Glitches and Mutations: How Not to Teach a Norn

Waiting for the Incubator to Hatch a NornAs the Creatures 1 incubator came to life, I could hardly wait to begin my teaching method experiment! This newborn Norn was going to be raised by hand, with a focus on experience over vocabulary. I planned to teach him some nouns, but the visit to the learning computer would be saved for when he reached the child life stage. The incubator area was all cleared out, save for the necessities: Cheese, honey, and a ball! Most importantly, there were no distracting Norns around. There would be a slight language barrier, yet this seemed like a small price to pay if this would lead to a more independent Norn. I was also aware that this was going to be a single Norn’s experience, which wouldn’t cast a deciding vote on whether this new method was better or worse. I simply wanted to start somewhere, and the incubator let me know that it truly was about time to start!

Racing Into AlbiaOut popped a little baby Norn, who was practically running before his tiny feet touched the ground! Thrennion was the son of Xenops and Yuhina. Incidentally, he was also the last Norn with parents to be added to this generation: I had one final egg to hatch, yet that was a first generation Norn to add a little more genetic diversity. Immediately I noticed how Thrennion was running into the wall and trying to go somewhere he couldn’t… I feared that he had a mutation I hadn’t noticed upon my initial inspection.

The Undoing of a Teaching ExperimentAs it turned out, it was the dreaded floating egg glitch. Up until this point, the egg had caused only minor issues. Yet the fact that it could be seen from any place in Albia meant trouble for Thrennion. I had to keep him occupied so he wouldn’t try to walk through the wall, although I was very concerned that he was beyond confused! The pain of slamming into a wall constantly was hardly a nice way to begin life. As I feared, the floating egg was his main focal point when he wasn’t eating or playing. Bad, bad floating egg!

Shivering in the Hotness of AlbiaIncidentally, I have an idea that may fix the floating egg glitch without the need to create a new world. I still have plenty of CAOS to learn, but that may just save others like Thrennion! As if his problems weren’t already enough, I discovered that he shivered very often. His biochemistry indicated that he felt little to no cold. The culprit? Genetics! Thought I would give everyone a break from that topic? Certainly not, especially with a new Norn teeming with mutations! Thrennion occupied himself with the ball for a short time, before reverting back to trying to reach that impossible floating egg. I could only shake my head, and jump into an analysis of what was going on in his genome!

Receptors

Chemical receptors define parameters for a certain chemical. When these parameters are met, an element in the Creature is affected. These genes can increase drives, define life stages, control fertility, and more.

Default: 234 Emb B MutDupCut Creature, Sensorimotor, Invol 0=’flinch’, chem=Pain++, thresh=65, nom=0, gain=255, features=Digital
Mutation: 234 Emb B MutDupCut Brain, Noun i/ps, Threshold, chem=Pain++, thresh=65, nom=0, gain=255, features=Digital

In the standard Norn genome, this specific gene simply indicates that a Norn will flinch in response to an increase in pain. This is exactly why a Norn flinches when slapped! For Thrennion, this gene took a few wrong turns and got completely lost on the genetic map. Now, the same level of Pain Increase will affect the noun lobe in his brain. I couldn’t deduce what this would actually do, although I was surprised when I punished him with no apparent effect! In actuality, Thrennion can still understand the negative consequences of a slap or the corresponding word: He simply won’t flinch like others. Either the effect on his brain will do nothing, or pain could actually have an odd effect on his understanding of nouns.

Default: 237 Emb B MutDupCut Creature, Sensorimotor, Invol 4=’shiver’, chem=Coldness, thresh=141, nom=0, gain=255, features=Analogue
Mutation: 237 Emb B MutDupCut Creature, Sensorimotor, Invol 4=’shiver’, chem=Coldness, thresh=141, nom=1, gain=255, features=Analogue

The change in a genetic value by a single integer is often so minor as to have no effect. Unfortunately for Thrennion, this mutation does not fall into that bucket. This gene controls the conditions for when a Norn shivers. Sound familiar? This is the gene responsible for his odd shivering behavior mentioned above! In the standard genome, the nominal value is zero. A nominal value is simply the resting value of this receptor before it reaches the threshold. Just having a nominal value of one means that Thrennion will shiver quite often, even though it won’t have any correlation with how cold he is. In fact, constant shivering will make him tired and hot all the time. Poor Thrennion!

Emitters

Chemical emitters define specific conditions within a Creature in order to affect chemicals. Some examples include experiencing stress from excessive drives, becoming cold due to environmental conditions, and more.

Default: 137 Emb B MutDupCut Creature, Sensorimotor, Air is this hot, chem=Hotness, thresh=0, samp=24, gain=49, features=Analogue
Mutation: 137 Emb B MutDupCut Creature, Sensorimotor, Air is this hot, chem=Sex Drive, thresh=0, samp=24, gain=49, features=Analogue

The default version of this gene is fairly straightforward: When the Norn senses hot air, the hotness chemical rises in his or her system so that other genes can get to work. Thrennion has an unusual mutation that has an interesting effect! When he feels hot air, his sex drive will increase instead of hotness. What does this mean? He technically can’t sense hotness in the air, which might make it sound like he would always be cold. Yet with his mutated chemical receptor related to shivering, he’ll actually always keep himself warm! Hot air will actually help him when he is old enough to kisspop… Although that could mean a whole lot of eggs!

Stimuli

Stimuli genes define the chemicals that a Creature expects to receive in response to an action. These actions can range from interactions with the hand to involuntary actions like coughing or sneezing.

Default: 102 Emb B Mut ‘I am quiescent’ causes => 8*Boredom++
Mutation: 102 Emb B Mut ‘Object comes into view‘ causes => 8*Boredom++

As if Thrennion didn’t have enough to worry about, there was just one more gene that promised to give him trouble! In the standard Norn genome, this gene states that when a Norn is quiescent (or doing nothing) his or her boredom will increase by a small amount. This helps to make sure that Norns don’t just sit around and do nothing: It’s one way to keep them motivated to be active and curious about the world around them. Not for Thrennion, though. His mutation means that he can be quiescent without any effect on his boredom. That may sound like a nice way to keep him quiet, but it comes at a price. Every time Thrennion sees an object, his boredom will increase. This could lead to plenty of confusing scenarios around multiple Norns milling about, or even areas where there are a lot of new sights to see. Once again, poor Thrennion! He certainly had quite a few challenges ahead.

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