New player thoughts/Design going forward

So since I rather recently played the game for the first time before joining to help, I thought I’d share my thoughts as a player that came in blind and maybe give insight into how the game feels right now.

Warning: It’s quite long.

  • The game doesn’t feel very goal oriented right now. You start with a single hex cell, very quickly go into the editor and can add some organelles, that’s cool. But it never feels like much of an upgrade and there isn’t a whole lot of strategy. In fact as my cell gets bigger it usually feels not even worth upgrading. You can actually survive extremely well just staying a single hex cell. I can add more organelles, but generally it just makes my cell bigger, slower, and require more compounds to reproduce or even stay alive.

  • I was actually surprised that even when I got to having a nucleus and packing on flagellum and other things to keep my cell ‘powered’, it felt remarkably like when I started. I was struggling to even gain much speed on my cell while still keeping it ‘powered’. It became an endless loop of more power producing organelles and then more flagellum to try and go faster. It felt like I was just making it take longer to evolve and not so much progressing as just… existing. With the small selection of organelles and only a few producing ATP directly or indirectly, it gives you a very small set of options for ‘powering’ your cell in a unique niche.

  • The game world feels extremely empty, with just random compound clouds sometimes very far apart, wandering is rather boring. There aren’t many other cells either, when I do see them they often zip by or are just hanging out doing not much of anything. Better AI would probably help, but still, pretty empty.

  • Patches feel very similar to each other, sure they have a different backgrounds and some stats are different. Like you need to go somewhere bright if you plan to survive off sunlight, but I also found these areas much more devoid of compounds and like wandering an empty desert.

My thoughts on the game going forward:

  • I think that like in pretty much any game, progression is key, and a strong feeling of progression is paramount for every stage in the game. Looking at some of the recent topics we have things like unlocking organelles, slotting proteins, upgrading specific organelles. I think these concepts are good and could be flesh out. But have concerns about how they all fit together. If we’re using all three then how do they work together and evolve with each other? I feel like answering that question is an important consideration into how each should be designed. Forming a unified system and obvious goals for the player, and multiple ways to advance(bigger cell vs more more upgraded cell?)

The game world needs to feel alive and have an identity of what it is to you, the player. I can think of two main ways this can happen:

  • The timeline feel: You start as a single hex cell, so does everyone else. They evolve alongside you. You’ll be constantly evolving at about the same rate as them, it’s like the world you started on just developed life and you’re one of the first to appear. Over time they’ll specialize out but always feel about the same ‘level’ as you. This makes the game feel more like a race, which has pros and cons. It can feel like a lot of pressure if you start falling behind, and make the game less of a freely explored sandbox and more of a race. This is more how the game is right now.

  • The ocean feel: I think of this like being a fish in the ocean. Even right when you start, there are other fish like you, there are minnows, there are sharks, and there are whales. Essentially it means that when you get first dropped into the game there may be some cells wandering around that are more powerful than you, in fact there always will be. As you grow you’ll also run into smaller, simpler cells, the minnows to your proverbial fish. This makes it feel like you were dropped into an existing ocean that already has been developing for some time, but is still quite early. It makes it feel less like a race and more like you’re trying to survive and climb a ladder by finding a niche that lets you survive the roaming dangers of the land. A notable point to this idea would be that cells evolve rather randomly and some may stay weak compared to you, or zip right past you in power.

Currently the game seems to fall more towards the first path, but I thought I’d offer the second up as food for thought on how the world could feel much different just by adjusting what kinda cells you run into.

  • I feel like setting the mood of the stage is important because in the first scenario it makes things like being able to move organelles around seem like they should be free, because it feels bad to fall behind in the race for aesthetic choices. In the second the game feels more ‘lazy’ and like you can play for as long as you want and evolve as many times as you want to just keep restructuring your cell, the game won’t run away on you and all the other cells won’t become massive monsters that can eat you up in an instant. I’m actually a personal fan of this more ‘play at your own pace’ style of gameplay, with no time limit.

  • The game is based on stages and the idea of unique variants of evolution, creating an identity for your species. I feel like this should be a key point in what the whole goal of the microbe stage is. I feel like this needs to feed into the unlocking, upgrading, whatever systems. Should I be able to unlock all organelles just by playing a long time? Can I follow upgrades only down one path at a time? At some point in the chain I think your cell really need an identity off that. If I specialize my cell to go around hunting other cells that should probably have a big impact on how my cell behaves and performs, and have that feed into the next stage as well.

  • The world needs to feel more alive and fun to explore. Right now its an idle crawl in search of endless compound clouds. There’s nothing interesting to find and hunting other cells is often difficult and not nearly as rewarding as just running around and devouring up compounds as quickly as possible. Just adding more cells with better AI may help this a bit, but there are other ideas that could work to give you things to explore for as well. The world can stay simplistic as long as it’s fun but that depends on a lot of factors.

Rant over.


Yeah I think these are all great points.

The two things that are slated for a rework which will address most of this, imo, are auto-evo and AI.

So yes being a single hex of Thakyloids in a sunlit patch is an awesome way to survive, unless there are predators. And that’s what auto-evo needs to do, it needs to be always applying pressure to the player. As soon as you get comfortable doing something it needs to make other species which exploit you, much like your ocean example. So if you’re a photosyntehsizer it makes predators to hunt you, if you are a predator it gives your prey defences so it’s harder. That’s where the challenge comes from long term, imo.

There’s a roadmap here for getting it implemented and it’s not an easy task.

The AI also needs a rework, and potentially totally redoing. It needs to keep compounds away from you and be hard to hunt. It also needs to be intelligently aggressive and attack the player when it’s the right time to do so. As you point out there is a lot of room for improvement here.

Getting the spawning of compounds right and the amount of storage the player has is also important and it’s not quite there yet, though has had some work recently.

The issue of feeding into later stages is a huge one too. The absolute worst thing is if it’s a bunch of minigames where each one is forgotten when the next one begins. There’s a lot of things we can do in this area I think.

Anyway yeah you make a lot of interesting points. Buckly is the lead game designer and it’ll be interesting to see what he thinks about this stuff.


I appreciate your thoughts here, it always helps to know how people feel about the current game. A few of the issues you brought to attention here have been common complaints in the community that I hope we can address to the best of our abilities, but you also raise some good points I dont see brought up often.
As Tjwhale has already pointed out, a few of these issues will hopefully be remedied via upgraded AI and the autoevo algorithm. Differentiation between patches will hopefully be improved once we introduce functional environmental statistics and hazards.

I’m glad you brought this up! Progression is definitely going to be a huge part of the game, as it’s all about becoming a more complex and intricate organism throughout the stages. In the current versions, the progression is focused around becoming larger and more complex in preparation for becoming multicellular. As you have noticed, there is currently not any force pushing the player to become complex like this as they can survive quite well as a tiny bacteria and fulfill the win condition of our current version without hardly evolving at all, so there is no real reason to get very large or complex at all. We intend to remedy this by introducing environmental hazards you must adapt to, better predators you must defend yourself from, and goals that require you to become more complex such as multicelluarity requiring you to have a nucleus to reach.

The concepts we have been discussing as of late are intended to be tied together in the editor as well as membrane types are tied to your cell’s placable parts. That is, they all will have a collective impact on your cell’s functions and behavior while each fulfilling their own niche in the editor. Organelle upgrades are a method to provide a progressive change to your traditional parts to make them better or more specialized. Protein slots are similar to the membrane types system in that they will provide passive bonuses and stats to your cell and do not occupy physical space in the editor but are intended to allow players to further customize their cell’s adaptation to environmental conditions. (This does remind me, I forgot to discuss where exactly we should put the protein slots in the editor). Organelle unlocks are intended to give the game a stronger sense of progression in the early stages, but how exactly they will function is still a matter of debate as of now.

I personally prefer the current approach of having the player begin as the first species in the world for plenty of reasons. It provides the world with a gradual increase in complexity and growth that should help push the player to pursue becoming more complex; That isn’t saying I want the experience to be harrowing of course! You could still be able to play near your own pace, as I dont want the game to be overly punishing, but you will undoubtedly be influenced by the changing world.

I’m still not sure how we will handle organelle unlocking so I’m afraid I can’t really comment too much on that. Your adaptations in the microbial stage will undoubtedly effect later stages though. While things as nuanced as herbivorous and carnivorous diets will likely not be effected by your cell’s metabolisms, being able to process compounds you food contains likely will. In that way your species identity will certainly be differentiated by what parts you have, as ideally I dont want players to be able to just have every part in the game on their organism at once. Behavior will likely be carried over between stages, but it will always be changeable in some form, whether that be a creature’s instincts or a civilization’s culture

I’ve considered the possibility of having obstructive terrain in patches located on the ocean floors, but I’m not sure how realistic having large solid material barriers would be in the microbe stage. An alternative could be substrate chunks that appear randomly much like the ice chunks in our arctic patch, albeit far less deadly.

Welcome to the team by the way, I’m glad you have joined us!


One thing I always found important in games was progressive complexity. Not sure if you agree but I feel like unlocking layers of progression over time usually has net benefits. It keeps the interface and game systems simpler and easy to understand in chunks and progressively enhances the experience. As an example you might first be able to only unlock more organelles. Using some kinda points or whatever to give you more parts to stick on your cell, and growing it a bit. After a certain size, complexity, or number of mutations or something, you could maybe unlock the ability to start upgrading individual parts. Running with that idea you could have the protein slotting be something you get after acquiring a nucleus, a further way to passively upgrade your cell and make it even stronger. This keeps it easier to understand in chunks and also gives a ‘pull’ to advance further because you start getting new things. Of course it doesn’t HAVE to be like that, that’s just an idea.

That’s fine, I just wanted to understand what the overarching design was going to be so I could give thoughts on implementation of systems. Like I said in the case of where every mutation cycle is valuable I feel like you should be able to make certain aesthetic changes or reverse things for cheap/free because in order to not fall behind your cell should basically always be getting ‘better’. As it is now you can start with a cell, add a bunch of cytoplasm to it, and then next mutation cycle remove all that cytoplasm, spending all your points and just ending up back where you started. Except now you’re behind other cells, I feel like things like this feel punishing and discourage refining your cell both functionally and aesthetically.

This is where I actually thought maybe having something like an upgrade tree might be good that you spend something like points on and it improves your cell being good in one area. For instance maybe you unlock an upgrade that passively concentrates toxins, so it provides a passive damage boost to your toxin attacks. The idea being that you sort of follow down a ‘path’ in specializing your cell to be good at certain things, this path is limited so you can’t be like, good at everything. Whether it could be reversible or not is up to debate, maybe you should be able to reset parts of it, but at the least it should restrict you to stick to only a few at a time. This could even be split to different styles that might effect how the organelles work, like perhaps instead of an offensive ‘firing’ of toxins to hunt other cells you can release a cloud that stuns them or something, turning them into a defensive tool(though that could be an option for customizing them too). The general idea is to collect data on the kind of bonuses the creature is trending towards and then that could be fed into the next stage to give certain benefits. Maybe passive bonuses, maybe it allows them to unlock a cell type that other creatures can’t. That way you can always change to a different style of gameplay between stages but will also have a kind of written history on your creature from how it evolved in past stages.

I haven’t thought about it too much but one idea I had was for instance in the vent area we could have specific visible geysers that constantly emit compound clouds around them sort of like a watering hole, and many cells would congregate there, giving it a sort of dangerous risk/reward thing. The fact evolving is currently based on collecting two compounds makes it sort of hard to have the other patches feel as ‘valuable’ since they just flat out have less compounds available to find, so evolution is slower. That might be remedied by having organelles that make up for that like being able to passively generate the compounds as you explore or whatever. Ideally each patch should give you unique options on how to collect the compounds needed to evolve. The cave for example could have falling debris or something that endanger your cell but maybe provide really concentrated compound clouds? Just throwing out random ideas. A lot of the trick of this is mixing the fun ‘game’ aspect with the desire to have it relatively scientific.


I want to add the functionality for moving existing organelles around.
In fact I think that’s uncontroversial enough that I’ll open an issue right now for it:


Finally have a chance to respond to this thread. I’ll try to keep my answers concise since there are so many topics covered.

Re: Lack of Goal Oriented Gameplay

Very true, but I think it’s mostly a lack of implementation of features we have designed rather than bad design of those features. The game is too easy right now, and so goals are too easy to reach. I think the biggest step towards achieving fun, goal-oriented gameplay will be coding in competitive AI that truly makes you compete to stay alive. Auto-Evo will also add to the fun, since other species will evolve to react to you and other changes in the environment.

Re: Nucleus Imbalance

I agree, I do think the Nucleus is not rewarding enough at the moment. I find it much harder to survive with a nucleus than without. I think the reason is because it makes your cell suddenly much slower but also much more ATP intensive. There are a few ways to rebalance this, such as reducing its passive ATP cost, increasing the energy generation of eukaryotic organelles, or increasing the speed given by flagella.

Re: Empty World and Similar Patches

The empty world is due to a bug with the new spawn system, which should be fixed for the next public release. I think once fixed the world should be brimming with cells, because it will add far more fun and interactivity to the gameplay.

Patches have yet to be differentiated, so at the moment they are different only in visuals. The plan is to make environmental variables vary per patch and to require cells to evolve adaptations to survive the different environments otherwise they will receive penalties to their cell. We discuss the topic more here and here.

Re: Game Progression

Yes, totally agreed, which is why I started those discussions on how to add progression. This week I have more free time to I will try to round off the discussions and see what conclusions we can reach on the design.

Re: The Timeline vs Ocean Feel of the Game

I don’t think we necessarily need to aim for one of these feels whilst sacrificing the other. I think either feel should be available depending on the time and place in-game. For example, some patches may be brimming with food and species, and so competition there is very intense. All the species in this patch are rapidly evolving, and one or two bad evolutions could be all that it takes to go extinct in this patch. However, there may also be patches with far less food and competitor species. There the species have evolved for a long time alongside each other and have created a stable ecosystem. Playing in one of these patches will be much more relaxing, but perhaps won’t have excitement and opportunity for massive population growth that the competitive patches could offer. The competitiveness of patches would itself change over time. A very stable patch could have a major natural disaster or a major climactic shift and suddenly many species go extinct, and the patch devolves into a wild west of competition. Meanwhile, a very competitive patch could, over several generations, weed out all the weakest species and evolve into a stable ecosystem where only the strongest species remain and live in equilibrium.


I’m not sure, but as a programmer @Satharis might have started playing the master branch version at first.

They are somewhat differentiated in terms of how much resources spawn in them. Though, it might be very subtle with the spawn system changes.