Modding in the Creatures series
A mod (short for "modification") is an alteration by players or fans of a video game that changes some aspects or one aspect of a video game, such as how it looks or behaves. Mods may range from small changes and tweaks to complete overhauls and can extend the replay value and interest of the game. While the term "modding" is largely unused in the Creatures Community, the games have always been open to modification by players, and Steve Grand made design decisions for the original Creatures that would enable modding. Instead of "modding", historically, other, usually more specific terms have been used, such as developing, cobbling, agenteering, gengineering, etc.
The Internet provides an inexpensive medium to promote and distribute user-created content like mods, an aspect commonly known as Web 2.0. Video game modding was described as remixing of games and can be therefore seen as part of the remix culture as described by Lawrence Lessig. Modding a game can also be understood as the act of seeking and installing mods to the player's game, and players often create lists of recommended mods.
Mods have arguably become an increasingly important factor in the commercial success of some games, as they add depth to the original work, and can be both useful to players and a means of self-expression. Mods can either make the game easier, or they can add new challenges for veterans to enjoy. Three motivations have been identified for fans to create mods: to patch the game, to express themselves, and to get a foot in the door of the video game industry, such as with Ali and Liam. Frimlin, Lis Morris and Slink even worked at Creatures Labs. Other prolific COBblers, such as Helen, have become programmers. However, it is very rare for even popular modders to make this leap to the professional video game industry.
People can become fans of specific mods, in addition to fans of the game they are for, such as requesting features and alterations for these mods. In cases where mods are very popular, players might have to clarify that they are referring to the unmodified game when talking about playing a game, such as the wolfling run. The term vanilla is often used to make this distinction.
- 1 Types
- 2 Official status of mods
- 3 Development
- 4 Mod packs
- 5 Controversy surrounding paid mods
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
A total conversion is a mod of an existing game that replaces virtually all of the artistic assets in the original game, and sometimes core aspects of gameplay. Total conversions can result in a completely different genre from the original. CEE for Games describes this in more detail, and the idea of a community-driven remake has been called "Freetures". Openc2e is an open-source, community-developed clone of the c2e game engine.
An overhaul mod significantly changes an entire game's graphics and gameplay, usually with the intent to improve on the original, but not going as far as a complete remake. This can also include adding revised music. Terra Nornia, with its larger vocabulary and seasons, could be considered an overhaul. Edynn, which restores kits to the game, could be considered an overhaul. The modified gameplay discussed in Interaction Modeling with Artificial Life Agents could be considered an overhaul.
An add-on or addon is a typically small mod which adds to the original content of a specific game. In most cases, an add-on will add one particular element to a game, such as a COB or agent. This can be accomplished without changing any of the original game's existing content. Many games are flexible and allow this; however, that is not always the case.
When Mark Ashton was originally assigned to be Creatures' agent engineer, no-one knew how popular addons would become. While initially, they were very similar to official COBs created by Mark, they quickly became more diverse.
Some add-ons occasionally have to replace in-game content, due to the nature of a peculiar game engine. It may be the case, for example, that in a game that does not give a player the option to choose their character, modders wishing to add another player model will simply have to overwrite the old one, such as the Left Hand for Creatures 2. Another example of overwriting is in breed slots for varieties of creatures, which was limited to 9 slots per species in Creatures 1, and 26 in later games. The unofficial Lilac Bengal Norns initially used a breed slot that the official Siamese Norns were released into.
Adoptions of individual creatures are generally not considered addons.
An unofficial patch can be a mod of an existing game that fixes bugs not fixed by an official patch or that unlocks content present in the released game's files but is inaccessible in official gameplay, such as the Grendel Invaders game that is accessible in Creatures 3 when Vampess's Fixed Star patch is applied. Such patches are usually created by members of the game's fan base when the original developer is unwilling or unable to supply the functionality officially. As xan points out, "Keep in mind CL was in major crunch time and compared to later tricks people figured out their CAOS is relatively bad. So if it looks like a bug, it probably is." An earlier example of this kind of patching occurred with several aspects of Creatures 2, most notably the Creatures 2 genome.
An art mod is a mod that is created for artistic effect. Art mods are most frequently associated with video game art; however, modified games that retain their playability and are subject to more extensive mods (i.e. closer to total conversions) may also be classified as art games. Art mods are usually designed to subvert the original game experience. One example is the mods on The Dark Creatures Page, which subvert the chaste kiss-pop.
Support continuation by mod
After Gameware lost the license and ended the support for the Warp in Docking Station, several patches were made for Docking Station, including the DS Login Disabler, C12DS's patch, and the DS Offline Option to allow players to run Docking Station offline. The Bypass Import Cloning stops the world from making an unnamed clone when a norn is imported to make things easier for the player. The Albian Warp project aims to restore warping capabilities to the community.
A wider trend in video game modding is to create mods that make the games harder. While norn torture rehabilitation could arguably be part of this trend within the Creatures Community, the use of metarooms like NornGarden 1 or the True WarmBlood genome have been recognised to up the challenges involved in caring for creatures.
Official status of mods
Due to the increasing popularity and quality of modding, Creatures Labs hired Frimlin to work on agent creation, and Lis Morris and Slink were consultants on the Creatures 2 genome. Lis later created a tutorial on getting started with the Genetics Kit for Creatures 3, published on the official website. Creatures Labs also partnered with NeoDecatur in releasing the Americana Pack, the Creatures 3 Advent Pack, and The North Pole on their official websites. They provided a registration system for individual class numbers as of Creatures 3.
Many mods do not progress very far and are abandoned without ever having a public release. Some are very limited and just include some gameplay changes or even a different loading screen, while others are total conversions and can modify content and gameplay extensively. A few mods convert themselves into distinct games, such as the Asteroids game.
Doom (1993) was the first game to have a large modding community, and not long after Creatures 1's release, fans began to mod the game to add new objects and to alter the digital DNA of the creatures to add new appearances, such as the red-green American Cardinal Norns, give new instincts to creatures such as Ripley, improve antibody genes, and increase the efficacy of the cough medicine.
Mod-making tools are a variety of construction sets for creating mods for a game. Early mod-making tools included hex editors, which were used to alter the digital DNA of creatures, and to lay the foundations for the new background of Terra Nornia. Creatures fans created Unofficial Tools which allowed them to change aspects of the game.
By the mid-1990s, modding tools were commonly offered with PC games. In line with this trend, Creatures Labs offered mod-making tools such as the Genetics Kit for sale, and later on, Gameware Development made them available for free. In February 1999, the Creatures Development Network was launched, and in March of that year, several official tools for Creatures 2, the Sprite Workshop, COB Compiler, Attachment Editor, Egg File Maker, Genetics Mapper and RGB Converter, were released onto the CDN.
At one point, there were free content delivery tools in development as well. These were aimed at making using mods easier and to help manage downloads, updates, and mod installation, in order to allow people who are less technically literate to play with mods.
Game support for modifications
The potential for end-user change in-game varies greatly depending on the game, though it can have little correlation with the number and quality of mods made for a game.
In general, the most modification-friendly games will define gameplay variables in text or other nonproprietary format files (in Creatures, the COS file format can be read by many free text editors), and they have graphics of a standard format such as bitmaps. Sprites in the Creatures series can be converted from ordinary 24-bit bitmaps using software such as the Sprite Workshop, SpriteBuilder or Edos. Publishers can also determine mod-friendliness in the way important source files are available (some programs collect their source material into large proprietary archives, but others make the files available in folders, like the Bootstrap). Prior to the Preview Kit being produced, test tube norns could be made by editing the Egg Disk files. Creatures 1 has a limited palette for artists to use, but later games have more options when creating art.
Games have varying support from their publishers for modifications, but they often require expensive professional software to make. According to the official tutorial Creating Agent Art, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, PaintShopPro and Adobe Photoshop were used to create the sprites for Creatures 2. There are also free and even open-source modeling and other graphics programs (such as Blender) that can be used as well.
Creatures Village is considered much less "moddable" than other games in the series, as it does not have an injector. Known mods can be found at Creatures Village Addons. Neither of the Playstation games, Creatures PS1 and Creatures - Raised in Space have mods, nor does Creatures Game Boy Advance.
The games industry is currently facing the question of how much it should embrace the players' contribution in creating new material for the game or mod-communities as part of their structure within the game. Some software companies openly accept and even encourage such communities. Others though have chosen to enclose their games in heavily policed copyright or Intellectual Property regimes (IPR) and close down sites that they see as infringing their ownership of a game.
In 2011, Fishing Cactus announced that Creatures 4 (as it was then known) would not support user-generated content, but they were looking at Valve's system for Team Fortress to see how it could be done.
For cross-platform games, mods written for the Windows version have not always been compatible with the Mac OS X and/or Linux ports of the game. In large part, this is due to the publisher's concern with prioritizing the porting of the primary game itself, when allocating resources for fixing the porting of mod-specific functions may not be cost-effective for the smaller market share of alternate platforms. Macintosh port of Creatures 1 details the functionality of addons for that game, and MacGee's Creatures was a prominent fansite devoted to the Mac port of C1.
Also, mods compiled into platform-specific libraries, such as the installers for the Creatures Mall breed packs (Hardman, Banshee, Toxic, etc.), are often only built for the Windows platform, leading to a lack of cross-platform compatibility even when the underlying game is highly portable. In the same line of reasoning, official mod development tools are often available only on the Windows platform. CL provided a CAOS highlighting addon to support Linux development of Creatures 3 and Docking Station via popular text editor Vim, but it does not have the same error-checking functions as the Windows CAOS Tool. The Mac edition of Creatures Exodus has the rainbow spew error with some addons.
Mod teams that lack either the resources or know-how to develop their mods for alternate platforms sometimes outsource their code and art assets to individuals or groups who are able to port the mod.
Unforeseen consequences or benefits of modding
While care was taken in the early stages of creating CAOS to avoid malicious code being spread by items, some 'joke' items have been created, such as torture devices to assist in norn torture. Even as early as 1998, modding was seen as a 'more advanced skill' in terms of gameplay. As the community's collective knowledge of CAOS and creatures becomes greater, there has been a trend to make sure items give correct stimuli, and avoid giving too much nutrition per bite of food, to avoid confusing creatures. The Creatures Development Standards is a push to create consistency in C3/DS mods that affect creatures.
Tutorials and resources
There have been many Tutorials and reference guides created over the series' lifespan to help people get started with various aspects of modding the series.
Official tutorials for Creatures 3 and Docking Station included overview of what you need to make an agent, making food objects for C3, making a Vendor for C3, making a Toy for C3, getting started with the Genetics Kit, Balloon Maker tutorial, and Using the Map Editor. Popular unofficial tutorials have included Creating a Metaroom and CAOS Chaos.
Mod packs are groups of mods put into one package for download, often with an auto-installer. A mod pack's purpose is to make an easy download for downloading multiple mods, often with the goal of resolving cross-mod interactions that can happen, or to make the original game easier or more difficult.
Legal status of mod packs
Video games are protected by copyright law as a "literary work".
Copyright law, as it relates to video games and mod packs, is an evolving and largely unsettled legal issue. The legal uncertainty revolves around which party is legally the 'copyright owner' of the mods within the pack -- the company that produced the game, the end-user that created the compilation, or the creators of the individual mods. For example, C12DS was at one point halted due to questions about its legality. This was resolved through communication with Creature Labs. The German community has implemented the Creatures Copyright Center (2000) and the Open Creatures Stuff Center (2003-2016) to deal with questions of copyright in the Creatures Community; another approach is Die Insel der Gobbyraitpiraten! In the United States context, the mechanisms of how the modder gets into the code of the game to mod it may violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or even simply the end-user license agreement. In terms of the Creatures series, when Gameware Europe bought the series and rehosted the CDN, the use of official modding tools was covered under the Developer Software License Agreement.
Some regard the fan use of copyrighted material in mods to be part of a "moral economy", and develop norms about the reuse of this material, often settling on a system of shared ownership, where mods and code are freely shared with the common good in mind. It has been argued that total conversion mods may be covered in the United States under the concept of fair use.
Controversy surrounding paid mods
Over the first year and a half of Creatures, it became clear that the Creatures Community could do with far more in the way of tools and other assistance to assist them in creating third-party addons to the game. Cyberlife had promised that they would provide a proper software development kit since the beginning of 1998, and the Creatures Development Network was the result of this. This resource initially took the form of the CDN Newsgroup.
It wasn't long before some third-party developers began asking Cyberlife if they could sell the addons they were making. A concept proposed by upper management was to have a small group of 20 contracted developers who would be provided with the tools to create addons for Creatures 2 free of charge, and have the work sold at the official website. A contract form was made available (on 15 September 1998) for people who wished to apply for this program. However, the terms of the contract caused controversy in the community (see Creatures Development Network for more details). CyberLife later stated that the terms of the contract were more suited to developers that CL had a pre-existing relationship with. Developers who wanted to sell their creations could contact CyberLife and enter into a contract less onerous than the one initially proposed. Chaos Development were the first to take advantage of this and released their complete new world for Creatures 2, Montu.
In general, almost all fan-created mods for the Creatures series are available for free. Montu, Norngarden 2, and Ostrova were the chief exceptions, though they are no longer available to purchase, and Norngarden 4's download page asks if you have done a good deed for others first.
- wikipedia:Creative consumer
- wikipedia:Fan labor
- wikipedia:Fork (software development)
- wikipedia:ROM hacking
- Computer game mods, modders, modding, and the mod scene by Walt Scacchi on First Monday Volume 15, Number 5 (3 May 2010)
- See: https://mobularay.blogspot.com/2017/09/recommended-c3ds-patches-and-agents.html and https://web.archive.org/web/20211014193951/http://www.creatures.org.uk/ccsf2006/articles.php?id=1
- Cannon, Rebecca. "Meltdown" from Videogames and Art (Clarke, Andy and Grethe Mitchell, eds.). Bristol: Intellect Books. Pp.40-42. 2007. ISBN 978-1-84150-142-0
- Flew, Terry and Humphreys, Sal (2005) "Games: Technology, Industry, Culture" in Terry Flew, New Media: an introduction (second edition), Oxford University Press, South Melbourne 101-114.
- Brief overview of the differences and similarities between open source software development and co-creation in digital games - Jedrzej Czarnota, Gamasutra, 7 August 2013
Due to technical limitations, the complete revision history of this page can be found at wp:Video game modding, excluding edits newer than this page's first edit.