Buckly brought up exploration in discussion and I haven’t seen a dedicated thread for it. So I wanted to centralize some thoughts regarding it instead of having a lot of scattered ideas across various threads and discord.

It was mentioned that right now, the only reason why a player would want to explore is to find more compound clouds. I think that’s a good base layer for incentivizing exploration as it is mission-centric to the gameplay loop as a whole, but I think we should definitely add a few more accents to exploration.

Because of how insanely petite microscopic organisms are, it’s hard to represent exploration within the Microbe Stage in a way that doesn’t break immersion. As such, I think the scope to which we will encourage exploration should be defined a bit, and I personally think that the Microbe Stage doesn’t need too much to have exploration sufficient to the purpose of the stage itself. I believe the crescendo of such elements will peak in the late-Multicellular and Aware Stages, where players are able to explore a 3D world and will be able to more visibly understand their position in space, so the Microbe Stage probably doesn’t need to be too grand in this regard.

Instead, I think the charm of the Microbe Stage will be transforming the player’s perspective into that small of a space – providing objects, like miniscule grains of minerals or such as a comparison point, and providing just enough incentive to makes sure that players might conceivably roam around for reasons other than finding food, even for just a bit.

We can think of exploration in two regards…

  1. Why would a player want to explore the world?
  2. How will we make exploration more interesting?

Why Explore?

This is where bonuses and incentives step in – where we encourage the player to move around and interact with their world a bit more. But we should be wary of implementing mechanics which necessitate exploration. The best kind of exploration is that brought on by curiosity; if we introduce too many things which the player has to go out and get, exploring the world becomes a chore rather than a fun activity. We have a need right now: compound clouds. We should now focus on introducing the bonuses, and I think a good way to do that simply is by introducing a way to discount cell editor parts.

My mind immediately goes to lateral genetic transfer. I’ve seen one of Buckly’s concepts regarding lateral gene transfer, outlining multiple forms of it seen on Earth and proposing ways to implement said forms. I honestly think that for the purpose of Thrive, transformation, where cells pick up random floating bits of genetic information and integrate it within themselves, is good enough. We can have it so that if a player picks up a certain amount (2? 3?) their next move in the editor, be it an upgrade, part placement, etc. gets heavily discounted. Or maybe free?

I know that in real life, lateral gene transfer represents an important aspect of prokaryote evolution; prokaryotes stay simple enough to rapidly uptake genetic information so that they can rapidly pivot metabolic strategies and tolerances in fluctuating environments. It becomes a bit less potent for eukaryotes, who prefer the extra protection of a nucleic membrane from genetic parasites over the potential to pick up free genetic information. Also, sexual selection kind of wilted out lateral gene transfer (here is source from Nick Lane for the past two points: Genome expansion in early eukaryotes drove the transition from lateral gene transfer to sex — Nick Lane (nick-lane.net)). Perhaps we can have it so that if the player with a nucleus wants a discount, they need to get more free-floating DNA. That weakens the incentive to explore for eukaryotes however, so we’d probably need another bonus as well. And we should also ensure that lateral gene transfer isn’t making progression and evolution too rapid.

Another simple, rather gamey suggestion: similar to the free-floating toxins, perhaps we can have a free-floating healing item? I don’t know what it would be; maybe a lipid of a membrane floating around, although perhaps that would be too much like food. Maybe a mineral of sorts, like Zinc?

Of course, I think the best possible “why” for exploration in a game is just for the sake of exploring the game itself, thinking of Red Dead Redemption 2 or Ghosts of Tsushima in that regard. That ties into things like aesthetic beauty and grandeur however, which will likely show up in the later stages and is limited in this microscopic scale, so that’s a discussion for another day.

What other non-mandatory incentives can we implement?

How Will It Be More Interesting?

In other words, what things which don’t necessarily provide benefit to the player can spice up the world around you? This’ll make exploring in general more interesting, so that the world atleast feels less monotonous. I think this is where a bit of creative flair will come in, making the world feel more like a world with things going on instead of just an abstract patch.

One aspect of this that I think is simple can involve more objects floating around, like microscopic parts of sand, tiny rocks, flecks of crystals, snowflakes, etc. Objects which serve to be nothing more than a visual cue spicing up the scene. Obvious concerns regarding prokaryotic scaling, but I am pretty confident that various of the smallest grains of minerals can atleast be represented on that microscopic of a scale, and definitely so with eukaryotes. There already is some abstraction in the size comparison of eukaryotes and prokaryotes anyways. Let’s model some rocks!

Other aspects involve procedural terrain, which is a whole other discussion itself – more regarding implementation than design I feel: https://forum.revolutionarygamesstudio.com/t/microbe-stage-terrain-generation-and-features/777

The ideas seem pretty coherent, so it just needs to be implemented eventually. The question is obviously when, and I think it’s a better idea to first implement those more basic possibilities first. Procedural terrain generation also brings things up like lava flow.

Maxonovien also brings up that along with visual richness - increasing the selection of potential objects on screen - we should also be thinking about introducing aspects of variety within those objects themselves. So perhaps different forms of fractal snowflakes, or different mineral formations. Obviously that would require more intense effort, but it could go a long way.

What other miniscule objects can we implement?

As a post note in regard to exploring the procedural map: I think it’s fine if we just implement a fog of war, where you can only see a certain amount of patches beyond your current one. This adds a bit more weight to the decision to move – I sure hope there’s a better patch here if I move there, or I wonder if the ocean surface starts after this patch or the next, or I didn’t know there was a cave/abyss here; things like that. We should probably mentally distinguish between exploration in the actual gameplay itself and exploration through the patch map.


Regarding this
i was thinking of making only the explored patches and the ones immediately near the player visible OR
The same thing but with regions.


I think it would be a pretty good idea to hide the patches that aren’t next to ones the player is currently in / has been in from the map to require the player to explore it to find all the patches.

1 Like

Hiding unexplored patches/regions has already been planned from past concepts so it should be added. In this concept art for example, how it’s done visually is fading out the connecting lines to the hidden patches.


Speaking about environment “embellishment”, I’m no expert but I think that it would make sense that you could have minerals and low-solubility salts forming very small crystals. Modelling wise the particles shouldn’t even be very complicated to generate as they usually follow a very regular and geometrical structure (but I’ve just dipped my feet in 3d modelling so don’t take me for granted). Apart from that I would imagine you could have different bubbles of gas produced by various sources (that could maybe scatter the light in different ways and shift its color?). Not much more comes to mind, but maybe we could also think about having zones in which light has to pass through weird structures and generates some cool environmental effects? These could be some “points of interest” without a real in-game scope that are pretty to see and hard to find?
Hope these are not stupid suggestions!


I’ve been thinking on this concept for a little while, and decided that now is a good time to help solidify our ideas a bit more for the microscopic stages. Much of this has already been gone over by Deus above, so I’ll just provide my own thoughts on the general idea, and then cohesively list ways we can address this concept.

I’m going to separate the following concepts into two categories; “Rewards” that provide players with an incentive to explore their world, and “Spectacle” which makes the journey along the way feel more lively.

Optional Rambling

Without “rewards”, there is nothing to compel the player to explore the world around them, as it will not feel worth it aside from sightseeing. Imagine playing a game like Skyrim but without the dungeons and loot. Would be very pretty, but probably not fun or engaging.

Without “Spectacle”, the game would feel more plain and monotonous, with there being little sense of discovery and travel. Sure it could still be fun, but it wouldn’t be quite as engaging as it could be. Imagine playing a game like Darksouls, but everything takes place in the exact same generic dungeon and tilesets. Gameplay would blur together and feel more like a job than a journey given time.

In conclusion, we need both spectacle and rewards to make for a complete experience in Thrive. Without one or the other, the gameplay segments between generations will be in danger of feeling monotonous and unrewarding. We don’t want players to impatiently advance each generation as quickly as possible. We want it to feel good playing at a leisurely pace.


The meat on the platter, these features exist to give players a sense of accomplishment for exploring and playing. Their main mechanic is providing the player with various boons in return for seeking them out.


Loose fragments of genetic material encased in a membrane, these uncommon treasures will grant players a bonus in the editor that can accelerate evolution in the next generation. The player will only be able to receive the effects of one at a time each generation, so trying to assimilate all genetic material in the world won’t be feasible.

The exact nature of this bonus will need to be decided, so I’ve provided three of my own ideas;

  • One random free part.
  • Discounted MP cost on a random part.
  • Overall discount on all parts.
    Personally I would prefer one of the first two.

Later on, sexual reproduction might inherit the effects of the plastids, and the player will need to seek out a mate in a similar manner (albeit probably a bit easier).

Ammonium/Phosphate crystals:

Special floating chunks that periodically leach substantial amounts of their respective compounds into the surroundings. These crystals can make for a precious find for players that can boost their reproduction progress. They will likely be pretty rare, but worth seeking out if you are an especially large cell.

Most of these crystals are transparent white and uninteresting in reality, but we could possibly embellish their appearance with a purple/orange aura to represent the chemoreception of their composition.

In later stages, fertile and enriched patches of substrate (and the healthy and nutritious autotrophs potentially growing on them) could potentially take their place.


Swimming around in an empty void full of cells can be fun, but it can be alot better if there’s something cool to look at along the way, or even something to interact with to make the world feel more dynamic.


Various floating objects like rocks, crystals, snowflakes, etc. These objects will for the most part be inert and useless for your average cell. Their primary purpose is to give players something pretty to look at, but can also act as an environmental obstacles that force cells to not move in a straight line for once.

These should be pretty easy to implement, as we already have a large host of models made for them, as well as the baseline code for handling floating chunks.

In later stages these’ll probably be replaced by the terrain itself, and maybe more rocks and crystals but macroscopic.


Objects that assert influence on the world, or can otherwise be influenced themselves. These provide players with a way to interact with the environment, which makes for much more engaging gameplay.

As of now, the only feature I can recall is the aquatic currents, which are a large concept of their own.


A good background can make a world feel alive and beautiful, even if it’s beyond the reach of the player. As of now, the backgrounds are abstract and vague, which is acceptable and works well enough but can easily make the environment feel like a nondescript void. By livening up the backgrounds with interesting features, we can make the microscopic world a more beautiful place.

For example, the vents could have a background of basaltic rock veined with glowing fractures. There could be occasional ruptures from the surface that release the ever present glowing “embers” into the foreground.

Caves could be a cold grey stone, but lightened up with frequent crystal growths and veins of ore.

There’s alot of detail that could go into making a beautiful environment via the background!

I feel that these concepts should make for a much more engaging and rewarding experience in Thrive, and would like to hear what everyone thinks about them.


Implementation wise I don’t see many problems except with the backgrounds with more stuff going on. Those are going to be, I’ll say, pretty hard to do with the current team, as that would, I think, require a graphics programmer to cooperate pretty tightly with an artist to get that kind of stuff done. So unless someone gets really interested with that idea or a new person joins the team with the required skills, we shouldn’t put any kind of time estimate on when it could be done on that feature.