Passive Enzyme/Protein Slots System

Hmm, that feels a little clunky but I can’t put my finger on why, and I don’t know how well it meshes with the current Organelle Upgrades system.

This makes me wonder now whether it’s best to just stick with placeable proteins for now, since it’s the system that seems to create the least problems (or perhaps reconsider the membrane proteins system). I’ll think on this for now to see if I can come up with anything to help.

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Oh! I just had an idea.

Proteins have a little descriptor that labels them as Nucleic Proteins or Cytoplasmic Proteins:

  • Nucleic Proteins do not scale, they either exist in your cell or they do not. The moment they are enabled, they perform their full function. This is like antifreeze proteins or lysosomes, you either have them or you don’t. You can still use Organelle Upgrades to improve their efficiency, but that’s it.
  • Cytoplasmic Proteins add an effect to the Cytoplasm hex. This means that it scales with the number of cytoplasm hexes in your cell. Cytoplasmic proteins are the ones that enable processes, like rusticyanin or metabolosomes. When you enable more cytoplasmic proteins, this adds processes to your cytoplasm hex. This will be easy for the player to track, because let’s say the player evolves metabolosomes. Now every time he places a Cytoplasm hex it shows how much extra “Aerobic Respiration” it adds to his cell. If you think about it, this is similar to what we’re already doing with the Prokaryotic Structures, since those hexes perform a special function PLUS the base Glycolysis.
  • If we really want to flesh it out, we can add a third descriptor called Membrane Proteins. These scale with the length of your membrane (the number of exposed hex edges). This applies to receptor proteins and perhaps a few others.

At the start of the game, the only gene you have unlocked is Glycolysis Proteins. This is why the default Cytoplasm hex performs Glycolysis.

A benefit of this system is that it allows for three different specializations based on the types of proteins you use the most:

  • Cells that mostly use Nucleic Proteins will want to stay small, since their proteins can no benefit from the cell being larger.
  • Cells that use Cytoplasmic Proteins will want to grow large, since each additional Cytoplasm hex adds more processing power. However, they will still be limited by the natural penalties of growing too large, so ideally they won’t snowball into massive cells.
  • Cells that use Membrane Proteins (if we decide to add that descriptor too) prefer to have lots of surface area, since this maximizes the use they get out of their Membrane Proteins.

Thoughts?

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Just changing the protein’s concentration in the cell feels like changing a pie chart, when the gene space itself is already a kind of pie chart, so that’s why it might feel kinda redundant and clunky even if the two systems are different.

I like your idea! (which you posted while I was writing this, forcing me to rewrite the whole thing :angry:)
I was gonna suggest something about being able to place every protein as a hex to maintain control over concentration and visual variety, but adding different classes of proteins is pretty interesting. (Though Nucleic proteins would all have to be in the nucleus in order for them to make sense)

I also like the way you think of cytoplasmic proteins as a modification to cytoplasm, because it’s bugged me so much to see proteins either somehow removing glycolysis entirely, or having a reduced “protein glycolysis” that makes it seem like the protein itself is performing those processes, which is really misleading (though I know there isn’t really a better way to communicate that with the current tooltips, the description for Chemosynthesizing Proteins does say that it “also turns Glucose into ATP,” which is just innacurate - it’s done by the cytoplasm!!)
I would be ok with the glycolysis being just as efficient when with a protein though, I guess it depends on how much space proteins take up, displacing the cytoplasm. If they’re super small, it would make sense, though even super small proteins could be super clustered.

I also have a bit of a question: I assume each hex can only have one cytoplasmic protein? How would a hex be able to have a cytoplasmic protein and still be able to perform glycolysis? (Which you say comes from glycolysis proteins? …Unless they’re nucleic proteins, in which case, would it really make sense to call them nucleic proteins?

Also: Is there any reason a cell with a bunch of cytoplasmic proteins couldn’t just have a bunch of different proteins of different concentrations in the space of one hex? I mean, realistically it should be possible, would it hurt much if we just looked over it though?

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Wonderfully thought out idea, I really like this concept! From what I understood of what you were saying it will basically enable the player to upgrade the functions of their basic cytoplasm hex by customizing what it does via the protein storage system. Really clever idea.
I’m afraid I dont really have anything to add to this at the moment, but I am okay with going with this and support the idea.

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Oh, I understood it as you could place down cytoplasmic proteins like we can currently, rereading it though I’m pretty sure you’re correct, duh.

So in that case, a one-hex cell would be able to use any amount of proteins, so long as the player has them unlocked, and growing large wouldn’t be an absolute necessity if you wanted to use more than one protein?

Would it be too unrealistic for a cell to be running multiple processes, all at full efficiency, in every single hex of cytoplasm it has?

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After reading through everything once again, and thinking about our discussion and all the points everyone has made, I believe I’m actually starting to lean towards keeping our prokaryotic parts while introducing the protein system for passive effects for now. My reasoning is that Thrive as it is was built around the placement of parts to build your cell up to ever increasing complexity, and completely removing the prokaryotic organelles creates a bit of a void in that area as we dont really have much to fill it with at the moment. It’s alot of work for an uncertain reward.
That doesnt mean I am entirely against the idea of converting our prokaryotic protein parts into this system, But I would prefer to go about it slowly rather than dunking ourselves headfirst into a completely new system.

That being said. Here is my decision; If we all like the idea of the protein slots system I say we go ahead and implement it. It would be a nice big feature to release alongside our environmental hazards such as cold once we are ready for that. All the while we keep our current prokaryotic parts alongside the system.
This way we can get a feel for the new system and see how we like it as a place for passive bonuses, and then decide on where to go from there.

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Apologies for not replying earlier, classes went from 0 to 100.

Exactly. It’s actually quite realistic, since there are many proteins that are dispersed throughout the cell’s cytoplasm that perform many of its vital functions, and these proteins are tiny and evenly distributed across the cytoplasm. In gameplay terms, the limit on this would of course be gene space, and also that if you wanted to become a eukaryote to use eukaryotic organelles you’d have to get larger.

@Buckly Sounds great! It would be good to at least get the Protein Slots system into the game first to see how it feels like, before we take a more drastic step like removing all Prokaryotic Structures to implement those into Protein Slots as well.

Plus, if we are to think in terms of priorities, I think first we should focus on implementing Organelle Upgrades, then Protein Slots and Environmental Adaptations, and then finally revisit the idea of whether to switch Prokaryotic Structures into Protein Slots.

I can create a wiki entry to describe the system. In the meantime, since it’s not planned for this or the next release, I think we could just leave it in the “Finished Concept” bin for now and revisit it later when we want to implement it? Unless there are any inspired concept artists that want to visualize what the interface for this system will look like.

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One question I have around this is how is it visually displayed to the player what proteins AI cells have? So if you’re swimming around and you see two single hexes of thylakoids how do you work out one has a tonne of proteins and the other very few?

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It wouldn’t be displayed. Do we feel that it’s necessary that they are displayed?

Well I guess they would all look the same, but maybe that’s ok.

I guess one question is that if agents are in that same system then you wouldn’t have any ability to tell what was dangerous or not.

Which might be tricky from a gameplay perspective, and might be awesome, not sure.

Nope, you wouldn’t. There’d be an element of uncertainty when approaching foreign species as to what they’re capable of.

I’m not worried enough by it now to suggest we change that approach, I think it’s better if we just proceed like this and see how the player-base feels. I think it is important that not all information, especially about the AI players, always be immediately available to the player.

Players engulfing things wouldn’t have fun trying to randomly eat cells that won’t burst into agent projectiles that kill them. It’s pretty cool to be able to visually identify if something is prey or too toxic to eat.

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I think on that point, it raises the question of what should happen when you engulf cells with damaging agents? Should they kill you, damage you, or have no effect.

If they kill you, then yeah definitely there should be a way to visually represent it to prevent that frustration.

If they only damage you, then I don’t think the visual cue is necessary, because the first time you try you’ll learn that that species is damaging, but will still be alive to learn from your mistake and apply it.

But also is it necessary that they damage you? I thought agents only deal damage (or perform their function) when ejected?

In the current version if a cell dies while it has agents stored, it will shoot up to 3 agent projectiles in random directions. If the player is unlucky enough to be hit by all 3, I think it’s enough to kill if they don’t have one of the membranes that buff health.
I think it makes sense that ingesting a poisonous cell that has agents in it deals damage. As the same agents on contact will hurt you. If suddenly they wouldn’t hurt you, if you got the agents in your cell through engulfment, feels wrong to me.

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Hm interesting. I feel like there could be a few ways to account for this, but I can only think of these two:

We reduce or eliminate damage taken from ingesting toxic cells.

OR we keep the planned placeable hex organelle, the Agent Vacuole, as the organelle that stores and ejects agents. This would be a visual cue to the player which foreign cells could have toxic agents.

For the first time in a long time I had some time on my hands to dedicate to Thrive so I read this topic and made a quick concept.


I like tjwhales idea (I think it was his) to stick to our hexagonal system for the proteins, even if they‘re not visually represented in the cell.
In my concept the proteins are discovered in the „protein library“. You start with three unlocked proteins (one of them enables glycolysis).You can only discover/unlock proteins that are next to a protein you already know. The player doesn‘t know exactly what he‘s unlocking next but similar proteins tend to be close to one another, so if you‘re unlocking a protein next to a toxin it‘s probably another toxin.
Speaking of toxins, toxin as well as agents in general are treated like all other enzymes/proteins. As far as I‘m aware „agent“ and „protein“ aren‘t distinct chemcial categories so I think it would be elegant to use the same system for the two.
When you unlock a protein in the library it‘s not immediatley active. First you have to assign it to a slot (or multiple slots) in your genome via drag-and-drop. While the unlocked proteins in the library represent the proteins your organism is theoretically capable of producting (the information is somewhere in your organisms DNA), the genome represents what proteins are actually being produced (the phenotype if you will). Assigned non-agent proteins are automatically active when placed in the genome. Agents first have to be further assigned to a agent gland. Every time you place an agent gland the game asks you to choose an agent from your genome that should be produced in that gland.
The capacity of your genome can be increased, most notably by adding a nucleus. Some proteins take up two or even three adjectant slots. Like this certain types of cells can be stopped from having certain kinds of proteins without the game saying „No, you can‘t use this protein“. The protein is simply too complex for the microbe and therefore doesn‘t fit in the microbes genome. Bacteria for example could only have four slots in a row in their genome. Therefore they couldn‘t use colony-building proteins as those occupy three slots in a triangle form (see image above).
First unlocking a protein in the library and then placing it in the genome (and then assigning it to a gland when it‘s an agent) might seem overly complicated, but I think the simplicity of combining the agent and the protein system as well as the interesting fitting-shapes-into-the-genome mechanics might be worth it.

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First of all; I really like this idea. It preserves the familiar mechanic of placing parts onto a gird, without impacting your cell’s size and shape. This should makes understanding the mechanics much simpler, and potentially more satisfying. The shapes being used to limit availability of proteins is also a really clever way of unobtrusively blocking players from using eukaryotic functions.

The only significant issue I really have with this concept is the organization of the protein library. While it’s organization helps with visualizing the upgrade paths and relations between proteins, it is otherwise likely to be a messy affair when picking out the proteins you want to place into your cell. I think it would benefit from a selection similar to the parts list in the normal editor tab rather than the player needing to pick their proteins from what might feel like a messily organized drawer of tools.

But yeah I really like this idea and am glad you threw it out here. It might be a more appealing replacement to my own design of the protein slots, so I look forward to seeing what the others think about it.

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Yeah, this is a pretty cool idea, I love the concept art too! However I do agree that finding individual proteins could get a bit frustrating, and also I’m not sure how I feel about the path to unlocking a protein being paved entirely out of unlocking other, unrelated proteins, especially if you don’t even know what they are beforehand. In the Organelle Unlocks thread I tried doing something similar, but as more of a tech tree with a lot of small, less expensive “steps” in between, and even then I found it difficult to avoid unwanted relationships between unrelated proteins.

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Alright, so with this new idea for protein slots, I’ve decided to do some brainstorming on how we could make the concept more easily navigable for players, while still featuring the upgrade path mechanics that @MirrorMonkey2 provided in their concept.


Basically, the proteins will be listed in a selection window, much like regular placable parts. The key difference here, is that each protein type will have a sort of “upgrade bar” occupied by nodes that can be unlocked in a linear fashion by spending set amounts of MP. There are two types of nodes here, the intermediary nodes that have no particular function by themselves, and the unlocking nodes which will grant the player new alternate forms of their protein, or otherwise a new protein altogether. The specifics of what exactly should be unlocked is open for discussion.

The two new organelles I brought up in the concept are to provide players with options for different means of protein storage. The exact stats and costs are up for discussion, but I have provided an idea on their shape and storage capacity.
The micronucleus is fairly self explanatory, but the nucleoid might be a bit problematic when it comes to implementation. It would make sense that the nucleoid would be essential should it be a feature, but it wouldn’t make sense for a cell to still have one after evolving a nucleus. So perhaps the player’s nucleoid would be replaced by normal cytoplasm once they place down their nucleus?

Edit: I have decided that the starting nulceoid be replaced with a cytoplasm upon placing the nucleus, the nucleoid’s contained proteins will be migrated to the nucleus, so the player will not lose anything. The nucleoid will have the same stats and costs as a normal cytoplasm as well, so the player will experience no fundamental change aside from the natural costs of the nucleus.

I believe that accessing the protein placement menu should be done similar to organelle upgrades, by selecting a protein storing part in your cell and accessing it’s “upgrades” via the selection menu. This should help prevent too much visual button clutter in the UI.

Edit: I should mention that I do not believe we should use this system to replace the current prokaryotic parts, but to instead act as an addition to both prokaryotic and eukaryotic gameplay. From a gameplay perspective, keeping active processing proteins such as metabolosomes as parts helps keep prokaryotic and eukaryotic gameplay similar to each other. I would prefer that both types do not deviate too far from each other so that the transition between is not jarring to the player. It is also worth mentioning that I intend for proteins within the slots system be distinct in that they are intended to be passive changes to the cell’s functions and defenses, rather than active processes. I believe we can save the discussion of keeping the parts or not for after we implement the slots feature, as it would not be inherently difficult to migrate the parts into the slots system.

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I’m not a huge fan of having the proteins as placable parts in the cell, particularly the CAMs (binding agents) which are distributed through the cell membrane and don’t make any sense being a placable thing. I much prefer the method outlined by Buckly most recently.