Just a couple random thoughts floating in my head right now:
For all I’ve done to this poor game, I’ve still never finished a metaroom. I don’t know that I ever will, giving my lack of spriting skills and my similar lack of ability to direct anything from an artistic standpoint, but it’s something I think about a lot.
I think what I really want in a metaroom is 1) a system of Progression and 2) the ability to override that progression. Similar to the original C2/C3, where you had get creatures to unlock the use of everything in the world, and then DS (well, mods long before that) came along and just instant-unlocked everything upon docking. I think having the choice is really important, but I also want the progression to be enjoyable and worth doing. The unlock process was, for the most part, just a chore, but once in a while I would play it the old-fashioned way because it was... well, kind of bonding, going on those little adventures with your creatures.
Creatures has been, and always will be, to me, first and foremostly, a sandbox game. Having those obnoxious progression elements forced upon me for every world was always the first thing I sought to eliminate. So maybe it’s a little strange that I kind of seek them out these days. I always loved the little secrets and unlocks found in some of Ghosthande’s metarooms and the very concept of a Secret Adventure Mode and it’s many implementations. And those are particularly nice because they don’t tend to really impact your game at all. They’re mostly for the enjoyment of the player, while the creatures can continue to live and breed happily.
But I’ve kind of always wanted to explore the inverse of that, and have a metaroom that starts out borderline unusable until it is... grown, in some form or fashion.
I’m thinking about something like a tree that you can plant anywhere (with enough space), and when it grows to a certain height, it becomes a door to a metaroom that is essentially the inside of the tree. It starts out with just a few lower branches but the tree gets taller with time, producing more branches to walk on. As things progress, the tree bears fruit and new forms of wildlife start showing up. But the environment of the different levels/branches of the tree will adapt, to some extent, on the agents that are placed in those areas when they are newly-grown.
At the most basic level, I’d like to use this to adapt the environment to different types of creatures-- if you fill it with detritus, it will start growing food suitable for toxic norns, for example. If you had a lot of gadgets there, it might start emitting ettin home smell. Generally speaking the tree will try to adapt by producing more of what’s already there. But it might also be fun to say, attract more playful wildlife if you filled the branches with toys, or attract bigger species of critters if you left larger food items lying around. I’d like there to be a large amount of potential diversity, even if you only see it a little at a time. The way it currently works in my head is that when a set of branches is first unlocked, it’ll be in a ‘receptive’ state during which the items present in it are taken into account. After an in-game day or so passes, those values will be sort of locked into place, and that set of branches will then start manifesting the environment it was ‘programmed’ for. After that, the environment will stay more or less the same unless it is severely damaged by say, creatures or pest-type animals overeating the food there. At that point it will return to the receptive state and the environment has the potential to change again, so nothing really needs to be permanent.
I’d like to add some other elements for flavor, like I would like to have occasional little pest invasions that you might have to fend off to protect your environments (or just religiously train your creatures to Hit Pest). But I still want it to be generally wolfling-run friendly. I don’t want to have any huge, massive risks come into play unless you essentially ask for them-- destroyed environments will always bounce back. But I would like there to be some small rewards for staying on top of your environments for longer periods of time. Even something just aesthetic like the golden gnarlers that only shows up after the populations have been well-established for a long time would be fun. It would also be fun if certain plants or animals found in different environments could hybridize, so you might get some very unique wildlife. And this is kinda stretching it, but it would be neat if you had a sort of checklist of all the different species you were able to attract to your tree, just for the appeal of filling up a collection.
Additionally, with AMP techniques, there could even be multiple trees-- you could create a whole grove of custom trees if you wanted. Additionally, trees planted underwater could become water metarooms and attract fish and things. Meanwhile, there will probably be some magic words or something to can use to instantly grow your tree to full size and set all the environments to random things, if progression isn’t your thing.
Of course, this all involves a fairly enormous amount of work, not to mention sprites, and there’s enough amazing metarooms out there that I don’t feel like we necessarily need more. But it’s a fun concept to think about anyway.