Compound Clouds and the Early Game

We had a chat on the discord about how the new player experience is harmed by a lot of swimming randomly and starving, which while realistic to single-celled life, is not exactly fun. I’m not going to suggest any solutions on this, because I don’t want to jump ahead. Instead, I want to ask the team what we WANT out of the early game.

Right now, the early game, which I’ll define as “before the other species show up”, as suggested by our new tutorial, consists of:

  1. Pick a direction to swim in
  2. See a cloud of something you need
  3. Go towards it, and fill up your storage (and it will always fill your storage)
  4. Repeat until you reproduce or die
  5. Don’t add organelles, but move one patch towards the surface
  6. After 4 reproductions, you are at the surface and the world is your oyster

I’m not saying it’s terrible, I’m just saying that, right now, that’s our game for the first few rounds. We’ve gotten feedback that steps 1 and 2 are too difficult and random, and there’s plenty we could do to make them easier. At the end of the day though, what is the challenge we are trying to give the player, if any?

  • Is it a game about keeping your eyes open and seeing three different colors before you starve? If so, I’d say the games too slow, both in the victory and defeat condition.
  • Is it some kind of adventure/traveling game about making it to the next top-off before resources run out? If so, maybe our issue is that only one resource can run out, or that the first cloud of each type will always fill you up.
  • Is this a tutorial, to let the player wiggle around for a bit before the real game starts? That makes sense, but not if you do it four times.
  • Maybe this is an accident, and we should bypass this altogether?

I don’t know how to evaluate any solutions to this problem, because frankly I never understood the early game, and from what I can tell the players don’t either. I’d love to hear y’all’s thoughts.