Creating Nicer Norns with Genetics

Building a Nicer Norn for Creatures 1Updating the Norn genome can be a daunting task, although it isn’t too terrible in Creatures 1. In the last update about my progress, I mentioned a few possible updates. Many have turned out to be rather small, yet there is one element of the C1 Norns that could use with a little fiddling: Niceness. Are there actually genes for that? Indeed! There might be a better word to describe this, yet in the end I hope to have nicer Norns who are less prone to slapping one another. Slapping will never go away completely, yet there are a few genetic changes that may help with reducing this action. Too much slapping can actually harm the learning process, since Norns are apt to be punished after doing good things like eating or trying to rest. Have a look through some of the genetic updates!

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: 104 Emb B Mut ‘I’ve Activated2’ causes sig=0 GS neu=255 int=0 => 3*Tiredness++ + 16*Boredom-
Modification: 104 Emb B Mut ‘I’ve Activated2’ causes sig=0 GS neu=255 int=0 => 3*Tiredness++ + 2*Boredom-

Activated2 corresponds to the “pull” action. This mostly comes into play with instruments, lifts, and vehicles. For comparison, there is an identical stimuli gene for the “push” action. So why reduce the amount of boredom decrease? When a Norn pulls another Creature, that turns into a slap. So the idea here is not to introduce any punishment for the pull action, since it has many uses. The goal is to make the push action more desirable, since it reduces boredom more and will lead to a greater sense of reward. I may need to tweak this if the Norns seem to only go in one direction on the vehicles, thereby not using the pull action at all, but my hypothesis is that they’ll just be more likely to push things. And hopefully this will make slapping a little less likely!

Default: 106 Emb B Mut ‘I am approaching’ causes sig=0 GS neu=255 int=0 => 2*Tiredness++ + 8*Loneliness- + 8*Crowdedness++
Modification: 106 Emb B Mut ‘I am approaching’ causes sig=0 GS neu=255 int=0 => 2*Tiredness++ + 8*Loneliness- + 8*Boredom-

This gene kicks in whenever a Norn approaches something. The mechanics are rather important, as this interacts with several other stimuli. For example, the opposite is the gene for “I am quiescent”. Approaching something is often coupled with the “I am traveling” stimuli. The modification changes crowdedness increase to boredom decrease, which is a pretty major change. I have good reasons, though, or so I hope! Crowdedness increase goes up drastically when another Creature tickles or kisses the current Norn, to a magnitude of 31. Hearing a Creature speak leads to 16 crowdedness increase. Increasing crowdedness simply by approaching something seems like overkill, especially considering how there is a small bit of loneliness decrease. The choice to use boredom decrease is designed to reward Norns for exploring and approaching different things. I also believe that this stimuli is involved with the “come” verb. Since the value is so small, though, this should not have a significant effect on Norn behavior.

Instincts

Instincts define the expectations for certain behaviors. These genes do not state exactly what happens when the parameters are met, but rather provide the basis for Norns to base their decisions on.

Default: 151 Emb B MutDupCut Drive i/ps Boredom and I Pull => 139*Reward
Modification: 151 Emb B MutDupCut Drive i/ps Boredom and I Come => 93*Reward

Edit: Thanks to Grendel Man for pointing out a typo on my part! This gene is now correctly displayed and the explanation has been expanded to make some sense. That’s what happens when you get a little rusty with genetics!

Going off of the modifications in the stimuli genes, this updated gene reduces the level of reward for pulling something when the boredom drive is high, and changes pull to come. I may need to play around with the value, yet the goal is not to make the pull action undesirable: Rather, pushing should be preferred over pulling, but not exclusively so. More so, changing the “pull” action to the “come” action should encourage a Norn to move while bored. To reiterate, this is designed to make slapping other Norns less desirable. It certainly would be much easier if there was a separate action and verb for slapping! I still think this should make a difference, especially in terms of the way a Norn reduces boredom. If you want to make your own genetic modifications, just keep in mind that it’s vital to think carefully about the consequences. I could have updated this gene to use punishment instead of reward for pulling something. The problem? That Norn would learn to avoid the pull action, which could create problems with other objects in the world. Now a Norn will come rather than pull when bored, yet the concentration of the reward chemical (93) is still lower than that of the normal push action, with a value of 139. Norns will no longer have the instinct to pull something when bored, but still have instincts for multiple actions that should reduce boredom.

Default: 164 Ado M MutDupCut Drive i/ps SexDrive + General Sensory i/ps IT is opposite sex and I Pull => 112*Reward
Modification: 164 Ado M MutDupCut Drive i/ps SexDrive + General Sensory i/ps IT is opposite sex and I Come => 112*Reward

I saved the best for last! This gene is strangely labeled the “courting instinct” in the Genetics Kit. Notice that it only affects male Norns and kicks on in the adolescent life stage. It basically teaches a male Norn that if his sex drive is high and he finds a female Norn, he will be rewarded for pulling her. And as I mentioned several times before, pulling another Creature is equivalent to slapping. So male Norns have a built in instinct that rewards them for slapping the ladies. How very unkind! The modified version simply changes “pull” to “come” meaning that a male Norn will be rewarded for approaching a female Norn. This is similar to how the Forest Norn genes for herbs and weeds work: Approaching an herb results in reward, and approaching a weed results in punishment. This does seem to help with eating habits, and my hope is that this will make the males a lot nicer to the ladies! One idea I toyed with was making this a gene for both genders. However, I figure the boys can go chasing after the girls! I also prefer the comparable rarity of pregnancies in Creatures 1, and I only want to be sure the boys have an instinct to court the females properly. Well, as “properly” as Norns can: We’re now going from slapping to chasing. Still, that seems like an improvement!

A Genetic Predisposition to Anger and Meanness in C1Anger is another concept entirely, although Norns typically don’t suffer from it too much! This modified genome is still in the works, and open to discussion. Think these changes will alter behavior much more than I seem to think? Comment away! I imagine this genetic tinkering will go on with each generation, although I’m not trying to make any drastic changes. The rest of the updates mostly involve changing the gene header information for a few genes to change their abilities to be cut, duplicated, and/or mutated. One pregnancy gene has been updated to only affect females, and a stress-related gene for female fertility will now only kick on in the youth life stage, rather than at birth. Be ready to meet the nicer Norns!

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