Comprehensive Combat Revamp

This is a post on how we can address the concept for a “shield mechanic” to be added in Thrive. I’m posting it here since it fits in with the larger discussion related to combat, though this will also be a bit of a membrane revamp as well. It’s a follow up on a train of thought me and @Buckly spent some time thinking about in the gameplay channel a bit ago.

Why Do We Want a Shield Mechanic?

As per above post thoughts, it would benefit Thrive to have different cool abilities for the cells to utilize, enriching cell-to-cell interaction and generally positively reinforcing player decision’s by presenting unique functions. A shield mechanic is a common “type” of ability when it comes combat in video games. These enemies are generally extremely resilient to damage, but either have weak points or are not very capable offensively. They require the player to strategize in situations when they engage with said AI.

Now, keep in mind that Thrive isn’t a “combat” game first-and-foremost. Combat is a presence in Thrive as much as it is in the natural world; an inevitable part of predation, but not the “thrill” or “main objective”. Shields therefore benefit organisms by allowing them to avoid fights as well in our line of thinking.

How Can a Shield Mechanic Work?

Intrinsic Membrane Characteristics - The idea here is that membranes - right now being either cellulose or carbonate - will be able to absorb a certain amount of damage before actually damaging the player’s health. However, this damage “sponge” can be bypassed via a probiscis pilus. The cellulose membrane won’t have nearly as strong of a shield as a cellulose membrane, but will have the capacity to regenerate its shield. The carbonate membrane won’t have any significant regenerative capacity, but will be able to absorb a large amount of damage.

Parts - Instead of being a characteristic of the membrane, shield plates can be organelle parts that can be placed on the condition that a player has a certain membrane type. So cells with cellulose will be able to place cellulose plates (the official name of the part escapes me right now), and cells with carbonate will be able to place carbonate thecal plates akin to dinoflagellates. Beyond that, things are pretty much identical; cellulose plates won’t absorb as much but can regenerate faster, while carbonate plates will absorb a lot more but won’t regenerate very fast at all.

A benefit to the parts approach is the possibility to, in the case of carbonate membranes, incorporate the unique shapes of dinoflagellates by allowing the player to customize the physical characteristics of their plates. Along with customization, these structures can work to increase surface area, making currents have more of an effect on a cell if that is what the player desires and making it harder for probiscis pili to have an effect.

Though I guess we can technically add another part which does a similar thing without attaching that function to a shield part.

I honestly am undecided on which method is best when it comes to dealing with a shield mechanic. On one hand, attaching the shield characteristic to membranes makes each membrane more unique, allowing us to revamp that section of the editor more easily and incentivizing more players to experiment with membranes. It also empowers the probiscis pilus a lot, and I feel like it’s a pretty simple mechanic to implement.

On the other hand, having the shield mechanic be implemented in the form of part can create these cool moments where a player has to target a very specific part of a cell to damage them, which is a very fun and fundamental mechanic other more traditional games include in their shield “archetype”. It also allows greater customization of cell appearance as mentioned above, and I guess it still makes membranes unique still if you need them to place these parts down in the first place.

Any thoughts or preferences in how we deal with this mechanic?

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