For as far back as I can remember, I’ve known that the instincts in Creatures are processed during the sleep cycle. Although I’ve never doubted those people who have explained it, I never had a solid source. Until I read a little deeper into the Creatures CAOS Guide. Instincts are a type of gene that basically tell a Norn what to expect when he or she does something. In simple terms, one states that if the verb “push” is heard and the Norn pushes something, he or she should experience an enormous reward. In other words, an instinct! But how is this type of gene really processed? Is a Norn born with them all? How does sleep come into play?
I still have a lot more to learn about Creatures genetics, but the instinct genes are pretty easy to understand. It’s how they’re actually used that can raise a lot of questions. There is a CAOS code called drea with an interesting description:
Start dreaming, ie. start processing any pending instincts, instead of receiving sensory data from [the] environment. Normally, this should be done only during [the] deepest sleep phase, plus during embryology, while the creature is in limbo before hatching. Once activated, MAX pending instincts will be processed, then the dream state switches off automatically. Each instinct takes about 5 secs, during which the creature is insensible. Set MAX to a suitable value – too low and [instincts] take too many sleeps to get processed, too high and creatures remain insensible for too long.
Ah-ha! Instincts are definitely processed prior to an egg hatching, and also in the dream state of sleep. It appears that a Norn requires a decent amount of deep sleep in order to process every instinct. According to the estimate of 5 seconds per instinct, a standard Norn requires about 45 seconds of dreaming to process all instincts as a baby. Additional instincts kick in during childhood and adolescence, raising this to around 1 minute 30 seconds to process every instinct later in life. Sleep is certainly a very important aspect of a Norn’s life, and is even more so for processing instincts.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether instincts are actually all that important. Amaikokonut wrote about Norns without instincts, which is a fascinating concept for C3/DS. Silencing those instincts creates an atmosphere much more conducive to nurturing, especially since many things are unnaturally programmed into Norns. Does it really make sense that a Norn should be born with the instinct to use a dispenser when hungry? The same argument can be made for the Creatures 1 instinct genes, yet most of these are designed to reward a Norn for performing the action corresponding with a verb. Instincts make them a little more likely to actually listen! This also explains why Norns who refuse to sleep, or have their sleep constantly interrupted, are often unruly. I personally see a lot of value in the C1 instincts, although I think it’s important that instincts should never get too much emphasis… Like the base genomes in C3/DS. Instincts help babies get started, but never forget that the most important source of information isn’t programmed into Norns: It comes from experiences and learning. What can we learn? Never interrupt a sleeping Norn, Grendel, or Ettin!