Mini Update #6: Gameplay Updates Pt. 1

Hey guys, Nick here, and welcome back to another Mini Update. It’s time for us to cover some of the upcoming gameplay changes that are going to be included with the next release. We’ve got a lot to cover, so we’ll split this into several parts. Today’s update will mostly cover gameplay changes to the compound system and features associated with it.

Now, the upcoming release is intended to be primarily for implementing the new engine, but alongside it we are going to also include some additions and changes to gameplay to give a change of experience from the current version of Thrive. We’ve had some time to think and discuss about what we want to add and tweak to improve the gameplay experience, and here is what we have so far.


Firstly, compounds. At the moment we feel that the situation with compounds does not provide much of a fun “survival” experience for the player, and that there are a few things that can add frustration to the gameplay.

One of these changes is to rebalance the spawning of compounds, something I experimented with in the Compound Rebalance mod. You can read more about in the first Mini Update.

Basically, the premise of the rebalance is to make clouds harder to find but yield more when found. On top of this, to start building up on the research done on the Planetary Evolution topic covered last time, we’re going to start the game in a “Primordial Soup” condition. Compounds will be abundant and easy to find, so early species will be able to easily thrive and find the nutrients they need. Then this abundance will gradually diminish over the generations until it stabilizes at much lower levels. This gradual increase of difficulty will force the player and other species to have to evolve to compete with the other organisms.

Another change that is partially inspired by that mod is to actually remove oxygen and carbon dioxide as compound clouds, and instead make them features of the environment. By features of the environment, we mean that they will still affect gameplay by influencing the speed of reactions that need them, but will be represented like temperature or light instead of compound clouds. For now, we’ll have them set to fixed values, but later we’ll experiment with fluctuating them across biomes and in response to natural events.

The reasons for removing these two compounds as clouds from the environment are several. For one thing, having to hunt for both oxygen and glucose just to create energy can make the compound rebalance frustrating, because sometimes you can find a lot of glucose but not any oxygen and you end up dying. Realistically these gasses are dilute and widely distributed. Their concentration hardly changes on the microscopic scale. Another reason is that it can get frustrating to have your compound storage get filled by oxygen or carbon dioxide when you don’t need it, when in reality these gasses very quickly and easily diffuse into and out of cells and don’t need to be stored in the same way as nutrients like glucose. Removing these compounds as clouds also streamlines the process of hunting for nutrients, balancing cloud spawning, designing AI, and makes the game a little less complex with less compounds for the player to actively think about and have displayed on the UI (because there are more compounds to be added).

In addition, we’re also planning to remove Amino Acids, Fatty Acids, and Nucleic Acids from the game. Instead, any process that would’ve normally used these compounds uses an equivalent amount of their precursors instead (glucose, ammonia, or phosphate). Though it pained the scientists within us to part with these compounds, we realized it needed to be done for the gameplay. They were purely intermediary in all situations and only made designing the UI, AI, compound system, and other features more complicated. However, since they are the fundamental building blocks of cells and life, we will definitely make sure that they are mentioned and explained in the in-game encyclopedia for anyone interested in the biology and chemistry behind the game.

In light of removing/reclassifying these five compounds, we’re also planning on adding in Phosphate as a new compound that is required in addition to ammonia to reproduce. A lesson partially learned from the compound rebalance is that only requiring the player to absorb ammonia on its own can very quickly allow them to reproduce. Requiring the player to absorb both will slow down the rate of reproduction and allow for more play time between generations. Realistically it also fills in the fact that cells need a source of phosphorus (phosphate) in their nutrients in addition to a source of nitrogen (ammonia). In many oceanic biomes on earth, phosphate and ammonia or other nitrogen based nutrients are the limiting nutrients of how large the ecosystem can grow.

Now let’s break up this wall of text with an image.

UI Concept

With the simplification of the compound system we’re planning a redesign of the UI to something more minimal. Here is some early concept. We’ll get more into this topic as it develops.


Another change, we’re adding chemosynthesis to the game! We’re adding hydrogen sulfide as a new compound cloud and a chemoplast as a new organelle that performs chemosynthesis using hydrogen sulfide (turning it into glucose). This opens up a new possible survival strategy for cells in the environment. This is a precursor of future content we will add with chemosynthesis and thermosynthesis to allow for more exotic and alien life.

Fun fact, part of the reason we’re adding the chemoplast organelle is because we finally fixed the problem we’ve had for a LONG time of not being able to import new models into the game. As part of the engine switch (which is progressing smoothly!), hhyyrylainen figured out how to import models into the game without getting the same errors as before and as a result we’re going to finally get to adding some more of the organelles we have planned.

Health, Reproduction, and Storage

Another upcoming change: Health and Reproduction. From playing the current release you can definitely feel frustration from when you get hit by toxins (the big X’s which will eventually be replaced with proper graphics) from other cells. Not only does it damage your health but it also sets back your reproduction progress, and you have to eat more compounds to restore that lost progress before you can continue past where you were before. Although it was elegant and technically realistic that health and reproduction progress were tied together, we felt that it wasn’t worth the frustration in the gameplay. The solution we’ve decided to implement for this is to separate health from reproduction. You can take damage and your health will go down, but you won’t lose reproduction progress.

Finally, we’re going to be making a change to vacuoles as well. Vacuoles currently provide general storage space for all compounds. This means it’s possible to swim through a cloud of ammonia and become filled with that, and then not have any room for glucose when you find it. The solution we’re going to add to deal with this is to make vacuoles provide separated storage, as in each vacuole provides 10 units of storage for glucose, 10 for ammonia, 10 for phosphate, etc., so that filling up on ammonia doesn’t fill up your cell from being able to absorb some glucose or phosphate or hydrogen sulfide when you find some.

That’s all for this week’s Mini Update! You can discuss this update on reddit or the community forums. Stay tuned for next time when we’ll talk about some of the other upcoming gameplay features, including changes to movement, controls, populations, extinctions, AI, another new organelle, and bacteria!