Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why do I develop?

I was reading Amaikokonut’s blog earlier today, and came across an interesting post entitled Why Develop?

I’ve been considering the question of ‘why do I develop’ for so long now I’m no longer entirely sure I know what the question means!

First off, why Creatures, and not some other game? Why not a newer game that combines writing and nice code/art? The answer to this question is pretty simple for me. One, I know these games well. I’ve been playing Creatures for almost 10 years, and I’ve been playing BGII for 7. The next reason is that I know how to develop for these games, and I don’t need to learn a whole new way of thinking. It’s relatively simple for me to pick up the CAOS tool and tap out a functioning agent. But beyond those things, there is something that keeps me coming back.

When I think about it, the pessimist in me says, “What’s the point? The community’s surely no more than thirty people scattered over various sites, and out of that thirty few are actually going to try whatever you make. The community is small, none of the games are officially supported and—let’s face it—the series is thoroughly outdated. Why bother?”

I know several other people who regularly ask themselves this. I’m not the only one. There are so many reasons not to develop for Creatures, so many reasons to pick up the Dragon Age toolset and make a brand-spanking new companion called Jamir who has a penchant for heels and rouge-- or, uh, possibly not--but you get my drift. There are far more recent games, with much larger audiences to play any mods I release.

Despite this, I keep coming back for more. There is something about this game, this series, this concept that just hooks me in. And if I’m honest with myself, it ain’t the norns.

I remember when I was first introduced to Creatures. I was 11 or 12, and Dad bought it from a computing store, thinking that I might enjoy it. I can remember first visiting the CL website and downloading the Purple Mountain Norns, and being so excited at the prospect of playing with new objects and imported norns. (As I recall that was also my first foray into the internet, as well, and we all know how that ended up: I’m virtually attached to a screen at all times.) I would come home from school, boot up Creatures, and play until I was booted off by well-meaning parents worried about the effects of too much time in front of a computer. (They’ve given up now that I’m no longer living at home, thankfully. That would just be awkward.)

I played Creatures 1 because I loved raising norns. I was so attached to them that often remember there being a few tears when they died. It was my great love of norns that drove me to download my first few third-party objects—sadly I don’t remember what they were—but I do remember that they were to help me care for my intrepid creatures. But though my intentions were noble and norn-serving, with those ventures into the world of 3rd party objects, I was forever changed... though I didn’t know it yet.
It didn’t take me long to decide to make my own cobs, though initially I didn’t get far. I think I followed a tutorial on making some cheese, at which point Creatures 2 was bought for me and that was far more interesting. Frustratingly I didn’t find Creatures 2 as engaging as Creatures, but I faithfully played it until I got Docking Station.

Docking Station was something of a turning point in my Creatures-playing-career, as it signified the point where I stopped playing for the creatures themselves. Of course, earlier on I was playing for the new addons, to try out new breeds and cobs, but I was still mainly in it for the norns, ettins and grendels... but with the release of Docking Station, I found I couldn’t engage with my furry liyylr subjects. Still, I loved the look of the game, the new interface, and the plethora of objects that soon became available... as well as the lively atmosphere on Albia2000 and the GE Forums, where I spent much of my online life. The norns didn’t interest me, but the community and the addons did, and I soon decided to help out with several projects.

Within less than a week I was hooked. And then a couple of us developers got to talking, and BLG showed up and posted some amazing artwork on the GE forums, and most of you probably know the story from there.

I’m still not sure what’s so alluring about development itself. I think it’s the strange feeling of joy when you get something ingame that you worked hard to create. It’s hard to describe until you’ve experienced it yourself. It’s very satisfying, and I suspect more than somewhat addictive. Using Docking Station, it’s relatively easy for me to create something and get it ingame due to my previous experience... so it makes sense that I would keep coming back, in that way.

With all this blathering, however, I still haven’t answered the question of why I develop despite the community being small and my paranoia that few people ever actually install and play my modifications. There is just something about the community and the game that keeps me coming back. One theory is that it’s my history, the countless hours I’ve spent participating in the community, the fond memories of development teams and forum roleplay, of hours spent perfecting models in 3D Studio Max and yet more hours spent inputting code to the CAOS tool to make my models come to life.

Or maybe it’s just that Creatures is bloody awesome, and I’m going to keep caring about it and making addons for it until I finally get a job in the game development industry, and maybe beyond.

If I had to choose, I think I like reason #2.

Crossposted to the Creatures Development Blog.


  1. I've downloaded your things =)

  2. Thanks, anon :) Glad to hear there's at least one person!

  3. Wonderful post. I've been a member of the CC since around the time of C2. I never really got involved. I was more like in the shadows downloading all of the wonderful things everyone produced. I'm not sure what it is about these games, but I just always come back for more. I guess it's the feeling of nostalgia and the feeling of being involved in something far greater than myself. So complex, yet, so simple. It just resonates sentiments of comfort, warmth, familiarity...

    I'm in my mid-twenties now and I've watched the community slowly fall apart. It greatly saddens me to see all of these agents, metarooms, breeds, etc just disappear and never return. However, personally, I believe that I'll still be playing this series for many years to come. Sure, I take breaks now and then. Maybe my breaks are even longer than my time spent playing, but I'll still be around. I'll always be around. I know it. :-)

    People like you - still active in the community - give me hope. Hope that I'm not the only one that still cares. Hope that, maybe someday, we can even have a new release. Heck, maybe it'll be the members of the community that rally together to create it. Lord knows most of you are talented enough.

    I guess my point is to let you know that it's okay to keep pushing through. You may not have as many people downloading things or viewing pages as you would have when the CC was at its prime, but you DO have devoted followers. The people that are still here after all these years should be far more valuable than how many clicks your downloads get. People like you, the anon, and me... we are the reason to keep doing the things you do.

    (And I just downloaded the apple norns while typing this. :-D )

    Take care.

    ThunderOrb (wildernesslofts at gmail dot com)