Compound toxicity

We’ve been discussing about making oxygen toxic, at least for anaerobic organisms, so an oxygenation event can happen in game. But that brings out several questions, how would the player defend against that toxicity? There are enzimes that neutralize oxygen’s toxicity like catalase so getting these may be essential (I’m down for adding different enzimes to adapt to new conditions or get new habilities.)
But what about metabolosomes? Should getting them make you automatically inmune to oxygen or would you need those enzimes too? And what about other compounds like hidrogen sulfide and CO2?
They should be toxic for sure, but what effects would they have?
I think each compound should have a different effect, and if it’s based on what they do to real life cells, much better. Anyway, what do you guys think?

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I think the main thing I’d like is for the player to have a flexible toolbox and then have to use those tools to overcome complicated, dynamically generated, problems.

For example with O2 concentrations changing it changes the ratio of mitochondria to flagella that you need I think. So there is a balance between closely following the O2 level and staying very optimal for speed and on the other side using your MP for other tasks etc.

So if we were going to have things like compound damage I’d like there to be some balance and tradeoffs to it. For example if there are some enzymes which reduce O2 damage then there should be some tradeoff to them, maybe something as simple as them slowing you down or maybe they use power or something. Basically “every tool we give the player should only be useful sometimes”.

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And how about giving a limit on how many enzimes you can have? Imagine this:
Your nucleoid will have a number of slots where you can place enzimes, you can only use those that ocupy a slot and in order to get more you’ll have to make your nucleoid bigger, making it necessary for you to get bigger as well. It would work similarly to the Witcher 3 skill system you’d have a number of enzimes available but only a few slots. These enzimes would not only neutralize toxic substances, but also give you certain abilities like more tolerance to cold temperatures for example.

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The idea of a slot based system came up before, people in general said it was too gamey and it was better to have everything as organelles. So each enzyme takes at least one hex and then you can have as many as you want but they slow you down and use power to balance.

I quite like the slots idea personally and I can also totally see how having one system (everything is added by placing hexes) is better than having two systems.

I like the idea (I think don said) how every compound could have a negative effect on you. One would slow you down, another would limit your reproduction, etc… it would make it more interesting vs just damaging you.

With oxygen, instead of damage, maybe it reduces your max hp. The higher the oxygen, the more it reduces it.

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This could be an interesting mechanic, how do toxic compounds affect cells in real life?

Also, would the things I mentioned in the Discord about cells evolving metabolosomes during an oxygenation event be relevant here or better suited for another thread?

I guess if it’s more about the GOE and how species respond maybe a new thread is good, you could use this one if you think it fits.

This is quite an interesting page on how different compounds impact microbes. Here’s some quotes:

Phenolics tend to be stable, persistent on surfaces, and less toxic than phenol. They inhibit microbial growth by denaturing proteins and disrupting membranes.

Heavy metals kill microbes by binding to proteins, thus inhibiting enzymatic activity. Heavy metals are oligodynamic, meaning that very small concentrations show significant antimicrobial activity.

Various forms of mercury bind to sulfur-containing amino acids within proteins, inhibiting their functions.

Iodine works by oxidizing cellular components, including sulfur-containing amino acids, nucleotides, and fatty acids, and destabilizing the macromolecules that contain these molecules.

{Alcohols} They work by rapidly denaturing proteins, which inhibits cell metabolism, and by disrupting membranes, which leads to cell lysis. Once denatured, the proteins may potentially refold if enough water is present in the solution.

Chlorhexidine disrupts cell membranes and is bacteriostatic at lower concentrations or bactericidal at higher concentrations, in which it actually causes the cells’ cytoplasmic contents to congeal.

There’s more. I guess the main things are disruption of processes inside the cell, potentially disruption of the membrane. We could have things like some compounds which bind to others making them useless, like if you are an anaerobe then if there is oxygen around it starts to burn up your glucose giving you nothing in return. Also we could disrupt the active elements of a cell, like clogging flagella so they don’t work so well, though that might just be annoying.

I think making enzymes take space in your cell is less accurate than using a slot system. They are supposed to be dissolved in the cytoplasm so they shouldn’t occupy a certain place in your cell.

Well yes, if it’s going to be used only on one organelle it’s not worth it, but what if it’s used in other organelles? Pilus and vacuoles could be loaded with toxins or digestive enzimes for example.

I like the list you posted there, it’s a good start, these compounds could be new environmental hazards which may make the game more interesting. We have to think of those toxic effects as debuffs that affect different atributes of your cell. These atributes could be:

  • Health
  • Movement
  • Osmoregulation cost
  • Reproduction progress
  • Metabolic rate
  • Compound absorption rate

I think Oxygen should make you lose health since it literally oxidices your cell, alcohol may reduce your reproduction progress and in large quantities will also damage your cell, giving compounds different effects depending on their concentrations may be very interesting.
I was thinking about giving cells a “toxicity threshold”, they could absorb small quantities of toxic compounds but once they pass that threshold they would start experiencing their nocive effects. I suppose the threshold could be increased by increasing the concentration of certain enzimes inside your cell at the cost of having less compound storage maybe?

I guess health is a couple of things, like how much HP you have now and how fast you recharge, which can both be altered.

I’m not sure I quite get how O2 damage would work. Like you are swimming around taking 1 HP damage per second from something which is built into the environment that you can’t avoid? Sounds kind of weird imo. Maybe like slower health recharge might work?

Max Health, Health Regeneration, as well as Weakness (You take more damage from things).
Movement can be straight movement, as well as how fast you can turn.


Not exactly, I mentioned a toxicity threshold below which your cell wouldn’t take any damage, let’s say for the sake of argument that threshold is 5% atmospheric Oxygen, as long as that percentage doesn’t go up you’d be fine. If you travel to a patch with a higher oxygen concentration you’d start taking damage and that’s because you aren’t adapted to that environment, that’s the punishment for traveling there without being prepared. Now that i think of it, it would be a cool defense for photosynthesizers. Oxygen would be higher around them so that may keep some predators away.

However maybe it’s to punishing to have constant damage dealt to your cell, we may do the same thing I proposed for alcohol and make medium concentrations of oxygen just give you a health debuff.

The GOE did kill a majority of life on earth, so we should make sure that high concentrations of a toxic compound is potent enough to drive several species to extinction. I do think that harmful debuffs instead of constant damage is better for lower concentrations though


One thing that might be helpful with this is to sketch out some specific examples so it might be easier to think about.

Like with H2S would it be that if you go in the cloud and you don’t have chemoplasts then you immediately take some damage which stops when you swim out or something else? I can imagine this working with some flashing symbols in the gui to make it really obvious what is happening.

What specifically would oxygen damage do, how would it work, how would you mitigate it?

I’m a bit concerned about making the vents hard because it’s the starter zone so it would be good if it were friendly. However I also agree with the point that making the biomes more varied and more interesting is a good goal.

I guess H2S would harm you once it fills a certain percentage of the compound bar, that way you could travel through small clouds without much trouble. Maybe it could take longer to excrete than it does now so you couldn’t travel through those clouds too often.
I’m not sure what h2s exact effects would be, i tried searching what effects it has on cells but i didn’t find anything. Since oxygen is very reactive and literally oxidices cells i think it’s fitting for it to just do damage to cells overtime, also I already propossed other effects:

I think could be really cool if damage come at certain percentage or could be also related not to percentage but to dimension. Because if I have a lot of vacuoles they will help me survive also if i’m not so big cell, maybe this could give vacuole more importance but I don’t know if could be considered realistic.

One thing I’m thinking about is if will be the possibility of create new compound by reaction between different compounds.

I mean if the have oxygen and iron and there are like high pressure or temperature ( I don’t know the exactly condition in which could happen) can appear FeO? I don’t know if this particular reaction can happen but you get the idea.
This will create so many different conditions and for example in a patch where there is a lot of iron and oxygen a player would be probably add iron organelle, but paying on that patch more time will make iron finish for the oxidation reaction and so he moves.

This would need a redesign of the compound dumping system. Currently the cells can dump out a non-useful compound very fast. So it wouldn’t be really possible to stay filled up with some harmful compound. Something like a much limited rate of dumping non-useful compounds would be needed.

Do you think it would work to change it to “if the dump conditions are met then dump out 10% of what is stored”? Maybe 10 is too fast but some percentage. I guess maybe with some small epsilon amount where if you have <0.01 then it just dumps all of it.

That would definitely help with maintaining a toxic level for longer. Though, I feel like that could be confusing to the player as they would see they for example are slowly losing iron, perhaps leading them to think they need to collect more, when in fact they can’t use it. Currently the very fast dump rate is quite clear that you just leak out a compound you can’t use.

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