Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Investigating the effects of cyanide poisonning in Norns

While I was messing around C2 the other day, I was following a Grendel around in an unpopulated test world, and it suddenly dropped comatose with no warning signs.

All his organs had brutally stopped for no apparent reason,he had various food at hand and a full life bar minutes ago.A quick overview of it's bloodstream showed an obvious and fatal cyanide poisoning.So I took the opportunity to fully investigate the mechanisms of cyanide poisoning and the appropriate cure.

So what exactly happens during Cyanide poisoning in C2, and how do you counteract that really severe condition ?

Cyanide poisoning from inside a Norn.

Cyanide poisoning is maybe the single worst thing that could happen to a Norn ( and is even more critical in Grendels and Ettins as we will show it ).
It nearly instantly depletes the creatures of it's energy , causing coma and bringing all organs to a halt.
Many organs and especially the brain are very sensitive to low energy levels, and a cyanide poisoning should be treated in a matter of seconds after occurrence.Even if you're as fast as possible, chances are the creature will keep life long sequels from it, in the form of definitely reduced organ life force.

But what does exactly cyanide do ? Let's fire up the C2 genetics kit, load the norn.gen genome and find out.
Gene 355 is labeled "Cyanide poisoning" and curiously enough deals with... Oh come on, open that gene :

As you can see, this reaction happens in the heart, and 1 unit of Energy is destroyed for each unit of cyanide present, while producing nothing, but retaining cyanide present in the Norns bloodstream.
Ouch! That's pretty nasty, especially given the speed of the occurring reaction which is nearly instantaneous !
Basically this means a poisoned Norn will instantly and continuously loose all it's energy, and the poison won't get removed from it's body during this reaction.

Energy in C2 is not to be confused with the life force bar shown on the bottom of the screen ( this one corresponds to glycogen, which is a creature's long term energy storage ).
Rather than that, the "Energy" chemical is what is consumed by organs to remain active, it is also used in many critical reactions.

Depletion of the Energy levels is what brings all organs to a halt, thus effectively stopping any naturally occurring process in a Norn  ( as all chemical reactions from C2 to more recent games occur inside of organs, if the organ stops or dies, the reaction can't occur anymore ).

Ok, but how is the cyanide removed from the Norn's bloodstream then ?
Let's look at gene 450, the one defining the chemical Half lives ( decay rates ).

We can see that cyanide has a "72" decay rate.Meaning that it will naturally decrease "relatively" quickly by itself.But remember that while even a little bit of it remains in the Norn's bloodstream, it will eat up any remaining energy nearly instantly, and that with all it's organ stopped the creature won't even be able to replenish those reserves by itself the slightest bit. Also keep in mind that while all of this happens, the creature is in a critical state, where it's low energy levels quickly and durably damage most of the organs.The brain can be fatally damaged in seconds by low energy levels, so we will need to act quick !

So what can we do to help that critical condition ?
Gene 423 holds the answer.Titled "Cure for cyanide" it clearly explains what needs to be done :

This gene explains that a naturally occurring reaction inside the liver, nearly instantly destroys cyanide, by combining it with sodium thiosulphite.
You now know what to do, a poisoned Norn requires an immediate and full shot of this chemical to prevent it from dying.

Unfortunately for our involuntary guinea Grendel, things got much worse...

Fatal and irreversible effects on Grendels and Ettins.

Being pretty confident that sodium thiosulfite was what the Grendel needed to survive, I gave him a huge shot of it while monitoring it's relevant chemical levels.
To my dismay the cyanide level remained absolutely still, and the poor bastard remained in a critical state.
Three things then came to my mind, so I fired up the genkit once again, this time loading the Grendel genome.
  • The Grendel genome has no decay rate programmed for cyanide.This means that any such poisoning can only be solved by exterior intervention and has no means of natural cure for the green ones.
  • The Cyanide curing reaction occurs in the Liver, so even after a massive shot of sodium thiosulfite, no chemical reaction can take place in a comatose creature before it is "kickstarted" back to life with a huge defibrilant injection.This preset injection brings (short term) energy back inside the Norn, restarting the organs just long enough so the liver can begin eliminating cyanide ( which thankfully is nearly as quick as the poisoning is )
  • Unfortunately for the poor fella, after thorough investigation, it appears that the C2 Grendel also misses that critical curing reaction in it's genome...
Yep, you read right.Once cyanide has entered a Grendel, all is over. There is absolutely no way  for you to cure the guy.Cyanide won't decay by itself, and the creature lacks the chemical reactions necessary to remove it even helped by the antidote ( remember that in the creatures series, no chemical can be altered otherwise than by reaction inside the creatures.It can be added but never removed from the bloodstream in any fashion.)

After further analysis, it appears that Ettins suffer from the same over sensibility that Grendels do.

Basically, given the speed of the reaction, the slightest amount of cyanide inside an Ettin or a Grendel is fatal in 100% cases.

Repairing the Grendel and Ettin Genome

My first reaction to this unfortunate and unfair death was to fix both the Grendel and Ettin default genomes.
All of this is pretty simply cured:
  • Set up a natural decay rate for cyanide in the Half lives gene ( I chose 72 speed, as in the Norn genome)
  • Add a new chemical reaction inside the liver, converting sodium thiosulfite and cyanide to nothing, mimicking the antidote's action inside regular Norns.
All of this doesn't make such poisoning cases any less severe, but at least it gives those secondary characters a chance to survive it.
It is also a modification worth having if you ever mix your Norns with Grendel and Ettin's genomes and wonder why they are so fragile.
It's part of my default Grendel and Ettin genomes from now on.


Advanced Creatures Surgery

I didn't actually cover ALL possible solutions to the problem.
Remember the topic of the blog is about hacking ?By it's most famous definition, it consists of finding creative ways to circumvent limitations.

So what else could be done on a default genome Grendel or Ettin, dieing  from cyanide poisoning ?
Not much by the default game mechanics.

Yet you could still export the creature from the game, and edit the corresponding file offline to manually remove the poison.

An exported creature file is a package of its genome, current state, and all it's chemical levels and a couple other things.

You could just edit the file, find the relevant chemical concentrations, remove cyanide, add some energy, and re-import the creature in game for further care.

Reverse engineering the Norn export file format is a lengthly topic, and will be fully covered in an upcoming series of articles.

Once this is fully understood ( read as in "shouldn't cause any major file corruption" ), such "out-of-the-world" surgery will be implemented in a dedicated kit, which I will make available in my CreaturesKontrolCenter downlodable from this site.

This applet will serve to offline-edit exported creatures to fix such cases and also their genomes post birth.
Don't expect this feature too soon yet, many other stuff needs to be done first.

Be sure to check the Alpha versions of the software meanwhile, it's already packed with some useful stuff ;)

Another possibility I plan on implementing is a medical COB that would attach to the creature and provide a counterbalance in the missing chemicals ( for example, a constant energy perfusion to counterbalance energy destruction in vanilla Grendels that can't get rid of cyanide by any means ).


Curing an actual poisoning case

So. Maybe you've come to this page because your favorite Norn just ate some nasty shroom and is about to die, and you have no Idea of what to do.
From all of the knowledge gained from this unfortunate case, here's the procedure to cure a poisoned Norn:

0) Prevention first! Prepare an alarm in the observation kit for when any Norns cyanide level is higher than 1. That way you should be able to react before the situation gets too critical.It's also use full setting up a "cyanide poisoning" chart in the scientific kit , allowing you to monitor Energy, cyanide and  sodium thiosulfite  levels to check the state of your Norn0

1)Act quick ! Assuming the creature is already in the coma by the time you realise what just happened ( see  0) quick action is of prime importance.Most organs are critically sensitive to low energy levels, and the brain especially can die out in a matter of seconds.

2) First , begin with a full syringe of sodium thiosulfite, this should be at least as much as the cyanide level in the Norn's bloodstream.There's no side effects to this chemical, so putting too much can't hurt.
This will remove cyanide from the creature's bloodstream.Without this all injected energy will immediately be destroyed again.

3) If the Creature's already in the coma ( stars around the head, all organs in red) , then all organs are stopped, and the healing reaction can't take place. You will need to quickly proceed with a defibrilant injection, to "reboot" the Norn.

4) You should then see the Norn waking up, and the organs coming up one by one.

5) The defibrilant is only a kick starter, providing a quick boost of critical elements in small quantities.Recovering from such a serious case will require a lot of energy, and some organs might not even came back from the red zone so far, also most will still be pretty weak. At this point I follow by a "Metabolism transplant" injection , providing short and long term energy source to help quick recovery.

6) Metabolism transplant is a rather extreme measure, putting the Norn in great pain.I then follow by a set of injections of "fear decrease", "pain decrease" and sometimes "sleepiness decrease" to counterbalance the side effects.

7) At this point the Norn is saved, but chances are despite your quick reaction some organs got irremediably damaged during the incident.There is no cure for this, as they can't regain any long term life force.
Keep it away from further poisoning sources from now on.If the Norn was already weak at the time of the accident, giving it some "liquid food" ( or real food if conditions allow it ) will help the recovery.

Closing notes

On a brighter note, and despite the original Grendel not surviving the accidental poisoning, one of it's genetically enhanced descendants, contracted and was successfully cured from a similar disease.

An interesting side effect was that his "Time arrow" organ got destroyed in the process.This organs controls both life stage changes and dieing of old age.
Thus, the surviving Grendel lost it's ability to physically age or to die from time alone ! He's still considered a child by the game after a few hours, and is also still alive despite it's "life" chemical bottoming for some time now. He might not live forever as Albia is full of other dangers and nature must do It's thing anyway.
But at least he lived a long Grendel life !

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