We’ve recently been having some more discussions about how to streamline the compounds present in the Microbe Stage. Here are some of the main points raised (please fill me in if I missed any). Let’s discuss these and try to answer them all:
- Remove oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other dissolved/atmospheric-oceanic gasses as compound clouds, and instead make them features of the environment (like light and temperature).
- Create some clear roles and relationships for the compounds. What do we want the typical diet to look like? What role do we want these compounds to play in the ecosystem?
- Add phosphate as an additional compound required for growth/reproduction
- Remove amino acids, fatty acids, and nucleic acids as the intermediary building blocks of a cell. Just have the nutrients like glucose, ammonia, and phosphates (if added) directly lead to building and growth.
Here are my thoughts on these different ideas.
I think this is a good idea because these gasses are widely distributed and don’t appear in discrete quantities. Fluctuations in gasses like these occurs across biomes over long periods of time, and should be more related to environment effects and natural phenomena (like an Oxygenation event mentioned in this thread). Also gasses can be assumed to very easily diffuse in and out of a cell and would never be stored in vacuoles. Compounds like glucose, ammonia, and phosphates (if we add them) are the real limiting nutrients in microbial environments and those are the ones we should have the player worry about. Oxygen and carbon dioxide should just scale the reaction rate of processes that use them.
I think this is very important. Let’s define a compound as a energy nutrient if it produces ATP for the cell, since ATP is used as the energy to do things like move, and let’s define a compound as a growth nutrient for a cell if it needs it to grow/reproduce/heal.
Glucose should be the main energy nutrient for most cells. Anaerobic cells turn glucose into energy via fermentation. Aerobic cells do it via respiration. Glucose is kind of common and is basically what you need to survive and create energy (ATP) to do things.
Glucose coupled with ammonia (and phosphates if we add them) is for growth. This applies to all cells, no exceptions. Though glucose is kind of common, ammonia and phosphates are harder to find, so they will be the limiting factor for growth.
This means for most cells, Glucose => Energy and Glucose+Ammonia => Growth. This is typically done by hunting for clouds or preying on other cells.
The one unique exception is biosynthesis, which means cells that produce their own glucose or even ATP directly. These cells are not well adapted to hunting clouds or cells (like plants on Earth) and instead try to produce their own energy. Photosynthesizers use light to produce glucose, and then use the glucose to make ATP. Chemosynthesizers can use iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide, methane, etc. Some chemosynthesizers don’t even make glucose, they just make ATP directly. This serves them fine for producing energy, but it means they lack glucose for growth, so they need to find another way to obtain glucose. In these types of cells, you have a slightly different survival formula from above, for example:
Light => Energy (Since light is used to make glucose)
Light+Ammonia => Growth
Iron => Energy
Glucose+Ammonia => Growth
I think that’s a good idea. As long as it doesn’t make things too complicated (like gameplay or AI or UI). Plus it can help slow down how quickly cells reproduce since they’ll need to collect ammonia AND phosphate.
I would like to be able to do this but here are the problems:
A) You specifically need certain amounts of all three to reproduce. You can’t just use a bunch of fatty acids, it has to be a certain combination of fatty acids, amino acids, and nucleic acids.
B) You can’t just combine them into a common compound, because each one is made of different components. Fatty acids are just made of glucose. Amino acids are made of glucose and ammonia. And Nucleic Acids are made of glucose, ammonia, and phosphates (or something with phosphorous) (also Nucleic Acids are currently not represented in the game right now).
C) Fatty acids, amino acids, and nucleic acids all occur naturally, especially during the early part of the microbe stage (and before any oxygenation events). Absorbing them is a quicker way of growing your cell because you are directly consuming the building blocks, instead of the precursors to the building blocks. It’s one of the reasons the early primordial soup bursts with so much life and promotes the formation of the early cells in the first place.