Protein detection mechanics

(Warning, really poor biology incoming)
So as you know, microbes don’t have many senses, relying on proteins to detect other cells and stuff and decide what to do, but that’s very hard to represent in a game with a player that also wants to see stuff in the screen.
That’s why i propose to have bacteria and other cells only be visible from a very small distance, and increasing that distance with mutation points for particular microbes/bacteria.
That would make it so a predator can specialize over a particular prey, gaining a visual advantage over it which would make ambushes more successful, or a prey could buy some predator detecting magic to see the most dangerous predator from a distance. This would also give the most successful cells more challenges, since most other cells would try to get more detection over them.
You could also (for a very high price) change the proteins you emit, which would reduce the detecion range of everyone else by half or something like that (but never more than the starting radius).
This could probably also tie with the bioluminescent organelle somehow, but i’m still not sure how…


Yeah we’ve actually discussed that a bit before and I it could be good to implement.

Basically there’d be different types of perception that a cell could evolve, such as chemotaxis (detecting chemicals aka compounds), phototaxis (detecting light), and thermotaxis (detecting heat). From what I know -taxis is used specifically when referring to microorganisms. If we wanted to use more general terms we could refer to them as chemoreception, photoreception, and thermoreception, since those are the terms we use in the Aware Stage (but maybe it’s better to distinguish between stages?).

Anyways, we never really nailed down which taxi does what. Off of the top of my head, I’d suggest something like this:

  • Chemotaxis increase the visibility radius around your cell
  • Phototaxis increase the visibility of the light level in the environment (by having an indicator in your UI telling you how intense the light is from 0-100%)
  • Thermotaxis increase the visibility of the heat level in the environment, displayed as a little heat indicator in your UI from 0-100%.

And then as you suggested there’s the idea of being able to detect specific cells more or less easily, which I haven’t really thought about.

Alright I’ve been thinking more about it and this is what I think we should consider for Microbial perception:

What are the problems in limiting microbe perception?
Visual features such as lighting, compound clouds, blur around the edge of the screen, colours, and other visual effects are what make the game look good. If those are limited by your mutations, we run the risk of making the game look bad if you have a certain set of adaptations. For example we don’t want a player with only thermotaxis to just see everything like a thermal vision camera (or maybe we do, open to discussion). We have to balance nice visuals with the different types of perception cells can have.

How do we display different microbe perceptions?
The main types of microbial perception would probably be chemotaxis, thermotaxis, and phototaxis. We could also add in ones like electrotaxis and thigmotaxis (touch). How do we display these?

These are the possible options I can think of for how to display different types of perception:

  • Reveal area around the cell
  • Put a colour overlay over the entire screen (possibly make it toggleable)
  • Put highlights on targets of interests
  • Put highlights on edges of the screen to highlight directions of targets of interest
  • Have an indicator on the HUD displaying a certain value or information

Using these, this is what I was thinking for the main three types of perception. This is totally up for discussion though and I want to hear what you guys think:

All cells start by only seeing a small radius around their cell, with the rest being blacked out.

It lets you detect levels of dissolved gases in the environment (if we end up removing oxygen and CO2 as compound clouds), shown as an indicator on the HUD.
It lets you detect which direction you can find nutrients (like glucose and ammonia) shown as highlights on the edge of the screen.

It lets you detect the heat intensity of the environment, shown as an indicator on the HUD.
It lets you detect which direction you can find more heat intensity, shown as highlights on the edge of the screen.

It lets you detect the light intensity of the environment, shown as an indicator on the HUD.
It increases the visible radius around your cell.

Hopefully this layout will make having thermotaxis or chemotaxis but no phototaxis still fun because you at least start with a basic small visible radius around your cell no matter what.


EDIT: After doing some research it looks like chemoreception, photoreception, etc. are more accurate words to use here because they refer to the actual ability of the cell to detect those things, whereas chemotaxis and phototaxis refers to the responses of the cell to those detections.

I don’t know if it’s realistic to have photaxis work as sight, it would make no sense to have everyone have photoreceptor cells (which is almost unavoidably what’s gonna happen since sight is very very important for a player), and it doesn’t really tell you which cell it is, only that there’s a cell (or a rock, or something like that) blocking the light (if there is light to begin with, how would this system work in the abyss for example?).
Besides, with this kind of system, the senses are a one-time investment, which may or may not be what we want (i’m more in favour of secializing the senses over time and having to spend points on them on a regular basis, to keep with the adaptation theme of the game)

Oh yeah definitely I’d agree that they be iterative and not just you evolve it once and you get the whole package, like for example with the first step of thermotaxis you unlock the heat indicator of your current location, a further step unlocks detecting nearby heat sources, etc. Or for example repeated steps make your heat indicator more precise so it goes from showing low/medium/high to a specific percentage.

Hm yeah your first point is a good point. You have any ideas on how to handle it? What if the visible radius around your cell was not modifiable by any type of taxis, and instead phototaxis worked exactly like thermotaxis (indicator to show the light intensity in your current location and highlights on the edge of the screen to show nearby light spots).

The visibility radius on the other hand wouldn’t be able to be upgraded until you become a multicellular colony and develop eyes, OR if while in microbe you develop an eyespot apparatus (which would be rare and challenging).

But even those are one time investments, as in once you get them your cell is automatically better forever and ever, without need for further expenses for maintaining that ability (unless having it spends atp or something?)
I still like chemotaxis for general vision, since afaik cells use this the most to perceive the outside world

Yeah we’d have to have some sort of drawback for them such as using up ATP, and where possible break them up into more incremental upgrades (such as upgraded forms of phototaxis increasing the distance at which you get notifications of nearby light spots).

How about chemotaxis only extend your visible radius to a certain extent? Because I think we need to leave a certain amount of that process of gaining vision to the development of eyes, since when you transition to an organism if you don’t have eyes you shouldn’t be able to see very far (unless you had eyespot apparatuses).

Also how should we factor bioluminescence into this?

I think chemotaxis should be more useful that phototaxis until well late in the multicellular stage, when phototaxis would be better (if you’re on an enviroment with light, obviously), and easier to improve with brain power, with chemical reception becoming a more secondary sense (eventually becoming smell).
I think the initial phototaxis (which afaik is achieved only by eyespot aparatuses) could be showing you where there’s ligth and where isn’t. On the first level it could only tell you if the cell is inside a ligthspot or not (maybe with a gui that shows how much ligth the cell is receiving?), the next level would allow you to see where the nearby ligth sources are (including sneaky bioluminescent cells), maybe later it could distinguish colors? (i’m not sure about this one since idk how colorblind people would perceive it) but those upgrades would require more eye aparatuses, and to make them viable you would need to be multicellular.


I feel like this would be very difficult to implement but highly rewarding.