Gameplay Prototype

I’ve been messing around with a gameplay prototype. So far you can only move and drop agents. This sort of gameplay is a lot more fun than I had at first imagined. So in the video the small circles are the microbes, the large green circles are the area of effect of the agents they drop. Agents can only have three effects, one is to drain health, another is to slow you down the last one is to prevent you from dropping agents. The good thing about it is it’s kind of fun to run around dropping agents and seeing what happens. The bad thing is that if your agent doesn’t work then there’s nothing you can do. There are some lame situations where their agent slows you down to be slower than them and then they just follow you around like a ball and chain.

Anyway next I’m going to try and add some melee combat and see how that changes things. Code’s got bugs (sometimes lets you drop thousands of agents) and is in the prototypes repo.

What do you guys think?


Awesome! I was hoping we’d see some gameplay prototypes soon - since it’ll be difficult to test mechanics by adding them to the full game, prototypes could give us the opportunity for rough balancing beforehand.

I guess ideally this should still be possible, since you’re going to have to die a few times by a few different methods to understand how best to upgrade your cell. Plus there’s always the possibility of more cells getting involved and changing things up.

What if they don’t kill you, what if they just follow you around forever?

Maybe that’s ok, you would learn to fear them really badly, much more than an enemy that can kill you.

a cell using an agent like that would not be a hunter surely? if it can never catch its prey its horrible hunter, a more likely scenario is a cell using this for self defense. unless you wanted to make a cell whose only purpose is to annoy the player…
looking good so far anyway, I’m guessing in the game you’d be able to select from a few different ways of dispersing you agent? ie. i could make it burst our everywhere or i could precision strike them with a burst of poison or something like that.

The thing is the cells will be randomly generated. So any combination is possible. Like a really adept hunter that can’t actually quite kill you so just follows you around being annoying. That’s the thing with auto-evo, it’s going to give the cells the trait it thinks will help them most. So maybe that agent helps them outrun their main predator so it’s given to them, it’s just an evolutionary coincidence it slows you down and that the cell choses to follow you.

Or what about a cell that can pin you down and kill you, but it takes 45 minutes for it’s a agents to starve you of the ability to make protein which reduces your ability to repair which means eventually you die of wear and tear. It’s a good strategy, no fun for the player.

So we do need to be careful. But all of this should come out in playtesting.

hmm interesting, we just need to be careful because if the player thinks the game is killing them unfairly then that’s a one way ticket to a rage quit, this is one of those hard things to design for, how do we make sure the player knows how to combat that? and how do we make sure the player knows why something is happening “but it takes 45 minutes for it’s a agents to starve you of the ability to make protein”.
food for thought anyway.
we may just need to tweak/remove some agents, but as you said this will come out in playtesting.

Well I think it’s slightly a problem of procedural generation. You may just get stuck having loads of predators which are really aggressive and then you’ll have a miserable time. We can’t help that, that’s kind of the game.

Maybe we need to have an easy mode where it starts the game with no predators so you get a chance to get into it. I think the harshness of the world is actually important, but as you say people need to get into it gradually, advanced players may want a jungle, beginners will want a hundred acre wood.

Maybe we should have a complexity value at the start of a game where the player can set how complex life is to begin with, eg low complexity will be mainly just plant cells and basic cells and you can evolve as one of the first complex animals, hence having a head start, or you can put it up to complex where life has already evolved a lot and you need to try to evolve in a world that’s already complex hence bigger and scarier then you for people who want to have a bad time… i should probability design that new game screen some time…

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Perhaps there could simply be preset niches that NPC’s in the game will compete to fill. For example set a niche for autotroph and predator. Make it so that at least, say, 34% of microbes must become autotrophs to keep the ecosystem running, while the rest become predators.

The autotrophs begin specializing and they gain chloroplasts or thermoplasts and possibly cell walls. To diversify they start developing varying agents to protect themselves.

The remaining 66% percent would evolve more agressive characteristics such as the predatory pili, toxins, engulfment, etc. Seeing as there’s a lot more options for a predatorial lifestyle, we can expect a lot of diversity here.

If any of the populations fall below a certain threshold, other species would adapt to fill the empty niche. For example if all the producers suddenly died, some predators would change to get all that easy energy that is now up for grabs in the now empty autotroph spot, thus rebalancing the ecosystem.

IMO it’s a mistake to be any more prescriptive than we have to be. The interesting thing about the CPA is all the crazy unpredictable things that will happen. Like whole ecosystems dying out, for example. Or being a victim of your own success and changing the environment so much you’re not successful any more.

We need a system for making sure there is an easy / beginners mode. However beyond this I think it’s a mistake to restrict the system more than we have to.