Starting Fresh-Spawn Compound Balancing

This isn’t something to focus on in this update since we already have had a major gameplay design shift in regards to ammonia/phosphate and many balancing issues to actively track, but I wanted to start this conversation now so that if we make a decision in the future, it is a result of a good discussion.

The new growth system solved some of my gripes with this issue, but I always found the way we have dealt with spawning compounds - specifically, spawning in with the compound amounts you had at the end of your previous life - confusing and damaging to gameplay for multiple reasons…

  1. It just doesn’t make much sense in terms of the narrative we are trying to convey. If each generation is at the very least millions and millions of years apart, the actions of a single ancestor shouldn’t have that exact and direct of an effect on a random descendant.
  2. If you ingested a lot of resources in your previous life, you don’t really need to do much to survive in the next life. Considering each lifespan is meant to be a test for the viability of an evolutionary build, you shouldn’t be able to rely on the success of a previous built to this extent. This is most noticeable for me when I spawn in with an ingested cell, giving me a steady stream of food and growth that I didn’t really earn for that specific lifespan.
  3. On the other end, if you didn’t gather a lot of resources in your previous life, you would be crippled in your next life, which can lead to a frustrating and quick death with little chance for the player to actually do anything about it. This also effects things like migration now that you absolutely have to survive your first generation in a new environment. I oftentimes just kill the cell upon spawning in these situations.

I think we should just find a way to standardize the amount of resources you spawn in with as a cell. This will address all of the issues listed out above, and can also give us another option in balancing the game. For example, we can have it so that, based on your organism’s net metabolic stats, you always spawn in with a Goldilocks’ starting value which is small enough to absolutely necessitate that you have to actually find atleast some food to survive, but big enough so that you don’t immediately run out of energy as soon as you spawn in. This can help in making sure that early-game builds are not excessively overpowered so that they atleast have to do something to survive and can’t just spawn in with absolutely no need to find a resource, and can further help ensure that we have the full picture for balancing metabolic processes.

We can reward exceptionally good lifespans, i.e. lifespans in which the player gathered a lot of resources, by attaching a population bonus to these good performances. So the player going to the editor with a good percentage of food gets a +250 population bonus to their auto-evo performance. This incentivizes the player to create very functional builds, but doesn’t make the specific amount of compounds with which you entered the editor with so dramatically effective on your next lifespan.


Why don’t we regenerate a patch every time you leave the editor? Wouldn’t that fix the narrative and many of the gameplay issues?

I really want us to hold off on breaking the continuity between player’s lives until we get to like aware stage. If even then people want to break the continuity, I’ll then allow it, but until then I’ll fight against people trying to make separate logic for the microbe stage and later stage reproduction in terms of continuity.

That seems like the opposite of what I would think. Continuity between lives in the microbe stage makes less sense to me than later on.

  • It is where the largest time jumps are
  • Microbe lives are super short
  • What does continuity mean in the microbe stage? You are not raising a family or creating an empire. In the microbe stage, continuity is really meaningless, other than being near the same clouds of resources that you were. Even then I would argue that having that form of continuity hurts the game more than helps it.
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That definitely would help and I think eventually is a needed step, but not addressing starting compounds still leaves the above mentioned gameplay issues, which I really find aggravating. If each generation symbolizes millions of years passing by, the actions of a great-great-great-great-great parent are not directly impacting you to the extent they are in Thrive.

I have enough concerns regarding gameplay that I really think we should address this soon, as it is really frustrating to spawn in with almost no resources. As I mentioned above, patch migration extinction is a big example, where your cell is essentially doomed from the beginning with no chance to successfully reproduce since they would spawn in with very little resources.

I agree with this. With such a microscopic scale and such a macroscopic temporal scale, continuity is an incredibly abstract concept in the Microbe Stage. Navigation and thus the need for strong continuity in the environment is deemphasized in exploring the environment because there isn’t really a presence of important landmarks for example. Broad patches are how we define the environment to the player.

In fact, we would benefit from much less continuity I feel. The early stages of a planet’s history are defined by fluctuations and broadscale changes. Especially considering things like Snowball Earth, oxygenation events, mass extinctions, you really are witnessing dramatic shifts as your planet matures and develops its biogeochemical processes. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that at various stages of the Precambrian, our Earth very much looked like completely different planets.


While I understand hh’s reticence, I definitely second the idea of breaking off this weird continuity. At the same time, being able to reproduce isn’t only what matters : your offspring also has to survive. As such, I would definitely call in favor of the multiple-generations gameplay loop, where you have to reproduce twice or thrice to evolve. In the mean time, I think this compounds-to-pop bonus sounds interesting as well.

It would serve the current purpose, while paving the way for altriciality in the later stages (that is, children being unfit for survival at first and getting taken care of by parents). There is also some litterature arguing that a form of altriciality was actually quintessential to the development of our brain-oriented species.

That gameplay loop could be interesting, but I doubt it would be something everyone would want. It would definitely have to be optional in the early stages.

I remember starting to consider the dual-reproduction loop a bit more (especially because of potential to overlap with future stages and potential for competition against a prior evolutionary step of your species which you mentioned) but I’m wary of again deciding to broadly change the gameplay loop considering recent changes. I think that discussion should be visited again once we reach 0.9. The current loop works fine in my opinion, but we’ll see if this changes and needs to be revisited with a more fleshed out microbe stage.

EDIT: I remember an idea various members on the community forums (including me) were supporting where reproduction is a bit decoupled from evolving. More specifically, reproducing still can send you to the editor, but it doesn’t have to. You can reproduce without going to the editor if you want to continue playing in your current environment or if you want to explore your current build more, and this grants you a population bonus (maybe shift clicking the reproduce button or something reproduces you without going to the editor). This gives the above benefits but means you have to reproduce again to go to the editor. This can preserve the current mechanic while allowing players the option of experiencing the life of their daughter cell. Again however, a discussion for another time I think.

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I just wanted to highlight that it is indeed not a light change that should be implemented right now.

Now for sure this is a discussion I think we should have one day or another.


I didn’t realize people like this much the idea of having a button to “get out of jail free” in the game…

I can more readily accept the concept of topping up or replacing the player’s stored compounds. But even in that case some alternate design like requiring the player to stockpile resources (or giving a warning if the player is not full on resources) before they get to the editor would teach the player how to play the game by planning ahead.

While sure some of it could serve as a get out of jail free, most of the time it won’t. For one, players need to press it to progress, so I doubt they will be waiting around to press it until they absolutely need to. The other thing is it is much closer to a randomize button, equally likely to make your life harder as it is easier.

We haven’t watched the same Youtube let’s plays then. In my experience quite often the situation is that a player can often wait until a predator attacks them for example to hit the editor button to get at least the evolution done before dying. That’s why resetting the environment will be an “exploit” of game mechanics to get out of various situations, basically then the editor button becomes an invincibility button.

If each lifespan is meant to be a trial of the player’s evolutionary build and we hold a successful reproduction to be the metric of this success, then in my opinion, those cases are acceptable for now. Because if we present that as the way a player demonstrates evolutionary viability, it shouldn’t matter what happens after demonstrating this success. And besides, a daughter cell wouldn’t be in that situation regardless because the next scene is supposed to be millions of years in the future. Binary fission is meant to be a very easy reproductive strategy anyways.

If it is that much of an issue, then there are other ways than forcing an unnatural continuity I feel, which I feel damages gameplay more than the get-out-of-jail issue. Something as simple as making it so that it takes ten seconds to divide once the player pressed the button, and making the player move slowly for this time, can make sure they aren’t always escaping situations they would die in.

As was mentioned, I don’t think this should be a priority right now, since I don’t think it will add that much more to the game currently. I’m open to being proven wrong on this though.

Having said that, this has been the plan since as far as I can remember in the game’s history. The plan for every stage up until Awakening is: Be born, grow up, reproduce, edit your creature, time jump, repeat. I think the current system is just the result of no one actually implementing in a proper time-jump system, and not an actual design choice. Off the top of my head, the features that would need to be changed to implement a proper time-jump system would be:

  • Compound stores reset to some baseline amount for the offspring cell that you are taking over
  • The environment is regenerated

@hhyyrylainen What you are suggesting are definitely the disadvantages of such a system, not that any system is perfect. To counterpoint the idea of reproduction being a saving grace, there are a few steps we could take:

  • The idea is that the journey from 0 to 100% reproduction progress is difficult enough, such that if the player is at 100% progress, it’s okay for them to use that as a saving grace if they’re about to be attacked by a predator. Since they’ve earned it through the difficult journey beforehand.
  • The current timed reproduction has greatly helped this by preventing how fast your compounds turn into reproduction progress, which means the smallest cells now don’t reproduce in 5 seconds.
  • We could make damaged cells need to heal before they can reproduce.

Untying Reproduction from Evolution

What you suggested of needing multiple generations before reproduction is something I’ve thought of many times before and was considering suggesting again recently. It’s basically the idea of separating evolution from reproduction, so a reproductive event is not guaranteed to trigger evolution. We could make it so that there is some fixed number of generations you need to live through before you can evolve and trigger a time-jump, like 2 or 3 or 4. Otherwise, we could also have it be percentage based. Like for example every time you reproduce there is a 25% chance you trigger an evolution. And certain events in the game could affect this percentage, like if you absorb some random floating DNA, perhaps your chance for an evolution in the next reproduction is higher. Both of these two systems would be perfect material for the starting settings. For example if you set the chance to evolve at 100%, that means you evolve every generation and the game is the same as before. But if you set it to lower percentages, then the potential number of generations you will play through increases. We could even make the percentage chance summative, so if you set it to 25% and you didn’t trigger evolution after your first reproduction, the chance now increases by another 25% to a total of 50% on your next reproduction. This ensures that if you set it to 25% you will always at least evolve by the fourth time, and never have any bad luck where you don’t evolve for 10 generations.

I don’t think we should keep the current system as is forever though, since we are at a weird middle ground of a semi time-jump where your environment and compound levels stay the same, but your cell evolves, the other cells evolve, and the environmental glucose levels decrease. We should decide which way to go and design it like that to keep things consistent.

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One thing I will say is that should we move towards slightly decoupling reproduction from the editor, we shouldn’t leave it up to chance a la the DNA-collection method you briefly discuss since that is the essential mechanic behind progression. It can lead to a lot of frustration for unlucky players. If the player wants to visit the editor, they should absolutely be able to go to the editor. I say we either make two reproductions the threshold for a trip to the editor or make it so that the player can go to the editor anytime they reproduce, but have the option to just reproduce without going to the editor for a bonus (like in population or a slight discount).

Having two reproductions be the threshold can bring the strategy of ensuring you have good enough compounds to reproduce so that the player has to consider that aspect atleast once, and then reset the scene after the second reproduction with the time jump (if the player can reproduce twice then they deserve the second one being a bit of a get out of jail card imo). I will say that this will mean we absolutely have to implement decently detailed life phases in the macroscopic stages, and that gives a lot of balancing issues to think about (in most growth based games babies are basically more boring and nerfed adults) as well as technical issues (many organisms, especially arthropods and diploblastic animals, can have dramatically different appearances based on their age). For an example, here is the life cycle for evolution’s favorite product, a crab:

I believe we’re already planning that regardless so it’s not necessarily a new thing, but it means we definitely have to make sure we give those aspects a lot of thought. The above looks like a bit of a nightmare to represent in Thrive.

That conversation, and game scene resets, are something that I don’t think are too much of a priority now and should be considered around 0.9. But I atleast want to motion that we address the spawning-compound amounts issue relatively soon to alleviate the rough edges we have right now in regards to migration, dying right after you exit the editor, not having to do anything in certain generations due to a lot of materials gathered in a previous life, spawning in with a cell inside you, etc.