The Aware Editor and Mechanics

With the progress we have been making recently on binding agents and the mentions of making skeletal prototypes of upcoming stages, I figured it would be a decent idea to begin work on discussing and planning out how one of the most critical elements of the upcoming multicellular and aware stages will play out.
The creature editor is going to be a step up in complexity and effort compared to the microbe editor, as not only will we need to develop a fully 3D editor, but it has also been largely discussed to feature freeform sculpting features, with a relatively loose definition of parts. Additionally, we must consider how the player’s choices in the previous stage will reflect in their creature, as the cells that once lived individually now form the entirety of the player’s character.
My hopes in discussing this, is that we will be able to form a concrete plan on how to approach this milestone in Thrive’s development, either it be a prototype, or the real deal.

To begin, I have taken the liberty in planning out a general layout for the editor, and how the player might edit specific parts.

The Tabs:
The GUI layout should be relatively similar to that of the microbe editor that we know. The Structure and Membrane tabs will be converted into Anatomy and Integuments tabs respectively, while the Behavior tab will remain the same.
Despite the new appearances, the tabs will still retain their general functionality and organization from the previous stage, so it should remain familiar to the player.

Anatomy:
The anatomy tab is the multicellular equivalent of the Structure Tab. However; unlike the microbe editor, this tab will feature parts comprised of the specialized cells the player has made, which will be organized into tissues unless otherwise specified.
Each selection within this tab will actually be a cell variant that the player has made, which represents what the flesh will be comprised of. Depending on what parts the player used to make each cell, the tissue will have different properties that reflect the cell’s functionality. So you could make things like photosynthetic skin, or just really efficient and uncostly skin.

Tissue:
The tissue category is comprised of basic “materials” that the player can use to sculpt their creature with. Each material is actually a specialized cell that the player has made, and the cell’s functions will dictate how the tissues will function in turn. Unlike the later categories, the tissues are the basic structural external components of the creature which will be used to form it’s abdomen and limbs. In essence, it’s basically the creature’s skin and muscles. The player will likely want to make most of these tissues uncostly and simple, but could create more unique tissues for cool functions, such as thermosynthetic spots on the creature, or something.

Organs:
The organs are the creature’s more complex parts such as eyes or the digestive system. Unlike the tissues, these organs may potentially have to be predefined as specific functional types and such to keep things relatively simple. So for example, the player would create cells for their predefined “eye” organ, which would determine what it sees, how well it sees, and how costly or efficient it is. From there the player could place the eye, now made of their cells, as a capsule shape on the creature. My reasoning here is that things like eyes are complex structures, that would be very difficult to sculpt in freeform, while keeping them animated and mechanically sound.
However; I feel that some player would not like the constraints that would be placed on them by such a system, so introducing a “custom organ” option would allow players to make more free-form internal parts for their own desires, but would not have the same mechanical complexity as the pre-specified organs. Internal organs will not have an actual appearance, and will simply be designated regions on the interior of the model that will represent the organ’s size. This could potentially be quite clunky however.

Integuments:
Integuments are the outer coating of a creature. Not to be confused with the skin. This tab will present the player with bodily coverings that they can use to dress their creature so it doesnt look like some kind of alien mole rat.

Coat:
The coat types will work much like membranes, in that they will grant the creature with passive bonuses that increase survivability in different climates, and resistance to certain hazards. The types will consist of features such as fur, scales, slime, etc.

Clumps:
Clumps are parts that act as specified regions of the coats above. Clumps will allow players to create bodily features such as manes, armpit hair, or scaled regions of the body. These parts are mostly for looks, but could potentially provide rather tiny functional bonuses themselves.

Pigmentation:
The pigmentation here refers to the coloring of the integuments on the creature, as pigmentation is otherwise dictated by the color of the cells that comprise the player’s tissues. I’m not entirely sure what the best method of implementing this would be, as I assume that players would want to create differently colored hair on their creature, rather than having the entire coat be homogeneous in color.
Behavior:
The behavior tab will likely be functionally identical to the microbe editor’s. Though it is possible that we could introduce more sophisticated behavior options to reflect that the player species presumably now has something resembling a brain.

The Layers:
Now that I have listed out the part tabs for the editor, I would like to go over how we might manage sculpting the creature itself. Unlike other games that generally have preset limbs that players can drag onto their creature, Thrive has been foreseen to allow players to freely sculpt their creature. This causes problems however, when it comes to defining what is or isn’t a limb for animating and such. My answer to this complication, is allowing the player to define the difference themselves by using something like “layers”. By switching between these layers, players will be able to alter their creature’s body, or begin sculpting limbs specifically. This should make animation and characterization much easier mechanically.


Abdominal:
The Abdominal layer is the base shape of the creature, it’s core body. This part is where the creature’s vital organs will typically be kept, and it generally wont be making too many movements unless the creature lacks limbs. The player’s sculpting of the abdomen will mostly be freeform and unconstrained so they can make a variety of wild shapes. It will also serve as the anchor point that all other parts attach to.

Limbs:
The limbs are sections of the body that branch off of the abdomen. Unlike the relatively straightforward abdomen, the limbs have specific mechanics that will allow the player to create joints and appendages while sculpting them. When a player wants to create a limb, they will change to the limb layer and click anywhere on the abdomen to create a joint at that location.

Segments:
Segments are the sculpted sections of the limb. These are the physical and sculpted parts that consist of the player’s tissues, and are what will determine the limb’s strength and such. Player’s can freely sculpt these segments to be really thick and bulky, or lithe and spindly.

Joints:
Once a player has created a segment branching from their abdomen, they can now choose to create a new joint on the segment, which will be used to create yet another segment, and effectively create a flexible limb. Joints are not really visual, and are just points of articulation for animation purposes, as well as anchors for the different segments to connect to each other. The joints will also be important as interactive elements that the player can use to drag the segments around into different positions, in order to reshape how the limbs will rest.

Appendages:
Appendages are the parts that cap off the limb. either it be a hand, foot, weird pad thing, or some kind of spike, these segments will be used to anchor the creature to the ground, or allow it to grasp objects in it’s environment. Sculpting appendages may be a large discussion in itself, and I am afraid I have no concrete ideas for them at this time.

I hope that this is all comprehensible. Unfortunately I do not have applicable artistic talent to create visual references for these rather complex concepts, but I give it a try later regardless.

There are quite a few areas I am uncertain on here, such as how we will manage an animation skeleton for the player’s abdomen. Should players shape it themselves or will we be able to generate it?
How will players create appendages? Should they be able to sculpt the digits or will we simply have preshaped digits that the player can select for the hands/feet?
How should we assign color to a creature’s coat? Should it all be one color, or will players be able to “paint” their creature’s integuments?

Let me know how you think about this, and if you have any additional ideas or comments, by all means share them!

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I suppose this shows the problem with designing future stages before the previous one is finished.
I say this because, we’ll need a new tab in the cell stage for “body plan”. In order to design where each cell goes in an early multicellular species, a new tab is needed. But also the previous cell tabs are needed because the player needs to still have a way to edit the cell types they place in their body plan.

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Yes! This is a pretty good start, though I do have some suggestions and concerns.

On Integuments:
First of all, I figure different types of integuments (and possibly skins as well) could be handled with different tissues – perhaps different from tissues used to sculpt the main volume of the body, so you can’t accidentally fill your insides with a rolled-up mass of skin or something. (ew)
And also this would make skin an integumentary tissue (it’s in the name after all) that the player would have to evolve to protect their insides from the elements.

As tissues, they might also have to be unique in that they can create structures made of cells or dead material on top of them…though it would be interesting for internal tissues to have these capabilities as well. (Could be used to create support structures made of nonliving material for cells?) Coats with different pigmentation could simply be represented by similar tissues that make structures with different pigments, so some areas could be “painted” in different integumentary tissues to create patterns of differently-colored fur, for example.

This system would lead to a lot of very similar tissues. Even without differently-pigmented versions of the same type of fur, for example, a lot of different integumentary tissues would be based on the same “skin” layer. If I were making some multicolored fluffy animal, I wouldn’t want to manually make a skin tissue, a skin with red fur tissue, a skin with yellow fur tissue, a skin with blue fur tissue, etc…

Perhaps tissues could be organized in some sort of tree, where they inherit some of the properties of their parent. So bare skin would be the base, and skin with all the different colors of fur would be based off of that (or perhaps the player could even make one “default” skin with fur tissue, and all the others only differ by which pigments are produced!)
This could get very complicated to set up though. Edits to some base tissue might be so big that they break all others based on them, and even if they don’t, just getting normal changes to carry through the entire tree could be tricky on its own. It also might not be very intuitive.

Another solution is closer to your idea, which is to have “growths” like fur, feathers, setae, and possibly scales (i feel like we need a better word for these, since integuments does usually refer to to skin. Just “coats” again maybe?) added as an extra layer on top of skin – so you could have different regions of both soft and tough skin, different integumentary tissues, and you could tell both to start growing the same type of hair.

The difference is that your suggestions of a full coat, clumps, and pigmentation would all be handled by this. A full coat would be a layer of one type of growth painted on every surface of the body (maybe with a fill bucket kind of tool, haha) while clumps would be smaller areas of types different than their surroundings. Differently-pigmented areas would be handled by simply painting different types of growths in different areas.


Working on this concept, I realized that some integumentary layers, like the shell here, wouldn’t/shouldn’t allow “fur” to be painted on top of them. Though, would a shell even be in the same category as skin? It’s probably made up of mostly dead structures, and in some cases it might be on top of the skin, but it’s also structurally totally different from fur and feathers and scales. In some cases it might even be an extension of the skeleton, like in turtles…

Maybe shells would be considered to be in the same category as skin, for simplicity and intuitiveness’ sake I suppose, meaning there needs to be a way for players to create integumentary tissues of tough, likely dead material like it. And it’s up to the player whether or not to include “follicles,” or places fur and stuff can grow, in each of their integumentary tissues. Including them grants the ability to add fur, feathers, and scales, which can be very useful, but adding them to something like a shell may compromise its strength (or be a useless addition, given the location)

The density of something like fur would be dependent on the density of follicles on the skin tissue it is based on, which could require an unintuitive and unpleasant trip out of the fur editor/painter, and into the skin tissue editor. Then, changing the follicle density would also change the density of fur everywhere else on the organism’s body, unless the player made a new skin tissue, which would probably just be the exact same as the other except with a different follicle density… so it’s probably best to have fur/growth density controlled in the editor for said fur/growth, or the brush used to paint them.

As for slime, I feel like it will have to be handled separately as a secretion, possibly similar to agents in a way.

On layers and structure
This is also a good place to start! Though some might see the abdominal layer as being too close to how Spore does things, I think it’s ultimately reasonable to have a “core” to anchor the organism to.

The abdominal region could vary a lot between different organisms. If could be compact and rigid, with lots of extra appendages branching out from it, or long and flexible with few extra parts to speak of, like a snake or worm.

We do need to remember to not make things too animal-centric, though. How would organisms like grass and other plants work? The editor in general needs to be ready to handle asymmetric organisms, and not force bilateral symmetry or even a “front” until the player has developed bilateral symmetry and cephalized.

Concept I did a while ago for a 3D editor, including some thoughts on symmetry and asymmetry

Joints and segments seem like a reasonable way of implementing limbs, but I think we do need to be careful about how they’re evolved. It shouldn’t be too easy to evolve new limbs or joints out of nowhere, instead new limbs should be repurposed from existing structures if possible (likely developed in early multicellular, when adding new structures is easier?) However, it might also need to be skewed in the player’s favor, since getting onto land is a very important part of the game and getting stuck because you just don’t have the any parts to adapt into limbs isn’t going to be fun.

I thought that joints and segments might be able to be used to create necks, but starting with a head on the abdomen and then moving it to an appendage at the end of a segment is probably not the best way of doing so. Since the abdomen is sculptable and potentially flexible, the head part could be extended from the rest and given muscles to help it move around, but that introduces areas of different flexibility and movement on the same body of tissue, which also seems tricky to figure out.
Perhaps in organisms with a “front,” the abdomen (which is becoming an increasingly unfitting word as I keep coming up with these ideas) can be segmented, creating different portions with different properties.

(warning: i am now rambling)
For instance you could have a core (abdominal!) segment, which is rigid and sturdy, then a neck at the front, which is longer and flexible (or also rigid, but has muscles to move it around at the base), etc.

And maybe segments could be duplicated (like how centipedes grow), giving you copies of it and whatever parts were on it for much cheaper than it would be to just extend your body and remake the parts from scratch. This ability would be very easy to exploit though, so maybe it should be limited?
…Though perhaps auto-evo might do all the work, because I was thinking of a human-sized organism duplicating its “leg” segments to get several more, but having that many legs would be a bad move and a waste of energy and resources.
But also, consider an imbalanced organism with just one pair of legs, which would be benefited by another pair. It seems unrealistic for it to just duplicate its legs; realistically it would probably try to adapt other structures or just try to balance itself better. So maybe duplication could be another thing that’s easier at the early multicellular scale? Should there really be one point where stuff like that just stops being possible? I am using segmentation to describe two totally different ideas, one being a feature present on arthropods in real life, the other being a way to divide the core body, already an abstraction, because I’m too lazy to figure out how different parts of it might behave differently, so they might not really be compatible ideas.
(actually what am i saying i’m always rambling but now i am going to ramble about something else)

How would tentacles work? Would they be separate parts from limbs? I remember something from the GDD, I think, about a part called “wormacles,” which could be used for both tentacles and worm-like bodies. Could an abdomen be a wormacle? Or would all wormacle-like parts just have some flexibility setting turned up? In which case, tentacles would be flexible limb segments, or some other extension? They could just be flexible, muscle-filled “spikes,” which would just be long structures that taper to a point at the end. The flexibility of a tentaspike would make it soft and able to grasp stuff, but a spike made of a more rigid material could serve as an impaling weapon.


I’m finally out of ideas, but I’d like to suggest these videos by Biblaridion:
Alien Biospheres: Part 2 - Early life and Body Plans
Alien Biospheres: Part 3 - Cladistics and Ecology
They’re pretty relevant to this topic, and they go over body plans, cephalization, segmentation, and the adaptation of existing structures into new ones, and they might give you an idea of how early life could develop and set the stage for more complex organisms.

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I figured it could only help to at least have a plan for the future before we get there. If things don’t turn out quite as anticipated I’m sure there will atleast be some salvageable concepts.

I’m glad you brought this up actually, as I forgot to mention how I was thinking players would be able to edit their tissues directly.
Tissue
My proposed solution is simple. Instead of having any additional tabs or sections, the player will simply click the tweaker options located around or on the icons of the tissues to bring themselves back to the cell editor, where they will be able to directly edit the cell of their choosing. They could also create new tissues/specialized cells by creating a copy of the original, and then editing it.

As for the body plan tab you brought up, I would say that could probably replace the membrane tab in early multicelluar creatures. I can’t quite think of anything that could be used in that place otherwise.

Interesting idea! Though personally I would prefer to let the player avoid having to go into the cell editor for even the furs or scales. If we do go through with that method, I would think that just having a simple part for excreting products like keratin and such would suffice. So placing such parts would make your cells produce things like hair and such.

I feel like that would be really complicated for what it’s worth. It’s probably best if each tissue is kind of it’s own thing.

Are you saying players would be able to paint the materials onto their creature with this method? If my understanding is correct, that would probably make for a pretty smooth experience for customization, which is good. However, I fear how difficult it would be to pull off when it comes to programming. If the programmer are capable, I would say this could be a decent option.

Honestly, I have no idea how to handle plants, or sessile organisms in general. Due to the drastic differences in gameplay and behavior, it could possibly necessitate an entirely different editor. I would prefer if that wasn’t the case though, so I say that should only be an option if we can’t think of any alternatives.

I would say the player should always be able to create new limbs. That doesn’t mean it will be cheap of course, new limbs could potentially have a cost akin to the nucleus, which would make them a commitment. This would also introduce a rather unique value in vestigial remnants that the player could keep around incase they need to develop them.

After talking a little with Nunz, I realized that we might actually need to put some thought into how to handle a skeletal structure for the core body. The limbs are fine, but to be properly rigged for animation (and to animate the torso to begin with), the core is going to need a jointed animation skeleton for the limbs to branch from. In the concept art you posted, we could potentially use your idea for tree-like organizational sculpting to make that skeleton, but I feel that might get wonky really quickly without some form of proper control… Certainly something to think about, I don’t have anything right now though.

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Since you mentioned clumps, I was assuming that different areas having different covering types was already part of the concept! Though I guess I can see how actually implementing a brush to paint them onto the skin of an organism would be pretty tough.

That makes sense. Maybe we can go even simpler (on the player’s part, at least) and let them choose a covering type that they have access to (fur, setae, scales, feathers, etc.), and then also optionally let them apply a color, based on what pigments they have access to. Then they’d essentially be painting an area on their skin where the tissues produce the desired covering, regardless of whether or not the base tissue was producing anything.

I think it’d be pretty confusing to have multiple different ways of adding coverings, so I think only one should be kept. Manually editing the tissue (or duplicates of it) in order to make it produce the covering you want might put you more in the mindset of tweaking your organism’s biology on a lower level, but it will probably be a lot more tedious: If you want to toughen up your skin, but you also have a full rainbow of fur for some reason, you’ll have to go through every single one of your integumentary tissues including the kind of skin you want to change. It’s a bit of an extreme example, but it shows why I’m not too keen on skin and coverings being unified into a single tissue.
It’d be so much smoother to just edit the one integumentary tissue you want and be done with it, keeping your full rainbow of fur that you still have for some reason, except it’s now all growing on a slightly different type of tissue.

For pigments, depending on how in depth we want to make them, fur’s default color could be a pale blonde or white, and would be darkened or colored by different pigments, or we could just have different pigments unlock a certain range of colors on a color wheel. Or we could just unlock the whole color spectrum to the player, but I feel it would be more interesting if colors had to be earned.

Even if it’s with a huge cost, you’ll still be gradually creating limbs from thin air. With enough commitment, you can have any number of limbs you want, no matter what your initial body plan looked like. In that way, even if it takes several times longer, it’s a lot like Spore, which I think we should try to avoid. Being forced to adapt existing structures into limbs might be more difficult on the player, but the restriction might also force them to come up with more creative solutions than “grow leg”


It’s tricky!
I’m gonna start rambling. get ready
Here’s some messy thoughts on asymmetry, forwardness, and sessile organisms.


I don’t have much more to say about the plant idea that I haven’t already written/drawn, but I will further explain all my thoughts on symmetry and “forwardsness”:

Symmetry and Forwardsness

A “foward” direction shouldn’t be shown to the player or their organism until they develop
a front side. If you have a motile yet frontless organism, like the purple radially symmetric crab thing near the top, you would essentially always be strafing. If you turned your camera and held W, it wouldn’t turn its body so it faces that direction when it walks that way; it would just start walking, because it isn’t facing in any direction.

I also showed how something similar could happen on all axes for a blob floating in the water (the cell to the right of the crab), which wouldn’t care which side of its body is up or down. The camera would probably want to stay right-side-up, though, otherwise I can imagine things getting disorienting pretty fast. Actually I can’t really imagine a benefit to simulating whether orgs want to tumble around or stay upright or not, so it might be something we overlook. (of course, i’ll keep talking about it here anyway)

image


Then I showed how the same body plan could be oriented in different ways to behave totally differently.
So if you keep the purple radial “crab” standing upright, it has no front but does have a sense of down. But if you tilt it to the side (and put it in the water and make it swim like an octopus) then it switches to having a front (along where the axis of up and down used to be) but it no longer has a “right way up.” And then I showed how both of these forms could adapt to have both a sense of forward and up and down.
This would probably be super complicated to program, but I think it’d really be worth it because (im sure you can tell) I think the adaptation of existing body plans and structures into new forms and purposes is a really interesting part of evolution! And I noticed how, between the upright and “octopus rotation” crab, the “down” axis turned into a “foward” axis, and the lack of a front translated into a lack of a right way up, so it might even be more predictable than I’m imagining.

Some 3D models showing this.

The blue light comes from the organism’s direction of down.
The red light comes from the organism’s direction of forward.


Radial “crab” – no front, upright

image
Ditto, “octopus” rotation – has front, no right side up

image
This thing – has both a front and a right side up

image
Same shape, but rotated. The top side becomes the front, the back side becomes the underside. Any of these could have been in the opposite direction.

image
Another rotation, this time the underside of the original, rather than the upperside, becomes the front. This is similar to the difference between quadrupedal animals and bipedal humans, actually: we face in the direction of our ventral sides, while quadrupeds’ ventral sides face the ground. I dunno if the distinction between dorsal and ventral sides is particularly important in Thrive, only forward & back and up & down. Though it might be important if we want, say, countershading to stay in the “same” locations. But also, if this is a rotation, and patterns are painted on the skin, then all the patterns should just be rotated with the body?

image
Just a blob. It does not care. (No forwards or down)


The blob has decided that this is the direction it wants to be its underside, but it remains without a front side.

And then there’s a little box I drew about ventral and dorsal sides (which I already rambled about in the spoiler) and then some examples of unusual symmetries and directions.


So, on the technical side of all this:
This would be… hard. I say organisms should begin without any sense of forward and back or up and down, but an object can’t just be created without an x, y, and z axis. Furthermore, with the system I’ve described here, of creatable and rotatable axes of frontness and downness, an organism’s orientation may end up being totally skewed away from the three axes.


(Note how totally misaligned the forward and down arrows are with XYZ space)
However, with such a modular system for organism bodies, perhaps it wouldn’t be so hard to just rotate them into place once the player defines or redefines one of these axes.
And since the direction of forwards and the direction of downwards must always be perpendicular, we can always ensure that, when applicable, an organism faces parallel to the horizontal axis, and stands parallel to the vertical axis. (not sure which axes we’ll end up using)



So ok let’s say you have a formless blob in the editor. Obviously it exists in XYZ space, but the player doesn’t know where each of the axes are; they can only float the camera around. (Though if we let the camera rotate 100% freely, things could get disorienting really quickly. That might be what we want considering the player’s organism isn’t oriented in any way to begin with, but it still might be frustrating for the player to navigate)

RyXwiGYhxE
If the player assigns the organism a front, the whole organism (all of its parts and the core body itself) are rotated around the core (or a center of mass? no idea) so that the new front is parallel to the horizontal axis.


Then, if a down direction is set, which can be any angle perpendicular to the front, the organism will again be reoriented so that lies properly on the x, y, and z axes.


Now, if it wasn’t already, the camera will start moving in a way more like one would expect, akin to those in the editors of Spore and Kerbal Space Program, for instance.
I also added a “horizon,” which would be a neat way of showing that, yes, your organism knows which way the floor should be now.

Note that the player also could’ve determined the down direction first, which would have fixed the camera (and added the horizon) right away, but they wouldn’t have any indicator of where forward was or be able to cephalize or anything until they chose an angle perpendicular to the down angle to be the front.
This would place them in pretty much the same situation as the radially-symmetric crab thing.


Minus the legs.


Symmetry
So I was originally thinking that, only once either a forward or down direction are set, would symmetry become available. I figured symmetry, especially bilateral symmetry, should probably only be done along the x, y, and z axes, otherwise things could get complicated. But besides the fact that almost all types of radial symmetry go outside the x, y, and z axes, it would also completely lock many organisms out of having symmetry.
image
Diatoms immediately come to mind. They have very many wonderful symmetries, but as algae, they barely move at all, and those that do probably don’t have one direction (a front) they prefer doing so in.
image
Their shells are divided into two parts, called an epitheca and a hypotheca, the former overlapping and usually drawn on top of the latter, however I don’t think this means they actually always want the epitheca to be pointing upward. The way they reproduce also suggests that some of them start “upside down” too? But I’m not an expert on that at all.
image
It’s actually fairly easy to get a point or vector’s mirror across a plane, so theoretically any plane of symmetry with any angle should be fine to calculate, but it just feels weird and potentially very messy to have symmetry be totally… unanchored. The planes of radial symmetry may not always form perfect 90 degree angles, but I’d usually expect the line of their intersection to be parallel to one of the three axes, not floating off in between them.

Perhaps organisms can have axes representing “forward and back” and “up and down” without explicitly defining which way should be forward and which way should be down.

image
For instance, for radially symmetric diatoms, you could pretty easily draw a line going “down” through their center, through which all of the planes of symmetry would intersect, but that doesn’t mean they specifically want one side of them to face downward. (I assume)


Furthermore, consider this low-poly orchid flower. (probably not the best example, since it isn’t a full organism but rather a part of one, but just imagine it as its own thing for now). It doesn’t have any one direction it likes to face when it walks forward – it can’t move at all – and though they tend to grow in a certain orientation, they don’t have to always keep one side pointing down, but you can still very easily draw a plane of symmetry parallel to both it’s “forward and back” axis and it’s “up and down” axis, shown in red and blue respectively.

Eventually, these axes could be turned into specific orientations for your organism, rather than vague guides for symmetry.

Actually that last example made me realize that bilateral symmetry would need both axes to be defined in order to be used, as otherwise it wouldn’t be able to properly create a plane of symmetry. Planes need two vectors (and a point) to be described. If you could make a plane of symmetry with just one axis, it’d have to guess at what the other axis is, and may end up placing it in a place the player doesn’t want.

Radial symmetry might be better, but it depends on the type. (There’s technically two different kinds of “radial” symmetry but, as far as I can tell, the word is used interchangeably to refer to both?)
In my 3D Editor/Metaball concept image I included in my last message, I had a whole section dedicated to symmetry, which I’ll just crop out and put here:



With unmirrored, or “true radial” symmetry, as I probably incorrectly called it, you could safely use it with just a single axis, as any points are simply duplicated a certain number of times and rotated a certain number of degrees around the line.


“Snowflake-style” radial symmetry, on the other hand, which seems more common in nature, relies upon multiple planes of reflection. Using the up-to-down axis, one plane will be created as a “base,” around which all of the other planes will be created with the proper angles.

Of course, every type of symmetry also needs a center point, through which the forward-to-back and up-to-down axes intersect. I feel like it should be static, since moving a point of symmetry around could lead to messy and very asymmetrical organisms. As I showed in the 3D editor concept, parts of organisms that have different symmetry from the rest, such as the radial flowers of an overall asymmetric plant, could perhaps be handled as separate body parts made in their own editor which would then be copied all around the main body…but that’s a totally different discussion and I’m getting tired.

Later I might try to show the process of creating an organism with these systems, starting with an amorphous blob and ending with a bilateral, vertically-oriented creature, as well as some more varied body plans, and perhaps I might get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.

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Alright, I’m gonna walk through a few evolutionary paths that might be interesting. I’ll also experiment with removing the need to specify a “down” direction and just having it be permanently fixed.

We also do need to think more about the early mechanics of the multicellular editor, and how placing individual cells leads to 3D sculpting with tissues, and while that’s arguably a more important discussion it might be better suited for another thread.

To "fish"


So, once again I’m starting with some blobby colony.
image
(note that the camera is technically “upside down” right now. In-game, the “z” axis might not even be vertical relative to it. At this point, it should not matter.)

I decide that I want to add a “mouth” of sorts, so first I set a front side: (once again I’m using the red light to show which is the front, which shouldn’t actually be in the editor)


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Then I add a mouth in the direction I’ll be swimming. I also could’ve added the mouth first, then set the direction to ensure that it’s to my front.

Later on, if I want to give myself bilateral symmetry so I can swim more efficiently, I can choose some arbitrary angle (perpendicular to the front) to be my down direction: (once again, the blue light shows which is the underside)


The organism orients itself to the vertical axis, as does the camera (remember how it was upside down before)


I use the two axes to define a plane of bilateral symmetry, which I then use to sculpt my organism further.
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To "fish," but with down fixed


So I once again start with a blob, but this time its underside starts out already determined.

I want to give it a mouth, so I choose some arbitrary front direction and it aligns itself accordingly:

I could either add a mouth first, then define a plane of bilateral symmetry to sculpt the rest, or define the plane right away and then create everything else. I’m gonna do the latter.


"Anthostomes"


Next I’ll create a radial, sessile organism inspired by Biblaridion’s anthostomes, as well as a motile form representing either their larvae or some organism descended from them.

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I’ll start with a blob. Since these organisms “stand” upright, anchored to the ground, I’ll specify their down direction first. (Also…should we add an option for whether an organism wants to keep its down direction perpendicular to the surface it’s on, or parallel to gravity? The former would be most useful for organisms like plants and barnacles, but it’s an extra option players would have to worry about and also it’d be weird on animals, unless it can crawl like a spider or a lizard. Perhaps decide it automatically based on whether the organism has some sort of adherence to surfaces? Overall, not really important right now)


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Down is decided, everything aligns vertically. I sculpt the top of my organism, but now I want to add snowflake-style radial symmetry, which needs two axes to define the base plane. Since these organisms are sessile, they don’t have a front direction, so I’ll just add a vague front-back axis.



After adding these appendages, the sessile form is done. Now, I shall create the motile form based on it.


I “swap” the organism’s axes by doing a 90 degree rotation (there should probably be a specific tool for this in the editor). The down axis becomes the front axis, while the front-back axis becomes the up-down axis.


Actually, the down axis might have to convert to a vague front-back axis, because I might end up wanting this side to become the new front instead.

"Anthostomes," with down fixed

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So with down already set, I quickly start sculpting my top, but once again I wish to add snowflake-style symmetry, so I add a front-back axis.



Done. Moving on to the motile form again.



Once again, I swap the axes. The down axis becomes the front, while the front-back axis becomes purely the down axis, since that is always fixed. So depending on the rotation, different sides of the organism could end up becoming the new underside.


Again, the down axis could just convert to a vague front-back axis, because I might be aiming for this, where the new front is opposite the old down.

Either way, we’re done. It does have an underside even though it’s radially symmetric, but I don’t think that’s too big of a deal.

Quadruped to biped


We’ll be starting with this thing, and turning it into a bipedal creature.

First, we shall rotate it so its front side is facing the same direction as it’s “ventral” side:


Wait, that’s stupid. The legs are totally parallel to the ground, while the head is pointed skyward and just about as far away from the front as possible. This is not a good creature.


Let’s try again.


The actual best way to do this is probably to gradually develop our front limbs into manipulators, while still keeping their functionality as feet.


Over time, we change its posture, making it rely on its front limbs less and less.


behold: a man.

So, to make these transformations, I would’ve had to rotate the core body a number of times, while keeping the limbs at roughly the same angles, with the feet remaining on the ground but the new arms rising with the shoulders.

Overall, it doesn’t seem like giving every organism a “down” direction really changes much.
Now, in these next ones, I’m actually gonna explore whether or not the front direction itself can also afford to be static. It might be strange that plants and formless organisms have a front side, but that doesn’t mean the game’s telling them to get up and start walking in that direction – but it can be there for whenever players decide to start doing so.
Having to pick a point to be the front might not be something players realize they can/have to do, and the organism rotation that happens because of it might be really tricky to implement.

Plant.


This is me.
I have an underside, and yes, also a front, though that doesn’t matter to me at all right now. I want to photosynthesize, so I’ll grow some surfaces to soak up light and maybe get a bit taller too.



Cool.
So, as long as auto-evo doesn’t try to develop structures on one side or try to make them move because of it, totally sessile and asymmetrical plants aren’t changed much by having a front side.

Crab.


The radially symmetric crab seems to have a bit more of a change. Even though it has four identical sides, it has one which it prefers to keep forward, meaning it’ll turn its body around to face whatever direction it’s going, which is a bit disappointing of a result compared to it strafing all over the place, but it’s a little bit of an edge case and overall not too big of a deal, I think.

Actually, some bilateral organisms can also strafe, so maybe different organisms can be more likely to move their body in a direction that isn’t their front, based on their speed and the position of sensory organs? Something like a human would strafe and backpedal, especially if it wanted to keep its eyes on something (based on camera position?), but would try to turn and run forward when sprinting. (Hm, if the camera position is locked to a certain area based on what your organism can sense – I think someone did a concept on that – then it might get suddenly yanked into a different direction when spriting, which might be unpleasant)
Meanwhile, a radially symmetric crab like this could move in any direction it pleases because it’s equally equipped both in speed and senses in each. An actual earth crab would move sideways, because it’s far faster in that direction than it is forward.

Its symmetry is snowflake-style radial, going through the vertical axis, the base plane quite easily being defined by the forward and vertical axes.

Anthostomes again


So the sessile forms have a front side, which as shown by the plant example should hopefully not be a big deal.


Though front and down are fixed, if the whole “rotate organism” “tool” is kept, it can be snapped 90 degrees and have its axes swapped. This… seems to work fine, it does have an underside despite its radial symmetry though.


I’m also not sure how I’d get to the alternate front, since there would be no vague “forward-to-back” axes, and down would immediately just get converted to forwards.

Maybe another tool to reverse the front, rotating it 180 degrees? In most cases it’d be useless and make creatures start walking backwards, but it’d work here I guess. A tool to invert which direction is down would also be just about as useless. It’d change the orientation of tentacles on the above two organisms, most other things would be flipped onto their heads or have no meaningful change at all. I’m done.

Ok so what have I learned
All these ideas and 3d models and gifs have all been a waste of time! The benefits of having flexible axes are small, and are probably outweighed by the simplicity of just… not. And the rotating body plan thing probably won’t be useful in most cases either.
Stupid.
Ok, so now I’ll know to focus on other ideas in the future, unless I’m somehow actually onto something here again? but I just don’t see anything in it anymore.

Should we use this thread for the transitions to and from early multicellular (from individual cells, to tissues) or should we make a new one? Or is there an existing thread we should go to for that?
We’ll also need to think more about how the core body and appendages will work. How complex should the core body be? Will it be allowed to “branch out” in multiple different directions? How will other parts, besides limbs, like spikes and tentacles work?

And how should advanced parts like hands and mouths be handled by the player? Preset parts? I hope not, but they’ll be difficult to both make from scratch and procedurally generate. What would a head’s relation be to the core body? (Remember it would probably start out as part of the core body, then eventually become more of its own part due to cephalization. Would it remain a part of the core, but connected by a more complicated “neck” that’s part of the skeleton? Or would it become its own part?)

Wow, sorry. I realize now that I’ve basically wasted everyone’s time by shooting down my own idea, then introducing a bunch of unanswered questions, haha. I’ll keep thinking about this though, it’s quite an interesting and important topic. maybe my pointless ramblings have some good ideas in them somewhere still.
Sorry.

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I must say Narotiza, you have impressed me with all of this speculation you have made. While it may not seem inherently fruitful to you, it is most certainly helpful to reach a better understanding of what exactly we do and don’t need to do for the future.

There’s an incredible amount of complexity we are going to be dealing with here. More so than I anticipated for sure. It’s clear to me now that Hh was quite right about the ramifications of beginning discussion on this topic so soon. I think just having a general idea about the layout of the editor will be fine for now, and we will leave the drastically more intensive questions for another time.

That being said, There are a couple threads that relate to progression to and through the multicellular stage so I recommend we either discuss that topic there, or create a topic specifically for the multicellular editor.
I think I have a general idea on how it could work, but there are some areas where elaboration will surely be needed.

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I don’t have much new at the moment, but I wanted to say that we need to keep in mind that every editor needs to be easily manipulable by auto-evo.

I assume we’re all on the same page that auto-evo needs to be relatively targeted? We should avoid generating a handful of purely random mutations for each organism, as it will get really inefficient and costly as organisms get larger and as more species arise. It’s easier to add a random organelle to a cell and have it be beneficial, but on a larger scale, truly beneficial mutations will end up being extremely rare and aesthetics will suffer. Creatures will probably end up looking like those from Species ALRE and Ecosystem which, while fascinating games in their own right, are quite different from Thrive in their approach to evolution.
Auto-evo, while targeted, should be imperfect by design, rarely making the most profitable choice possible, and sometimes failing to make any good changes whatsoever (possibly based on factors such as species population and rate of reproduction). It would also have to occasionally make multiple “decisions,” two or possibly more, so species can split.
I might be wrong on this, of course. We’ve barely tested anything with truly advanced auto-evo, so let me know if my idea of the system isn’t right, or even if I’m underestimating the capabilities of auto-evo.

Either way, however, it’s probably best to design the editor and the structure of organisms to be structurally simple, yet flexible, so auto-evo can interact with them without too many headaches. I thought maybe the player could have a more sophisticated editor while the NPCs have something more basic, but that would end up being problematic, especially considering literally every organism is descended from the player’s first species. (and even if it’s simple enough to work with then, later on when auto-evo inherits the player’s more advanced designs, it might not know how to work with it)

as I said before, having an abdominal/core region of the organism body seems to be a good first step, as it should hopefully work for most organisms, including sessile ones like plants, if we don’t force bilateral symmetry on them, but excluding some unique, decentralized organisms, like slime molds (which may be a sacrifice we have to make :c)

The core would have to be (mostly), structurally and functionally, convex; its overall shape will influence an organism’s capabilities, movement, mass, etc., but any extra bits would be handled by appendages attached to it. So a starfish would be a roughly pentagonal blob with 5 arms growing out of it, a human would be a torso with arms and legs (should the head be part of the core or not?) and Just about the entire body of a snake would be one long, wiggly core.

(Sorry, I just now realized that you used “appendages” in your initial post to describe structures like hands or feet that cap off limbs, while I used them to describe limbs, fins, horns, and just about anything that sticks out of the torso… sorry for the confusion)
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With bones animating the core, things get more complicated. They would let snakes and eels wiggle, which might be an automatic thing with enough flexibility and length to the core, but they would also allow for necks, or parts that move in different ways to the rest of the body, to be created, letting the head or possibly other parts pivot around. How would auto-evo know how to create and modify these structures? Could necks be another appendage or a joint of some kind attached to a head part? How would that work if the head was previously part of the core? Where did this new head part come from? Maybe it appears as soon as you begin cephalization (clustering sensory organs, brain, mouth, etc. near the front to help with more active movement, which seems to be very common trend in evolution), but it starts out “embedded” in the core?


But still, how do we move this new part to being attached to a totally different part? And since I’ve talked a lot about wanting to make players adapt existing structures instead of creating brand new ones, how would this neck be made? Would it have any structural prerequisites?

One idea I had regarding cores was that they could be built within a basic capsule shape:


There’s still room for weirdness within this, but besides some general shape information, every single weird outgrowth won’t have to be simulated as a potential limb or fin.

I’m not sure the capsule is necessary, actually. It would get frustrating if players had to resize it every time they wanted to change the shape of their body. Still, it might help to convey the core as a (mostly!) convex shape around which the rest of the organism is built.

Finally, we need to think about how all this would apply to early, transitional multicellular, because there’s a weird part where you – and auto-evo – are potentially placing individual cells to form complex multicellular organisms with potentially multiple moving parts, which I imagine will be very hard for the algorithm to get right. Perhaps what you’re building with individual cells is the core, and advanced muscle movement is only unlocked when you’re at the scale of placing tissues and appendages instead of cells?


This would mean that multicellular colonies, at the scale where individual cells are placeable, would have to be fairly basic in order to work with auto-evo.

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A bit of a continuation, actually:



I will break down the body of this fish I made in modded Spore into individual parts as per the system I’ve described, while also giving some reasoning as to why auto-evo would have evolved these structures (or structures like them)


The different parts are colored according to the key in the upper left.
The core body (shown in blue) is bilaterally symmetrical, horizontally flattened, and fusiform in shape. A fusiform body shape is efficient at moving through the water and creates minimal drag, while bilateral symmetry appears to be best for maneuverability.

I’m still unsure on the head part (shown in purple), since I only really made it up to get it off of the core since I didn’t know how necks would work in that case. Regardless, the brain, sense organs, and mouthparts are concentrated near the front, allowing the organism to best experience and eat things in its environment as it swims forward. (Another reason we might want to avoid the head part is that it’s possible not everything will end up on the same part of the body – for instance, sense organs on the forelimbs, or a mouth at the end of a limb like a sort of proboscis – and it’d be disappointing to limit possibilities like that)

The appendages are shown in red. The wide, flat fins exist to stabilize the organism in multiple axes and help maneuverability. (i swear Alien Biospheres isn’t my only resource)


I’m nowhere near an expert on hydrodynamics (I feel like that’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot) but the dorsal and ventral fins help stabilize yaw, the pectoral fins help stabilize roll and pitch, and the large ones near the back apply force on the water via the movement of the body)

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The “pectoral fins” near the front are connected to the core via a joint, allowing them to move around somewhat. Their wide, flat shape and large surface area improve their maneuverability in water, but their broadness and inflexibility make them poor for manipulation.
The pair of claw-like limbs under their mouth, however, are better for manipulation. The sharp ends allow them to be used as weapons against soft, fleshy material, while the “flexibility” granted by the multiple joints allow objects picked up to be “pinned” against other parts of the limb.
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(Other examples of this include a tentacle getting a grip on an object by wrapping around it, or objects being held between fingers, or against the palm by the fingers, in a human hand)
In addition, their proximity to the mouth also aids in the collection of food.

These claw-like limbs, however, won’t be as effective for maneuverability in water as the fins, and may introduce some drag.

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ok, Sorry, I wasn’t expecting to do a triple-post, but here we go!!
This time I’ll explore what a terrestrial organism descended from the fish might look like, since I like talking about adapting existing body plans so much.
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First of all, most of the dorsal and ventral fins have disappeared entirely, though some vestigial remnants (represented by feathers for some reason why did i do that) may remain on the tail, possibly now used as a display of some kind.

The forelimbs are homologous to the fish’s claws, their tips broadened into hooves. The hind limbs, especially its feet, are homologous to the fish’s rigid “pectoral fins,” meaning the majority of this creature’s body is actually what used to be the fish’s face.

The hind limbs were harder to figure out, since the fish only had one joint at its pectoral fins, compared to the claw’s four, which made it easy to adapt into a leg. I did have an idea: from the point where the fin meets the body, I kept adding joints and segments, until I had enough to form a reasonable leg. (This might influence how all “brand new” limbs are built, and could also help with the head and neck thing – imagine having a head attached to the body and it just being “pushed out” by a neck, instead of growing a neck and then dragging your head onto it as you would in Spore)
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On earth, tetrapod limbs were developed from pectoral and pelvic fins that already had all the bones required, however it’s unlikely we’ll be simulating this level of detail in Thrive:



All tetrapod limbs are pretty much based on this basic plan, with massive variation between structures but as far as I’m aware zero instances of new structures appearing from thin air. In Thrive, this would be like being able to “pull out” limb segments three or four times, and then… no more, and I’m not sure how that would work when there won’t be any of these bones to begin with.

I also looked into the origin of pectoral and pelvic fins in fish themselves and found this, which while I didn’t read all the way, has this diagram and it’s so cute


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From what I could tell, it seemed like a lot of complex genetics stuff that…probably also won’t end up in Thrive. However it seems easiest however to implement something like theory D into the game by being able to duplicate existing parts. Limbs and other parts are duplicated a lot of the time, including in larger animals like humans, contrary to what I thought in an earlier post, but most of the time it ends up doing more harm than good, so it’s likely beneficial mutations stemming from duplication are super rare.

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