Mini Update #3: Underwater Sensation Pt. 2

Hey guys, Nick here, and back with the next Mini Update.

Before I get into it, I just want to give a quick apology for the prolonged absence. We started the Mini Updates with the intention of having them be pretty regular small updates into the development of the game, and then I disappeared for an extended period after just two instalments (the latest one being a part 1 of a two part series at that). What happened was that I had a major family tragedy that really shook up my life and schedule significantly for several months. It was a rough time for me, but I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve been able to reorganize my life and schedule at this point and I’m ready to return to the project in full capacity and pick up from where I’ve left off, including these Mini Updates. Anyways, on with the content for this week.

Last time we talked about some of the methods we are planning to use to create a greater sense of atmosphere and underwater-ness for the Microbe Stage. The main ones we listed were: Blur, 3Dness, and Heat/Light FX. Today we will discuss the other approaches, namely visual water effects, fluid dynamics, and particle effects.


One of the issues with the current environment is that there are almost no visual cues of the water you are in. Some sort of visual signs of displacement of water as microbes move could help with this. This could be in the form of ripples following the path of swimming, bubbles originating from movement, or some other visual effect. Having said that, this is one of the weaker suggestions that may actually not be needed, especially if we implement most/all of the other changes we have planned. We may keep it on the backburner for now and end up testing it out later.

Fluid Dynamics

A major addition we could make would be to implement a proper system of fluid dynamics to clearly move around all the entities in the water. At the moment, when objects come to rest they stay perfectly motionless, which is very immersion breaking and even a little eerie. The sight of multiple objects drifting and flowing back and forth can do a great job of giving the sense of being underwater without even using any visual cues or effects. A good example of this can be seen in one of the old prototypes of Thrive (though there is some lag in the recording software that makes it more difficult to notice).

Now if we combined such a system of creating flows and currents along which objects would drift, as well as some of the visual changes suggested earlier, that would look fantastic.

Another upside of implementing a fluid dynamics system is that it would add a new element to gameplay and evolution, changing the way cells swim in and navigate the environment. Cells could evolve to “ride” currents to hunt for nutrients or prey on weaker cells. Cells that rely on photo, thermo, or chemosynthesis and are not very mobile could be pressured into preferring areas with weaker currents or attaching themselves to surfaces like rock or sand. Some cells may instead evolve strong sets of flagella or cilia to resist the pull of the water and easily swim against currents.

We will have to be careful though not to make the currents so strong that the player feels overpowered, or so weak it feels like there was no difference. The perfect balance is to make the player feel like they are directing a sailboat; they can go with or against the wind, but one of those is definitely easier. The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for adapting properly to the environment’s currents.

Particle Effects

Another addition we could make is in the small stuff, namely particle effects. Tiny bubbles and grains of rock/dust that float through the environment, especially paired with a fluid dynamics system, can go a long way. A good example of an addition we could make in this area is marine snow, which is a commonly observed underwater phenomenon of bits of organic matter floating through the ocean, typically from the surface to the ocean depths.

So that’s a wrap on the ideas we have planned so far on underwater sensation. If we can get most or all of these features implemented in the coming releases I believe we can nail the atmosphere that we are trying to achieve and really immerse the player in the underwater primordial soup of life. Here are some videos that I think showcase well the inspiration for what we want to reach:


As always check the links below if you want to discuss any ideas you have on how to create the underwater sensation, or if you want to join the team and help make this a reality!

That’s all for this mini-update. You can discuss this update on reddit or the community forum. Stay tuned for the next update, which we’ll try to roll out quicker to make up for the lost time from these past few months!

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