To Name a Norn
Many Creatures fans will know that Ron was the 'first' Norn, but did you ever wonder why he was called Ron? And not Adam or something?
Well, back in the days when Creatures didn't have a publisher and in fact was a long way short of completion, the then development director, Ian Saunter, used to demonstrate it to Millennium visitors quite regularly, as well as at shows and exhibitions. The product and technology was still quite raw, but the fundamentals of the Norn's brains, drive system and bio-chemistry were pretty much in place. In order to impress the audience with exactly how 'alive' and unique each Norn was it was always necessary to start a demonstration from scratch, no pre-loaded Norns (Save & Load hadn't even been written at the time) and no cheat for instant vocabulary.
Said Ian, "I just had to go very fast and use the blackboard (this was pre-'learning machine') to teach a Norn to get around and do interesting stuff as quickly as possible and before a sceptical publisher would start to glaze over. Of course, sometimes the demonstrations turned into nightmares as fickle and disobedient Norns merrily did their own thing despite my frantic commands to the contrary. Ironically, my (genuine) frustration would often lead to hilarity and more believability from the intended audience. As part of my demo routine I would name the Norn after whoever I was showing off the game to, as this also helped to break the ice and keep things light-hearted. "
One day the Creatures team were visited by a Senior Producer from a company called ASC (American Softworks Corp), for whom they were writing a game for the Super NES, based on Russ-Meyer Trolls, called Super Troll Islands (don't ask!). His name was Ron Rivkin. Sure enough, Ian was asked to show him the game and he did his usual thing.
Ian continues, "When I started the game and a Norn appeared (they just 'appeared', back then, there were no eggs or incubation machine) I named it Ron. And amazingly, miracle of miracles, it was the most attentive, quickest learning, most responsive and genuinely appealing Norn I had ever 'hatched'. The demo went perfectly. Everything about Ron was beyond expectation and the real Ron (Rivkin) was, I think, genuinely awe-struck."
And actually, so was Ian. So much so that he stopped naming Norns after whoever he was showing off to and started naming them 'Ron' right away, in the hope that the demos would go as well with a wonderfully co-operative Norn at his disposal. Ian later told Steve Grand the story and he started to do the same thing - and he must have enjoyed at least some success with it as well!
Of course, that first Ron only lived a matter of 20-30 minutes and could never be recreated. All the same, the name stuck and Ron became subsequently immortalised - and now you know from whence he came!
For those of you interested in the dim and distant history of the creation of Creatures here's a picture of a plaster of Paris model that Steve Grand made right back in the day when we first had the idea of using a real, physical model as the basis of the graphics for the first Creatures game. Crazy! Actually, we didn't even need to photograph it and scan it to realise that we should give the technique a try on a somewhat more bigger scale. Which, of course, is what we did. But this quirky and endearing object has survived in the boxes of artefacts Ian keeps around the place and has remained unseen (by anyone!) since just a few days after Steve left it in his office back in 1995. So there you go...
By the way, you will see a sign "Ron's" on the surface above the burrow.