Re: Alife game: Creatures

Joanna Bryson (
Mon, 9 Dec 1996 11:55:50 GMT

I had a long talk at SAB96 with one of the guys who did the GA component
(Peter De Bourcier -- PhD from Sussex in GA) I've forgotten the exact
details of the chromosome structure (though they were fairly complicated,)
but the beasts struck me as the kind of platform everyone talks about
having -- they have three levels of adaptivity:

- genetics by sexual reproduction
- a 1000 neuron neural network
- 13 or so biochemical "drives" (including boredom, food, sleep, and
sex) which on their own provide a very diverse and interesting
set of behavior.

You can interact with your beasts as a floating dismembered hand -- you
can pat them on the head to reward them, or slap them to punish them.
You can also teach them words -- they don't have much grammar (2 word
noun verb sentences I think) but it's still pretty convenient.

They can reenforce each other (positively and negatively) as well, and
you get them teaching each other words, how to eat, etc. So you can
watch cultural evolution / Baldwin effects as well as genetic evolution.
The things age and die as well as reproduce.

The "game" part is mostly exploration -- you can only see the environment
through their eyes, which actually I thought was a bit hokey since the
fun part to me is watching the culture. But then, they're after a broader
market than that I suppose -- they spent 4 years developing the thing, and
the environment is quite fun and pretty if you like that sort of thing.

There are various toolboxes you can use to watch the stuff like drives
and NN weights -- they are thinking of eventually allowing people to
hack with more of the code, but Peter said he personally wanted to keep
the game standardized for a couple years, because he personally thinks
it's a phenomenally exciting platform and wants to see what evolves with
thousands of people running hours of "experiments." There's a possibility
of international cross-fertilization between games over the web as well.

They expect major problems getting the game released in the US because
the little beasts are allowed to be homosexual as well as heterosexual,
and some religous organizations have already informed them they're waiting
outside the court houses to make certain its not released into the American
market, esp. as an educational game. (I suppose the evolution stuff would
bother them even if the homosexuality didn't!)