Using microbe mechanics to create continuity between stages

I was thinking a bit more about this after we talked about it and wanted to make it a dev forum post rather than a discord post so it’s possible to refer to it later. I think this is all quite far off so it’s not important now.

Two good goals I think are linking the stages together (each stage should build on your choices from the last one and not feel like a separate mini-game) and code reuse (if we can use a system multiple times it will make the game quicker and easier to make).

I was thinking about how to take mechanics from the microbe stage into the later stages. I think it would be cool if until the end of the game we continue to run auto-evo simulations and in those simulations you have microbial species.

For example in the creature stages each area has some larger creatures (maybe “grass”, “cows” and “wolves”) and some microbial ones. We could classify weapons into two types, Macro and Micro, and simulate combat using these. For example a microbe can use it’s agents to attack a “cow” as that is a Micro weapon, however the “cow’s” horns have no impact on the microbes. The “cow’s” teeth can be used to attack the “grass” and not microbes.

I think this could lead to some cool gameplay around immune systems. So each larger creature can use the cell editor to make immune cells for itself. We could use the agents system so simulate how immune cells change over time, for example when you have had certain diseases you become immune to them because your immune system remembers them. We could model this as you spending MP on changing your immune cells a little (like rewriting agent codes rather than major structural changes to the cells) and so each editor session you can balance whether to change the macro design of your creature or to edit the immune system or a bit of both.

Further in the civilisation stages we could have each province have it’s own simulated animals with immune systems and microbes. This would allow for cool gameplay around diseases with armies spreading microbes to new provinces which then impact the “people” and livestock that live there. With techs like “selective breeding” or “brewing with “yeast”” you might be able to make small edits to creatures and microbes that live in your area. With techs like “gene editing” you might be able to make large changes. One continent that has “horses” and “smallpox” would have a big impact if it crossed the sea to land on another continent which doesn’t have those things, just like on earth.

In the space stage we could build quite a lot of gameplay around terraforming. For example putting microbes on a planet in order to change the gas concentrations in the atmosphere could be a strategy. Or taking microbes and creatures from another planet and engineering them to suit your colonists more. Do you choose to adapt your “people” to the planet or the planet to the “people”?

I think using things like this we could quite dramatically speed up the development for the whole game. For example if the microbes auto-evo and editor is a building block for all future stages then when we have finished those things the later stages might be 20% done. Then we could build the creature stage stuff and use that later so by the time we get to the civilisation and space stages we might have 40% of the content already in place. Moreover we’d have a completely unique, complex, game which no one has seen before, I mean being able to play around with a dynamic terraforming system which models life right down to the microbes sounds great and might not need much work as we already have all that code at that point.

All feedback welcome.

It’s an interesting point, that we can use the cell editor even late into the game and get gameplay possibilities that way. However, I feel like these aren’t that closely related to the core features of the later stages. So it’s not really accurate to say that a huge portion of the content can rely on earlier features. But I definitely do want to have the earlier stages have a big impact on the later ones.

Reusing stuff is a smart move and it could make transitions between stages much smoother. Early multicelular creatures could feed from protists untill more complex lifeforms emerge, they could also use the same agents or even make their own more powerful versions… there are a lot of possibilities.
We can even use mechanics we already have to make new but similar features. As I said on the livestream, if we make ice chrystals like in this concept (by Uniow) the mechanic of clumping ice shards could be used for making cells colonies as well. I know pretty much anything about the game code tho so I dunno how doable is this, but I think you get the idea.

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Interesting. If you’re happy to say a little more about it I’d be glad to hear. I guess we don’t need to make decisions now so it’s just something to ponder.

For example I think that a significant part of running around as an “animal” is things like disease, being sick, rotten food etc. There’s also things like parasites that influence animal behavior and there’s research at the moment on how the gut microbiome impacts mood, behavior and nutrition etc.

Same thing with the civilisation stages, cities are hugely impacted by disease and microbes. Apparently London was a population sink (more people died there than were born) until sanitation advances in the 19th century. The first war where more people died from combat than disease was WW1. The America’s not having so many large domesticated animals made a big difference to development there.

So yeah I definitely don’t want to shove something in which doesn’t fit or bulldoze a lot of other features or anything. However dealing with nature is a big part of life all the way through I think and having a rich model of it could be cool.

To me the core features of each stage aren’t directly built on top of earlier features, like in your example disease would be. For the strategy stages here’s some of the biggest features (in my opinion): controlling armies, managing cities and later planets, researching technologies, creating loadouts for military units and combining them into armies, trade, diplomacy. None of those can directly be traced back to the microbe stage, though many of them should be affected by earlier decisions. The strength of armies would depend on how the player designs their species. Trade and building could also draw from the physical characteristics of the species. And relating to your example again, things like city population mechanics could be linked to disease and that could, as you explain, use mechanics from the earlier stages.

This is interesting and something I definitely want to see in the game, but isn’t one of the core mechanics of the stage.

While there are some similarities here, i’m not immediately seeing a software architecture that would make code reuse easy between these two features.

Yeah I like this feature list, I agree those are cool things to work towards and will be new for those stages.

I think there’s interesting stuff we can do with them using microbes. For example with armies we could have each army be a cpa patch which is connected to the province it is stationed in. This means the “people” in the army are modeled and so are their “horses” or pack animals and “cats” and “dogs” following the army and the microbes that are with the army too. I think that could be super interesting as the army would interact on a biological level with the area it’s in, getting diseases, eating different local food, hunting animals, which is very realistic.

Same with managing cities, managing the life in them could be really interesting, like how sanitation might debuff microbes or using too much wood decreases habitats for local creatures and stuff.

Also if provinces are a cpa patch then trade routes can connect them which means creatures and microbes can spread between them. As technology develops your wold gets smaller and that spreads different species around as is realistic. Like new crops from other continents can be grown in old areas and that growth can be modeled with cpa, also there can be invasive species etc. Like you introduce “potatoes” and they grow great giving you lots of food until the local microbes adapt to attack them and then you have to deal with crop blights etc.

So yeah I agree with you, I definitely wouldn’t want to detract from any of the features you mentioned and yeah making a solid strategy game is important. I also think we could make some really unique and awesome management gameplay if you’re trying to actively manage cpa patches as part of the game.

I’m just spitballing here, so this may not be a great direction to go in though.

I can see dealing with microbes and disease as an aspect that naturally develop in the game due to the features from earlier stages. We could work with experimenting in later versions of the game to see how this would work out, but like you said we’re just spitballing here. In reality there are large species who survive on creatures and flora of rather small size; to me this feature could work and be a way to create something that as far as I’m aware has never been done before. As I look into what all has been experimented with and developed for the game since I’m getting back into development things I would love to see us try and pull this off. As one man once said,
“Not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

Paraphrased of course but this idea would be a fun challenge to keep players from just sticking with a basic evolution for the game after the cell stage. That’s what I mostly noticed happening in Spore, I did it too. We have the technology and hardware power to pull this off.

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