0.5.6 Feedback thread

Let’s have a general thread once again for small feedback people might be hesitant to open a new thread for.

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Ok! So, auto evo is very important, but hopefully it isnt to fast! For example, if one plant evolved spikes like a cactus most herbivores in the region would die out if its the only food source. Or, a top predator could evolve very quickly and crash the whole Food chain.

I played roughly 40 or 50 minutes of Thrive, enough for me to get to the River patch, get a nucleus and bind with another cell. Here are some issues I jotted down while playing the game which I can expand on later [finals week is approaching]. Overall, I had a good time, but some issues made it hard for me to actually assess gameplay.

Also as a note, I looked through the development thread and am aware much of what I bring up is being addressed. I just want to make sure to include it so you guys know what a player notices immediately in their playthrough.

Also note that I haven’t really played the last patch since I’ve been really busy, so I might be commenting on things already settled/previously established. Will play more over December break.

Interface

  • Editor/Report font could use a bit more variety in text with colors and emphasis. The report text can be monotonous and as a result, I’m not sure where to find what I’m looking for and what I should really care about. Bolded and underlined species name, green for positive population changes and red for negative population changes.
  • Some minor things can improve an already pretty, robust, and well-designed interface. Graphs are very cool, especially the population tracking one, but being able to expand/zoom in on them would help if you would like to assess something in detail.
  • I think the player’s species should be the first one listed in the Report page.
  • Auto-Evo Predictor isn’t really informative. It would be good to know what’s causing your species to gain or die (I realize auto-evo needs to be tweaked)
  • Would be cool if there was some sort of picture that shows up if you hover your mouse over another specie’s name in the Report section; I forget who is who oftentimes.

Gameplay

  • The gameplay loop is kind of screwed up if I spawn right next to a cloud of phosphate and ammonia (am aware that spawning is being addressed). I can’t properly test out my build and oftentimes feel like I’m cheating the system.
  • Black membrane is pretty difficult to see in the hydrothermal vents. Camouflage should be a part of the game, but I feel this was too excessive.
  • Size is inherently bad for auto-evo, and it needs to be overhauled. Pretty discouraging when I have barely died in my own gameplay with my organism but my population dwindles down to critical numbers. Besides tweak, maybe reward players more for successful reproduction. Will say that some punishment to size can encourage streamlining your organism, but at the same time, perpetuates the “one cytoplasm master build” problem.
  • Compound are non-existent when you first move to a new patch it seems, and then suddenly extremely concentrated balls of nutrients show up and expand very slowly. Hurts the feeling of immersion somewhat, as if you’re walking into a barren patch of what should be an already packed planet.
  • Auto-Evo gets slow towards the later part of gameplay. Long loading screens.
  • Microbes with pilus aren’t as aggressive towards the player as it seems they should be. I probably have to wait a bit to see that predatory behavior develop, although it might be worth a look.
  • 50 kajillion cells would spawn near me at some point, which would inevitably result in a bunch of floating parts and death. Besides the jarring appearance of many cells, wouldn’t be so bad if lag dramatically spiked. I have a decent but not very good laptop that hasn’t previously encountered much lag in playing Thrive, but this time it was running at around 3 FPS at times when there were a lot of cells around me.
  • I once again resorted to becoming a plant.

With bugs and some problems highlighted, I will move on to positive experiences.

The interface and tutorial is very smooth so far, and really makes you feel like the project is top-quality. A very well-done and sharp Report and Editor which if improved will look incredible. The tutorial tips, although kind of cutting short when you’re playing as your organism after movement is explained, is very useful in the editor.

Although a high number of cells really lags up my machine, it’s cool to see so much life, and when you get past the jarring and sudden burst of spawning, it really feels like you’re one spec in a bustling ecosystem. Seeing cells clearly exhibit predatory behaviors and occupy separate primitive niches with distinct strategies, such as poison shooters or pilus driving, felt pretty good.

I had a jaw-drop moment playing, which is good news in terms of fun. I encountered a group of what seemed to be stationary and easy to pick off prey items that had some degree of camouflage. I was going to consume them thinking them to be an evolutionary dead end, but it looked like another cell would get there before me. Suddenly, every one of those “prey” cells shot poison at that other cell, killing it and making my jaw drop in shock. I don’t think that species survived long, but it had a really strong impression on me.

Despite its dramatic and unfair effects on the player, Auto-Evo has really done wonders with non-controlled species. It’s incredible seeing fluctuations on the population chart and seeing certain species dominate certain patches. Although much tweaking needs to be done, a very cool start.

It was nice seeing unique cell behavior be demonstrated through my gameplay. Scaring off smaller cells nutrient-rich debris, seeing cells run away, seeing various degrees of mobility felt really good.

I noticed that I actually felt more comfortable with being critical of the game than usual and had more criticism of the game even though I was having more fun than with previous versions of Thrive. And as odd as that sounds, I think this is because Thrive is starting to shape up. Before, I would dismiss certain flaws as acceptable since so much was left to be implemented. I haven’t really felt that this time around, and that’s a good thing. Thrive is really starting to feel like a game, and as such, I feel like an expectation is there regarding balancing, the direction of the game, and quality. You guys have the skeleton now. Put some meat on it.

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First of all I’d just like to say that I really appreciate your in-depth analyses of the game releases and I look forward to these.

I agree. And I’ve been thinking for a little bit that maybe we should have a more graphical representation. I just wrote down my ideas regarding this on the dev forums:

@KasterisK is on that:

I noticed this already:

Yes, this definitely needs improvement. I started discussion on the dev forums:

And I already opened a few issues regarding concrete things to do about it:

Actually turns out I just opened that one, but I’ll open more soon, I’m still holding out hope that other developers would reply to my auto-evo prediction understandability ideas thread.

Yes, I think we need to somewhere show preview images of the other species. I’ve so far opened a technical issue for implementing a feature to generate those images, once we have that it’ll be pretty easy to show them where we want:

Spawn system changes (or entire rewrite) is something I want to prioritise for 0.5.7:

This has been brought up in the past but been dismissed as a valid thing for species to evolve to be hard to see by the player as an advantage (because the player seeing a cell, they can kill it and cause its population to fall).

Definitely. We need to do something about this. I just posted in the release planning about this:

I assume you played the Github version? For Steam people I put out a hotfix that improves auto-evo speed by about 20 times. For everyone else (except our devbuild patrons), that’ll come next week in 0.5.6.1.

Another thing that I know we need to give some focus on in the near future, is the performance dips later in the game.

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I was wondering about the species names… this is often the first thing I notice when I play a game like this and it gets on my nerves seeing it: why is the species name capitalized by default for all the species names I see? Only the first letter of the genus name should be capitalized. It’s nitpicky I guess but it’s a great way to alienate what I assume is the intended audience.

You are the second person to mention this over the years we’ve had randomly generated names in the game.
I guess no one has felt strongly enough that this is a problem that work was put into change it.

Edit: opened an issue:

Possibly if randomly generated species had certain qualities i.e: fur, warm blood, ect. This could affect the name of the creature.

Something else I noticed in another playthrough is that toxin is very difficult to use against smaller organisms. I only killed a single unicellular organism by shooting at it, and by the time I reached it, most of the organelles and resources were fading out. Most of this can be fixed with the introduction of organelle upgrades, which will allow players to choose from fast moving and precise toxins aimed at larger prey or very cloudy but more slow moving toxins that can trap smaller prey.

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It’s not half bad. It’s getting better then ever. It’s smooth and nice. I needed to use a better computer though.
It’s a really big jump since I played it lastly.

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With the new patch, I had another round of Thrive that lasted around 2 hours – an amount of time I honestly didn’t expect. It started out rather unpleasant and dull but became really fun towards the end, so much so that it was hard to stop playing. I was really surprised at the amount of fun I had. Not everything is obviously a result of just a single patch, but it helped. And the potential of the game was really on display.

Here is a collection of notes I took while playing:

  • Previously mentioned issues with spawning are still there. Also, once again, spawning in with a bunch of phosphate/ammonia already breaks the game loop. I know it’s being addressed.
  • Auto-Evo Prediction Explanation helps shed some light on how exactly your species is being impacted by the computer. While it reads out like a jumble of math if I tried to just skim through it, it helps me know what the computer is thinking, which at least makes me feel like I am being penalized in a manner that isn’t arbitrary. Better, more layman friendly layout of text and better explanation of calculations would be appreciated.
  • On that topic, Auto-Evo, while still with its problems, is obviously improved. I still feel like size is punished unduly, and I still feel like certain things that appear to be obvious benefits were detriments to the computer. For example, when my cell’s energy consumption/production loop finally reached the point where I didn’t have to stop to let ATP store so that I don’t suffocate my cell to death with constant movement, I started getting penalized for something that made the game much easier on my part (adding enough Rusti to be able to sustain ATP production through movement, adding more metabolosomes, adding enough thylakoids to become truly autotrophic were penalized for example). I think part of this is because my cell population was booming from being so small and increasing my size, while still being viable in some ways for the computer, wasn’t as viable, so my population was shrinking to a point of equilibrium that I felt was too low. But because your population doesn’t take such huge cuts as it did before, you aren’t as screwed over thankfully. A “expected population after x generations” would be appreciated.
  • Clouds are incredibly difficult to see on the surface. I couldn’t see iron at all near the shoreline, and I had to squint and move closer to the screen to see phosphate, ammonia, and glucose.
  • For the first few generations in the coastline, it really felt like a barren wasteland. I only ran into Iron and a few of my own cells, spending basically the entire time in a mad dash for ammonia. Roughly three generations and 40 minutes was spent in that biome in the same way, and I was considering cheating to give me some ammonia so I could skip forward to a more populated patch. Due to me adopting the bum-rush the surface strategy, and as a result, it felt like the game was catching up to a place it wasn’t ready for me to be in. I understand the empty patch barren of other cells if you’re a pioneer species, but the complete lack of ammonia and phosphate I felt was a bit overkill for the first few generations, especially since you’re near the surface where land runoff means access to more unique elements. It makes sense that less species are present near the surface at first biologically, but only because of UV radiation and oxygen; such environmental hazards are not yet adopted into Thrive.
  • Could be just that I placed them just before the game would have caught up organically, but other life only really started popping up when I adopted a thylakoid in the patch (I try to sustain myself without a thylakoid for as long as possible as a point of pride). Copycats quickly followed suit. I read that species generally only split off of your cells/mutations, which if true hurt the auto-evo experience in my playthrough. Once again, could easily be a result of me rushing to the surface incredibly quickly.
  • A cell with a pilus appeared to try to hunt one of my species but then would chicken out at the last second.
  • Flagella is broken again :frowning:.
  • Flagella is also a rare find amongst other AI.
  • There was a lack of predation towards my organism until I turned up my own species aggression.
  • I saw a cell with an archaic hydrogen sulfide organelle in my patch. Pretty cool reminder that there was an entire planet beyond my patch. Later in the game, the drift of foreign species into my own patch also had that same effect.
  • Cells appear to do a good job of knowing they should eat a specific food source (iron-organelle things eat iron, hydrogen things eat hydrogen, etc.) Races for iron chunks were pretty cool and fun.
  • A cool thing would be the ability to prescribe a common name to another organism so that you more easily remember it (and for customization reasons in general). There was a specific cell that engulfed me and I barely remembered its formal name, I just referred to it as the green monster from that point on.
  • Definitely less lag, but still rather stuttery. Lag appeared to spike when something dies or when a large number of toxins are ejected.

With general notes out of the way, here’s the fun part.

My patch along the shore was pretty peaceful for the first few generations that life started showing up. Evolving thylakoids meant a greater number of species, so competition was mostly focused on racing around Iron and consuming smaller chunks, and since there was a lot of iron and the cells were small enough to not need a constant supply of food, there wasn’t much action going on. Then, a species appeared to accidently consume me when it was eating a loose organelle, and that appeared to ignite the incredibly violent and bloodthirsty nature of that species, which was larger than me. So in defense, I decided to add three flagella so that I could run away if I wanted to. Then I had the genius idea to add a pilus to become a predator, and that worked incredibly effectively. Not only was I safe from that predator, but besides just a few poisonous species, the entire patch was basically defenseless. So I really let loose and evolved a pretty efficient, fast, and deadly predator.

I faced the first big “dilemma” I ever had in Thrive in designing my animal. I wanted more thylakoids to increase my glucose supply because my cell needed constant energy, but thylakoids are heavy and would have slowed down my species, losing a big edge. So I decided to forgo the extra thylakoid and just risk being rather voracious. In the future, I can see how dramatic shifts a patch population – meteor strikes, volcanos, whatever – could have consequences for that. And when thylakoids are nerfed with the introduction of a day/night cycle, I can see even more hard choices being made.

Suddenly, another larger predator with toxins showed up and really started creaming me and the entire patch. As a result, I decided to place oxytoxy for increased immunity (is that how it works? I feel like I die much less from poison once I place a poison), but I had to give up a flagella in exchange to make sure I wasn’t wrecking my cell’s metabolic pipeline. Things chilled out for a bit after I got that oxy-toxy, but the prey kept getting tougher, less vulnerable cells were present, and poison and defensive pilus became a lot more common. But during that entire time, I was having alooooot of fun. Once an advanced toxin/immunity system is present, I can only imagine how much more interesting things will become.

That was the first time I think I ever felt like I was witnessing an evolutionary arms race in Thrive. I really got into making sure my species was competitive, I felt rewarded when my decision to add a pilus meant a huge edge in the patch, and I was really impressed when easy prey items started disappearing and more defensive/aggressive cells started showing up, making things more difficult for me again. I had to stop myself from playing even more, and I really want to see how this pans out; I want to see what going eukaryotic will mean for my species and the patch.

My only complaint with that entire sequence was that at certain points, it felt like I was going into the editor five seconds after I spawned because of how close I was to prey items and how easy it was. That can be solved with a better spawning system, however. I also feel like auto-evo was pulling a few punches. Things that could have consumed me didn’t, other cells with pilus weren’t tracking me down like a predator sometimes, and as a whole, the AI was defensive rather than offensive. Having the AI be capable of becoming more aggressive would have made the experience even more fun. But color me impressed; I had a very good amount of fun.

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Species can only split if they would gain population after splitting. This means that if your species is not really suited to surviving in a patch, no species can split off, as they would quickly die off.

The animation, right?

We didn’t catch that in testing but the new Godot release changed how the glb importer worked so the animation names were messed up. I fixed that already, and it will be in the next release.

I’m pretty sure that’s not a feature, but we’ve talked about in the past about a way to boost toxin resistance further than the few membranes that offer it.

AI species mostly have randomly changing AI behaviour values. So even species that might be well adapted to be a predator, can be very non-aggressive.

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I believe while it is important that some cells will evolve from the player cell, there should be plenty of cells possibly evolving from AI generated cells, as well as cells adapting faster than they are already would result in more player vs. AI cells (As well as A.I. vs A.I cells) evolutionary arms races.
I also feel as if there could be “Invasive species” that could be very well suited to more than their native patch, which could result in them invading other patches causing A.I. and player cells to adapt to survive against these new threats.
Edit: Also maybe there could be a clear(er) food chain, with more predator prey relationships. I also feel as if cells can adapt way too rapidly to certain things, like going from a prey item to an apex predator in a few or less editor cycles.

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All of these should already be happening in the game. In 0.5.6.1 there’s no special handling of species splitting from the player species versus from other AI species. Also species migrations to new patches has been in the game for multiple versions. And a new species migrating to a patch does upset the current balance in there regarding competition and resource use.

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