A series of simulation games created by Cyberlife (later Creature Labs) in the The Nineties, this series tasked the player with caring for a bunch of Norns: fuzzy little critters with a surprisingly complex virtual biology. Two other types of creatures inhabit the game world as well, the vicious Grendels and the worker Ettins (introduced in the second game).The fandom was making boatloads of user-created content before The Sims even existed; a lot of it is still available today.The games in the series are:
Creatures (1996): the original; later made into an add-on for Docking Station.
Creatures 2 (1998): bigger, shinier, but criticized for being very bug-laden, with somewhat stupider creatures.
Creatures Playground and Creatures Adventures (1999/2000): a pair of spinoff games aimed at younger children.
Creatures Docking Station: a free game, built on a slightly modified version of the Creatures 3 engine with online capabilities. Like 3, it was set on a spaceship, and could in fact be "docked" with the Shee Ark if you owned both games to expand the world. It was available on its official website.
Absent-Minded Professor: A whole species of them. "The Shee were a race unique in their mindset, most likely having invented the steam engine as an offshoot of an attempt to design a better way of brewing tea before they invented the wheel."
Acquired Poison Immunity: How the Toxic Norns in Creatures 3 came to be. It's gotten so far, in fact, that they need toxics and antigens to survive.
All There in the Manual: The official website of Creature Labs provides stories that explain a large portion of the backstory not covered in the games behind Albia, the Shee and the many different Norn breeds.
Always Chaotic Evil: Allegedly, Grendels. Actually, with proper training, many species of Grendel can be taught to cohabitate with Norns or Ettins peacefully.
In the first game, at least, the grendels were actually hard-coded to hit other creatures when they wanted to interact with them. Though training is possible.
Artificial Stupidity: Creatures 2, unintentionally- an excess of reward and punishment signals led to the infamous "One Hour Stupidity Syndrome," leading Norns to do entirely useless things instead of eating and sleeping. Many fan fixes became available.
Interestingly enough, though, the particular mechanics of this bug actually show that the underlying simulator was pretty much spot-on. They just got the specific numbers wrong.
Creatures 3 arguably has an issue with this as well. The creatures are "smarter" but their behaviors are somewhat predetermined and not based off the sort of AI the past two games used. This leads to incredibly single-minded norns that will, for instance, opt to continuously play with an elevator button instead of eating or otherwise not dying.
Big Bad: Grendels are treated as such. If you don't either have some sort of disabling addon and aren't breeding them for pleasure, there is generally only one- two in Creatures 3- Grendel born into the world at a time, and it's supposedly in your best interest to avoid them as much as possible.
Additionally, the now decanonised Banshee Grendel story seems to set the Banshee (race of Shee, not the Grendels named after them) up as this.
Blob Monster: The Commedia in Docking Station, a harmless shapeshifting blob creature engineered by the Shee to entertain the Norns.
Everything Fades: Another series standard. Corpses in Creatures 1 just blink out of existence, while Creatures 3 adds an effect to it depending on species (Norns and Ettins disappear into sparkly fog, while grendels dissolve into stinking green sludge). Averted with Creatures 2 norns, who float upwards when they die.
Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Averted, as Norns, Grendels and Ettins cannot interbreed with each other naturally. Also played straight, as creatures can breed with any other breed within their species, which can result in some pretty strange looking offspring, especially when fanmade breeds are involved.
Informed Attribute: The Grendels are supposedly vicious little buggers, and disease-infested to boot. Other than third-party genomes, this didn't become true until Creatures 3. And even then, if they're kept away from the jungle and properly trained when young, they're essentially scaly norns.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Creatures 3 and Docking Station, if you enter the word "express" near a norn, ettin or grendel that has learned that word, (s)he will face the player (not the hand cursor, we mean the actual player) before saying how (s)he feels.
Living Ship: The Shee Ark and Capillata. The latter looks the part a bit more than the former.
Meaningful Name: "Grendel" is the name of the (equally vicious) monster battled in the well-known Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. Additionally, the "Norns" are figures in Old Norse mythology who spin the threads of fate, but this seems to be a reference in name only.
Ettins are also figures in Norse mythology: large and hideous creatures, but also often attributed with great wisdom and a status of minor Gods.
Neglectful Precursors: The Shee, who didn't bother to safeguard Albia before taking off or the Shee Ark before abandoning it.
Nonhuman Humanoid Hybrid: Various combinations between Norns, Ettins and Grendels are possible via the gene splicer or fanmade COBs/agents. In C2, these tend to be unviable- Shown Their Work, or just coincidence?
Heinz Hybrid: Mainly in Creatures 3/DS, as standard C2 Ettins and Grendels are sterile.
One-Gender Race: Sort of. The "mother" machines in 2 and 3 only produce one gender each of Ettins and Grendels, but getting the opposite genders is possible. With the proper egg agent for C3/DS, this is especially easy, as the egg layers can produce eggs of any breed and gender.
Revenue Enhancing Devices: Creatures 3/Docking Station had a large-number of add-on breeds available for purchase online. In 2009, many of them became available for free download, though the ones that came with special add-ons [the Treehugger, Hardman, Bondi, Toxic Norns, and Banshee Grendels] didn't.
Ridiculously Cute Critter: Norns fit the classic template: big heads, big eyes, small and fuzzy, speaking in high-pitched baby talk.
Teleporters and Transporters: In all three games. "Conventional" teleporters serve to transport creatures quickly around individual worlds. The standout example is the Warp from Docking Station, which lets creatures jump to other worlds (and plays a major role in the game's backstory).
Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Female Purple Mountain Norns wear makeup; female Fallow Norns have purple toenail polish. Many official breeds have the sexes differ only in hairstyle.
Themed Cursor: Your hand cursor isn't just a pointer, your creatures can see and interact with it.
Urban Legend of Zelda: The legendary Secret Adventure Mode. The unofficial "Creatures 1 to Docking Station" mod, which reproduced the items, gameworld, and species of the original game in the Creatures 3 / Docking Station engine, made many of the items of the Secret Adventure Mode a reality, albeit a goofy one.
What Could Have Been: Creatures: Project Loci was a planned console title that would have combined the A-Life aspects of the PC series with elements of an Adventure game- as well as raising your Norns, you would have had to train them to complete set objectives in order to progress through the plot. Sadly, Creature Labs couldn't find the money to develop it, and we haven't had a new game since.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The grendels, the scaly bulbous monsters with a tendency to physically harm norns, are set up as the creatures the player must avoid or fend off, even if it sometimes means harming them. Some fans do show sympathy for the grendels and prefer to breed their kind instead of the norns.
Wide Open Sandbox: These games are pretty much the ultimate example of this trope. There are no real goals except for the ones you set up for yourself. You can train and nurture your norns or murderously butcher them - in fact this was even what the creator envisioned:
Anthropomorphic Shift: The current design for norns is more human-like than the previous ones, lacking tails, having shorter muzzles and having human-like noses, though this is still subject to change. Baby Norns' heads got even bigger, though.
Character Customization: When you start the game you can customize your first generation norns to a certain degree, and when norns breed, you can choose which traits their offspring inherit, again to a degree.
2½D: It takes place in more of a '3D side-scrolling' environment, Creatures can move in all directions and objects can be picked up by the hand regardless of where they are on the plane, the screen can also be zoomed in and out as well as the standard 2D movement.