Genetics Lesson: Experimenting with Appearances

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate | Primary Game: Creatures 1

Gene Gnome: I was locked up for a few months, but I finally got my hands on my very own Creatures genetics lesson! We last touched upon the subject of appearance genes. However, the best part was left out: Experimenting with and trying to break appearance genes! Our main question surrounding this lesson is: What happens when appearance genes experience mutations, and is there ever an instance where this can seriously affect a Creature? Let’s get started and wreak some havoc with the Genetics Kit!

Part I: Making Appearance Genes Disappear

Since most Creatures 1 breeds have appearance genes that can be cut, there is the possibility that a Norn could have a genome without any of the four appearance genes. This screenshot illustrates a successful deletion of all appearance genes. What would this Creature look like?

Rumor had it that Gene Gnome was very upset when this Norn was not invisible, or otherwise completely solid! Even without any appearance genes, the game engine was smart enough to avoid a catastrophe. The Banana Norn occupies breed slot 0, which is the lowest breed slot available. As we will later find out, this is the only case where an undefined appearance defaults to the next highest breed slot. This proves that if an appearance gene (or all appearance genes) disappear from a Norn’s genome for any reason, he or she will still show up: No invisible Creatures here! Just a lot of Banana Norns.

Removing a Creature’s appearance genes, either via mutation or genetic manipulation, will not cause any problems within the game. Note, however, that this means that the Banana Norn appearance can enter a population in this way. We recommended locking appearance genes in place by unchecking all of the boxes for cut, duplicate, and mutate in a prior lesson. Of course, it can add a startling surprise to the birth of a Norn! Yet for those players aiming for realistic populations, locked in appearances make the most sense.

Part II: Copying Appearance Genes

Oh dear… Gene Gnome really went crazy with this experiment! This genome has three different breed slots defined for the appearance of the head. As we learned just a moment ago, the rest of the undefined body parts will use breed slot 0 (Banana Norn) parts. This looks like a real puzzle for Creatures 1 to work out!

The Santa Norn head is in breed slot 3, which is the highest breed slot defined. This example might lead one to conclude that the game will use the appearance from the highest defined breed slot: If there was a choice of 2, 3, 4, and 5, we would expect to see a Forest Norn head (breed slot 5). As any experienced experimenter knows, a theory must be proven first before it can be deemed the correct answer. As insignificant as this experimentation might appear, Gene Gnome was about to make an interesting discovery!

Lucas Locus: Our team usually learns a lot from experimenting with the important genes associated with brain functions and life systems. Actually, it was just last week that I was testing something out on Gene Gnome’s decision lobe… The point is that genetics experiments often lead to surprising results! Not every single one is life changing, yet even this study on appearance genes has its merits. No need to worry about my appearance, though: I didn’t need that foot!

The other possibility was the way the game read a genome: Was it using the highest defined breed slot, the first appearance gene it encountered, or the last appearance gene? We simply reversed the order of the definitions for the head appearance gene to test this out. And then it was time to find the truth!

This Norn had the exact same appearance genes as the previous subject, only with reversed breed slots. She was born with a Banana Norn head, which came from breed slot 0. Very interesting! It looks like Creatures 1 ignores all but the last gene associated with a body part. With the right mutation, an outside appearance could theoretically enter a population and make things confusing. Or maybe this is confusing enough!

The one area not covered in this discussion is the scenario where a genome uses an undefined breed slot, such as breed slot 14. In this case, the game will simply render the Creature using the highest breed slot that has a breed installed. This could be the Grorns, which take up breed slot 9, or the Forest Norns, which occupy breed slot 5. It all depends on what each individual player has installed. Not entirely sure which breeds are installed in your game? Try out NornPose! It will actually simulate this situation if not all breed slots are in use.

Part III: Combining Appearance Gene Mutations

Followed along without a problem so far? Now we can combine some of the ideas about appearance genes and see what will happen! This genome combines the ideas from the previous two sections to show off something interesting. Note that the new genes were not set to mutate, which explains the absence of the “Mut” variable. All in all, each body part uses two different breed slots. It might seem obvious what this Norn would look like… But let’s take a look, anyway! Take a guess, and proceed on…

Ah-ha! A Forest Norn, from breed slot 5, emerged from the egg. This strengthened the case that the highest numbered gene, not breed slot, was the value that Creatures 1 used to determine the actual appearance. It was at this point that Gene Gnome was very upset about not being able to break the game engine! It is actually quite robust in this way, though, since it will not have any problems with strange appearance gene mutations. Yet as the team took a look at this example, there was one final test to really prove the theory.

Time for another reversal of the breed slot values! This test would prove, once and for all, whether the game engine used the highest gene number from the Genetics Kit when determining how a Creature would look like in Albia. There was the possibility that combining different types of mutations would change the logic, though that seemed improbable. These were just appearance genes, after all: Definitely not as complicated as many of the other types of genes! Those experiments will be quite odd!

This Norn popped out of her egg wearing the appearance we predicted, which proved just how the game engine looks at a genome. Granted, the team wasn’t responsible for some amazing breakthrough. Perhaps it was just a minor discovery, yet it seemed crucial to understanding the inner workings of Creatures. Who knows: It might even prove useful when we start to dive into brain lobe mutations and the like! Just remember that the game will use the highest gene number when there is an instance of a body part having at least two different breed slots.

Part IV: Appearance Gene Logic

  • Deleted Appearance Gene: Game uses the lowest breed slot (typically breed slot 0).
  • Defined Appearance Gene, Missing Breed: Game uses the next highest breed slot with an installed breed.
    • Slot 9, but breeds only up to slot 7 are installed => Uses breed slot 7.
    • Slot 18, but breeds only up to slot 5 are installed => Uses breed slot 5.
  • Copied Appearance Gene: Game uses the breed slot defined in the highest gene number.

Part V: Extended Learning

Find out if any Creatures in your world have experienced appearance gene mutations. One of the best ways to examine Creatures 1 genomes is with the use of the D-DNA Analyzer. These genes do not often mutate, yet it can be surprising when they do! Also consider locking these in place for any future Norns, Grendels, and Ettins, unless it seems absolutely necessary to let them mutate. There are other considerations in the other games, particularly C3/DS, yet this lesson still generally applies to all of the Creatures games. Can you figure out how to manipulate appearance genes even further than they already are? Hint: Think about it from a male vs. female perspective.

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