Devblog #10: Call to Action

Your Game Needs You

If you haven’t seen our previous Devblog, Thrive version 0.3.2 is out. That’s good news for us, since it means we can commence with a little something we’ve been planning for a while: a whole load of outreach. It’s time to spread the tenets of Thrive throughout the internet until everybody is buying our blue jeans and listening to our pop music.

And guess what? You can help! Read on to find out how…

Where We Stand

Thrive has been in development for a while. We can’t deny that. For several years it’s shuffled along like an organism in punctuated equilibrium, spurts of progress rare due to a small team dependent on a few members’ free time. We’ve had the odd publicity spike (most notably the Reddit boom a couple of years ago), but it’s been difficult to sustain the same level of progress to work as quickly as we’d like.

The obvious solution is to promote ourselves. Open-source projects tend to go extinct if nobody knows about them, so why have we intentionally stayed in the dark for so long? The answer is that it’s difficult to convince anyone to join such a stupidly ambitious project with prototypes, one unfinished stage and a whole lot of hyperbole. Unfortunately this gets us stuck in a catch-22 – we can’t make enough progress to convince others we’re worth following until we get more developers, and we can’t get more developers until we make enough progress to convince others we’re worth following. It’s this situation which is responsible for the evolutionary pace of development so far.

But now things are about to change.

Our latest release, 0.3.2, features compound clouds and a tutorial. Compound clouds have replaced the ugly and unwieldly emitters from versions past with beautiful watery vistas, and the tutorial provides a solid guide to the game for anyone who gets confused. Suddenly the game is far more presentable than it ever has been. It’s still nothing like the finished product, but the days of hexagons are over.

It’s also summer right now. That means our team is more active than other points in the year, better equipped to deal with an influx of newcomers and teach them the ropes.

We’re hoping to take this opportunity to produce a Cambrian explosion, an expansion and diversification of the project so that it won’t just survive, but thrive (pun intended). Self-sufficiency is our goal, and that can only come from a strong community and developer base.

As Seregon, one our devs, put it:

‘Thrive has the potential (and we’ve never had the manpower to realise this in full, but someday we might) to be the most realistic, most scientifically driven, most fascinating games ever made.  The best game to compare it to isn’t Spore, but KSP, for its potential ability to get kids (and anyone else) fascinated with how life works, how the biosphere around us was formed, how fragile it is, and isn’t. In that sense, Thrive will take a very long time to make, and never be done, and if our community continues to grow during that entire time, we have the potential to build a movement for educational/scientific/thoughtful games, built for fun, with access to a community of scientists and hobbyists from every field.’

We’ve plenty more motivational material if you’re still not convinced such a thing is possible, but for those who are…

What Comes Next

Thrive 0.3.2 isn’t perfect, but it’s the best state the game’s been, so we’ve reached the decision that it’s time to do what plenty of you have been telling us to do for ages: spread the word.

What’s Already in Place

We mentioned it in passing a couple of Devblogs ago, but we’ve approached/been approached by a couple of relatively large YouTube channels with the offer to make videos of the game. We won’t say who here in case they change their mind (as they have the right to), but if this does happen, the spike in interest will be astronomical. Rest assured we’ll be double-checking the stability of our websites beforehand so none of them will go down under the weight.

Anyone following Thrive’s social platforms will have seen a similar strengthening of our social media backbone. Our Facebook page and Twitter feed are now regularly updated, including responses to fans’ questions. Elsewhere, the community forums are well-stocked with moderators and we’ve replaced a temperamental application form with a more reliable email-based system. If you tried to apply in the past but didn’t receive a reply this is probably why, so feel free to try again.

We’ve also overhauled the developer Wiki. More on this later.

How to Help

The first and most obvious thing to consider is joining the team, since we’re an open-source project if you somehow didn’t get the memo. Our application page may look scary and professional, but we’ll gladly welcome anyone with the skills to help out. No contribution is too small – we value every line of code, every piece of game artwork and every knowledgeable opinion on microbial biology. We even have a special page dedicated to advice for prospective members emphasising that level of contribution is entirely on your own terms.

Many of you are already doing this, but we’d like to cultivate a welcoming and helpful atmosphere on the community forums. Developers and moderators will be in charge of seeing that newcomers find the information they need, but everybody can help. Make sure everyone reads and adheres to the FAQ and community guidelines and be ready to answer questions about the game. The RG website (the one you’re reading right now) should be the primary source on everything about the game. If you can’t find the answer here or on the Wiki, either ask a mod/dev on the community forum or wait for them to answer instead.

Now, we know some of you will be itching to tell the world about Thrive. Word of mouth is a strong force in the world of promotion. The trouble is we’ve had negative experiences with fan outreach in the past, often through accidental misrepresentation. If you do decide to spread the word yourself, try to make it clear you’re a fan and not a developer.

You could spread the word on our behalf to communities you’re already a part of (only if you think they’ll like the Thrive concept of course). Link to our home page first. We’ve spent some time restructuring it into a hub for the multitude of Thrive sites around the internet alongside basic information about the game, so it should be the best possible introduction for newcomers.

After a few videos promoting Thrive pop up on YouTube, it’s likely others will too. Indeed, we encourage you to make your own gameplay videos. Thrive followers will need to be watching in the comments of these videos and any other discussions on other sites ready to provide information.

In all cases, exercise caution when answering questions. With something as wide and ambitious as the Thrive project, there are many vague concepts and possibilities. People are likely to ask what you can do in the game, what the current state of development is, whether they can make a dragon, etc. Unless you know for certain or can find the answer on this site or the Wiki, ask on the community forums, where a mod/dev can give the best approximation.

Other News and Information

In the couple of weeks following 0.3.2, there have been some major developments in and around the Thrive team, one of which in particular is relevant to our outreach efforts.

The Wiki

If you’ve seen our developer Wiki lately, you’ll have witnessed a significant redesign and fleshing out of some important pages.

Most of it’s intended as documentation for new members. Alongside the getting started page (which you should definitely check out if you’ve ever considered joining the team), we have the following major new pages:

  • A page collating every option and argument for and against the involvement of money in Thrive’s development, Money and Thrive. Short answer: it’s complicated. If anyone ever asks whether we accept donations and why we don’t, show them this page.
  • As we mentioned last time, an overly self-indulgent Project History, in case you’ve ever wondered how the current state of things came to be.
  • A Releases Roadmap showing our current short term goals. Bear in mind anything on the list may be changed.
  • Pages covering everything about each development team: Graphics, Outreach, Programming, Project Management, Sound and Theory. If you want to help, read the relevant team’s page.

A Disturbance in the Force

 

YouTuber DarkEdgeTV is a semi-active Thrive follower, and after the latest release decided to create our de facto mascot, The Disturbance, in Spore’s creature editor. We’re pretty impressed.

We’ve also seen a growth in the number of Thrive gameplay videos. This has to be the best so far.

Major Game System Revamps

What next for actual development? The answer lies in two recent threads created by TheCreator (which makes sense) on our development forums.

0.3.3 will see a renovation of the game’s reproduction, health and movement systems. Right now we have temporary versions in place, which serve a job but aren’t exactly fun. Reproduction is soon to be replaced by proper metabolic mitosis, where your cell will create the necessary compounds (such as fatty acids and proteins) to copy itself and its individual organelles before splitting. Health too will rely on a simulated metabolism based on organelle health and ATP stores. See here for progress on both.

Movement will soon be harder, as cells will have to be streamlined to propel themselves effectively. We’re integrating drag equations to make a cell’s shape a vital part of its ecological fitness. Eventually the current fluid dynamics system will carry cells around the environment if they don’t have enough flagella to fight against it. You can read an explanation here.

Main Theme Sheet Music

 

Finally, here’s the solo piano extract from the Thrive Main Theme we used for the 0.3.2 trailer. For the first time, we have Thrive-related sheet music, which you can find here.

And with that, we come to the end of this Devblog, these few weeks of post-release action and (hopefully) this era of Thrive’s development. See you in the future with whatever Devblog comes next.

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