Iron Respiration

I think it would be good to discuss the details of how to do iron respiration in the game, here, here and here are some pages about it. The main goal of this is to have something which isn’t just purely collecting clouds but feels different to that (as we already have a lot of cloud based gameplay).

I’m not sure if this iron respiration should give you ATP or Glucose so I’ll just use the word “resources” here to mean whichever one is chosen, I don’t understand the chemistry very well.

Here are some options:

  • Small iron chunks, approx the size of an organelle, float around. If you pick one up you instantly get a hit of resources if you have the iron respiring organelle.

  • Small iron chunks float around and when you pick one up it fills an iron bar and that drains as usual.

  • Small iron chunks float around and when you pick one up it actually stays in your cell like an organelle for a while, it makes you slower and you drag it around until it is dissolved.

  • Large iron chunks, approx the size of a large cell or bigger, are set in place in the patch, they release a cloud in their local area which you can go to and harvest resources.

  • Large iron chunks are set in place and just by being near them you can get a hit of resources.

Also anyone else have any ideas? I don’t mind particularly. One advantage of having Large chunks is they would act like watering holes, attracting small iron respirators and that would attract predators etc which sounds cool. Small chunks are also cool. All input welcome, if other people have different ideas I’m totally happy to go in a different direction than any of the above. @Untrustedlife what sort of thing do you prefer?

One thing I like about having smallish particles floating around that release compounds is that we could basically do this and the cell decomposing with almost the same code.


That was the idea, i figure reworking death and particles cells can eat can use the same components.

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About the options i was originally for something like number 2, but the bottom 3 sound like they are laying the foundation for future things so prefer therm.

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All in all I think I prefer option number three. The waterhole thing also sounds interesting, but it differs less fundamentaly from regular clouds. I also like that the iron particles which you have to carry around give you a handicap which makes iron respiration a difficult niche to be in. I personally feel like iron respiration shouldn‘t be as easy as chemo- or photosynthesis since - as far as I‘m aware - it‘s less common irl than the other two options. Needless to say this could also make for interesting gameplay situations: There‘s an iron chunk but there‘s also a predator nearby. Do I risk being slower and being eaten by the predator for a hit of resources?


Also here‘s a gif depicting how I imagine iron respiration:
The dissolving of the iron particle would happen much slower of course.



A related question is what sort of organelle do you need to do this respiration? What would it look like and be called?

Im not sure what it would be called. As i cant find any eukaryotic organelles that do it.

Apparently the ones that do it basiclaly have endosymbiotic bacteria living in them. (sounds like the beginning of a mitochondria-esque organelle)

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About implementing the iron chunks in game, i feel like we are better off in the long term if we make them work sorta similarly to how we do membranes, have a texture applied to some procedural shape, This could potentially enable tunneling in the future.

The other option would be individually modelling the various iron chunks and scattering them in the environment.

We could start off with having like 8 models of iron chunks at first. Procedural generation is quite math heavy in trying to figure out how to generate good looking models and UVs, so that maybe should not be the first goal as it might turn out to be very difficult. Remember how much trouble we had with reworking the membrane for the new engine.

Yeah things like terrain and tunneling do sound interesting for the future, I like the idea of ice chunks floating around, however they do sound like a bigger feature.

I think for now just throwing a few models in sounds much easier. One thing is we don’t know if the iron gameplay will be fun so it’s worth making sure it’s good before committing a lot of effort to making it a complex system.

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I‘m no programmer but it makes sense to me that simple models take less time than procedural shapes.

On another note, I did some rough concept art of the iron respiration proteins and their organelle equivalent.

The IR proteins have a rust red coloration. This makes sense from a gameplay perspecive as the player understands easily that the rust red proteins might have something to do with the rust red chunks floating around. The shape is made up of strings and bubbles to distinguish them from the other proteins we already have.

Here‘s the IR organelle (for which we‘ve yet to come up with a name). Like all membrane-bound organelles it‘s a bacteria (in this case a IR-performing bacteria) that has been absorbed by its host. In its middle there are IR proteins, again symbolized by strings and bubbles. They are encapsulated by a membrane, which in turn is surrounded by a second membrane. This second membrane formes some sort of spikes. These have three uses:

  1. They provide a large amount of surface, which the IR organelle might use to perform iron respiration.
  2. They help the player disingush the IR organelle from other organelles.
  3. They look absolutely awesome.

It might look better of there were more than 6 spikes. I hope the organelle isn‘t too detailed for the purpose it should serve. I‘ve tried multiple colorations for the organelle. Personally I like number 2 the most.
I‘m exited to hear what you think of my concepts!

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Those are both cool concepts, I agree I like the spikiness, the flowing proteins look cool too.

One concern I have about this idea of absorbing an iron chunk and being slowed down by it is whether it will be fun. I’m not sure being slowed down will feel good. Are we also incentivising the player to sit still so they don’t waste ATP moving slowly and wait until digestion is complete before moving on? Because if that is the most efficient thing to do that doesn’t sound great.

Maybe it’s worth testing it? We could just use a random model for it and try it out and see what it feels like?

Yes, if the slowing down is too extreme it won‘t be fun, that could be a problem. But I think the encapsulated iron chunk concept could lead to so many interesting gameplay siruations that it could be worth the try. Here are a few examples:

  • An iron respirators stores of iron are full. Now he finds another chunk of iron which he would like to consume when his current chunk is dissolved. Now he has to hoard the new one and protect it from other iron respirators.
  • If you engulf an iron respirator with a chunk of iron inside, the iron chunk would stay in your cell and slow you down. Are the compunds you will get from the iron respirator worth the speed debuff? This depends on if your main source of food you‘ll sooner or later need to hunt is a stationary photosynthesizer or a fast species with multiple flagellas.
  • If chunks can be multiple hexes large smaller species can only consume small chunks, while the larger chunks are exclusive to larger eukaryotes who can contain them.

I created two animations of how I imagined dissolving of the iron chunks within the iron respirators could look:
The upper one shows how the chunks fit into the hex grid, the lower one shows how it would look to the player. The exact shapes of the chunk sizes are by no means ideal or final. These animations only serve to show my rough concept of how chunks would dissolve. What do you guys think? Does this look similar to how you imagined it? If not, how did you imagine it?

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Yeah looks nice.

My suggestion with this is to do a super basic test when there is a programmer who is keen to tackle it. So just take any random organelle (nucleus maybe) and have it float in the environment. Then the player cell can pick it up and when it does it’s slowed for 20s and gets an ATP boost for that time. No animations, just super simple.

Then we can see how it feels to play and if that’s good then we can build on it with nice models for the iron and a proper dissolving process etc.

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