Strange Creature Found In Ghana
Creatures is an artificial life (alife) computer program series, created in the mid-1990s by English computer scientist Steve Grand whilst working for the Cambridge video games developer Millennium Interactive. Gameplay focuses on raising alien creatures known as Norns, teaching them to survive, helping them explore their world, defending them against other species, and breeding them. Words can be taught to creatures by a learning computer (for verbs) or by repeating the name of the object while the creature is looking at it. After a creature understands language, the player can instruct their creature by typing in instructions, which the creature may choose to obey. A complete life cycle is modelled for the creatures childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and senescence, each with their own particular needs. The gameplay is designed to foster an emotional bond between the player and their creatures. Rather than taking a scripted approach, Creatures series games were driven by detailed biological and neurological simulation and their unexpected results. There were six major Creatures releases from Creature Labs. Between 1996 and 2001, there were three principal games released, the Docking Station add-on (generally referenced as a separate game) and two children’s games, and there were three games created for console systems. A sequel named Creatures Online was in development, with the artificial life technology from Creatures 3 and Docking Station updated to a 3D environment.
The program was significant as it was one of the first commercial titles to code alife organisms from the genetic level upwards using a sophisticated biochemistry and neural network brains. This meant that the Norns and their DNA could develop and “evolve” in increasingly diverse ways, unpredicted by the makers. By breeding certain Norns with others, some traits could be passed on to following generations. Most interestingly, the Norns turned out to behave similarly to living creatures. This was seen as an important insight into how real world organisms may function and evolve. The norns possess simulated biological drives which give punishment when they are raised, and reward when they are lowered. The model for norns’ decision-making process is Behaviorist and based on norns learning how to reduce their drives. Dickinson and Balleine state that while this stimulus-response/reinforcement process makes the creatures seem like they are goal-directed, they are instead ‘habit machines’ responding in a learned fashion to particular stimuli. Mutations in the genome also occur, allowing new characteristics to appear in the population and potentially be inherited by a future generation. Faulty genomes can also occur for example, norns which cannot see or hear, or immortal norns due to a hyper-efficient digestion system. Creatures used the emergent approach seen in animats, but with the goal of more complex behaviours than locomotion. Grand describes the psychological model of the creatures as being inspired by rats. In 2000, Steve Grand described the intelligence level of norns as being like ants. Margaret Boden, in 2003, rejected Creatures as being a form of alien life as the simulated metabolism is concerned with controlling the norn’s behaviour, not on maintaining its ‘physical’ form. In 2011, Steve Grand stated that while the norns in Creatures could learn, generalise from past experiences to novel experiences, and react in an intelligent manner to stimuli, they could not think.
Earlier a-life programs had worked by giving their organisms a limited set of commands and parameters, and seeing whether the way the subjects behaved was realistic. While this is the first commercial program it is to be noted that other non-commercial programs had done this since the late 1970s such as the Savanna Simulator by Walter Vose Jeffries which ran on an Z80 based Exidy Sorcerer microcomputer and presented the creatures moving on a graphical grid.
The genetics in Creatures are somewhat different from human genetics; they are haploid. There is no concept of dominant gene and recessive gene, much less recombination between loci. Nevertheless, the complexity of the simulated biochemistry meant that Norn behaviour was highly unpredictable.
Among the fans of Creatures were the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, who called it a “quantum leap in the development of artificial life”, and author Douglas Adams. Creatures inspired some players to take up careers in the sciences.
Courtesy : Wikipedia