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Welcome to Sylv's Docking Station Page for GNU/Linux

I became interested in the artificial life game, Creatures, when it was first introduced to the public in 1996 and at that time, I ran the software on the Windows 3.1 platform.  Since then, Creatures2 and Creatures3 were released for Microsoft Windows.  The latest release from Creature Labs, Docking Station, is the first in the series to be ported to Linux.

There are many within the Creatures Community that regard Docking Station as a scientific hobby instead of a mere computer game.  As in Nature, the life systems within the Creatures series possess emergent properties: from starting simplicity one can have an incredibly complex, collective result.  The behavior of each system as a whole is unpredictable from examination of its constituent parts alone.  Steve Grand, senior programmer for Creatures1, felt the Norns, the artificial life that run amok within Docking Station, were "probably the closest thing there has been to a new form of life on this planet in four billion years."<1>  The Norns have "artificial neural networks for sensory-motor control and learning, artificial biochemistries for energy metabolism and hormonal regulation of behavior, and both the network and the biochemistry are "genetically" specified (digital DNA) to allow for the possibility of evolutionary adaptation through sexual reproduction."<2>

ScreenshotDocking Station allows the user to interact in real time with the Norns within a 2D world of a living spaceship comprised of four rooms; the Norn Meso, Capillata Hub, Comms Room and the Workshop.  Within the world there are a number of objects; food machine, learning machine, elevators, doors, toys, etc., that the Norns can interact with.  When the user's mouse enters the DS window, it changes into an image of a human hand and with it, the user can pickup and drop objects, communicate with the Norns through keyboard input, tickle a Norn to generate a positive "reward" or gently slap her/him to generate a negative "punishment".

Norns can learn a simple language by either keyboard input from the user, by  activating the Learning Machine or by interacting with other Norns.  Look out if within a group of ten or so Norns, one Norn decides to express that she/he "likes" another Norn.  This event usually triggers a chain reaction where each Norn decides to declare their feelings for another Norn... over and over and over, in what I call a "like Festival of Joy".  It ends a minute or so later usually leaving the user with a slight headache. <grin>

The DS world can be expanded by docking to the Creatures3 world if Creatures3 is also installed on the user's system.  A unique feature of DS is the user's ability to connect to the Internet within the game allowing one to communicate with other DS users via chat and email.  Most importantly, the Internet connection  allows the Norns to use a device called a portal, to warp to other user's online worlds.  What fun!

Registration and the free Linux download of Docking Station can be found at Docking Station Central, a part of Gameware Development.

<1> Grand, Steve: Creation - Life and How to Make It , 2000 (Weidenfield & Nicolson)
<2> Grand, Steve; Cliff, Dave; Malhotra, Anil: Creatures: Artificial Life Autonomous Software Agents for Home Entertainment, 1996 Millennium Technical Report 9601: University of Suxxex Technical Report CSRP434


Images from Docking Station (c) and Creatures (tm) series of games
are copyright of Gameware Europe Ltd., used here with permission.