Creatures (http://cityinabottle.org) is an interactive project bordering between art, science and gaming, funded by the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF). The game environment is based on the AI-principle of emergent behavior. Organisms (plants and insects) start off with basic behavioristic rules and goals. If an opponent is edible, attack it. If an opponent is stronger, flee. When cornered, fight back. Hide in a flock of relatives to minimize the chance of being singled out. Follow a food trail marked by a relative. Expand and defend a productive environment. Grow colorful feathers/flowers to incite reproduction.
Complex social behavior then emerges by itself as organisms interact with each other. Species with a good strategy will survive and evolve over time, will adapt, will look different. The gaming environment changes procedurally, there is no preprogrammed story or pathway. We don't control the biotope. The creatures will find their own way and either co-exist or fight for limited space and food.
We have a small group of people working and/or collaborating on the project: artists (me and Nicolas Marinus), computer scientists (Tom and Frederik from NodeBox), a biologist (Johan Gielis, who proposed the Superformula - American Journal of Botany, 2003) and a psychologist (Tom Van Iersel). We intend to open source all of our artwork and code - give it back to the world so others can build on it.
Here are a few preliminary experiments that use the insect parts from Artropod to grow procedural creatures:
Creatures is just the first phase of a three-phase project called "City In A Bottle". The City In A Bottle world is again based on emergence, but in a social and cultural context. Here, the game observes the player and responds/improvises on the fly. A player can start out in a room with a table, a door and a plant. As in real life, the number of possible options is limited at first. You could sit at the table, open the door or water the plant. If the door is locked and you don't have a key, you're trapped. Out of boredom you might start talking to the plant. No answer. You walk around a bit and try talking to the plant again. The system will pick up on your interest in having conversations with plants and assign a speaking behavior to plantlife. "Hi!" blurbs the begonia happily. Expressing your desire to leave the room, the plant may eventually adopt the same viral need and offer strategies to help the both of you escape.
We are always looking for partners. Companies that can expand our consortium, add value to the project through cooperation, advice or just financial support. City In A Bottle is not an isolated project. It is a first step towards how computers can visualize flows of data in a totally new, exciting and intuitive way.