Alife game: Creatures

Alexander Chislenko (
Fri, 06 Dec 1996 15:36:28 -0500

Has anybody heard about the Creatures game?
It was recently released in UK [and Australia ?],
but hasn't made it into US yet.

The game is said to be fun; the creatures,
Norns, may be defined by users and can also evolve.

(Isn't it interesting that humans always need
some excitement to produce a new creature?
Understanding of goals can never be as good an
incentive as fun)

Some information about the game can be found at

A review in German can be found at

I haven't seen the game yet. (Just sent an info request)

---------- From the site: "What is CyberLife?" ---------------

CyberLife is our proprietary A-Life technology based on the
application of biological metaphors to software-complexity
problems. As software becomes increasingly complex we start
to face problems of how to manage and understand the
systems we build. However, the levels of complexity of these
systems are trivial in comparison to those of even the most
modest biological systems. Why then with all our genius,
logic, and organizational abilities do we find it so difficult to
build complex systems? After years of research it seems the
reason and the problem all lie within the way we think of and
approach complex systems.

Traditionally, science was all about breaking down systems
into their constituent parts. These parts would then be
analyzed to reveal their structure and the functions they
perform. This was the prominent endeavor of the 19th
century, and was very useful as a method of gaining
understanding about many things including simple biology,
medicine and physics. During the 20th century, our endeavors
focused on building systems, from the industrial revolution
through to the digital revolution. However, somewhere along
the way we had a paradigm shift and decided that the way to
build or model complex systems was to consider the behavior
required and try to capture this in high level constructs.
Massive rule bases were developed in order to capture the
intelligence and subtlety of human and animal behavior.
Needless to say, these systems failed.

The route of the problem seems to be that the abstracted
knowledge has no grounding - there is no actual physical
meaning to any of the concepts. Therefore, if the programmer
of the system had not considered a possible situation, then the
response of the system may turn out to be erratic, wrong or
non-existent. Natural systems are rarely this brittle. All
animals learn from experience and generalize. An animal will
never be in the exact same situation twice, however it has the
innate ability to reason about the similarities between its
current situation and those it has experience in the past. The
animal will then usually perform some action that was profitable
to it in the similar situations of its past. If this is a
bad thing for the animal to do, it will learn from its mistakes
and try out some other behavior if faced with a similar
situation in the future.

Why then don't we base our artificial systems on biological
systems? Well, that is exactly what we are doing with
CyberLife. If we want a system that behaves like a small
creature, then we build a small creature. We model large
numbers of cells in the brain (neurons), and connect them up
and send signals between them, in a way similar to natural
cells. We model blood-streams and chemical reactions. We
model a world for the creature to inhabit, and objects for the
creature to interact with. Finally we model diseases, hunger,
emotions, needs and the ability for the creature to grow,
breed and evolve. Only then do you get a system that
behaves like a creature.

The first results form this philosophy can be seen in
Creatures. Take a look, interact with them. Decide for
Alexander Chislenko <>
Firefly Network, Inc.: <> 617-234-5452