, the first three genes switch on at the embryo life stage in both males and females, and can be mutated, duplicated, and deleted. The next three genes affect only females, and switch on in adolescence. Although only part of the genes is shown, these are clearly reproductive genes. Similarly, gene 162 only affects males in adolescence and onwards. Genes 165 through 170 are aging specific, and switch on at different times in a Norn’s life. Note, too, that these can not be mutated, duplicated, nor deleted. Gene 173 is not the actual “die of old age” gene, but rather states that a Norn will die when glycogen reaches a very low level. Not all genes are grouped together nicely! The gene header information is still fairly easy to find in the D-DNA Analyzer, and knowing where it is located helps make each gene a little less overwhelming.

Part IV: Glossary of Gene Header Information

  • Life Stage: Shown first in the Genetics Kit in a drop-down menu. Also shown first in the D-DNA Analyzer. Only one life stage can be chosen for each gene, and it defines when the gene will switch on. A gene continues to function into all later life stages: For example, a gene which switches on in childhood continues to function throughout the Norn’s entire life. Note that the order they are displayed in the Genetics Kit is not chronologically correct. The following life stages are available:
    • Embryo (Emb)
    • Child (Chi)
    • Adolescent (Ado)
    • Youth (You)
    • Adult (Adu)
    • Old (Old)
    • Senile/Senior (Sen)
  • Dup (Duplicate): Shown second in the Genetics Kit as a check box. Shown fourth in the D-DNA Analyzer. This defines whether a gene can be duplicated or not. A Norn can carry multiple, identical copies of a certain gene without any effects. Differences may occur when a copy is mutated.
  • Mut (Mutate): Shown third in the Genetics Kit as a check box. Shown third in the D-DNA Analyzer. This defines whether a gene can be mutated or not. Mutations can come in many different forms, and can affect most parts of a gene. A mutation is simply a difference from the original gene.
  • Cut (Delete): Shown fourth in the Genetics Kit as a check box. Shown fifth in the D-DNA Analyzer. This defines whether a gene can be deleted or not. A deleted gene is no longer carried in the Norn’s genome, and can have minor or major effects, depending on the type of gene involved.
  • Gender: Shown fifth in the Genetics Kit as a radio box. Shown first in the D-DNA Analyzer. Only one gender type can be chosen for each gene, and it defines which gender(s) will be affected by the specified gene. This is an instance where a gene could possibly be seen as recessive when it only switches on in the opposite gender, but it is more closely related to a dormant gene. The following gender types are available:
    • B (Both)
    • M (Male)
    • F (Female)

Part V: Extended Learning

Explore how the gene header appears in the Genetics Kit and D-DNA Analyzer. Understanding what this relatively straightforward section means removes part of the mystery about genetics! Consider how the different Dup, Mut, and Cut parameters could impact different types of genes. I created the C1 No-Mutate Norns as an extreme example of how to remove the possibility for all mutations, aside from pigment changes. Feel free to download their genomes to use or study! Finally, see if you can determine how a Norn reacts to a duplicated gene that has been mutated. For instance, if a chemical reaction controlling the creation of glycogen was duplicated and mutated, could a Norn generate glycogen from different sources? Or would the game default to the original gene?

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