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Into the Creature Sphere

by Angus Leech

Creature Sphere is a new online ecology simulator where kids can custom-design their own animal and then watch it survive and evolve as part of a virtual planet's ecosystem. This short interview with project producer Steven Comeau of Halifax's Collideascope Digital Productions explains how Creature Sphere works, and why he created it.

Steven Comeau:
"Creature Sphere is one of the only online-only projects that we've done - it exists only on the Internet. What I wanted to do was create a virtual ecosystem, where thousands of kids could create their own creature that they would have some sort of affinity for, and put that creature in an ecosystem and let them interact [with other creatures], and watch them thrive or decline. And in the process learn about ecological principles. For me the interesting part was about creating something that you couldn't predict - like a real virtual planet where nobody would know what the results of the simulation would be. Kids create the creatures. It's like a cross between Sim City and Tamagotchi. When you first go online, you are given the ability to go through the "creature-cyclopedia" and see all the creatures the other kids have created, plus create your own. And you do that by combining different aspects of what a creature is: Does it fly? Does it swim? Does it chin its way along the ground? And you pick other attributes for it: you determine if it eats plants, or eats other creatures, or grows in the sun. You just play with that until you come up with an interesting creature. And while you go along, the computer is telling you the implications of your choice. For instance, if your creature is big, it has to eat a lot to sustain itself. If your creature is a predator, and you've decided to put it on an area of the world where there are a lot of predators, the computer will tell you, well, you might want to reconsider that choice, because there's going to be scarce food, and your creature is going to have a lot of competition for survival. And hopefully that will build an awareness of why the environment, and why ecology, is so important."

Angus Leech is English Editor for HorizonZero.

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