Q&A: AI and Traits
For this update, I thought I would cover a few more of the questions I've received from backers and interested people in other parts of the internet.
1. How does the AI work? Can creatures make emotional bonds with each other?
There are two layers to creature AI. At the lowest level, there's a nervous system where inputs travel down a pipeline, are processed by neurons in different ways, and then are eventually sent down to control the contraction of muscles.
A step above that, there's a behavior tree which controls some of the inputs to the lower level nervous system AI. This system implements more large-scale behaviors and responds to higher level details of the creature's situation. For example, the behavior tree would choose a target swimming direction based on where it thinks it is likely to find food, and the nervous system has this swim direction as an input to guide its motion.
Both systems are customizable by the player and by natural selection, and they are basically programming languages unto themselves, so they should be capable of creating really diverse array of behaviors. For the suggestion of emotional bonds, I like the idea a lot. It may be something I will have to experiment with to see how well it works as part of the overall AI system, but I think that would add substantially to the ability of the game to generate interesting stories, the way that games like Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld do.
2. How will predatory and defensive mutations work? Can things like claws, constricting appendages, poisonous barbs, projectiles, and other such appendages evolve in the game?
Evolutionary arms races between predator and prey populations are definitely something I want to support. Some mutations like this should just naturally fall out of the way that existing systems are implemented: for example, prey AI evolving to freeze in the presence of a predator, since a moving creature is easier to detect than a still one. Other examples might include behaviors like swimming in schools, or having skin that closely blends into the surrounding area. I also hope to add additional traits, such as varying fields-of-vision and vision depth, skin toughness, carapaces, bio-luminescence, lures, bite strength, and more. Traits like these that don't come with obvious downsides will impose additional costs in terms of the energy and nutrients that a creature requires, so that whether or not a specific trait pays off for a creature depends on the details of its environment and what other creatures live there.
Thanks to everyone who asked questions, and thank you for reading.