Personal Feedback on 0.4.1

#1

Hey guys, off the radar for a while but I’m trying to catch back up on things.

I gave 0.4.1 a go and it was awesome! I spent much more time playing with it then any previous version. I also made a list of all the thoughts and suggestions I had on it after playing for a while. If here isn’t the right place to post them just let me know. Some of these suggestions will likely be much easier to implement than others. I’m also sure some of these have already been mentioned or are currently being addressed:


Things I Liked

  • The visuals are beautiful! I’m not sure exactly what it is but everything looks so much more crisp and realistic.
  • I love the aesthetic of the iron chunks, its cool to run into these giant particles that give you a sense of how small you are.
  • The environments feel so alive now, and with such a wide variety of different cells too with some large and multiflagellated and others tiny and in swarms.
  • The bacteria are very mobile and feel like bacteria, and then when you evolve into a eukaryote you feel a change in gameplay because ATP is used up much faster and you become a lot bulkier and slower. It really forces you to make sure you’re ready for the nucleus before evolving it.
  • The death of cells and watching the organelles spill out intact is very cool and realistic!
  • The sense of progression is a lot more tangible, since you start as this simple hex of cytoplasm and you eventually become much larger and more complex.
  • I also like how your playstyle changes as you evolve. As a bacteria you play a certain way, and then you need to change it up once you become a eukaryote.
  • I liked the tradeoffs of certain mutations. Adding more flagella made me faster, but also made me use up my ATP a lot faster. My movement went from a constant, medium speed, to short bursts of high speed and then waiting for ATP to recharge.

Suggestions for Gameplay

I’ve heard some mentions of how to make the gameplay more fun. In short, I think the fun from the Microbe Stage comes from trying to fulfill two main objectives/challenges, since the game is more like a Paradox game where there are no clear win conditions, as opposed to something like Civilization with clear win conditions. The two main objectives are:

  1. Survive
  2. Progress

Survival refers to the fact that the player is trying to survive from generation to generation and not go extinct. To make this objective more fun, we need to make the challenge the player faces difficult and dynamic, so they need to come up with smart solutions and so they can’t always use the same solutions. An example of this is that predatory cells will try to chase and kill me if I’m not careful, so I have to evolve and play to be able to counter them.

Progression refers to the fact that as the player is playing, he will want to progress deeper into the game to unlock new abilities, parts, content, gameplay, stages, environments, etc. For example, when I was playing as a bacterium, I wanted to evolve so that I could become a eukaryote so that I could unlock all the abilities they have. This made me really invested and have a lot of fun in the early game. However, the sense of progression at the moment is very brief and wears off after you become a Eukaryote. Also it’s true that evolution comes with tradeoff, but there is also a clear progression in the complexity of life over time, which matches this objective of progression in the game.

For the following suggestions to gameplay, most of them can be seen as improving the quality of one of the above objectives.

Suggestions List

  1. Absorbing organelles is a little too effective at the moment. All I need to do is eat the organelles of a single cell who just died and I immediately get enough compounds to reproduce. It should be much more inefficient at first, and require you to evolve the “Lysosomes” organelle to make it more efficient (which would also make it more of a niche you need to adapt to).
  2. Add some weak/slow water currents to the environment. It’ll add some geography to the environment and also make things look more realistic.
  3. When a cell begins to absorb another cell, it doesn’t really feel like I am absorbing them. I think the movement of both the predator and the victim should be greatly reduced during the process. Perhaps make the speed of the victim slower the deeper they are into the cell, if it’s possible to calculate that?
  4. Add in some basic group mechanics for cells, particularly for prokaryotes. Chains of photosynthesizing cells (like cyanobacteria), swarms of bacteria swimming together, perhaps a cluster of thermophilic cells huddled over a heat spot, things like that.
  5. Some of the simple species of the early game should stay in the game all throughout. Maybe it was just me but it felt like by late game the environment was all prokaryotes with toxins, or giant eukaryotes with tons of flagella.
  6. You shouldn’t be able to reproduce while damaged. I think this may have been discussed before, but it feels like a cheap copout. You’re on the verge of death, and then oh you just reproduce and you’re fine. I think it makes taking damage less meaningful, because as long as it doesn’t kill you it doesn’t matter. It’s also not very realistic.
  7. Evolution should be more iterative and involve more progression (i.e. more unlocking of organelles). It felt like as soon as I became a Eukaryote I suddenly unlocked a bunch of organelles. This one’s a lengthy one so I’ll put it in a spoiler.

Evolution is much more likely to adapt an existing structure than it is to create an entirely new one out of nothing (look at how the horse evolved a hoof from the nail of the mammalian thumb). For example, placing lysosomes in a cell that doesn’t even have vacuoles should cost 100MP (or some high value). However, if you already have vacuoles, evolving one of them into a lysosome should cost a much cheaper amount, like 40MP. Placing a vacuole itself would also only cost something like 40MP (however you can’t upgrade the vacuole the same generation you add it), so the overall cost of the lysosome was only 80MP. The tradeoff is that you had to spend 2 or more generations evolving it. Once you’ve placed your first lysosome, placing future lysosomes should be much cheaper (like 50% off or something). This is because genetically, once you’ve already got the genes that produce that structure, it’s pretty easy to just duplicate them to create more. Another example of this could be evolving flagella from cilia. I think not only is this much more realistic but also makes editor changes much more strategic, and adds a lot more progression to the stage.

  1. Maybe this is intended, but when you evolve into a Eukaryote should your prokaryotic organelles upgrade into their eukaryotic variants?
  2. Perhaps add the ability for the player to decide how to divide his compound storage in the editor? Maybe he wants to reduce iron storage to up glucose storage?
  3. Add a phylogenetic tree / cladogram / evolutionary tree for the player’s species, so he can keep track of his success and it would indicate related species he can hop to if his species goes extinct. Perhaps only make it available to view in the editor? Or maybe only update it once you reach the editor?
  4. I don’t remember if this was discussed before, but free floating Amino Acid clouds should be the primary way of getting your Amino Acids in the early game. Ammonia is toxic to most life. Over time though, free floating Amino Acid clouds become less common as the oceans fill with life, and specifically after the Oxygenation Event (discussed here). Thus after this, every species is forced to evolve a way to get their Amino Acids. The options are to eat/scavenge cells for their amino acids, to evolve resistance to ammonia so that you can use that, or to evolve a protein that can make your own Amino Acids from nitrogen gas dissolved in the ocean (Nitrogenase organelle).
  5. Just an idea, what if compounds the player cannot use were invisible? Is it really necessary for them to see them? And it would visually clear up the environment a bit.
  6. Allow controlling the “thrust” of your movement, with a little scale/dial on the UI to show you what its at. At max thrust you move your max speed, but you can scale it down to conserve energy. Perhaps also make scaled down thrust more energy efficient, so that max thrust is only for dire situations?
  7. Not a high priority, but the original cell should not be able to detect most if not all of the environmental variables like temperature, light, oxygen, CO2, etc. They should be hidden until they evolve those structures.
  8. Last, but definitely not least, I think it’s time we start adding in parts of the early Multicellular Stage! I think it would definitely help add more progression to the current game, and also is not too different from the existing gameplay so it wouldn’t require too many additions/changes to game systems.

Visual/UI Suggestions

Some suggestions for the aesthetics and interface of the game.

  1. Perhaps add some cells and particles into the foreground and background? It’s weird how everything is currently on the same plane.
  2. The background looks a lot better but could still use some work. I don’t think the bubbles should be part of the background’s texture, because it’s very clear that they are static and not moving. If we’re going to have bubbles, they should be modelled/animated to move and be 3D. There should also be more blur and distortion/refraction to the background to show that the setting is underwater.
  3. There’s something a little off about how the clouds look and flow and are absorbed, but I’m not sure exactly what. It might be their texture looking too repetitive?
  4. We should add an animation to organelles and cell membranes when they die or are absorbed, even just a simple dissolving animation. It’s a little weird to see them just pop out of existence.
  5. There should be a reproduction progress bar. I can’t keep track of how many organelles I have duplicated, especially when I become a large cell.
  6. Entering engulfment mode should not make you flash. It’s unrealistic and a little jarring. There should be something like an icon that appears on the edge of the screen, or perhaps gently flashes to remind you that you’re in engulfment mode.
  7. Iron ions should be rewritten as just Iron.
  8. Phosphates should be singular as Phosphate.
  9. We should hide compound bars that are empty (although perhaps not if its a compound you need like glucose). We shouldn’t show compound bars that you can’t use, like why do I care about iron when I’m first starting as a prokaryote.
  10. Sometimes flagella become completely stiff when a cell dies and they fall off, which looks pretty strange. Is there a way to make them flow with the water?
  11. We should add some radial blur to the edges of the screen.
  12. Why do the flagella have a plunger looking structure at their base?
  13. Flagella animations sometimes don’t work when I am swimming in a direction they are facing, is that a bug?
  14. The font is not very readable, and sometimes things are written in all capitals (or at least the font’s undercase is not very clear).
  15. The box on the top left that shows info on where your cursor is is a fantastic idea. It uses too much text though, the names of the compounds should be replaced with their icons, and perhaps colour code the number with the colour of the cloud. There’s also some dead space on the right of the box.
  16. In the top bar with the environmental variables, O2 and CO2 should use subscripts for the numbers.

Audio Suggestions

  1. Sometimes the gameplay feels very quiet. Is there more ambient sounds we can add? Something like soft bubbling or underwater echoing in the background?

Editor Suggestions

  1. When placing structures in the editor, you should be able to see what is currently there, and perhaps a preview of what you are placing instead of just grey hexes for everything. I tried to remove organelles in a future generation and realized I’d forgotten what hexes were what. It also looks nicer to see your cell instead of a collection of grey hexes.
  2. Instead of one long list, the organelles list on the side should be broken up into a side panel with different sections (like in Kerbal Space Program). Each section would have an icon with a name when you hover over it (like “Prokaryotic Structures”).
  3. Speaking of Prokaryotic Structures, that section should be renamed to just “Proteins” (since that’s what they are). Also as far as I’m aware they aren’t limited to just Prokaryotes?
  4. Renaming species doesn’t seem to work. This would be a nice little QoL and immersion feature to have.
  5. The hex grid should not appear behind the organelle panel on the left, it makes it harder to read the organelles. The hex grid should also be 50% more transparent, it’s a little too bright right now.
  6. Perhaps make it so that the hex grid is invisible, and only highlights around where the cursor is.
  7. Undo and redo buttons look more like camera rotation buttons because of where they are placed and the icons they have.
  8. Osmoregulation cost should be renamed to something like Metabolic Rate, Metabolism Cost, Base Metabolism, etc. Then in a tooltip or in the Thrivepedia we can explain that Osmoregulation is part of the cost of Metabolism.
  9. Hovering over elements of the UI like generation number or speed should explain the value and what it means (specifically for something like speed where I don’t have any reference for the units).
  10. The information panel for placing organelles is a bit hard to read. The MP cost should use the icon for MP instead of the word. The description of the organelle should be the very first thing and be super simple, such as: “Mitochondrion: Turns glucose (icon) into ATP (icon) in the presence of oxygen (icon).” More complex description and notes should be at the bottom of the tooltip or in the Thrivepedia entry on the Mitochondrion. The description of the process should use icons instead of words (or at least icons with the words).
  11. When you are about to place a hex or structure, there should be a tooltip showing you what values of your cell it will change (such as will decrease speed by this amount, will increase Metabolism by this amount, will increase storage by this amount, etc.)

I know this is a long list, but don’t get the wrong idea I love where the game is at now. I think it’s because the game is getting so fleshed out that there are now so many potential ways to add to it and improve it.

3 Likes

#2

Im all for lysosomes (I really really like that idea :stuck_out_tongue: ) and improving the UI, but i called iron iron ions specifically bcause that is in fact what your cell is using and there is actually a difference. But othe rthen that i like alot of these ideas, also about flagella, yeah the animation stopping is a bug.

2 Likes

#3

Thanks glad to hear! Also good to see you again.

Chemically there is no difference, it’s just one of the structural forms that the particle can be in. For example water is just hydrogen ions and oxygen ions bonded together covalently and then between molecules by intramolecular hydrogen bonds, but it can be understood that the actual substance itself is just water.

0 Likes

#4

Now that I think of it maybe we could make a small “vacuole overhaul” for this release. Salinity and contractile vacuoles have been proposed and lysosomes would be a very nice add-on that can give more depth to gameplay.

1 Like

#5

if we simulated waste you would output iron III ions (The ones you use are iron II ions). But i see where you are coming from i think its probabbly better to just call it iron lol (But i wanted to be as accurate and as specific as possible there :stuck_out_tongue: )

Also, @DonGororo yeah i love teh idea of adding lysoomnes and contractile vacoles and such. Its just that before we add contractile vacuoles we need to have a solid plan for implementing salinity. Maybe once we have the patch map in game?

2 Likes

#6

Yep, first things first. I guess that means we’ll have to make a couple of new biomes like rivers, freshwater lakes and of course the saline sea you proposed

0 Likes

#7

Sounds good!

If we did simulate waste I would suggest we just call them Iron (II) and Iron (III), but I feel like that might be a bit too much chemistry for the game so ideally I think we should avoid that.

0 Likes

#8

One suggestion that made me really curious is the one about amino acids. Originally I was very pleased to see how the list of compounds has been shortened. We used to have oxygen and carbon dioxide as clouds, it was a good decision that we turned them into invisible environmental compounds.
Likewise, as I understand it, we ditched amino acids as a compound and made all the amino-magic happen „off-screen“ as a means to make the game more simple and streamlined. I think this was a very smart decision.
However, I have to admit that having a compound (ammonia) be toxic at first, but then, once it‘s refined variant (amino-acids) gets more and more sparse, becoming the primary source of that refined resource, sounds quiet awesome.
However, I‘m not sure wether or not this is worth the addition of an entirely new compound, amino acids. This would make everything feel more cluttered. Is this worth it? I don‘t know.

1 Like

#9

I think a lot of these are good suggestions, as you say there are a lot of things we could do to make the game better.

While you have been away we have moved to a different process for planning. After each release we have a discussion about what to do in the next release and decide on a small chunk of work to do. Because there is a lot we could do the goal of that discussion is to pick out what are the most important things to do next, the things which have the best awesomeness to effort ratio.

You can see the last discussion here and also the list of github issues here. We also discussed it on the podcast and on discord. The next release is almost entirely about the patch map and it’s mechanics.

I think a lot of the fact that we have been making good progress comes from having a more focused method for deciding which way to go next.

So yes with your ideas feel free to bring them up in the 0.4.3 discussion, everyone is welcome to contribute with what they think are the next things we should do. There’s some good stuff on your list and as some of it is small things they can be good as they’re nice things to get done quickly.

1 Like

#10

Oh yeah definitely, I’m not saying these are all things we should be implementing right away, just more a master list of all criticisms I could think of while playing the game that I could refer back to. Some of them I would recommend we put as higher priorities though (like all organelles appearing as grey hexes in the editor).

1 Like

#11

Yeah I agree seeing the organelles in the editor would be really nice.

0 Likes

#12

That is already an issue on Github:

No one has wanted to tackle it yet.

Also a few others on the list are also I think already fixed or made into issues, but digging those up would take quite a bit of time.

0 Likes

#13

Yeah after posting that I remembered that we had the discussion and decided to eliminate amino acids, fatty acids, and nucleic acids, and assume them as intermediates (which I think was a good call). However I do also think it would be cool to have something like what I suggested with free floating amino acid clouds that disappear over time and force the species to evolve new ways of getting/making their amino acids (which is also very close to how science says life originated), I’m just trying to think of how to do it.

One idea is to remove/change ammonia. I was thinking about it and we moved oxygen and CO2 over into being background gasses instead of compound clouds because they are gasses and dissolve diffusely in the oceans, but ammonia is as well (and we’ve kept it as a compound cloud). Both ammonia and nitrogen gas are dissolved gasses in the ocean. From what I know, nitrogen gas is found in medium amounts everywhere, whereas ammonia is found in high concentrations in warm and alkaline water and low concentrations elsewhere (which would also make adapting to each one lead you to a different niche). If we did this, then we could reintroduce Amino Acids. This would need to be something we discussed more though.

0 Likes

#14

So in case the list of features for 0.4.2 is still open, I compiled what I thought were the easiest/simplest changes from the above list to see what you guys think, otherwise they can be tabled for 0.4.3 or after.

If we agree on the suggestions I can go ahead and make issues for them on the Github.

1 - Reduce compound yielded from absorbing organelles to 25% or 50% of its current yield (then in the future add a lysosome organelle which increases this yield).
3 - Reduce speed of predator/victim during engulfment.
19 - Dissolving animation for organelles / cells.
20 - Simple placeholder Reproduction progress bar for now (until we add a nicer one with the new UI concept).
21 - Entering engulfment mode should not make your cell flash. Instead it should cause an icon to appear (perhaps the icon could flash).
22 - Iron Ions rewritten as Iron
23 - Phosphates rewritten as Phosphate
26 - Radial blur to edge of screen
30 - Icons replacing text in the mouseover tooltip (the tooltip in the top left corner that shows you the compounds in a certain spot)
31 - Subscripts for O2 and CO2 (I think Nein is working on this?)
32 - New ambient SFX
35 - Prokaryotic Structures rewritten as Proteins
36 - Renaming species not working?
37 - Reduce hex grid opacity by 50% in editor
40 - Osmoregulation Cost rewritten as Metabolism / Metabolic Rate
41 - Tooltips for bottom UI elements of the editor (speed, generations, etc.)
42 - Icons and rewrite of organelle tooltips in the editor

1 Like

#15

How will we know when an opponent cell is engulfing?

0 Likes

#16

I’m not sure I haven’t seen the code on it, is there any way to identify when a cell is being engulfed? As opposed to just taking damage from another source?

0 Likes

#17

No, what i mean is we need a way (at the moment) to see when an enemy cell is in engulf mode, and an icon wouldnt cut it.

Also not all the prokaryotic structures are proteins, some are what are called polyhedral organelles (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/metabolosome) (I think teaching people microbiology/science communication are important parts of our game so our terminology is therefore important)

Osmoregulation cost is literally just the cost of osmoregulation. Metabolic rate would be covered by movement cost etc.

I do agree with a few of these (replacing stuff with icons, radial blur etc, hovering over things for more tooltips etc.)
But some of what you said i don’t think is ideal/something we should add at this stage.

0 Likes

#18

Oh in that case I would tend to disagree. Engulfment is something that a cell is always able to do provided it has a fluid membrane, and something the player should always be prepared for if they approach larger cells. I don’t think an obvious visual cue for other cells that are specifically in engulfment mode is necessary. Also I find it pretty unrealistic and visually jarring to see the cells flashing.

The “polyhedral organelle” category of metabolosomes is still just a cluster of proteins (a shell of proteins on the outside and enzymatic proteins on the inside), and from what I can tell all the organelles under the “Prokaryotic Structures” section are also available to Eukaryotes. Also just to clarify are Metabolosomes the renamed version of what were earlier called Aerobic Respiration Proteins?

There are other passive costs that are included in the base ATP rate that the cell has to expend per second, such as the ATP cost of the nucleus and the passive ATP cost of certain organelles (like the lysosomes once added). Also metabolic rate doesn’t necessarily include costs of movement/activity, such as Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is used as a standard for macroorganisms (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_metabolic_rate). It’s also a term I think would be more familiar to the player. There could then be mentions during the tutorial, in the mouseover tooltip, and/or in its Thrivepedia entry with further explanation that it includes the cost of osmoregulation.

1 Like

#19

Eh i just think the game is confusing enough for players even with the obvious engulfing/damage visual cue etc. I really think that would be a bad design descision before we have proper engulfing edges/open food vacuoles/cytostomes (basiclaly a microbial mouth) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytostome ) in game but maybe @tjwhale should say something.

Well yeah, normal organelles also have stuff like proteins in them encased in a membrane, and metabolosomes are enzymes encased in a protein shell, so should we just call them all proteins (you get my point) (I think the difference is notable) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16525780 )

Also yeah metabolsome was originally conceptualized as aerobic proteins (But as you can see from its tooltip, i intend for it to be more distinct later on)

Basiclaly i found real world analogues to our ideas and added them to the game.

Edit:
I guess osmoregulation should be renamed BMR though

0 Likes

#20

The key difference though is that eukaryotic organelles, such as mitochondria or peroxisomes, are membrane bound with potentially proteins inside the membrane or embedded within the mebrane itself. Prokaryotic organelles, however, are not membrane bound and are purely singular proteins or complex collections/combinations of proteins, the latter of which are still typically referred to as proteins in microbiology.

1 Like