Parasites and pollen, oh my!

Following on the heels of our great idea I started work on developing the parasitic organism that would rely on passing avatars for transport around the world. Pictured here in fact, is our first little parasite.

The goal of this parasite is to be unobtrusive. Reason being is that I can already here many residents complaining about them. To avoid a situation where a battle cry is called out to thwart my parasites and exterminate them from SL, I'm going to have to implement a few features to try and foster a positive relationship between these creatures and the whole of SL.

One way I hope to make these parasites unobtrusive is to make them shrink... and quite literally be as physically unobtrusive as possible. I say "shrink" because I don't intend for them to always be the smallest prim-size possible. In fact, they can be any size they want -- but when a potential avatar walks by, the parasite will shrink down to a very tiny size as it prepares to lock on to it's target.

They will also make themselves phantom when they are in mid-transport in order to avoid bumping things or bothering an avatar. I hope it will allow them to move freely without interrupting or stalling the free movement of avatars. Which just happens to be a positive thing for both parties.

Lastly, these will be terribly simple creatures in order to minimize complaints that they "case lag." Since they won't move on their own, I can keep their strain on phsyics low and leave room for the ever-important genetics system I hope to implement in all of my creatures.

Now I wonder what kind of unexpected uses and behaviour we'll see from these parasites on a large scale...


Genetic Transport

Some interesting ideas happened to come out today while discussing genetics in the new Tyrell Corp boardroom. I was explaining the genetic model I plan to implement in my aLife experiments when Enabran Templar brought up an interesting thought -- what if the creatures could latch on to passing avatars?

I think much of this discussion spurred from the survival of the genetic lines. A problem with retaining long-term memory arises in LSL quite frequently. Unfortunately at the moment, if my creations were to run amok and populate a simulator, they wouldn't be able to survive in a cataclysmic crash. Without a persistant way to store their genetic information, if the simulator went down, generations of mutations could be lost.

A possible solution to this conundrum could be to allow the organisms a way to travel beyond a single simulator and populate SL on their own. Enabran suggested a parasitic relationship with avatars by allowing them to cling on to a passing avatar. I instantly though of plants and pollen -- using wind in SL to carry genetic information from one organism to the next. Either way, if the population were spread out, the various species would have a way to survive cataclysmic events.

Another interesting idea came from Snark Serpentine -- what if they could have instinct that let them avoid simulators that are on the verge of crashing? Then their presence in SL could be more symbiotic as the astute observer can watch a swarm leave a sim and know that they should probably move on before getting disconnected in the resulting crash.

I'm quite interested in the parasitic/pollination ideas. I might just try an experiment with it.

Also, before I finish this post up -- if there are any other aLifers out there, do get in touch. I would like to make this a multi-writer blog so it may act as a discussion group and hub for all things regarding aLife in SL. email me or contact me in-world.


Strength vs Swarm Size

Currently I am using a modified version of Zak Escher's swarming script. Today I decided to test the fStrength value of the function against the swarm size after noting perculiarities in movement mentioned in the last post. I was hoping to find a way to make large groups more efficient when shoaling/swarming together.

Right off the bat, the results show that the stronger each fish is, the more efficiently the swarm will operate at higher numbers. However, strong fish in a small shoal will operate inefficiently. Therefore, while strength is a global trait to the fish, the amount used will have to be circumstantial if possible.

I'll post the results soon as Blogger seems a little touchy about inserting tables into posts...


Chaotic Possibilities

Statistically speaking it is not at all unlikely that a group of individuals all swimming around with a single purpose might find themselves in synchronicity. Even though a room full of people all clapping sounds like noise, there are moments -- however brief -- where everyone claps at the same time.

Mathematically, the probability of chaos suggests that unity is not possible; or at the very least is highly unlikely. So in a swarm, if each individual moves of their own mind -- even though they share a common purpose with those around them -- it is highly unlikely that they will find themselves moving synchronously with their neighbours.

Last night however, my small artificial life experiment proved probability wrong.

I had decided last night to give my swarming technique a stress test. So far it had all been working fabulously with a mere 6 fish or so. In this brief experiment, I created 14 of them and set them loose in their pen. While I was dismayed to watch them floundering around almost aimlessly, I soon became fascinated by the seemingly random moments where they actually swam in a common direction.

I suppose much of their confusion was because their population was far too dense for the size of the pen and thus they were constantly hitting obstacles and having to find a new direction. However, it did tell me that I need to spend a little more time working out the kinks.

Therefore, tonight I intend to run a controlled experiment to the swarm math against swarm size. I'm theorizing that the greater the size of the swarm, the higher the attractive force is to its center. I'm also going to infer a solution: giving the fish their first characteristic: leadership.

I mention this inferrance due to another interesting behaviour I've noticed with these fish: a leader tends to dart out ahead from time to time, and leads the pack for a while. I get the feeling that this first species will be an exploratory fish...

I'll post my results soon!


Rudimentary beginnings and errata

There is something to be said regarding the creation of life. Creation in itself is unique, personal, and innate -- and some say it often has a life of it's own. And while the life I am creating in this experiment is artifical like a painting or a sculpture, I create it to emulate life.. and while fruitless, I do find myself hoping that it will find a life of its own.

My experiment involves using Second Life as a platform for designing artificial life forms. The first iteration of which is inspired by Surina Skullagrimson's work with fish. Already surfing the artifical life forums for some design tips and concepts, I've begun work on my first generation of fish.

This is where my project starts off on its own path. My goal is genetics -- I want to create a method for my fish to evolve. It is my hope that I will merely provide them with the means to breed and develop and become lifeforms.. develop new species and characteristics.

The attempt will be to model the fish around simplified metrics that define a species. At the lowest level, an organism has traits. Traits are a measurable metric which on its own does not perform a function. Such things like hunger, longevity, strength, sight -- these are traits. The next level are characteristics -- these are the functions that use many traits. Things like attractiveness, instincts, awareness, alertness... these are the functions which define what the organism is capable of. Finally, the strongest characteristics form the species; which in this experiment will mainly be discernable by the colour and strongest characteristics.

So right now, I have catfish. I fully intend to raise guppies, but catfish is all I've got right now. They're still not even fleshed out and only really know how to swim, stay in the water, form groups.. and apparently escape. I keep them in a pen to keep them in a controlled and managed area. When I logged in this evening to check up on them, they'd managed to squeeze their way into a rather difficult to reach space.

Needless to say, I'm already impressed.