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Meeroo Genetics - The Rules

Tiger's picture

Everyone will tell you, it all begins with the eyes...

They are the first thing you notice about any creature, you're drawn in immediately by them as you search for that something extra, a spark of life, the magic, their soul. Interesting story there, originally the Meeroo had eyes that worked much like eyes of other pets and avatars, where they worked by being a seperate animated texture on a sculpt the same as the head, but slightly bigger, and blinking was controlled by texture offsets. But about a month into the project, our amazing artist Chimmy came up with the idea that she could make the eyes and eyelids seperate sculpts and built a prototype that looked just AWESOME. Only problem was it was going to use an extra prim and an extra script to properly control them. We talked long into the night on several occasions and decided to move forward with this new approach. After all, our #1 design goal with Meeroos was to push the envelope in breedables on every front, so how could we not?

But enough digressing here, this was supposed to be a post on Meeroo genetics. Where I was going with all that, was when I was designing the genetics the eyes were also supposed to be your introduction to your meeroo's DNA. The fact that you see them listed as 3 fields like Flare/Dusty/Dinural was supposed to tip you off that there is a little something more here than what you may have been used to seeing. The Meeroo eyes are not just a single trait, they are a combination of intermingled traits. Your curiosity was supposed to be piqued and draw you into our world...

You must be living under a rock if by now you don't know our mantra of riddles and puzzles. There are clear rules for every different Meeroo trait, and I can't say that no two work alike, but each single thing you consider a trait is it's own little puzzle. What works for passing the coat trait down to a baby won't work for passing down the size. Of course they both always pass down, but there are different mechanisms and rules in play for each trait. So if you're one of our players really into the 'breeding' aspect of the game, you have got your work cut out for you.

I'm not going to lay out for you here how it all works, but I'm going to give you a framework to build from, because many players are coming in with preconcieved notions on how breedable genetics are "supposed" to work, and when they don't, they storm the forums and blogosphere to tell us how broken they are. Well, they aren't broken, they are just using mechanisms you haven't discovered or understand yet. For example, I'm sure you have all noticed by now, if you breed a Flare/Clear/Dinural father with a Glacier/Clear/Dinural mother, you pretty much always get a baby with Dusty eyes. Foul, you might cry! But what's going on here is that you assumed there is a "Clear" trait or piece of DNA and if both parents have it, by gosh, the baby should too! Well, welcome to real genetics. Not all traits work as both parents have X so baby should have X.

Let's look at another example, the size of your Meeroo. Again, I'm sure enough of you have tried to breed out very large meeroo or very tiny ones. You may have put two teacups together and gotten a teacup, or a toy, or you might have even gotten something even bigger! Ack! Are the genetics broken?? Shouldn't two teacups always make another teacup? Well no.. I'll give you a big hint here. The size of each meeroo isn't just one number and the baby pops out as an average of the parent's size plus/minus some random factor. There's not just one piece of DNA for your meeroo's size. Just like in RL, the size of an animal is determined by multiple genes spread over the entire strand of DNA.

I know from reading forums & blogs people are still skeptical about this. But I promise you all, there is a miniature DNA simulator behind all of this that driving the genetics. Each meeroo has 3,000-4,000 bytes of data in it's DNA. It's probably not as complicated as say, the engine from the wonderful PC game of Creatures, but it's no slouch either. DNA, alleles, genes, genotypes, phenotypes, dominance, recessiveness, and everyones favorite, mutations are all modeled and taken into account with each birth of a new Meeroo. Traits are often based on multiple genes, they are often intermixed or dependant on other traits. Traits are linked, when DNA splits and recombines, it's done in chunks, so often traits that aren't even related in purpose are often passed together.

I'll make up an example here, say a gene for a hypothetical trait A is next to a gene for another trait B in the DNA. These always get passed down together because when the DNA splits & combines, it does this in pieces. This means normally you'll either get the A & B genes from the father or the A & B genes from the mother. Now if you were breeding a father with trait A you wanted with the mother who has trait B you wanted, guess what? Without a mutation it's not going to happen, you're not going to the A you want AND the B you want, because that's not how the DNA works. I'm simplifying here because one gene probably doesn't control the entire trait, but I wanted you to be aware interactions of this nature do exist.

When people asked how the Meeroo genetics worked, I wasn't kidding when I posted in the forums your best bet is to start reading up on Mendelian genetics on Wikipedia. Keep in mind things like, just because two meeroo may look identical, their internal DNA may have significant differences. Recessive genes by their definition cannot be seen just by looking at the external traits. That plain old boring looking Gael you have just might be carrying a recessive gene for the rarest tail in the entire game, but until someone pairs it with another meeroo with that same gene you'll never know. It will just silently keep passing it down to roughly half it's children waiting to be discovered. The question is, will it be you who finds it?