Creatures

Creatures is an artificial life computer program series, created in the early 1990s by English computer scientist Steve Grand. The program represented an important breakthrough in the advancement of artificial life (ALife) research.

In Creatures, the user 'hatched' small furry creatures called Norns into a world called Albia, and had to teach them how to talk, feed themselves, and protect themselves against vicious creatures called Grendels.

The program was significant as it was one of the first to code artificial life organisms from the genetic level, upwards. This meant that the Norns and their DNA could develop and evolve in increasingly diverse ways, unpredictable by the makers. By breeding certain Norns with others, 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. Earlier ALife programs had worked by giving their organisms a limited set of commands and parameters, and seeing whether the way the subjects behaved was realistic.

Creatures was developed as a consumer product by Grand's own research company, Cyberlife Technology, and was released by Mindscape. The program was instantly successful, and an online community of players soon formed, swapping Norns, creating new objects for Albia, sharing tips on how to play the game and anecdotes about unexpected evolutionary changes that they had seen, and even creating new breeds of Norn. At one point, the Creatures online community was the largest of its type in existence.

In the late 1990s, the decision was taken to split Cyberlife Technology into two parts; Grand formed a new organisation, Cyberlife Research, to focus on the production of new ALife technologies, while the remainder of the company was renamed Creature Labs, and made a formal games development company.

Sequels to Creatures, including Creatures 2, Creatures 3, Creatures Adventures and Creatures Playground, were released by Creature Labs in subsequent years. One sequel, an internet based game called Docking Station, was released free of charge, and allowed the user to place their Norns in an online world inhabited by the Norns of other users.

Development was suspended on future Creatures games in early 2003 when Creature Labs ceased operations, but apparently development and trademark rights have since been purchased by a separate company named Gameware, Ltd.

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