We're over the $50K mark now, thanks to all you lovely people! And nearly 500 members of our new community! Welcome to the new ones, and thanks for your support.
There's still a lot to be done in terms of the community site and rewards and the like, but I actually got back to work on the project this week and it's really good to be developing again, knowing that this time I'm doing it for real and it's not just some hopeless dream.
I'm focused on creating a new, more realistic but challenging creature body right now. One of the many innovations in this game is that the creatures are not animated. Normally you create some 3D graphics, bone and skin them, and then carefully move them through hand-crafted poses in exactly the same way you make an animated movie. Then you take these animations - walking, rearing up, turning and so on - and blend them into short sequences inside the game to produce the IMPRESSION of a living being that's reacting to its environment.
But this isn't an animated video game. The creatures really do have to respond to their environment. They have to decide for themselves how to move their limbs and alter their balance to achieve their own goals. In fact they have to learn how to do it. So I'm giving their brains direct control over simulated muscle groups, and these will power their bodies via the physics engine. Limbs are elastic and respond to weights and forces just like the real thing.
The results from my earlier experiments are very realistic and faithful, but of course it's a lot more challenging than animation. If a creature sits down or falls over and then can't get up again because its proportions or weight distribution are wrong then it's in trouble. And so am I!
So I'm busy observing a lot about kinetics and noticing how beautifully evolution tunes our bodies. Just walking from A to B on a flat surface is a lot harder than it looks, and uses most of the muscles in our bodies I've no idea how this is all going to turn out yet, but it's a very worthwhile challenge. A creature that's animated can only do what I tell it; but life should be in charge of its own destiny.
Expect newborns to be pretty clumsy at first, though!