Organelle Unlocks

You raise alot of good points here! Especially with how many players certainly seem to want to be able to have a great deal of control on what they evolve into. This is definitely something I would like to try making a poll on in the community forums or such to gauge the overall preferences of the community, assuming enough developers are in support of such a system. We could probably make some compromises should opinions be somewhat divided.
That being said, I agree with your apprehension of randomization of unlocking parts. As you noted it takes away from the control a player has over their species; and while that’s an exciting gameplay feature, we need to make sure that our community would enjoy such an element before depriving them of the great deal of control Thrive seems to have featured since it’s conception.
By the way when I said evolution in reality lacks intelligent design I wasn’t actually thinking about that goal of Thrive at the time, but now that you remind me, I suppose I should emphasize that it’s best we think pretty carefully on how we want to give players some control over the random outcomes from such a feature as I mentioned before. (I kind of like naggorath’s idea of there being seperate systems for the organelles and proteins but it could potentially be pretty jarring.)

Anyhow, I don’t believe I have seen that idea on making a larger first time cost to organelles but it seems like a nice simple way of encouraging players to think about what they are intending to do with their cell before committing to it. Though we would need a good way to communicate to the player that there’s a marked up cost on first purchase, I’m sure that wouldn’t be hard.
Organelle upgrades are something I’ve been eyeing for a while now, I really love the concept and they seem to be a great way to give players more means of customization and adaptation, as well as giving new flavors to parts and mechanisms. They also introduce that lovely gradual sense of progress that people seem to love. It’s not mutually exclusive from unlock systems though I’m sure you know, some upgraded forms of a part could potentially require a protein you dont have at the time, or the organelle itself may not be available for whatever reason. It’s alot to think about, and I definitely want to take the time to do so eventually.

On an unrelated note, I came up with a hastily drawn concept on how we could make a protein slot system work based on Nickthenick’s brief mention of how he would prefer if the system didn’t have a hard limit. I suppose I should take it elsewhere though as to avoid sidetracking the discussion



Very true, and many of those points were my main reservations while thinking of this idea. By the way, I should clarify that I was intending that this system would actually would exist alongside the organelle upgrades (which I definitely think are important to add). So for example, you unlock Nitrogenase, and then over successive generations you can spend points to upgrade it. I would definitely not want this to replace organelle upgrades at all.

Yeah, if it turns out that the randomness is frustrating, I was thinking that some of the stopgaps I mentioned and Buckly mentioned could be useful in reducing the RNG (if we do implement random unlocks).

Yeah this would exist alongside the possibility to assimilate organelles via endocytosis. If you are a prokaryote, engulfing other cells can unlock metabolosomes, thylakoids, pigment proteins, or antifreeze proteins if they have them. If you are a eukaryote assimilating other cells, then you can unlock the eukaryotic versions of those organelles: mitochondria, chloroplasts, etc. Organelles like antifreeze proteins would be on both lists since they’re not prokaryote/eukaryote specific.

That’s definitely possible, and I remember suggesting that as well in the past. The only drawback I see to this is that you can technically still place any Protein Organelle in generation 1, even if it costs 100MP. This means you can’t get the benefits of limiting rare and powerful proteins.

Yeah that’s very true. One thing that I want to clarify though is that these proteins are not the only means by which a cell can access a playstyle. For example, in our own evolutionary history the microbes in our lineage never gained “metabolosomes” as a prokaryote. Instead, current theory is that they evolved into eukaryotes as anaerobes, and then assimilated mitochondria and became aerobes. So a cell can always assimilate cells as a eukaryote to gain abilities, if they didn’t unlock them earlier as a prokaryote.

Also, there are some other organelles that also unlock in a randomish fashion as well, unless I’ve missed discussions where the concept on them have changed. The mitochondria has a chance to unlock upon assimilation of a prokaryote with metabolosomes, the nucleus upon assimilation of any prokaryote, the chloroplast upon assimilation of a prokaryote with thylakoids, etc.

But anyways, I’m not married to the idea of the system it definitely does come with its drawbacks.

Ooh, I’m excited to see your concept!


Are you talking about the future, or the current game?
All engulfing related organelle unlocks were removed. Players were very confused by needing to engulf 3 randomly floating around vacuole looking things to unlock things.

I’m familiar with the balancing @tjwhale tried to do so coming from that direction. Once again I want to mention that the game balance itself could make it so that going first for some really specific organelle just basically kills you because the cell ends up way too unviable.

Reading what the community thinks and reacting to it is a great process I think. In general I think that’s a core part of good game design, really taking time to understand how the game feels for you and others and then using that understanding to choose how to improve it.

One of the hardest things I think is understanding the new player experience, because we can’t unlearn what we know and become new players again. So it’s hard to find people who can have it and talk about it.

So yeah that aspect sounds great.

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Ohh okay, I hadn’t even noticed that. Are there still plans to have assimilation of cells required as a prerequisite for the endosymbiotic organelles?

Definitely, I think that would be an interesting insight into common opinion on such a feature.

That’s the way that endosymbiosis works, right? At least I got the picture that it is very similar process to engulfing to develop such and symbiotic relationship between species.

I’ve been asking for concrete endosymbiosis game designs and plans to be made for a while now.

Oh my bad, I thought it was already in the final concept but it could have been something discussed during the previous set of developers.

From what I understand, the plan was to have all endosymbiotic organelles locked by default. Then, anytime you assimilate a cell with the corresponding proteins (such as thylakoids for chloroplasts), you have a small chance to unlock the corresponding organelle. The original chance was something like 1/50 but obviously that’s a number we would need to discover through testing and balancing.

You should definitely read the latest plans.
The plan is that basically endosymbiosis is about capturing prokaryotic species to live inside you. They wouldn’t unlock some specific organelle, instead you would get that prokaryotic species inside you (probably with additional buffs to it).

Edit: this is the thread for it: Endosymbiotic Theory

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Ah okay interesting. I’ll message you about it on discord to not distract this thread.

I’m a bit late, and I’m not sure if I’m really adding much to the thread, but i do think this is an interesting idea and while I’m not sure I agree with it fully I think it’s in the right direction.

The way you can just pick any of the currently implemented proteins from the start of the game as if from a palette and just add them to your cell has always kinda bugged me, for the reasons Nick posted (eukaryotes rely on mitochondria because they never evolved to be aerobic themselves, which is a path most players’ cells tend not to take, etc.), and while I think random unlocks are a good way to solve this specific problem, it might end up feeling pretty frustrating for players who have a specific goal in mind.

I’d suggest making it an option players can toggle, but adding a new setting for every disagreement the devs have is probably not a good habit to have… in this case it might be fine though. some players will want to embrace the randomness of the simulation and see where evolution takes them, while others may want to have something they know they can for sure work towards.

Speaking of which, a similar but non-random method of gradually unlocking proteins would be good to think about to. Maybe there’d be a delay of multiple generations between each unlock, and if you wanted to go for a rarer unlock you’d have to wait a longer amount of time. Or perhaps there could be some sort of dna-themed tech tree system, where the setup is randomized each game, but the player can see how to work towards what they want, and will need to strategize accordingly. Perhaps the first unlock would be easy/inexpensive, regardless of the protein (so if someone wants to start out with rusticyanin, there isn’t too big of a barrier to them) and then maybe similar/relevant proteins would be also a little less difficult/expensive to unlock.


Yeah nice points.

I guess it goes back to the fundamental tension in the game which is that evolution is purely random and games are strategic. So balancing those will always be hard for us.


Yeah my feelings on it exactly. I feel like the proteins are pretty powerful, grant unique abilities, and historically are not evolved often and should be rare. Or at least, they should be rare enough that they are unique per lineage, so each lineage of life has a handful of those proteins that its evolved that make it unique. But I can’t really think of another way to restrict progression through them. For example, in the OP I gave an example of how wings are restricted in the Aware Stage because you need to evolve through several steps to develop limbs that can evolve into wings, and also your body needs to be light enough and shaped properly to stay in the air. However, with proteins we can’t really add that progression, since there aren’t that many intermediate steps we can put in between evolving these proteins. This results in the proteins just being bam I’ve evolved them now.

Additionally, if we found a way to add progression to proteins now, it would also pay off for the multicellular/aware stages, since I’m guessing we’ll have the same problems with evolving poison/chemicals in the aware stage. What’s to stop me from evolving a powerful neurotoxin for my organism, and further what’s to stop basically every organism in the ecosystem a powerful neurotoxin. For example, as far as I know poison dart frogs don’t spend large amounts of energy maintaining their toxicity, it’s simply something they happened to evolve, and now that they have it it’s given them a significant edge in survival.


We’ve got only like 6 (?) prokaryotic organelles. We’d need way, way more if an organelle could only really be had by a single species.

Yeah I’m imagining this more when more of the proteins have been implemented, such as from this list from the Microbe Stage Appendices (the descriptions are a little out of date btw):

Although this list is missing quite a few, such as rusticyanin, the different chemosynthesis proteins, and some more of the environmental tolerance proteins.


I’d like to elaborate a lil more on my last post, specifically my ideas on a non-random, tech tree-like alternative that accomplishes a similar thing.

Basically, it would be allow players to unlock what proteins they want, provided they work toward it and put the necessary resources in. Also, I wanted proteins that are similar to ones you already have unlocked to be less expensive (for instance, it’s not too hard to go from chlorophyll to an eyespot).

So when looking up tech trees I could use as a reference, I came across Path of Exile’s passive skill tree:

Here each little node increases stats in some way, while the larger nodes have larger, more interesting benefits, while still others may even offer some drawbacks alongside their buffs in order to offer more interesting gameplay.
And it is massive.

But that’s because every character class uses the same skill tree, meaning even if you’re one class, you can still unlock nodes of another, it just might cost a lot more and leave your own class’ native skills neglected.

I tried (emphasis on tried) to translate this concept to a Thrive protein unlock tree, with a degree of randomness, but I’m not particularly fond of it.

(note how a handful of nodes and proteins are unlocked)
Since, as Nick said, there isn’t really any progression to unlocking proteins, you can’t really gradually unlock buffs here. (Organelle upgrading is a thing, but I imagine that would take place somewhere other than here.)
So instead I turned the smaller nodes (small circular DNA icons) into simple steps, which offer no benefits when unlocked, that you have to go through in order to unlock the proteins (diamond-shaped symbols).

The purple DNA nodes are able to be unlocked when at least one of their neighbors are unlocked (pretty standard), while the pink DNA nodes work sort of like a weird omnidirectional AND gate, requiring at least two unlocked neighbors in order to be unlocked themselves. Proteins can be unlocked similar to the purple DNA nodes, probably for an extra hefty MP price.

I didn’t really like this concept because of how messy it ended up being, and how arbitrary and nonsensical some of the relations are (for instance, there’s not really any reason why a toxin should be easier to unlock once you have eyespots, but if the two happen to be close together on the tree then they will be.) This could be fixed by designing the tree super intentionally, but that would be harder to randomize (meaning experienced players won’t need to strategize as much – it’s not a necessary feature, but still) and even still it could be hard to avoid.

So I scrapped that idea for now, and decided to make a simple web showing which relations each protein should have.

Here, the size of an arrow’s head corresponds to how easy it is to unlock a certain protein if the protein on the other end of an arrow is unlocked.
For instance, it should be pretty easy to evolve inert green pigment if you already have chlorophyll unlocked, but if you only have green pigment unlocked it’ll be much harder to unlock chlorophyll with photosynthetic properties. And eyespots will be easier to unlock if you have both chlorophyll and any other sort of receptor already unlocked. And other proteins, like rusticyanin, or some toxins, or bioluminescent enzymes like luciferase, are so unlike others that nothing really contributes to making evolving them easier.

I mostly made this web as a guide for other concepts, but looking at it I think it could also guide a simple, MP unlock system. Any protein would by default take 100 MP to unlock, but if you have any related proteins (connected by arrows) also unlocked, then the MP cost will be reduced depending on the size of the arrow head.

I’m not too sure about this though. Even being able to sacrifice a single editor session to unlock any protein for 100 MP feels too generous. As I suggested before, perhaps there could be a delay between unlocking proteins, and some proteins would have longer delays than others (and these delays, too, would be shortened by having related proteins unlocked). Or perhaps the proteins by default would cost more than 100 MP, and you’d have to pay the price over the course of multiple editor sessions. (though that kinda goes against the idea of proteins evolving randomly - spending MP gives the implication that something is going on behind the scenes in the DNA)

I’d also like to mention Deus’ enzyme concept on the community forums – it’s fairly old, but I saw it mentioned on the Thrive development poll thread and I think it might be worth a look.
The concept gives you a bunch of enzymes you can level up in order to grant and improve resistances to certain compounds and environmental conditions. The player seems to have access to all of them at once, but will usually only want to spend points on ones that are relevant to their current situation. (I don’t think there would be any reason, such as genome space or energy costs, to revert already evolved enzymes, meaning a bunch of non-chemosynthesizing cells living near the surface would have no reason to drop their hydrogen sulfide enzymes.)


Would organelle upgrades once again be a good substitute for this?

I feel like we should 100% first do an organelle upgrade system (and design that of course before someone tries to implement it). It could perfectly address the concerns about getting too powerful parts too early and add way more progression to the game, without having to overhaul the editor experience and related functionality.

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An organelle upgrade system is definitely worth some more thought, and might be worth implementing first – again, not all of my suggestions are immediate – but I figure some discussion on this is still useful since it is in the microbe editor.

With just organelle upgrades, there’s still the issue of being able to place any protein you want whenever you want. Even if it is a very downgraded version of that protein, you still have the whole palette right in front of you. (I figure a very high “unlocking cost” for the first time you add it could help though)

I know it’s not an extremely pressing issue, but sometimes I just don’t know what else to work on.

That could be done with an upgrade system by either making the first version of an organelle basically useless, or there could be a base protein (maybe cytoplasm) that you need to place first before you can upgrade it to more specialized form.

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The results from the community polls show an interesting breakdown:

Now obviously we do not need to follow this like the Bible, but it raises some interesting points. I think overall, there doesn’t seem to be strong favour for the random unlocks, and some comments also made good points against the random unlock system. However, it does seem that people like the idea of still adding some form of progression to the organelle system.

Another alternative system we’ve had floating around is the “Price Reduction System” (that’s the best name I can think of for it). Basically, the first copy of a “Protein Organelle” costs 100MP, but all subsequent copies cost a reduced amount (such as 40MP). Coincidentally, I think this is what the 42% of people voted for (though I’m not sure). This system reflects the same idea that first evolving a new chemical or protein is evolutionarily “difficult”, but replicating it is evolutionarily easy. It also incentivizes people to find solutions using parts they already have before evolving new ones. However, it takes away all the randomness. Another cool plus, we can still have a use for assimilating foreign cells or DNA. Instead of assimilation of foreign cells or DNA having a small chance to unlock new Proteins, assimilation has a small chance of giving a MP cost discount to the first copy of a new Protein (making it 40MP instead of 100MP). For example if you assimilate a bacteria with thylakoids and you dont have thylakoids, you have a small chance to get a 60MP discount to your first copy of Thylakoids, making your first copy cost the same as all following copies.

What are your thoughts?

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I think this is a pretty simple but functional way of implementing the unlocking system without requiring any additional editor tabs or menus which is pretty nice, as we want to try our best in keeping the amount of menus and tabs as low as we can. The simplicity also means this concept should be easy to understand, as well as build upon with additional functionality should we find it lacking.
An important thing to consider here, is that our organelle upgrade system is likely to handle the majority of the unlocks and upgrades that would otherwise be handled by this system, so since organelle unlocks is only really going to involve the initial parts, I think having such a simple system is perfectly suitable for the time being.

My only real concern about this is that having a large initial cost on alot of parts could potentially be frustrating as it could feel like the player is wasting a valuable editor session on no immediate gain. I feel like if that turns out to be a real problem, we could potentially try having the cost smaller but only allow the player to place the unlocked parts in the session after the one they unlocked it in.