Organelle Unlocks

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.

So it’s been a long while since I or anyone else has approached the concept of organelle unlocks. With the recent discussion of upgrades in mind, I have decided to go ahead and reapproach this feature in hopes of finalizing it’s concept. We’ve had gacha mechanics, “tech trees”, endosymbiosis, and more proposed in the past; But I feel that unlocks should be a relatively simple and dependable affair, promising a sense of discovery while always remaining predictable and dependable.

After some thinking, I have come up with three primary unlocking conditions:

  1. Situational: Part or upgrade is unlocked based on the player’s current location. (EX: Unlocking thylakoids in patches with light.)
    This condition would be tied to parts that wouldn’t really have any use at all to the player until they meet the situational requirements.

  2. Relative: Part or upgrade is unlocked by placing/evolving an associated prerequisite part. (Ex: The nucleus unlocking membrane-organelles.)
    This condition would typically be used for more complex parts presumably derived from previous ones.

  3. Earned: Part or upgrade is earned by the player by performing a goal or spending an upfront MP cost. (EX: Player engulfs a photosynthesizing bacteria, unlocking chloroplasts. OR spends 80 MP to unlock chloroplasts).

Many parts and upgrades will require atleast one of these conditions to be fullfilled to be revealed. Some however, may require multiple steps to be unlocked (Such as membrane organelles requiring both a nucleus and engulfing an associated prey species.).

Before a part or upgrade is unlocked, the icon will be entirely hidden from the part list in order to prevent confusion or overwhelming new players with an expansive list of parts.

Only by fulfilling the conditions listed above will new parts be revealed to the players, hopefully providing them with a sense of discovery and progress as they play the game and evolve their organism.
While locked parts will be hidden in the editor, the Thrivepedia will always contain information on all parts, as well as contain information on how to unlock them.

Some parts, like membrane-bound organelles relying on specific species archetypes to be available to the player may include conditions that depend more on chance. In order to ensure that the player will always have the option to unlock them, players should be presented with the option to buy access to the parts, skipping any additional requirements.

This should help prevent any potential frustration that could be felt by failing to locate the unlocking requirements normally.

HHyyrylainen suggested in discord that there could be an option to enable or disable “New player mode” which would reveal all parts and their unlocking conditions from the start, making for a more suitable experience for veteran players.

I would like to hear what everyone thinks of this concept!
If everything proves to be satisfactory and in order, we shall proceed to discussing which parts need to be locked, as well as how they shall be unlocked.

Edit: After some discussion in the developer chatroom, we have determined that it may be better to provide players with a strong hint that there are currently undiscovered/locked parts. As put by Untrusted, we need a “carrot on a stick” to keep players hooked on unlocking parts. Without that bait, players may not realize that there are unlockables at all and become discouraged.

We spent some time debating how exactly to pull this off, but finally came to the common ground of creating a promising “Undiscovered” icon within the parts list.

This icon will exist within each category as long as undiscovered parts remain, and will display a tooltip informing the player of such when hovered over. No matter how many things the player unlocks this icon will remain until there are no longer anything left for the player to discover.

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Continuing on this discussion, I have charted out the basic unlocking conditions of each part as intuitively as I could think of at the time.

Evolve in a patch with Lux levels beyond 0%.

Evolve in a patch with less than 5% ammonia.

Kill 5 cells
Be killed by a cell 3 times.

Produce 10 more ATP than you consume.
Or reach a speed below 30.

Predatory Pilus:
Kill 5 cells.
Or be killed by a cell 3 times.

Mitochondrion, Chloroplast, Chemoplast, and Nitrogen-Fixing Plastid:
Revealed when nucleus is evolved.
Unlocked by spending 100 MP or engulfing a bacteria containing more metabolosomes than any other protein.
Can also be unlocked by engulfing the organelle dropped by other cells on death.

Toxin Vacuole:
Unlocked by possessing a nucleus and oxytoxisome.
Maybe this would be better unlocked through upgrades?

My hopes is that these conditions won’t be too difficult to reach as these are all relatively basic parts. Things such as upgrades may potentially have more niche requirements.
Parts that are not included in this list will be unlocked by default.

Please let me know if you have any disagreements or alternative ideas!

Assuming that we have (at least similar in spirit) conditions for the AI to evolve parts, this is going to cause it to be very likely for that to not evolve much. Unless we have a lot of patches with that little ammonia. I think that because if auto-evo simulates the reproduction speed, the migration algorithm will basically skip over a patch with low ammonia, unless it is very favourable otherwise.

I think this kind of condition should be avoided. Instead I’d imagine that this would be related to new player mode, where this organelle would just flat out be locked for like the first 3 generations or so. This specific organelle can’t be locked for very long as it’s most useful in early game.

Other than that the conditions before the nucleus bound ones sound good to me.

I think this goes too close to the endosymbiosis concept. I think these conditions should be left out until the endosymbiosis concept is done. Then these organelles being locked would naturally come through that.

I think this could be more interesting if there was an additional (or maybe alternative?) condition that if you are in an empty patch you can’t evolve this, only when there are other species to hunt present. That would effectively keep it locked the first few generations before the player starts to encounter other cells.

I can understand that, though my idea was that in the future should ammonia levels change over time than this would become an option in times of particular scarcity.

Also, All patches outside of the vents average around 4% ammonia in the current version of Thrive, so the moment the player leaves the vents they would unlock this.

In a way this actually is my newest endosymbiosis concept. Though if you feel that this isn’t how it should be done I am fine with further discussion on it outside of the unlocking system.

The conditions involve killing and being killed by cells, which cannot happen in empty patches.
Am I misunderstanding what you are saying here?

Perhaps, then the unlock condition could be to leave the initial patch? Otherwise if it is balanced with the specific ammonia values, it would make future balancing of those values for different patches more difficult…

I just think it shouldn’t end up getting lumped up with these. I think for implementation it makes sense to do these two things in parallel:

  • Unlock conditions for the prokaryotic parts
  • Endosymbiosis

After those are done, then:

  • Combined unlock feature for eukaryotic parts that uses both the endosymbiosis and the unlock systems.

I suppose that is true. I maybe have been thinking again about making the unlock conditions sensible for the AI as well, though I suppose even currently having nothing to predate on prevents the AI from evolving those parts.
I don’t want this system (other than the new player mode) feeling like the player is handicapped whereas the AI is not. I’d like it to feel like a level playing field.

I was thinking that in the future when compound amounts change over-time, 5-4% would be slightly higher than the minimum amount that patches could reach over-time. I understand what you are saying here though, so maybe it would be better if it’s just not locked at all, unlocked at a much higher concentration (Like 10%), or as you said just unlocked upon leaving the first patch.

That is fine by me, I suppose for now the membrane-bound organelles can be exempt from any additional unlocking conditions as it shouldn’t really cause any trouble.

Considering how AI is effected by the unlocking system is pretty important, and you bring up a good point about the player being handicapped should AI not be subject to locked parts. That aspect has eluded me until now so I’ll try to keep that in mind from here on out.

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After creating a community poll and receiving it’s results, we further discussed this concept and how we might satisfy the wishes of those who submitted their choices.

Poll Results

The results of 29 responses point to an overall preference for locked parts to be hidden, and represented by icons that would hint at the existence of undiscovered parts. However; 29 responders is a relatively small number compared to the community at large, so we continued to carefully consider our options.
The results of our discussion was a new concept!

The problem with the results from our poll is that while all locked parts being represented at once in the menu made an excellent representation of possibility in Spore, it would not nearly work as well in Thrive due to the layout of the editor. The player would need to scroll past numerous unselectable parts clogging their editor list which might not feel very streamlined.

In order to combat this, @dphKraken suggested we move all locked parts to their own category at the bottom of the parts list, which would sort these parts out of the way, while still showing the player how many parts remain locked in a visual medium.

With this concept on hand, I will now go ahead and narrow down our choices to two, to make the final decision easier to choose.
The choices are:

  1. Reveal all locked parts as mystery icons and sort them into their own category in the editor
Concept (None yet)

(Once I or someone else makes a concept image for this I’ll slap it here.)

  1. Display a single undiscovered icon in any category that contains locked parts, with optional numeric counter if so desired.


I personally feel that these may be our best options for displaying undiscovered parts, and hope that by narrowing the choices down that we will be a step closer to finally making our choice. If anyone disagrees, let me know!

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