World enhancements: Altering Albia - contains the following text (.doc) and 3 .spr files: comp.spr, auvi.spr and cabl.spr.

Altering Albia

Mari JP Söderberg
and Janne Söderberg

Version 1.1, April 1998


This document is a tutorial on how to customize the look of Albia to the way you want to see it.  Albia is the world where the norns live in the program Creatures by Cyberlife.

The zipped file contains this document and several .spr files for you to experiment with.  You also need to download if you want to change the .spr files included and alter other .spr files included in Creatures.

DO NOT UNZIP or copy the included .spr files into your Creatures/Images directory until you have backed up your originals.

What is an .spr file?

An .spr is a sprite file, a type of graphics file format (like .bmp, .jpg or .gif) that Creatures uses for its graphics.  Sprite files can, and usually do, hold multiple images.  The bouncing ball, for example, has dozens of image "frames" packed into one sprite file, which gives it the appearance of spinning as it bounces.

What is bmp2spr?

Bmp2spr is a Bitmap-to-Sprite program created by Lee Gaiteri that can convert .spr files to .bmp format so that you can edit them using any paint program.  You can also create files in your paint program, save them in .bmp format and make your own unique .spr files to use in Creatures (useful if you are creating your own COBs).
There are other programs that can do the bitmap to sprite conversions, but this one gives you just what you need without a lot of extra things that you don’t need for this purpose.

You can download at The Norn Underground.

Albia - the world and its levels

The basic world of Albia is fixed in its appearance.  The images of the kitchen, the garden, the trees and seas are all part of the background.  On top of this background are a lot of sprites, some do nothing else but provide another plane of view so that creatures and movers can pass behind them, others fulfill specific purposes.

Getting Perspective:

Albia is built on 9600 planes.  Sprites placed at the zero (0) plane become part of the background.  Nothing can pass behind them.  In the Music room, the drum is placed about midway, at plane 3500.  This allows the norns and other objects to pass behind it or in front of it.  The harp is at plane 500, so the norns always appear to walk in front of it.  The trumpet, which is moveable, is at plane 900.  Most objects that can be carried by a norn are in the 500 to 900 range.

All these items and their visible form are in the sub-directory /images. Here you will find some 470 files, all ending with the sprite file extension; .spr (for sprite). The majority of .spr files aren’t very big, with the exception of back.spr, which is 9792 KB.  Back.spr is made up of the 463 numbered "panels" or "frames" that form Albia’s backdrop.  It starts from the sky above the sunken statue (frame #0) and works it way down to the sea floor (#7), repeating this top to bottom sequence across the entire world.  Multiples of 8 will always be the uppermost part of the sky (#0,8,16,24,etc.).  Plus 8 will keep you on the same horizontal plane.  So if you’re exploring the bottom at #7, and you want to move to the panel to its immediate right (#7+8), you would select #15, and so on.

Exploring the back.spr file can be tedious, but once you see the pattern, selecting the panel you are looking for becomes easier.  The picture gallery under the kitchen starts around 142, and by adding 8 each time, we can go through the entire section (#142, 150, 158, 166, 174).  With the use of the bmp2spr program you can choose to export just one particular frame from this large file, change it in your paint program, import it again, reinsert it into the group at the right position # and delete the old frame.

Some of the more interesting sprites to start looking at are the computer, the film projector and the various movers.

We have made slight alterations to the look and display of the computer and the film projector. The computer now has a new screen saver and actually is a Digital Alpha machine. The projector displays pictures of us plus some other pictures we thought our norns would like to view.  We've also added an I LOVE ALBIA bumper sticker to the cable car.

Getting Started:

Start by making a copy of the original files "comp.spr," "auvi.spr" and "cabl.spr" in your Creatures/Images directory.  Rename them to "comp_old.spr" and "auvi_old.spr" - or any name you like, or copy them into a safe folder you create. This way you can revert back to the original look later.

Try the examples we’ve included first.  Copy them into the Images sub-directory and then start up Creatures.  Look at the norns’ computer for the changes we’ve made, then check out how the slide show from the projector has changed.  Don't forget to check out the cable car too.

Note that these changes will in no way influence the behavior of your norns, they are only graphical (cosmetic) changes.

Cosmetic engineering in Albia

So now if you are feeling inspired, you can create your own changes to Albia.  To play around with what the world and the sprites look like you need two things:  the bmp2spr program and a graphics editor.  You can make your way with the Paint program that came with Win95 or NT but we recommend programs like PaintShop Pro (a shareware program that is really good) that can use many more colors and also lighten/darken as well as smudge the contours of your sprites.  (The world of Albia is always a little bit out of focus meaning that new sprites made by e.g. Paint will be very "cartoonish".)

Start up bmp2spr and load in the sprite file you want to change.  Go through the indexed sub-sprites or individual frames that make up the entire sprite and look at them.  Select the one you want to change and save it as a bitmap (BMP) file.  Be sure to write down the frame number you copied, you’ll need this later.  Note that when you select a frame # for bitmap export, it does not actually remove the frame from the sprite, it only copies it.

Use your graphics program to alter the bitmap file anyway you want, but -- do not change the original pixel size by enlarging or shrinking the graphic.  One other thing to keep in mind:  Creatures uses the color black in its sprites as a transparent color, so do not use black unless you want that area of the graphic to be see through!

After you have made the changes you want, save it as .bmp and load it back into bmp2spr.  Load in the sprite file you’ve been using (if you closed the program), and highlight the original frame number.  Insert your graphic there, into the same numbered place as the original frame, and - important - then delete the frame right after it since the original, gets moved one place down the list.  (You can always view it first, if you are nervous.)

If you make your own graphics from scratch, like new pictures for the projector, be very careful to make sure that the sprite frame you replace is exactly the same pixel size as the original.  Otherwise you will mess up the following sprites.  Take your time, have fun and enjoy altering Albia.

© Copyright 1998-2001
"Altering Albia"
Mari JP Söderberg
Janne Söderberg
Stockholm, Sweden

If you found this information to be useful, please send us an email!
email: Mari & Janne Söderberg

CyberLife® is a registered trademark of CyberLife Technology Ltd.
Creatures™, Albia™, and Norn™ are trademarks of CyberLife Technology Ltd. - contains the above text (.doc) and 3 .spr files: comp.spr, auvi.spr and cabl.spr.

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