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2, Issue 14
February 29, 2000
of a Gamer:
this point in my gaming career, I’m looking for the perfect game.
One that holds my attention for more than an hour, allows me to
think yet isn’t too difficult, and above all, is fun. So far
the closest I’ve gotten is Creatures 3. In fact, I think
I’m 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
don’t 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 can’t break away.
Now, I should warn you: if you don’t like drippy columns about
cute fuzzy animals, you should probably stop reading right here.
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 you’re
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 “beatwice,” 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 cute…he looked sort of like Tigger.
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 hadn’t seen a Grendel yet, but I noticed a few Ettins.
Ettins don’t 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.
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 there’s 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.
while I’m worrying about how to protect my creations, they’re
in perfect bliss, talking and playing. Hero, seeing Benedick
nearby, says, “Hewo likes Benedick.” When a Grendel shows up
they tell me they’re scared, or they run away saying something
like “Juliet dislikes Ung.” The best is when they talk to each
other, though. The conversation can go something like this:
Beatrice very hungry for starch.
BENEDICK: Maybe eat seeds Beatrice?
is that? But wait a second. Cute? Video games? That’s sort
of an oxymoron, isn’t it? The bright colors, the cute little
animals. It sounds like a game for children. But it’s really
not. It’s 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
who’s 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?
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: “eat.” 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, “Benedick play with
Beatrice.” 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.
3 isn’t 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 couldn’t find
enough powerups to get it working to its fullest, so I wasn’t
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 can’t get the darned Creator to work. The
Norns themselves aren’t always cooperative. Sometimes they’d
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.
amazing how this silly game got me so involved that I actually
mourned the loss of an imaginary animal. That’s 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 “mommy” or “daddy.” In turn, you teach them
right and wrong. You keep them safe and happy. It’s so close
to real that it’s almost scary. It’s not a drippy little kid
game; it requires more thought than most children handle until
they reach a certain age. And it’s very addictive. I thought
I was impervious and that I’d never find a game that I really
like. But now I think I’ve found one I like a little too much.
actually enjoys this.
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