Having watched a couple of gameplay videos of Thrive 0.2.4, I’ve decided we quite drastically need some form of tutorial in the game for the next release, because few people seem to understand what’s going on. This is a thread for a) discussing what the final tutorial should be and b) deciding on what sort of guidance we need right now.

Adding a fully-featured tutorial is still a long way off, but we can still plan for it. This is the plan so far.

Right now, we just need something that tells the player what to do. It doesn’t have to be fun or pretty, it just has to work. I propose a few screens of text at the beginning of the game explaining all the key features, which can be skipped by pressing space, and only appear the first time the player enters each scene. We might also need a different font, as the Thrive font isn’t very readable for long paragraphs of text. @crovea how difficult would it be to add something like this?

Here’s my proposed text for the environment and editor:

[quote=“ENVIRONMENT”]Welcome to Thrive!

This is a temporary text guide on how to play, which will be replaced with an interactive tutorial in a later update. Press space to skip or continue once you finish reading.

Many of these mechanics will be changed in further updates. See our website for the complete plan.

In the centre of the screen is your cell. It will always rotate to face your cursor. Use W to move forwards relative to the cell’s orientation and S to move backwards. Use A and D to strafe left and right.

Click the button in the lower left corner to toggle the menu. You can save at any point by clicking the save button. Help displays a shortened version of this text (click the button again to close the panel), load allows you to load the last saved game, and the other options haven’t yet been added.

Your cell collects compounds from the environment (released as sprites from emitters) and processes these in its organelles to produce waste products and ATP. Waste products are ejected back into the environment, as well as any compounds your cell does not have the ability to process.

Oxygen is blue. Carbon dioxide is red. Ammonia is yellow. Glucose is green.

Current compound stores are displayed in the lower right panel. The most important of these are ATP and Reproductase. ATP is your energy store – moving uses up ATP, and the more movement organelles you have, the greater their draw on ATP. Chemical processes can use or produce ATP. Aerobic respiration, for example, occurs in the mitochondria, turning six units of glucose and six units of oxygen into six units of carbon dioxide, six units of water (not modelled) and ATP. If your ATP levels drop below zero, either through bad cell design or not enough compounds collected, you will take damage and eventually die.

Reproductase is another substance made through chemical processes in your cell. Once you produce five units of Reproductase, your cell will automatically divide and you will be given the opportunity to enter the editor by clicking a button in the top left. When you’re finished making changes to your cell, you return to the environment with your newly edited cell and continue playing.

Throughout the environment you’ll find toxin vacuoles. Collecting at least one unlocks the toxin vacuole in the editor. OxyToxy NT will be produced automatically, and can be released by pressing E, creating a cross-shaped sprite which damages any cell it comes into contact with, including you. Other cells may have this ability, so be careful to avoid their toxins.

You win this version of the game by killing another cell using toxins. Click the red cross in the top corner to exit.[/quote]

[quote=“EDITOR”]Welcome to the cell editor!

This is a temporary text guide on how to play, which will be replaced with an interactive tutorial in a later update. Press space to skip or continue once you finish reading.

Many of these mechanics will be changed in further updates. See our website for the complete plan.

In each editor session, you have a limited budget for changes you can make, shown in the lower right as Mutation Points. When your Mutation Points run out, you cannot make any other changes. Adding or removing anything costs a certain amount of MP (this is different for each organelle), but you can revert changes and MP by using the undo and redo buttons.

The list on the left of the screen shows all the available organelles. Click one, then click anywhere adjacent to your cell to place it. Right click on existing organelles to remove them. You can rename your species by clicking on the species name and typing a new one. Click the save button to save changes, then finish to return to the environment. All other buttons do not yet have functionality.

Mitochondria perform respiration. Vacuoles store collected compounds. Chloroplasts perform photosynthesis. Flagella produce thrust. Toxin vacuoles store and release toxins, and are locked until collected in the environment.[/quote]

Also, I know engulfment is in the game now, but how does it actually work?

So I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing for awhile now after my look over UX stuff and I’ve been trying to work out how to explain a game as complex as thrive without text.
Now i know for a fact that the best way to teach a game to a new player is though play and exploration, not though text (i know what your talking about is meant to be a temp tutorial but i really want to talk about this and I’m not gutsy enough to make my own page on progression yet so yeah).

let me explain how i would teach the game though exploration and play, lets start with play, you would start with showing them a mechanic, for example you’ve picked up your first gun in a FPS, in a good game they would not instantly throw enemies at you but they would let you play with your new toy in a safe environment so the player can get used to the mechanic without them feeling like they for punished unfairly because they don’t understand yet.
eg in mass effect when you start your first mission they have some neutral animals around for the player to shoot at to let them play with their new toy and learn how it works to get used to the controls.

then there is exploration, this can be summed up fairly well with “ohh what does that do!” “I’m gonna touch it” which then ends with something like “OUCH it bit me” or “ohh it gave me health” or in our case “oh it filled up that bar” the most important bit of exploration is to show cause and effect well so the player knows what happened and why. eg. in portal when they first show you a portal the player can walk over to it and see themselves looking though it on the other side (i’d recommend the first portal game as a good example of pacing) maybe a better example of this is in portal 2 when they first show you the blue goo and force you to fall onto it making you bounce.

and i guess there is just plan old observing where the game shows the player something to allow them to understand. eg. in portal when you see the portal gun shooting portals onto walls so when the player gets the portal gun rather then going “what the heck is this thing?” they go “finally i can shoot portals” because they already saw it do that, this then leads into play as they get used to shooting portals.

i guess you can sum these up with test -> Observe kind of learning because that kind of learning is much more natural to humans then reading and much more enjoyable.

Now i think the hardest thing to do is to time the progression so the player has enough time to play with a new mechanic but not to linger on it for so long that the player gets bored of it, best way to do this is to let the player advance at their own pace but that may not always be possible.

Okay! so you’ve just spawned into the game and you see you first cell i the middle of the screen, how does it continue from there? well you’d let the player swim around a little with no new things and no GUI, if they don’t move after a few seconds have a tool tip pop up with the controls or something. Then after a while of swimming around (again not for too long) you either have an arrow to the next mechanic or the next mechanic come to the player (or you take control away from them and show it to them (not recommended)).
so then, i don’t know you’d show them a compound cloud for them to explore. then when they swim into it the corresponding UI would then pop up and flash or something (again we want to make sure cause and effect it super clear), then you’d have the collect bits of all the colours for them to work out what bars they respond to, one thing to note here is that we only want to show the player the most important stuff to them right now and nothing more, so when that UI appears the player can hover over them and read the tool tips if they want to and see what they do. ect so on and so forth.
i think you guys would understand what I’m talking about by now with the kind of progression I’m talking about, one of the things i worry about is ATP and how to explain it because its one of those things that is hard to show with these methods, say it was just a stamina bar then it only gets used up when you sprint and that’s easy to understand but this is always getting used up, also how would you show ATP getting made and how is made? same thing goes with the reproduction bar as it is a very complex thing to get the player to understand, anyway food for though.

I totally agree that showing is much better than telling when it comes to teaching players how the game works. I only suggested creating a text tutorial first because building a full interactive tutorial would require programming effort which right now is better devoted to other areas.

When the time comes, we’re certainly going to have an interactive tutorial. There’s no way in hell we’re giving the player walls of text explaining what every compound, organelle, etc. does at the start of the game, because they’ll never read them. You mention ATP, and I agree that’s a difficult concept to explain - it represents both energy and health but in different ways, a complicated mechanic to get across.

We do have a primitive tutorial concept here. Thrive is a complicated thing to make a tutorial for because we want it to be as organic as possible. To explain the basic gameplay mechanics, we’re going to have to abandon the mentality of organic growth at the very beginning of the game and give them a set sequence of events (maybe the one outlined in the GDD, or maybe something else if we come up with anything better).

The main problems come when you start dealing with individual items. Once a game’s in progress, we can’t stop it and give the player an opportunity to test every compound or organelle they come across in a secure environment. If they see another cell using an unfamiliar organelle, their only option is to watch what it does, whatever the risk. To some extent this is actually in line with what we want, since the entire game centres around exploration and experimentation. So you played one game and messed up because you didn’t know what a certain organelle did? Well, next time you can use that knowledge to your advantage and get better.

We still have to have some text guidance, though. In the editor in particular, every possible organelle will need a brief summary to convey its function when you hover over it. For example:


Performs aerobic respiration, the basis of the cell’s energy production system.

Process: Aerobic respiration
Input: 1 [Glucose icon] + 6 [Oxygen icon]
Output: 6 [CO2 icon] + 6 [Water icon] + 38 [ATP icon][/quote]

[quote]Slime Gland

Specialised vacuole which bursts on contact with an enemy’s engulfing edge, blocking it. Regenerates after use.

Process: None
Input: Some amount [ATP icon] + Slime agent
Output: None[/quote]

i agree with everything you said here, especially with the player experimenting with their changes because it is impossible to let them “play” with them in a safe environment to see what they do (unless we make a kind of test mode)
i have a question though, when the player dies and goes back to the editor will the cell revert before their changes where made so they can rework it or will it keep the same design and let the player undo changes and fix unforeseen consequences. either way works because each time you evolve you change a handful of things each time.
also I’m wondering if the exploration and experimentation gameplay will continue into the later stages, to an extent it always will but when it comes to building empires i can’t think of many ways to put in experimentation because when your just an animal when you die you can tweak your design and try again but you can’t really tweak a empire and try again without starting over… thinking about it starting over with an empire might not be that bad depending on how much time you put the player back on (imagine getting really fair then accidentally slightly causing a nuclear holocaust an wiping out life on your planet then needing to start again from a tiny city) but anyway this is slightly off topic.
but anyway i know this is not priority i just want to get my thoughts out.

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I think you guys both have great ideas here.

I think this is 100% correct.

Personally I would really love it if there could be a tutorial with 0 text. I also agree that it’s not worth doing until we have the mechanics finished (how can you teach someone how to use something when you don’t know how it works?) so it’s kind of the last thing.

I love the idea that the UI elements pop up when they are introduced. That’s great. Like you see your first compound cloud and it’s yellow and then you swim over it and a yellow bar appears and starts to fill in the bottom left. That is super obvious and clever.

I think for explaining how organelles work I think an image as a tool tip is very clear. Once the colour coding it sorted out it will just feel like a paint mixer. I really don’t think people are going to find it hard.

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Considering some sort of tutorial is on the feature list for 0.3.2, I think it’s time to think about what we want in the game as it stands right now. As I said before, obviously a full interactive tutorial is too much to ask until more permanent game mechanics are added, but given the confusion some players have been experiencing I still think it’s vital we add something ASAP.

Assuming some sort of text guidance is the plan, actually writing it can wait until the mechanics for the next release are finalised. What really matter is creating a system whereby the text can be displayed somehow. I suggest when the player clicks New Game they see a few otherwise blank screens which can be skipped with the spacebar. I’ve no idea how difficult this would be, considering it’s equivalent to adding a new scene in between the main menu and environment. If it is, does anyone have any alternatives?

I posted this on Github, but I’ll post this here as well. We currently have this window:

It’s easy to just make it pop out on setup and say whatever you want it to say. The game is paused during this.

Edit: The guys video is so funny, he kept calling mitochondria as mitochondrial DNA :slight_smile: but yeah, we definitely need a tutorial for people who don’t know what glucose is made out of. It also took him half the video to figure out how to eject toxins.

On the bright side, I think we’ve really improved from 0.3.0. It was honestly painful watching him try to delete stuff in the editor.

I think it would be more helpful to make a separate tutorial screen before the new game is initialized, with pictures and more detailed expanations. Then you click to continue. I’ve started writing up a draft, I’ll post it later today.

I’m not sure about that. Most games have an in-game tutorial where they have arrows to tell you where to click and pictures explaining everything in depth.

Yeah this is just meant to be a quick and easy implementation, unless the plan is to make a full tutorial next release.

If we can make a full tutorial for 0.3.2 that can be updated in future to reflect new or fixed mechanics then I’m all for it, I just think that’s a bit unlikely so text guidance is better for the moment.

I’ll say what I say every time this comes up. I think any effort on tutorial is wasted until the mechanics are fixed.

If it’s quick and easy to make a placeholder that’s great but it might be better just to include a link to a webpage which we can update with the releases that explains how to play.

For a quick, placeholder tutorial, this is my suggestion:

The first time you click New Game, it takes you to the tutorial screen, which is a dark background with white text, with occasional pictures, reading:

On a distant alien planet, millions of years of meteor impacts and volcanism have led to the development of a new phenomenon in the universe… life. These simple microbes reside in the deep regions of the ocean, and have diversified into many species. You are one of the many species that have evolved.

To survive this hostile world, you must collect compounds from your environment and evolve each generation to compete against the other species of cells.


Change Orientation : Mouse cursor
Movement : WASD


Compounds exist in coloured clouds in your environment. Move your cell over these clouds to absorb them (provided you have enough room in your cell to store it). (Insert picture of compound clouds).

The colour of the cloud identifies which compound it is. The different compounds are:

White – Glucose
Pinkish Red – Amino Acids
Dark Red – Proteins
Yellow – Ammonia
Light Blue – Oxygen
Dark Blue – Carbon Dioxide


ATP is the energy of your cell. (Insert picture of ATP display on UI). ATP is used by your cell to move and to stay alive. However, you cannot find ATP in the environment. ATP must be harvested from compounds in your environment.

Every cell is composed of cytoplasm. Cytoplasm allows a cell to turn glucose into ATP (in a process called Glycolysis), so absorbing glucose clouds a common way for most species to make ATP. Cytoplasm also serves as storage for compounds you collect.

Mitochondria can produce much more ATP from glucose than you’d get from glycolysis, but they also require oxygen. A cell with mitochondria will want to absorb glucose clouds and oxygen clouds. (Insert picture of a mitochondrion).

Chloroplasts allow glucose to be produced from exposure to sunlight (at the cost of carbon dioxide). Then, the cell can use this glucose to produce ATP (either through its cytoplasm or with mitochondria). (Insert picture of a chloroplast).

Vacuoles are used for storing compounds you have collected. Your cell is already able to store compounds in its cytoplasm, but vacuoles are far more efficient. (Insert picture of vacuole)

Toxin Vacuoles produce toxins (called OxyToxyNT). Toxins can be used by the cell to attack other cells.Toxins are produced from just oxygen. Once your cell has built up some toxins, press E to eject them (and try to direct it to the cell you want to kill). (Insert toxin organelle picture)

Your cell can also engulf smaller cells to consume them. Press G to enter engulfment mode, and move over a smaller cell to engulf it. Engulfment mode slows movement and consumes ATP at a steady rate.

Reproductase is what your cell uses to reproduce. You must have at least 5 to reproduce. Reproductase is made from oxygen, glucose, amino acids (made by your cell from ammonia), and ATP.


Every time you reproduce, you will enter the Microbe Editor, where you can make changes to your species (by adding, moving, or removing organelles) to increase your success in the environment.

Each generation, you have 100 mutation points (MP) to spend, and each change (or mutation) will cost a certain amount of that MP.

At the bottom of the screen it will say “Click to continue” or “Press spacebar to continue”.

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That’s a great tutorial, but I think that it’s something more suited for a wiki. It’s just a huge wall of text, and that will probably deter people off.

Anyway, since the underlying mechanism of a tutorial will be the same, regardless of what we put in the text boxes, I think I’ll just script it now. I doubt it will take more than a couple of days.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to still use your text, just cut it down a bit and put it into separate boxes.

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Go ahead

Can there be a line in the mitochondria section that says “The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”?

I think that instead of any arrows we should have a flashing dot. And anytime the player does something new, accompanying the flashing should be a little jingling noise.

Here’s what I’ve got so far. It might not be the most descriptive/nicest looking tutorial, but we needed something before we got all of the features in. Forgive the lag, I blame my recording tool


This is great until we can get a more organic tutorial, other then that i can’t really comment because my internet is being so bad at the moment that all I’m getting is a colorful fuzz, though i get the gist of what you’ve done… Australian internet… hmmm. although one thing now i think about it, you can probably get rid of some of the flavor text to shorten some of the dialogue boxes or we risk having people just click though them all when they see a wall of text.

Nice work! This is a much better tutorial than I thought we’d be able to add for this release.

Inevitably, a couple of things:

  • I mentioned this on Slack, but the font should be changed for all large blocks of text. The Thrive font looks great for titles and button names, but in paragraphs, lists and tooltips it’s unreadable. There are a couple of redundant font files in the Thrive download - maybe one of the sans-serif fonts would work (like the compound list)?
  • I noticed you’re using the same help panel for everything, which leads to it getting stretched. If you give me the dimensions you used, I can make some non-stretched panels if you want.