Gameplay Discussion: Benefits of Being a Larger Cell

Just like last time, this is an effort to reach a conclusion on a single actionable topic. There was a request to give a fixed timeframe for polls moving forward, so this time I will be opening a poll on Saturday, and closing it next Wednesday unless it’s really neck and neck, in which case I’ll keep the topic open and we can talk about it more.

Today’s topic is: advantages of bigger cells

Deus cites here that one of the problems with predation is that getting bigger doesn’t do that much for you. It lets you engulf bigger targets, but there are other ways to kill big targets. It makes you a bigger target to hit yourself, and doesn’t give you any defensive bonuses. It makes you slower unless you’re spending that mass on flagella. It does, of course, mean you simply have more organelles to do stuff with, but that comes at the cost of higher osmoregulation cost.

I don’t see any obvious demonstrations to screenshot like last time. If anyone wants to do an in-depth case study they are welcome, but otherwise I’m going to trust that everyone here understands the concept. It’s important to note that we currently don’t really have any benchmark for how big microbes SHOULD be at any given point in the game, although I don’t know if we need one.

I can think of four possible paths here. If people suggest more, and someone could immediately implement them, I will add those ideas to the list. As always, during the PR exact numbers are subject to change.

  1. Take no action.
  2. Make every additional engulf size provide 1 more hit point, but lower every current membrane’s hit points by 10. Currently, HP is entirely determined by membrane and rigidity. With this change, the weakest possible microbe would have 20.5 max health, while an arbitrarily large microbe could have arbitrarily large health in theory (although the same problems with size would still be in effect). In practice, I think the main advantage of this would be for bigger microbes to be able to take one or two extra toxin hits, since ATP damage is scaled to HP, engulfment is a stunlock, and flagella do very little damage unless it glitches. This also has an interesting side effect of providing a bonus to the nucleus: eukaryotes count as having double the engulf size for the same set of organelles.
  3. Modify the osmoregulation cost function to use hex size to the 0.9th power. This change would give a discount to the osmoregulation cost (not the total ATP cost, and in more complex microbes osmoregulation isn’t the biggest factor) of about 25% at 20 hexes (which is about what you see when first putting on the nucleus) and about 33% at 30 hexes. This lets you make slightly more efficient species with fewer metabolomes or mitochondria, and indirectly makes larger microbes faster. I would also expect this to make auto-evo like larger microbes more, but by how much I don’t know.
  4. Modify the nucleus to reduce incoming damage by 50%. This would essentially double the health of all eukaryotes.

We had a bit of discussion earlier on discord regarding limited benefits to size in game. Regarding the idea of health being attached to size/mass, some concerns were brought up that prokaryotes would be heavily nerfed in their capabilities with combat against eukaryotes. I personally think that this is fine since strategies like predation really started emerging with eukaryotes and similar sized cells due to the newfound evolutionary viability of becoming bigger, so it’s not like it wouldn’t be realistic. And it would help with feeling incredibly delicate as a rather large cell against the hordes of tiny pilus-bearing prokaryotes. But it definitely requires a bit of discussion so that we consider the implications of this decision, and then how exactly to implement it if agreed upon. It was considered a while ago, but rejected.

I remember another idea hhyyrylainen brought up was to have the nucleus halve damage received. I’m a bit wary of this since I’m not sure that buff should be attached to the nucleus, but it could represent an alternative if we don’t want to go fully with size=health yet and want to test it out.

I would also like to point out that one benefit of size/eukaryotes is that toxins are less potent; prokaryotes practically engage in warfare amongst each other with agents, while the same isn’t so in eukaryotes.

I’m personally a bit wary of messing with osmoregulation costs right now since so many other aspects of the game, like speed, auto-evo, organelle efficiency, etc. are tied to it. It’s something we should consider holistically and not just in regard to a single aspect of the game.

The buff would exist anyway if you select the size of an organism as eukaryotes are 50% larger than prokaryote with the same number of hexes.

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I’ll add the proposal for the nucleus providing damage reduction. If anyone wants to advocate for it type something out and I’ll add it to the description, but otherwise I’ll do my best.

I guess that leads to a deeper question though: is the concern here giving advantage to larger microbes as a whole, or giving advantage to the nucleus?

Ok, I forgot to open the poll yesterday. Since it’s a day late, I’ll close this poll on Thursday to compensate.

  • Take no action.
  • Make every additional engulf size provide 1 more hit point, but lower every current membrane’s hit points by 10.
  • Modify the osmoregulation cost function to use hex size to the 0.9th power.
  • Modify the nucleus to reduce incoming damage by 50%.

0 voters

You could set the exact closing time on the poll so it closes automatically and shows people how long it will last.

Yes I can, but not more than five minutes after opening the last poll. Here’s a new one:

  • Take no action.
  • Make every additional engulf size provide 1 more hit point, but lower every current membrane’s hit points by 10.
  • Modify the osmoregulation cost function to use hex size to the 0.9th power.
  • Modify the nucleus to reduce incoming damage by 50%.

0 voters

30 minutes early, but I think it’s safe to say that 50% damage reduction wins. Honestly, this result baffles me, but it was easy to implement: Make Nucleus Reduce Incoming Damage by Half by adQuid · Pull Request #3317 · Revolutionary-Games/Thrive · GitHub

One caveat is that at least how I understood the feature is that it reduces the damage from prokaryotes not everything. So for example out of ATP damage should stay the same. Reducing damage from environmental toxins and chunks is fine by me as tracking the ultimate damage source otherwise would be quite a bit more difficult to implement.

Pasted from GitHub comment for better organization…

Tested this in free build since it was taking a pretty long time for predatory adaptations to evolve in the AI, so it might be an imperfect representation of gameplay experience.

It definitely had an effect with prokaryotes that have a posterior pilus, which is a pretty common build to evolve in traditional gameplay. It doesn’t feel like you get your health absolutely drained. It’s still a bit extreme if you encounter a cell which likes to rotate a lot due to a lack of damage delay, a pretty common behavior for cells with an anterior pilus.

I still think we should have health scaling with size though. From a gameplay perspective, I already mentioned the sense of progression that comes with gaining extra health, but also, when playing this, I only really cared about the damage debuff if I adapted a more sturdy cell membrane - at 60 health, even halved damage can be risky because each health point is so valuable. I also feel like it’s intuitive; halved damage from a nucleus seems a tad arbitrary, but increased health from mass makes sense.

I think we should consider adding mass-based health along with a damage debuff from bacterium from the nucleus, although I’d say at a rate less than half; halved damage and health increasing with mass might be too much of a buff.

Again, evolving the nucleus gives the cell 50% more size immediately…

I’d wish we had active theorists to talk about the realism of more health from larger size…

Input from our theorist, @Bird:

She thinks of health and the HP stat as indicative of an organism’s capability to resist physical (concussive) and environmental damage. Along those lines, she does think that larger size should equal to more health, also bringing up that prokaryotes don’t really physically attack eukaryotes. What prokaryotes do instead against eukaryotes is resort to the excreting of toxins and enzymes, which remains potent against organisms of most sizes, even if to a lesser extent than against prokaryotes.

Based off that, we do have realism on our side should we want to increase health with size. But we have some balancing to think of when it comes to damage debuffs tied with nucleus. It seems that mechanical damage from prokaryotes should be reduced, but toxin damage should be rather constant, requiring immunology to deal with rather than a flat size constant or nucleic-buff. Once again, the agent system will be a big part of Thrive it seems.


I say it’s worth trying out. It’s probably not too hard to shove hexcount into the max health calculation of a species for a simple prototype.

done: GitHub - Revolutionary-Games/Thrive at health_from_size

I’ll say this again: you should use the engulf size as that’s automatically adjusted for bacteria’s 50% smaller scale.

But there aren’t much concussive damage at the time being, are they? Pili are mure more sharp damages, for which bigger size does not help much afaik.

Also, as a note, it won’t be of any use to have bigger cells evolve in the auto-evo, because health isn’t even remotely considered.

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