Hey guys, Nick here, and welcome to the first in our new series of mini updates!
For a while we’ve been discussing the idea of having smaller development updates like this. The idea is to have them between the devblogs for a chance to keep you guys up to date with what’s going on in the project in the very rare (okay maybe not that rare) periods where there is no big news. We’re going to try it out, and if all goes well we’ll stick with it.
So what’s been happening with Thrive recently? We’ll cover two topics today, the engine switch and compound rebalancing.
As you may or may not know, we are in the process of switching the game’s engine over to a similar but modified alternative (thanks to the fantastic work being done by hhyyrylainen). The new engine is called Leviathan, made by hhyyrlainen himself. The main goal of this is to switch to an engine that is better understood by the current team and is more accessible for incoming programmers. For anyone interested, hhyyrylainen has some detailed documentation on the project so far here. The main discussion on the engine switch can be found on this forum thread.
Once we complete this step, it should be a lot easier to teach new programmers how to start development on the game. In fact, we’re planning to do some outreach to expand the team following the engine switch, and then use that expanded manpower to tackle some big upcoming features like combat, bacteria, visuals, agents, and multicellularity!
In other news, we’ve been working with rebalancing the compounds lately. We made a mod showcasing a prototype of this rebalance here.
We felt that the compounds were too abundant and the clouds were too small. There wasn’t much incentive to hunt cells because clouds were everywhere, and it felt more like you were grinding to get the compounds you needed. Plus, every compound appeared with equal likelihood, which did not create varied or interesting environments. Now we’ve made compound clouds appear less often but they are much larger, so you will have to hunt for them and it’s more rewarding when you find them. It also means that once you find it you can stock up on it and focus on something else until it runs low again, instead of constantly hunting it.
We also made some changes to the code in the new version that allows for each compound cloud to have its own spawn rate, and using this we can have some being common and others hard to find (and customize these per biome). For example, oxygen and carbon dioxide will be much more common in large but dilute clouds that swirl through the environment. Consuming these is more like grazing. Glucose on the other hand is now more rare and is much more rewarding when found, since it’s necessary for your basic source of energy. Ammonia is even more rare than glucose and is a challenge to find but pays off very well (as it is necessary for healing and reproduction). Consuming these is more like hunting.
Just these changes already start to make the game feel a lot more survival-y than it was before, and create some interesting scenarios where the player has to hunt for compounds and compete with the other cells. I had one case where I was searching for ammonia for a while to heal my cell, but when I finally found some there was a toxin cell right in the middle of it. Do I risk going for the ammonia and possibly getting hit by toxins, or do I take my chances with surviving to find another cloud. These are the exact kind of life or death situations we want to create. However, we’re still working on finetuning the balance to not make the gameplay too difficult or frustrating (with bad luck causing the player to often just not find the compounds they need and starve).