Greetings, Thrive followers. This is the first in a new set of official devblogs on the Revolutionary Games website – if all goes to plan, new devblogs should be posted here about once a month, covering everything that’s been going on behind the scenes in Thrive’s development.
This initial devblog covers: where we’ve been and why you haven’t heard from us, our new forum structure, the complete plan for the Microbe Stage, musings on AI, and making cells look more like cells and less like honeycombs.
Updates (and the Lack Thereof)
Since the release of 0.2.4, there have been few formal updates from the team regarding the current state of Thrive’s development, and it’s clear many of you have lost faith or regard the project as “dead”. While that’s far from the case, anybody idly perusing our public internet presence would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The last post here is from February, our Facebook and Twitter feeds are pretty desolate, and we haven’t been replying to your questions effectively in any of these places.
It’s difficult for us to properly manage outreach efforts due to our relaxed view of member involvement – we could force team leads to write new updates for us, but that goes against our ethos of allowing anyone to contribute as much or as little as they wish. Add the fact that we don’t have much of a dedicated outreach team right now, and you have a perfect storm of community negligence.
So what’s changing? For a start, we’re beginning a series of formal development updates, stemming from this one. Our initial plan with the website was to have team leads post their own articles and updates, but this fell through as a) not everyone had enough content to shout about on a regular basis, b) we don’t want to force anybody to take time away from developing or their own interests, and c) even our team leads take extended leaves of absence so they wouldn’t have always been available to contact. From now on, all official development updates will come from Revadmin, an account jointly owned by all team leads and used to manage the website.
We’re also now looking for a few outreach managers (added to the list on the Get Involved page) to help us be more active online. Don’t think it’s an easy job though – we need outreach managers who can write up entire devblogs like this one by understanding what’s going on in the rest of the team. They’ll need to post regularly to our forums, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, as well as interact with fans in a more meaningful way on those platforms. Although any fan can be an honorary promoter, outreach managers will be responsible for posting our official adverts to developer forums and websites. If you think you can help, visit our Get Involved page.
Speaking of fan interaction, we’ve already created a partial solution for the lack of question answering: our new Community Forum:
There’s a further explanation of why we’ve set this up in the next section, but for now remember that you’re far more likely to get a response by posting there than anywhere else. If you read this post and ask something about the game as a comment here, on Facebook or Twitter, we reserve the right to be more than slightly annoyed. Your question should fit one of the subforums – The Idea for questions about future gameplay, The Game for questions about current gameplay, and Meta for questions about development. Fans and developers will then reply with answers.
In future, an outreach manager should enable us to be more proactive in replying to your questions and suggestions elsewhere, but at the current time we don’t have the ability to do so.
In summary: check back here every month or so for new devblogs, we need outreach managers, and please post to the Community Forum if you have something you want to tell us.
Confusing Forum Stuff
You’ve already been introduced to one new forum, but we’re not done yet. We proudly present our new Development Forum:
At this point, it’s necessary to quote a reply to the announcement of the new forum on our old forum:
‘So, first this forum, then a subreddit, then a fan forum, and finally a separate developer forum…
I am confuse. What’s goin’ on ‘ere?’
With the introduction of a far more effective team lead discussion platform than we had previously, we’ve developed the problematic habit of talking more in private than in public. Hence why, even outside our outreach platforms, there often doesn’t appear to be a whole lot going on. For an open-source team, public discussion is key.
In the past, we often had to deal with unproductive discussion clogging up the forum. Wild speculation, unfeasible game ideas, that sort of thing. It’s the whole reason we have the massive red disclaimer on the Get Involved page discouraging so-called “ideas people”. Last year we set up an application system to limit non-development discussion to one section of the forum, but that didn’t stop it. With nowhere else to go, fans often ventured there anyway. The thinking behind the Community Forum was to set up a dedicated place for fan discussion, separate from developer talk. We already had the subreddit, but to discuss things there required a user to sign up with a third party website.
We run the Community Forum ourselves, and so far it’s already seen conversations about space warfare, video game music, and ecosystem roleplays. In case you missed the link before (and to drive home the point that we’d prefer you to go there to ask questions or give suggestions), here it is again:
Anyway, back to the Development Forums. We worked out that one reason for our unwillingness to use the old forum was just general design and functionality. Some forum hunting led us to Discourse, which boasts a better interface and numerous useful features our old forum host didn’t have.
Moving to a new forum also gave us the opportunity to refine the application process. The new forum is invite-only. An application to join the team can now be submitted via the appropriate page on our website, and accepted users will be sent an email invitation. This is a much more streamlined system than what we had previously, and should lead to more effective handling of new members.
Our old Development Forum has been archived, with a final farewell devblog posted here.
Actual Development Progress
At this point you may be wondering whether we’ve actually been developing anything instead of fussing over the trivialities of forums. Rest assured we’re still moving forwards.
First and foremost, we now have a (nearly) complete Game Design Document for the entire Microbe Stage:
It covers everything you might want to know about the first game section: how exploring and combat work, what goes on in the microbe editor, the functions of all organelles, how the player will move between game states, what everything will look and sound like, etc. It’s split into various sections, each with their own page linked via the main one.
One section is missing a few things: Simulation Specifics. This is because not everything here has been ironed out, and describing it all in detail will require (gasp) equations. Not to say we don’t already know most of what’s going on with each of these mechanics – many of them are briefly covered in other areas of the document, and our theorists, while fonts of all knowledge, don’t always have much time. This section should be fixed relatively soon, but you can still grasp the entirety of the Microbe Stage’s functionality without it.
Bear in mind that nothing in the document is completely set in stone. We might find mechanics aren’t as fun or don’t work as well as we thought they would, but that’s the joy of QA. Even so, the GDD serves to inform anyone of how the game will work, from fan to programmer, and stands as testament to the fact that we actually do have a full concept (if not much of a game yet, but we’re working on that…).
In other news, the team recently had a long discussion on the topic of adaptive AI, which you can read through here:
We’ve also been working on the visual feature you’ve all been waiting for: cells that look like cells. Until now, they’ve been hexagonal arrangements of organelles, but for a game which touts realism, we need something much more visually appealing. The thread on this topic can be found here:
We now have the means to implement a dynamic membrane rendering around microbes based on their organelle arrangement. Eventually it’ll distort during collisions or when moving through environmental water currents. The membrane will be 3D on a 2D plane, and should look something like the image at the beginning of this post.
To finish, here’s a recently composed track from the sound side of development for space voyages towards the end of the game. Check back soon to hear from us again, with more development progress and updates!