Reproduction vs Mutations


What if the player didn’t automatically enter the editor every time they reproduced?

I was reading about sexual reproduction in unicellular organisms, and I saw that certain eukaryotes can transfer DNA without actually reproducing. The same occurs in bacteria (conjugation).

At the same time, organisms reproduce quite a lot and do not evolve every single time, especially in asexual reproduction. But in the current concept if microbes reproduced quickly it would also mean super fast evolution rates.

My idea is, what if we make it so that each time you reproduce, there’s a chance that you will mutate. Mutating means entering the editor. The chance of mutating is summative, so if you fail it increases until you succeed and then its reset.

When starting a new game, the player can choose under “Mutation Rate” how likely they are to mutate with each reproduction. They can set it at 100%, which is the current concept, and it would lead to quick evolution. Or they could set it lower (default would be something like 25%).

This would also mean that we could allow the player to mutate without reproducing. In observed sexual reproduction in microbes, two microbes meet and exchange DNA (aka “have sex”) across their membranes and then part. In Thrive we would allow microbes to do this if they evolve sexual reproduction. The player would swim their microbe to another microbe and engage in the DNA transfer, and there would be a 25% chance that he would enter the editor and if he did he would spawn back in with an evolved organism, but with no reproduction having taken place.

Another example would be in transformation, where a cell absorbs some DNA and integrates it into its own DNA. We can represent this in game by having a small chance to mutate if you ever consume some floating DNA.


Isn’t it a bit unrealistic to allow the player to edit their cell when they exhange dna with another cell or pick it up from the environment? Shouldn’t they instead be just given the choice to pick whether they want to incorporate the floating dna to their cell causing some specific effect and with swapping dna with other cells they would be given a list of bits of dna that they could take?

Not always getting the editor is probably not very fun. I don’t think this should be implemented as the purpose of the editor is to allow the player to directly make changes that would have occurred over millions of years and many, many generations. So even if a cell mutated only once every 1000 splits the player should still get the editor each time. Also it would only serve to make the game slower and more grindy. I don’t think the player should have to split their cell (reproduce) more than 10 times before getting to multicellular, otherwise a single playthrough of thrive would take a really long time, and I don’t think we should aim for grand strategy length games.


Actually surprisingly no, bacteria and some eukaryotes too are able to uptake DNA and add it to their genome. During this process or the process of exchanging DNA with another cell (called conjugation), mistakes can be made in copying or stitching the DNA and that’s what leads to mutations.

Also yeah, now that I think more about it I think it’s better if the player enters the editor every time by default. I’d still suggest we keep the it as an option in the starting settings though, because I think the alternative could provide for some interesting gameplay (But the default would be 100%).

This raises the question though, what effect do we want conjugation to have? The ideas I have are:

  • Grants a chance to unlock an organelle or agent (same as when you assimilate floating DNA).
  • Takes you to the editor.


Or we could give some penalty for not doing it, like random mutations with a high chance of moving organelles randomly, a small chance of having a random organelle deleted, and a teeny tiny chance of having an organelle added, because i feel generous (from the ones you have unlocked ofc, i’m not THAT generous).
The chance of a mutation happening should probably increase with the cell’s complexity, so as to not have a small cell crippled beyond repair because it had its only vacuole deleted by RNGod.


Could you clarify what you mean by this? Not doing what?

If you mean to make assimilating DNA and conjugation have a chance of causing neutral or negative mutations instead of just unlocking new organelles that’s an interesting idea.


I meant if you dont conjugate for a long time you get mostly malign mutations, having conjugation be some sort of genetic material restoration, similar to what ciliates do


Hm, that’s an interesting idea, but even though it’s realistic I don’t think it’s a good idea to implement because I think we should avoid penalizing the player for not conjugating, especially since many players may not evolve sexual reproduction until multicellular. I think it’s better to simply reward them for conjugating.


Asexual reproduction has the benefit of being more “stable” genetically. On the flip side of that anything that can kill one cell can probably kill off most of the species in one swoop.
So random mutations I think should be limited to actual replication or the fireball in the sky, via UV radiation (lessened in deep waters).
I think rewarding them for conjugating, and leaving them alone when they don’t, is probably the best way to go about it.
It would suck if a newbie to the game couldn’t figure out why their little bundle of DNA is deforming negatively.


What if conjugation simply grants the player more evolution points next time they enter the editor? Also i like the idea of having the option to not enter the editor every time you split