Senses in Thrive - Light and vision alternate thread

Ok so this thread is for debating the question “should you have gronked up senses in Thrive and if so should their be a clean third person view available?”

In this context gronked up means something like that you only have a low resolution eye with red receptors so you can only see red in the world and it is very hard to hunt (and probably difficult to play) because your senses are so poor.

We have had this debate on slack an it would be nice to move it forward here.


A. Only gronked up senses are available

This makes the game very interesting and abstract, it will certainly get us a lot of attention.
It will make people think a lot about perception.
It’s very interesting and gives you a deep experience of what it is like to be a mud crab or something like that.
It raises a lot of challenges to do with how to display different senses and modes of perception (how do we encode smell for example?).

It will make people make creatures which have human style senses just because they are unbearable not to have.
It’s not at all accessible.
A lot of people are going to hate it and say it’s unplayable.
It raises a lot of challenges to do with how to display different senses and modes of perception (how do we display smell for example?).
It doesn’t really fit with the microbe stage where the decision to let you see is already taken.

B. Gronked up and Human senses are available

It allows players to pick the experience they want.
It has a lot of the depth that gronked up senses provide.

It doesn’t put any pressure on the player to develop their senses because they can just use the human style senses for hunting.
People may not use the gronked up senses and we may waste a lot of time building them in.

C. Only human senses are available.

Much easier to program and understand and play.
Fits with the microbe stage.

Much less interesting.
Gronked up senses have been a part of thrive for quite a while so it is a shame to throw them out.

My opinion is that we are moving slowly as it is and I think making good gameplay with gronked up senses is going to be super hard. I think if we can show that we can make epic gameplay in the microbe stage then it might be worth tackling but there is a huge risk gronked up senses will often be largely unplayable and we will put a lot of work into it for someone to use it for 5 minutes and then switch to human view and never look back.

If we dilute the game, what do we gain?

Alternately, if we ignore the potential of gronked-up senses, what do we lose beside some fans? Unless you’re aiming for big money with a mass-market game, it’s always better to focus on pleasing your core group of fans. We don’t really have a core group, though, so I guess that point can be used to argue against anything.

I know I, for one, would very much enjoy working on gronked-up senses, but I agree that preliminary work should always be using simple renderers etc.

With a lot of gronked-up senses, you can easily get something simple prototyped quickly, I think – an eyespot could increase the amount of ambient lighting based on how much light it sees, lateral-line tremorsense could work by drawing, say, faint red glows wherever something moving nearby is, for smell everyone can leave behind particles which you render, etc.

Not all are more complicated than sight – for sight, you need to actually build the meshes for everything, which is a lot of work, enough work that we might even release the first version of multicellular without sight cuz it works better for us, for example. Of course, when a prototype is simple enough, it hardly matters if it’s sight or echolocation, for example.

Sight is good to start with, because it’s been done before, pretty much by every game. But I’m still inclined towards aiming for realism here.

Of course, you already know my stance, so I’ll leave it at this.

@moopli What is your stance exactly? That there should be two viewing modes or just one?


Having thought some more about I think gronked up senses are extremely interesting and unique but raise massive problems. The first is how to display the senses to the player but the second is gameplay. We already have difficulty because of the amount of gameplay we are making (stationary microbes, herbivores, photosynthesisers, predators in just the microbe stage). Trying to make a fun game out of lots of different types of animal while those animals have radically different senses is a huge challenge.

Maybe I am looking at the game wrong though, maybe it’s more about exploration of the possibilities. Maybe we should offer a whole load of options where 80% of them are garbage (being an animal with too few senses, for example) but allowing the player to discover what they are like. Maybe it’s cool to be a mud crab where everything is brown and you inch along looking for worms. The problem is that if there is a third person view then it’s going to be really hard not to use it.

I suppose one option is to disincentivise it, by offering achievements for not using it, for example.

And then the strategy stages? Does that switch to a normal human looking map? What if I have different colour receptors in my species? Does the map always look different?

Maybe a solution would be for human senses to be the basic, low res version of senses, and allow the player to evolve senses better than humans, like eagle’s eyes and bat’s ears. We could even add sonar and togglable thermal vision. While this isn’t scientifically accurate, It would make the game easier to play, program, and add a new evolutionary trait that you don’t necessarily have to evolve, but can if you want too.

So, in short, no gronked up senses, but better than human senses.


That does sound pretty reasonable.

I was talking with some people about this problem last night and it was interesting how quickly the group broke down into different opinions. Some said “just gronked up” because it’s really interesting and unique. Some said just human because it’s a game. Some said both.

One suggestion was that hardcore mode should shut off human senses so the player can choose at the beginning to be forced into the gronked up senses, which sounded decent.

Maybe we should just go with programmer autocracy on this one. If anyone wants to put the work into building gronked up senses then that’s cool.

I think at the minimum, we can agree that a creature with no eyes should not be able to see (because if not why would anyone evolve eyes?), or as TheCreator suggested only see within a tiny radius (especially when they are a large multicellular organism). Then if we do this, this gives some room to have mutations to improve the eyes either with field of view, zooming, clarity, etc. We could even include things like infrared or UV vision as a toggleable mode in the UI (if you evolved it).

Things like sonar/sound could be a combination of what you hear from the speakers coupled with some visual indicators. Echolocation specifically should use visual indicators to show where things are. Smell could use visual cues as well, while taste and touch could be text cues for the player.

This way there is purpose to sensory evolutions, but it doesn’t totally mess with the player’s head.

Also for the strategy stages it would be human looking because you technically are some semi-omnipotent force flying around and issuing commands to your civilization, so there’s no need to be constrained by their vision (except in the case of fog of war).

So are you saying there should be no 3rd person view and we should only have gronked up senses? Or do you mean the creature can’t see but you can switch to 3rd person if you want?

I’m undecided as to whether we should go with 1st or 3rd person, and I think we should have partially gronked up senses (if I’m using that term right), in that they should be represented but not directly as they would appear in real life, but rather through visual or textual cues.

What if echolocation looked like this

That’s a pretty cool visual of what echolocation could look like, but it doesn’t really pertain to the debated topic.

I think instead of just avoiding picking an option, I’ll list the different options that I think would work but am conflicted between:

A) The player can play in either 1st or 3rd person, both views having the limitations of partially gronked senses (i.e. visual cues for smell, textual for taste and touch, etc.)

B) The player can only play in 3rd person and has partially gronked senses.

C) The player can choose at the beginning of their playthrough whether they will play in 1st or 3rd person, with 1st person offering partially gronked and 3rd person being no gronk.

I’m leaning the most towards B even more now that I think about it. You are controlling your microbe in the 3rd person, as with your multicellular colony, so it doesn’t make sense how you would seamlessly transition into 1st person with the 2D-3D transition.

Additionally, say you just went through the 2D-3D transition and your colony now looks like a jellyfish-like organism. Where does the camera of the player’s view go? Which direction does it face? What is it’s field of view? Which ways can it turn? It just doesn’t make sense how you could play that jellyfish like thing your colony first looks like going into 3D in 1st person.

Another point, the concept of organism mode always implied organism mode was 3rd person. The constant references to the combat as an organism in the Aware Stage and later stages referenced it to Mount and Blade (which is predominantly 3rd person). When vehicles are controlled they are controlled in third person.

I think we can work with the 3rd person perspective as if it was the first person, as in having the ability to zoom in on the distance if your organism has the appropriate mutations, having the field of view determined by the organism’s eyes, as well as clarity/blurriness, and other features. Eyes on drastically different sides of the head could produce two or more displays.

This sounds pretty cool.

I think for me, from an Aesthetic position (as in how should the game feel to play) I think a big part of the game is discovering what sort of planet you are on and where it is in a solar system etc. For example when you discover a new continent or when your scientists discover a new planet in your solar system it should be a big moment. I think that’s really cool in general and fits with the scientific theme of the game, as in science is about discovering more about the world you live in and going through Thrive’s stages you discover more and more about your world.

So forcing people to see poorly through their gronked up senses and then allowing them clearer and clearer vision would fit well with that. For example if you play as a plant you can see yourself very clearly but everything around you is blurry chemical patterns. You can sense chemicals as they blow across you but nothing more than that. Crawling out of the sea and onto the land for the first time should be a revelation.


So we can assume that the single cell the player begins with has chemosensitivity thermosensitivity and photosensitivity. It (the player) can detect the presence of compounds, heat, and light, as well as other single cells.

This might be a bit out there, but what if the only thing the player saw on the screen were the compounds, light, and heat, as well as other cells? Everything else would be pitch black. It wouldn’t necessarily remove the need for a background either as the background would be visible in the light spots.

What I’m saying is the majority of the beginning of the game begins with the single cell floating in a void with areas that are lit up and other cells and compounds, and it continues to be this pitch black nothingness up till the point where they begin to evolve senses. Primitive eyes? Boom we start to see the actual environment we’re in (3rd and 1st person). Sense of smell? Bam we can have some random clouds of color to decorate our black screen, maybe even assign scents to certain things to give a sillhouette of the environment (example: prey would be colored blue and there’d be maybe a scent trail leading to it… Kind of like waypoints in other games). Sense of hearing and to an extent, echolocation? That video I sent would be perfect for it as you said.

Anyway that’s my idea. Have the player start off in a void of nothingness, floating alongside compounds and other cells until it evolves proper senses which will affect the game in both 3rd and 1st person.

As for the issue where players will only choose human senses: I feel like we could turn players away from that by having it as an option, but once you turn it on, achievements are no longer obtainable. Alternatively, just have human senses and gronked up senses toggle-able as some players will possibly want to use it for… say cinematic purposes?

What do you guys think?

I think this is a good reference for how to draw gronked up senses.

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