So I have been working with trying to balance photosynthesis recently, and I have been finding it quite difficult to get the values in a comfortable zone where photosynthesis is viable but not to the point where it is too much so. Unlike other parts and features, photosynthesis has been incredibly tricky to balance through values alone due to how it works in the game. One particularly large issue is the difference between lux levels in the patch maps. I generally try to balance photosynthesis around it’s standard value which is 100% lux, makes sense right? This becomes problematic however, when there are neighboring zones that have values such as 200% lux that obviously doubles the power of photosynthesis. This makes balance incredibly hard to achieve, as I must basically choose between forcing players to move to 200% lux environments to sustain themselves, or letting them be able to engorge themselves on incredible amounts of glucose in said environments.
So with that said, I believe we need to either reassess the available levels of lux in patches, or to incorporate a new feature to the game to put a check on photosynthesis. that is, to finally give photosynthesizers a new obstacle to prevent them from being so overpowered.
Here are some potential features we could implement to potentially make photosynthesis less constant, and more engaging.
Day/night cycle: This has been brought up by me before, so it was what came to mind most quickly. By making lux gradually increase and decrease in a cycle, photosynthesizers would need to put more focus on storage and glucose retention than simply producing. This feature has a few issues however, such as not really addressing the problem of large variations of lux between patches. Others have also previously expressed concerns that the day/night cycle would not fit in well with how time works in Thrive.
Dark spots, sun spots: Instead of a day/night cycle, we could instead introduce locally varying light levels within patches. This could be as simple as patches of darkness or light in the environment that the player would need to avoid or seek; Or as complex as an ever changing gradient of light and shadow where the player would constantly seek out the brightest spots whilst avoiding the darkest. This feature could probably work better than the day/light cycle, however it could arguably make photosynthesis somewhat similar in gameplay to other features such as chemosynthesis.
Photosynthesis produces heat: A more creative way of making light more of a concern, we could instead make photosynthesis potentially dangerous by producing heat as a by-product which scales with the lux levels. Too much heat and your cell could be harmed! This would force players to be much more careful about how many thylakoids or chloroplasts they carry, and make that 200% lux biome a little less enticing… However, this would require us to design a system around heat management and the workings of heat in general in Thrive. So Ultimately this option would require more work. (Not that that’s inherently a bad thing!)
I would like to hear what everyone else thinks about this, and if they have some ideas of their own on how photosynthesis could be managed.