Finishing the microbe stage roadmap

With my prototypes coming along nicely, I think I’ll be ready within a year to start pushing the microbe stage towards completion so that we’d finally be able to say that we have a “finished” stage.

In order to do that we need to come to a decision as to what are the necessary features (and what can be left out for really enthusiastic people to push forward and implement themselves) for the microbe stage.

For reference here’s the backlog wiki page:

I think all the high priority, planned and accessory features should be thrown in the finished roadmap with the following changes:

  • Reworking the spawn system (only if necessary), and this should be one of the last things to do like in 0.9.x version range, as we got a partial rework of the spawn system already
  • Allow player to play any species occupied patch upon death/reproduction (should be a new game option only available in easy mode in my opinion)

From the debatable features I’d like to keep the following (so anything not mentioned will be kept in the debatable features and not make it into the roadmap):

  • Damage delay or knockback for offensive pili
  • Compound Toxicity and Environmental tolerance
  • Implement diffusion of compounds and gasses between patches (dynamic gas compounds is at least a part of this)
  • Add hydrogenase
  • Bioluminescence
  • Environmental events
  • Launcher for mac (proper support, and investigate if we can do code signed builds or not), proper mac support (I’m still hoping to open a thread to talk about this and ask the fans to wishlist the mac version to make sure there’s enough demand to cover the hardware and license costs)
  • Improved microbe backgrounds
  • Toxin system customization and rework
  • Rework player starting compounds to allow for more flexibility (we probably should show this in the editor and let the player pick as long as the total amount is below some threshold)

One feature I’m dreading needing to implement but I’d like to keep anyway due to it being very important (and we may want to start trying to recruit a graphics programmer right away to be able to):

  • Improve water currents functionality and visibility

And here’s a few items I think need to be added to the roadmap:

  • Reworked auto-evo report to be much more graphical, also auto-evo prediction
  • Expanded tutorials, maybe even a hand holding mode, though as this is a lot of effort, that should be left until the 0.9.x releases.

With the features roughly thrown based on my time consumption estimate into the following ranges, for clarity I didn’t put all of them yet here, but when this discussion is finished I’ll do that and update the wiki:

  • 0.6 upgrade system, part unlocks (with endosymbiosis lite being one option), binding benefit balancing and bug fixing, pili balancing, toxin rework and general combat balancing
  • 0.7 thriveopedia, changing light levels, stamina, food chain, improved auto-evo report, changing gas amounts, hydrogenase
  • 0.8 planet generation and customization, better patch terrain, radiotrophs, compound toxicity, environmental effects
  • 0.9 achievements, thermoplasts, migrations, official mac support, microbe background improvements, bioluminescense

We’ll also need to throw in important bugs that affect the features or overall playability of the game.

Once the features listed for 0.6 are done, we’ll call the release with those done 0.7, and so on. So 1.0 will be when all the features listed in 0.9 are finished. I highly doubt we can put out a 1.0 release with not that many bugs, but still I think that’s important enough milestone that we don’t want to leave a ton of game enjoyability affecting bugs or bugs that get reported often.

Please share your thoughts.


This is a good start. Looking at the features laid out like this, I find myself pretty hesitant to try and tack on anything else in each update. It’s pretty substantial as is… But at least all of this wouldn’t be implemented all at once and more in intervals of 0.6.1 etc as usual.

Since I do not have a firm grasp of programming, I’ll try my best to lay features out in a “gameplay” point of view instead.


Toxin rework:

With the upgrades system coming along around this time, I feel it’s a good period to throw in a rework to toxins as well. At the very least we could implement the various types of toxic delivery as elaborated in pacing and combat.



I was originally going to tack hydrogenosomes/hydrogenase to 0.6, but since they only have practical use in anerobic conditions, I figured they would be better off implemented during or after gas exchange. These are speculated to have evolved from mitochondria, therefore they might either fit well in the upgrades system or as a stand-alone part. Implementation should also be fairly simple as they operate very similarly to mitochondria, thus require no additional coding. I could probably even do it myself.


Compound Toxicity/Environmental tolerance:

With the upgrades system implemented, and changing conditions present, 0.8 may be a good period to make those conditions matter more. It’s been a while since I last touched up on that topic, and looking back, it adds a ton of complexity. I propose the following;

Exposure to conditions you are unadjusted to adds a new passive ATP upkeep to your cell identical in function to osmoregulation; The idea being that moving outside of your cell’s comfort zone forces them to expend more energy maintaining their homeostasis. We might need to add a warning about this to patches, perhaps include a “habitability score” to the patch screen for quick reference. I’ll make a post elaborating on this at a later time.

Environmental Events:

With the implementation of changing conditions being completed in 0.7, I believe 0.8 is a good timeframe for the implementation of other events that might spontaneously change the conditions of a patch.

Events such as volcanic activity in any of the floor patches drastically increasing temperature and creating dangerous hotspots for a time, or atmospheric migration, which causes certain species to be swept up from far away surface patches, and dropped into other new patches via rain (Would this just be part of migrations?).

Other than that, I think the roadmap is good. I’m fairly confident I am forgetting a few things though, so I’ll edit this post if I remember.

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Well I didn’t even put all of the things we need to do in that list, so the real finished list is going to look even more daunting…

Makes sense to try to fix combat balancing all at once. However the toxin type editing will probably have to be a separate screen by itself so while it would rely on the organelle upgrades to be selected, that feature doesn’t help doing toxin customization that much.

Sounds fine, I think I may have left them off my list as I had no clue what they were and was dreading it would be as hard to implement as thermoplast or radioplast.

I’ll lump this in with the compound toxicity item.

I’m also probably forgetting a bunch of stuff we’ll need to make space for in the roadmap. There’s probably even some stuff that already has open Github issues. Well we can just stretch out the second version numbers thinner once we are closer if we need way more releases to finish things.

I’ll do a few edits to my original post based on things I covered in this post.

Also I just remembered one thing I think we need to add to the debatable features (but not to the final roadmap in my opinion): changing toxin projectiles into compound cloud like things.

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The currents visuals are done (it’s pretty simple if you use particles or points), the currents themselves just aren’t good. Somebody has to implement Buckly’s design.

Recruiting a graphics programmer is gonna be pretty rough, not sure where you’d even look and not get laughed at / ignored by the worthwhile ones (who are typically Render Engineers). They are pretty rare and their skills are all over the place. Usually all they can do is write interesting fragment shaders and such. You see them like that a lot on ShaderToy, as that’s all really somebody needs in a normal game.

I really think somebody has to just to focus on learning Graphics, Kemikal has come a long way for example and wrote his own Ray-Marcher for clouds.

Shouldnt somewhere up to 6.0 or 7.0 be better auto-evo? The current one doesnt make cells with nuclei right?

I dont know what to say about graphics programming haha. But arent current visuals relatively easy to do ? Like what would they require, maybe some particles moving in the direction of the current and thats it.

Maxonovien fixed that I think

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Maxonovien did indeed fix it. I guess the next challenge is hooking up multicellular creatures to auto-evo.

I like how the roadmap is set up. I’ll make sure to focus some effort on pushing through endosymbiosis and figuring out what we do and don’t want to do with it. @Buckly i remember we had an exchange on the community forums related to it that might be worth looking into. Perhaps it would be too complicated now but it could have some earlier established principles we might have forgotten.

And I remember Nunz saying that the currents just need to have larger vectors or something like that so they’re more like streams and less like the random noise that is being applied currently to the compound clouds.

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Very exiting roadmap! And from a laymans perspecitve it feels like the features are quiet evenly distrubuted both in terms of how hard they are to implement and how fun they are going to be.

There’s one feature which hasn’t been mentioned and I’m not 100% sure if it’s been decided that we want to include it but I’m going to mention it anyways:
There has been an idea for a difficulty setting which made it so if the players species dies out, the player will take control of the species which is most closely related to it, i.e. the species which has most recently diverged from the player.
Is this still planned as a setting? Imo it would be a very fitting and unique difficulty setting.

That is already on the roadmap wiki page and my idea was not to exclude it, just make it only available in easy mode.

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I must be illiterate because I’ve read the Release Roadmap for a third time now and I still didn’t find where it was metioned^^
But nevermind, the important thing is that we haven’t forgotten about it.

First bullet point in the “planned” section: Release Roadmap - Thrive Developer Wiki

  • Allow player to play any species occupied patch upon death/reproduction
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Oh, I did read that… But in that case I misinterpreted what it meant.
Anyways, sorry for wasting your time:)

Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I thought that was limited to the player species.

As in; the player has died in X patch, so now they can choose to play in a prior patch as it has some population in it.

Likewise after reproducing they would be able to play in any patch their species currently resides in.


Well I think whoever wrote that initially wasn’t really clear as it seems to be two separate features.
Now reading it again, I see it says “species occupied” and not “any species” so the wording was unclear. I’ll switch it out to be that the player can switch to any patch their species is in or next to while in the editor.

And put the take over a related species on game over (only in easy mode), to the end of the feature list.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

I think we could drastically reduce the number of features we want to implement before shifting the focus off of the Microbe Stage. I know we are constantly thinking about what features to implement next, but we really ought to pat ourselves on the back because we now have quite a decently fleshed out Microbe Stage, something that seemed very unlikely at this project’s inception.

Additionally, I think there is huge value in having more content in the later stages. People are fundamentally more interested in macroscopic biology than they are in microscopic. Macroscopic biology is also better understood scientifically, has more interesting and complex mechanics that govern it, is more audiovisually immersive, and can provide for more interesting gameplay. We can also get better footage from later stage gameplay to use to market the game. It’s hard to sell this game with just microbial footage. Having an interesting macroscopic game can help us grow our team, and some of those devs can then go back and help fill out more Microbe content. Lastly, the beauty of Thrive is that the stages synergize so well. Adding content to later stages will inherently make Microbe more fun because it serves as the buildup to any later stage content.

As such, these are the following features I would say are absolutely necessary, after which we can shift focus to Multicellular:

  • Fix framerate performance. For obvious reasons. It prevents us from adding more entities and adding more CPU/GPU-using features.
  • Fix auto-evo performance. Unless we want load times to the editor to reach 5-10 minutes each time. I think this one is much easier to solve, we just need to reduce the total number of species per world.
  • Upgrades/crossgrades/unlocks. In later stages, we will need an ability for simpler organs/parts to unlock more complex organs (such as gills evolving into lungs). So as a foundation for that, we need to have an upgrade/crossgrade/unlock system implemented which can carry over into the Aware stage.
  • Endosymbiosis. Because becoming a eukaryote is a necessary step to becoming multicellular, we shouldn’t have a placeholder system in place to simulate this (which we do have currently). Additionally, this should help us greatly in balancing the Nucleus by giving us more natural restrictions to place on obtaining it, instead of the crushing Osmoregulation and Mutation Point costs we’ve assigned to it currently to prevent all cells from evolving it.
  • That’s it. I think every other feature would be nice to have implemented before we shift focus, but is not necessary. To clarify, when I say “shift focus”, what I mean is that we move the focus of the majority of our efforts to the Multicellular stage, but we still continue to add content to previous stages if we deem it important enough or if individual devs really want to.

Let me know what you think about this. I think the main goal of such a bare list is that, as I said above, having more content in the macroscopic stage will make Thrive fundamentally more fun, and draw in more players and developers, who we can then use to help fill out earlier-game content. If you’re attending the meeting on Sunday, I think it would be a good chance to discuss this thread and designing our future roadmap.

Ehhh, I’m very wary of thinking like that. I really don’t want this game to fall into the Spore or No Man’s Sky (at launch) trap of having the gameplay essentially be an ocean that is an inch deep - many stages, limited replayability. The microbe stage has reached a point where it can be called fun, but there is limited replayability and an absence of certain gameplay elements that would really make for an engaging microbial game.

Of course we can still develop two stages at once theoretically, but realistically, we just don’t have the manpower to devote resources and focus well across two stages. Moving on to the macroscopic stage too quick would definitely leave many aspects of the microbe stage neglected, and with many bugs still remaining, a lack of some polish, and missing gameplay elements, that wouldn’t make for an engaging experience and would reflect poorly on the quality of future stages (I’m sure many people would interpret a lackluster microbe stage as an indicator that the macroscopic stage would similarly be lackluster). And the microbial stage really serves as the pillar for the rest of the game. Everything we implement here will have effects on the later stages. Especially with emergent software or really any program that is writing itself throughout a long period of time, hastiness can be a very bad thing.

Of course, we need to make sure we have a set point where we force ourselves to stop, assess the stage holistically, and then cut the fluff if we realize we really don’t need additional features. I’m just as itchy for a macroscopic stage (my body plan and germ layer concepts are ways I’ve released that yearning). But we really can’t afford to minimize a stage just because we want to shift focus to another, potentially more captivating stage. It could lead to sloppiness and an uneven gaming experience.

But I do think I know what you’re getting at; we are filling out gameplay wise. Now, the mentality we need is to wrap everything up in a way that creates a very engaging and replayable experience. I’m beginning to create a google doc detailing the most important gameplay elements in Thrive, the state of them as of now, and ways we can improve. I’ll share it soon.


At the very least I would add dynamic compounds and other environmental variables to your list. Things like the great oxygenation events with subsequent glaciations will make the game much more dynamic. The procedural patch map infused the game with a lot of replayability and I think dynamic environmental variables will do the same once more.
Beyond that I see your thoughts about marketability and the positive effect more traction will have on all stages, the microbe stage included.
All in all I agree more with Deus. We have come such a long way with the microbe stage. The last few big remaining features will tie the great things we already have together. It would be a pity if we did this crucial part sloppily.


I’m just about to start working on the gameplay for the macroscopic stage, but my initial guess is that as there’ll be just one graphics node per game entity, the performance will be wildly better in macroscopic than the current microscopic stages.

So fixing the performance in microscopic likely won’t have any relation to later game performance.

Do you mean endosymbiosis lite or the full implementation? I really hope it is not the full implementation as that’s a huge mechanic rework that I kind of don’t want to tackle at all.

I think we should still try to finish a roadmap for the microbe stage. I think that once I’m done with the prototypes, and especially if I can work fulltime starting next year, I can make super quick progress on a lot of the features on the roadmap. I’d say that it’d be possible to finish the entire roadmap (as long as we still get the occasional other people helping out) within a year so a bit optimistically I’d say microbe stage could be complete by the end of 2023 or the first half of 2024.

This is actually something I forgot in my initial post in this thread, we have nearly 500 issues (and well some are new features) in our backlog currently. Some of those are probably pretty important for the enjoyability of the microbe stage and should be put on the roadmap.

This is an excellent point. I’ve myself thought that many issues with the microbe stage players can tolerate if they know there’s more to the game afterwards. But I’ve since realized that the main menu and the microbe stage is what gives players the initial impression, if it’s not good, they won’t play for the two hours needed to get later into the game.

This is one of my biggest annoyances in Thrive, the fact that people post ideas and suggestions to slightly tweak (or entirely rework) already very good systems in the game. These discussions (if they are accepted) just lead to extra work for a tiny bit of extra polish to a small part of the game when we still haven’t made all of the microbe stage yet (and we have even bigger stages to tackle).


Yeah you guys all make good points, and actually now that I think more about it, I change what I think.

I don’t know when would be the best time to shift our PRIMARY focus of what stage we’re working on, that is a good question to think about.

But I DO think that we should create the barebones of future stages as soon as possible. I think hhyyrylainen was bang on the money with this point when he first advocated for it. These are the reasons I think why it would be good to do so as soon as possible:

  • Once we have the foundation of the later stages there, volunteer devs can come in and volunteer to work on those later stages. Devs that otherwise might not have been interested in helping if only the Microbe Stage was available to work on. This is basically free development power. And remember as a volunteer team we are highly dependent on people voluntarily deciding “huh I feel like helping out”, so we want to inspire as many people as we can to do so. Getting in the foundations for future stages lets us tap into more potentially interested developers.
  • As an open-source and volunteer project, we rely a lot on the “energy” of the community. It creates both activity on our platforms, and also feeds us a steady stream of developer applications by giving the game attention. The initial addition of the Multicellular stage had a lot of symbolic power even if functionally not much was added in its first iteration. Yes individuals are rational, and rationally speaking an individual could look and see “oh its a very barebones implementation of the Multicellular stage”. But crowds are not rational, and for many fans and passersby just knowing that Multicellularity was added can be enough to intrigue and energize them, get discussions going on our platforms, get the game shared more often, get word of mouth to share it, etc. And funny enough when people criticize our game online, the most common defence I always see is “Well to be fair they’ve actually started work on their second stage I thought that’d never happen”. Sometimes symbolic acts have a lot of power. And we can use that energy/power to actually grow the team and consequently develop the game faster.
  • Small point but wanted to mention, our game currently doesn’t catch a passerby’s attention very well. Like if younger evolution-obsessed me was scrolling through YouTube and I saw a thumbnail of a Thrive video, I don’t know if I’d watch. I probably wouldn’t recognize what the thumbnail was, since I’d expect an evolution game to feature giant toothed dinosaur like beasts or flying three winged aliens or bioluminescent mushroom forests or what have you. Not some brightly coloured cells swimming through some brightly coloured clouds. 3D macroscopic gameplay will just be leagues better in producing us good thumbnails, screenshots, and footage we can use to catch viewership for our game. This is part of the reason I’ve been working on Audio and Visual ambience so much lately (new ambient tracks, blurred backgrounds, pushing for more compound chunks, etc) since I want to make the game more presentable for when we do outreach. Thrive is really strong at retaining players because its mechanics are so deep and unique, but I think we fall short in attracting them in the first place.
  • Some features apply across Microbe, Multicellular, and Aware. And I’m wondering if it creates us extra work if we implement an iteration of such a system now, and then have to come back and redo it once Multicellular and Aware are more filled out. Like for example, we now have to revisit Auto-Evo to make it take colonies into account, and we will have to revisit it every time a new mechanic is added. Perhaps some systems can be saved for later so that they can be built with all three stages already in mind?

Finally, just to be clear, whenever we do “shift” towards later stages, that doesn’t mean we stop producing the Microbe Stage, or cut any unimplemented Microbe features from our roadmap. We’ll obviously always continue to improve it. We will just focus the majority of our efforts towards later stages and reduce the priority of Microbe Stage features.


Well here it is finally, my “finished” roadmap, which if people agree or at least mostly agree I’ll edit onto the wiki. I worked on this instead of the macroscopic prototype, hopefully it is worth it.

So here’s the roadmap split into release ranges (the ranges work so that 0.6.x releases incrementally add the features listed under that version, and once all are complete we can release 0.7.0).

0.6.x (the combat and part upgrades updates)

0.7.x (the graph updates)

0.8.x (world and auto-evo updates)

0.9.x (finishing things off updates)

1.0.x (the road to multicellular updates)

  • Microbe stage is finished
  • We should have at least the early multicellular no longer marked as a prototype by this time

I went through all of our issues on Github, which is why I picked up quite a bit more than I expected, but I think most of those are needed or should at least be attempted to see if they are easy as they’ll add some needed polish to the stage (I did put in a few easy things in 0.6.x that aren’t really needed just to fill it out a bit). But do feel free to say if some issue is not required to have a perfectly enjoyable microbe stage and we can discuss. Some of the feature lists seem a bit long but there’s quite many bugs in there that don’t really need discussing and can be done easily. I think I overall got the amount of stuff to do to be quite equal (with just 0.6.x being quite bare) even without needing to break the “theme” of the updates too much. 0.9.x has more bugs than new features as I think we’ll really want to polish things then and as always happens, we’ll probably have picked up a ton of more bugs by then which we’ll need time to sort out to not have the bug backlog keep growing.

Once this discussion ends, I’ll update the wiki and put things into a better order where the new features are put between the bugs to make it easier to build milestones for releases (0.6.1, 0.6.2, 0.6.3 etc.).