Devblog #11: A New Thrive For A New Year

Is it too late to say happy New Year? Probably, but we’ll do it anyway. Happy New Year, and as 2017 takes its first steps we’re happy to present another update to Thrive: version 0.3.3.

A flashy new GUI, more realistic health and reproduction systems, and the first steps towards evolution are the flagship features, and you can read all about them below, alongside our recent podcasting efforts and plans for 2017.

Release 0.3.3

Thrive 0.3.3 is part refinement and part preparation for the future. We’ve revamped the old GUI and health/reproduction system, and our first tangible forays into evolution pave the way for full systems in future.

New GUI

The most visible change on entering 0.3.3, especially for those who’ve played previous versions, is our fantastic new GUI. This has been a long time coming but, thanks to Oliveriver, it was well worth the wait (a bit like Thrive in a nutshell, hopefully).

The previous GUI was clunky and covered an unnecessary amount of the screen with dead space, tainting the game as a whole and creating quite some criticism. The new version, however, is much sharper and more orderly, sacrificing a faux-organic feel for an interface that actually works. Less of the screen is obstructed and compounds are displayed more intuitively using progress bars (though right now our temporary microbe storage arrangement reduces legibility).

Thanks to Narotiza and braguy.j, we’ve also implemented smart, professional compound and organelle icons. We hope this will make everything more readable, helping amateur and experienced players identify items at a glance. You can read the full discussion on the new GUI, with justification for the various design decisions, here.

Health and Reproduction Systems

Another prominent new feature is the addition of a basic health and reproductive system, created by TheCreator (awesome as ever). Previously, if the player lost health for some reason, it was irrecoverable and that was pretty much the end of that life. Now, however, the player can recover lost health by consuming certain compounds.

Reproduction too has been revamped, now interacting with the health system. Players must collect enough amino acids and glucose to create copies of their organelles, which spawn in their microbe as their microbe goes through the reproductive motions. Eventually your cell will split, allowing you to enter the editor as before. See the full descriptions for both systems here.

Basic NPC Mutations

As a game about evolution, it’s probably time to get some evolution in. Thanks to our newest programmer, crodnu (or his alternate persona, Count Dooku) we now have a simple NPC evolution mechanic. All the old NPC cell templates have been removed, replaced by randomly generated cells which undergo equally random mutations when they reproduce.

We wish to stress this is far from the full CPA (Compounds, Population and Auto-Evo) system the team has envisaged. At the moment there’s no element of balancing – almost all the random cells you encounter will be pretty useless at surviving. Most of our CPA plans are outlined here – though look out for a potential Devblog on the subject in the near future – and the system we’ve planned is far more thorough than what’s now in the game. At least we are officially the open-source evolution game we purport to be now…to some extent.

Miscellaneous Matters

As always, there are a bunch of small features and bug fixes. Alongside work on evolution, crodnu has worked on refactoring some of the engine involving organelle, compound, process and biome tables. So far their only repercussion on gameplay is variations in compound availability between biomes, but they should help devise more efficient systems in future.

Organelles themselves now have weight. The more you have, the slower you’ll move. No more supersonic behemoths unfortunately.

Programmer hhyyrylainen has also worked on what seem to be our eternal Linux compatibility fixes and more engine refactoring under the hood. Montyspud has also helped add random species name generation, although due to recent GUI changes this isn’t shown in the game yet.

Other News

Of course, game development itself isn’t the only thing happening in the Thrive webosphere.

Livestreams and Podcasts

Anybody remember the two podcasts the team produced in 2013 and never followed up on? Nope, neither did we, but somebody somewhere in the team suggested we start podcasting in some capacity again. You may have seen posts on our social media outlets asking for topic suggestions. At first we spoke in private a couple of times to get ourselves into the swing of things, then a few weeks ago we broadcast a Q&A livestream. You can listen to a few of us (Seregon, Oliveriver, TheCreator, Narotiza, crodnu and hhyyrylainen) fumbling about with technical gremlins before answering the audience’s questions below:

If you’re not taken by the idea of watching a two hour video, a member of the community summed it up nicely with this highlight video.

We’re hoping to do similar events semi-regularly providing enough of us are available. Not all will be Q&As and some may be pre-recorded podcasts as before, but we think it’s nice for our fans to know there are actual humans working on this game.

Future Game Features

So what next for the game? We’ve tried a couple of times to come up with a definitive list of planned items, but our open-source nature means sometimes we have to postpone a feature or add a new one whenever someone works on it. At the moment, our best guesses are more optimisation and combat mechanics, the latter adding heaps more fun to a gradually improving gameplay experience.

Community Forums and Discord

The moderators of our community forum recently set out some new rules to create a more pleasant experience for visitors and newcomers. They’ve been incorporated into our FAQ, which we remind all users of the forum is required reading for anyone before they post. In the interests of cultivating some interesting discussion, the developers will be starting occasional threads on intriguing future game features which haven’t been ironed out yet for fans and developers to contribute to together. We’d like to keep those threads more in-depth and professional than some of the content on the community forums, but unlike the development forums not everything discussed has to have relevance to developing the game as it stands now.

On a complementary note, Narotiza recently set up an official Thrive Discord server. If you want to have casual discussions with the Thrive community about topics unrelated to Thrive, we’d prefer from now on if you went there rather than used the forums, in the interests of reducing clutter and creating a more engaging environment for newcomers to Thrive.

Outreach

Finally, we should probably address the last Devblog. Several things meant the planned outreach boom didn’t happen when we wanted, but with the new GUI in place in particular we’re now even more confident in the project’s appeal and are planning to go through with everything we said we would last time. This is part of the reason for a push for a more professional and welcoming atmosphere on the community forums. Expect to start seeing us promoting ourselves around the internet (hopefully for real this time).

Shortly after our last Devblog, we had our first ever proper press coverage thanks to Nicole Pacampara of Kill Screen – you can read the article she wrote on the project here. For the record, we’re still not making Spore 2.

The project is still very much alive, and if everything goes to plan, is only going to get bigger and better. For now, here’s some pretty music courtesy of Oliveriver (who, by the way, has released a portfolio of Thrive music and other compositions to download for free here, including the theme below).

See you all next time, whenever that may be!

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