Creatures

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URL = http://www.gamewaredevelopment.co.uk/creatures_index.php


In 1996, Steve Grand gave birth to Creatures, an extremely original game concept. Creatures was blurring the line between a game and an artifical life scientific experiment. In a virtual worlds, little virtual animals, the Norns, were struggling for survival, reproduced, and died. Each of these "norns" possessed a digital DNA, and a small neural network acting as their brains. A few years later, Grand left the gaming field and published an extraordinary book on his workings: Life: how to create it" where the methodology behind the creation of the norns was unveiled. The participative aspect was central to Creatures. Gamers could manipulate the DNA of their animals and send them to other players through mail or the web. Or they could simply try to make the species evolve without manipulation, by using just cross-fertilization. Later (after Grand's departure), Creature Labs, the company behind the game, published "Creatures docking station", an add-on using directly P2P technologies to connect the various "worlds" of the gamers so the Norns were able to travel through the Net in order to spread their genes. By doing so, the game was reproducing a scientific experiment that was aborted too soon: Thomas Ray's Tierra Network Experiment, where various digital creatures were able to explore different ecosystems hosted in connected machines. The great importance of Creatures for the P2P student lies in the understanding that participation and evolution in a collaborative system may not be only the product of the creativity of the users. The programs may evolve by themselves through Darwinian selection and mutations. This was Thomas Ray's idea, but Creatures introduced the large public to this concept, in a fun and ludic way. "Creatures" has survived the departure of their creator, Steve Grand, and the death of the original company, Creature labs, and continue to attract a small, but dedicated, crow of fanatics.