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Vol. 2, Issue 14
February 29, 2000
Birth of a Gamer:

Creatures 3:
I'm Hooked!

by Heather "elki" Haselkorn

At this point in my gaming career, Iím looking for the perfect game.† One that holds my attention for more than an hour, allows me to think yet isnít too difficult, and above all, is fun.† So far the closest Iíve gotten is Creatures 3.† In fact, I think Iím developing a little problem here.† Normally I play a game for just long enough to be able to write a column on it.† I usually donít give it a second glance afterward.† This time around, I was torn between writing my column and playing with Norns.† The game just turns me into a sappy fool and I canít break away.† Now, I should warn you:† if you donít like drippy columns about cute fuzzy animals, you should probably stop reading right here.†

If youíre not familiar with the game, the idea is to hatch two little creatures called Norns, teach them to talk, keep them healthy and safe from evil Grendels, and eventually breed future generations.† Sounds simple?† Maybe not.† At least, not unless you know what youíre doing.

You begin by naming your world.† Profound student of literature that I am, I named my world Messina, the setting for Much Ado about Nothing.† Actually, I started with Arden, but my first batch of Norns all died before they could reproduce, so I restarted the game.† Anyway, to populate Messina, I chose the option of hatching two Norns.† Having learned from my previous mistake, I realized I had to lay down some Grendel defenses before my eggs hatched.† I set a Sludge Gun and a Creature Detector near a door, and then went about my work of becoming a mommy.† I put one egg in the incubator to hatch right away, and left the other egg to hatch on its own a little later.† My first creature was a cute, fuzzy little thing that looked sort of like a cat with curly hair.† I named her Beatrice.† I took Beatrice to the training room and taught her a few words.† Then, as the tutorial I had printed out off the Creatures home page directed, I took her to Grendel territory to find the Stone of Knowledge.† After that, Beatrice, or ďbeatwice,Ē as she liked to call herself, had an almost full vocabulary.† By the time I led her back to safety, Benedick was already hatched and eating cheese.† Benedick was really cuteÖhe looked sort of like Tigger.

I was all set to go.† Except for one thing:† I had set my defenses up at one door, but there was at least one other door that I knew of.† I hadnít seen a Grendel yet, but I noticed a few Ettins.† Ettins donít beat up Norns the way that Grendels do, but they can be a major pain.† Sort of like freeloading holiday guests who pick your fridge clean.† Ettins like to pick things up and carry them away.† Creature Detectors, for instance.† So now Grendels were walking right past my Sludge Gun and beating up my Norns.

Good mommy that I am, I led my Norns to temporary safety.† Beatrice and Benedick were adults, and ready to breed.† The way they breed is neat.† They just tickle each other and suddenly thereís an egg.† First there was Hero.† And then Claudio.† Then Juliet.† And how can I forget the very short-lived Romeo?† The eggs were hatching before I could even find them!† And of course, with no time to finish laying down defenses, a few were slaughtered before I even knew they were there.

Meanwhile, while Iím worrying about how to protect my creations, theyíre in perfect bliss, talking and playing.† Hero, seeing Benedick nearby, says, ďHewo likes Benedick.Ē† When a Grendel shows up they tell me theyíre scared, or they run away saying something like ďJuliet dislikes Ung.Ē† The best is when they talk to each other, though.† The conversation can go something like this:

BEATRICE:† Beatrice very hungry for starch.

BENEDICK:† Maybe eat seeds Beatrice?


How cute is that?† But wait a second.† Cute?† Video games?† Thatís sort of an oxymoron, isnít it?† The bright colors, the cute little animals.† It sounds like a game for children.† But itís really not.† Itís actually a strategy game:† How can you keep your little community growing in spite of the dangers all around it?† I found myself having to make major decisions.† Do I deal with the Ettin whoís dismantling my defenses, or do I rescue a baby Norn who wandered into the Grendel habitat?† Should I hatch another pair of Norns or wait for the adults to start breeding?† Do I have time to wander around and look at the other environments?†

I also realized I had to watch what I say to my Norns.† In an early, failed attempt, one Norn complained that he was hungry.† I typed the simple command:† ďeat.Ē† Unfortunately he took that a little too seriously and ate his sister who was standing innocently nearby.† After that I made sure I was more specific.† And in trying to get Beatrice and Benedick to breed, I typed, ďBenedick play with Beatrice.Ē† Either that was too complex of a command or he just chose to ignore me.† And when I asked Benedick to teach one of the babies to talk, he merely took the little one to the training room.† I guess it was a good try, though.

Creatures 3 isnít all cute and cuddly.† The game can be unnecessarily complex at times.† To get all of your machinery working, you have to get powerups.† This requires dragging a Norn around to find the powerups and activate them.† To make full use of my defenses, I had to replicate them in a Creator.† My first problem was finding the Creator machine.† My second problem was that I couldnít find enough powerups to get it working to its fullest, so I wasnít able to replicate my defense equipment.† So there I am, helplessly pulling my hair out while Grendels are beating the crap out of my baby Norns and I canít get the darned Creator to work.† The Norns themselves arenít always cooperative.† Sometimes theyíd fall asleep while I was teaching them to talk, or refuse to go through a door when I was leading them around.† There are sad points in the game, too.† I took it really hard when my first baby Norn died.† And then there was the death of Beatrice.†

Itís absolutely amazing how this silly game got me so involved that I actually mourned the loss of an imaginary animal.† Thatís a testament to how well the game is designed, though.† The Norns act seemingly on their own.† They walk around, eat, sleep, talk to each other, breed, et cetera.† They interact with themselves and their environment, independent of their ďmommyĒ or ďdaddy.Ē† In turn, you teach them right and wrong.† You keep them safe and happy.† Itís so close to real that itís almost scary.† Itís not a drippy little kid game; it requires more thought than most children handle until they reach a certain age.† And itís very addictive.† I thought I was impervious and that Iíd never find a game that I really like.† But now I think Iíve found one I like a little too much.

-Heather "elki" Haselkorn actually enjoys this.


 

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