A Thrive In-Depth Review and Critique

A review in Thrive’s version. A critique of the game. Please be mindful and polite in your replies; criticism does not equal hate.

Thrive Review



The main game-loop here is very simple, as you know. Collect compounds, survive, evolve. But the main criticism against this is that every part of this loop has a major flaw, as I’ll explain.

Compound Gathering

First, the microbe gameplay itself (collecting compounds). It is slow and monotone, although I have to confess, it is addicting at the beginning, and benefits from its simplicity. Starting by the slow gameplay; in the beginning of the game, as I said, it is engaging as your meters fill up fast and you also move quickly, which are both satisfying. But later on, as you advance and grow in size and become Eukaryotic, maintaining speed and managing ATP is more difficulty, so you get slower, and the game gets more boring; making photosynthesis and predatory behavior the prominent strategy. Causing, then, cells that opt for collecting, rather obsolete in the late-game (although I don’t have enough knowledge on this part of the game, this can definitively influence newcomers). My suggestion would be for MP scaling; the bigger, the more MP you have. This way you can balance speed more easily, as well as other benefits that will be listed in the Editor section of this review. Another thing would be faster organelles being unlocked after getting the nucleus. Or even a way that requires less movement, compound chunks for example.

As for the monotone part of the criticism, the prominent strategies and lack of activities both influence this. Although, I will be light on the lack of activities part, since the features are still being implemented, but deserve criticism nonetheless. As stated earlier, photosynthesis and predatory behavior the prominent strategy. The problem with this being: Photosynthesis requires no skill, and predatory behavior lacks functionality (again, I’ll be light on this one). The combat still needs more depth; not more weapons or means of attack, but maybe more basic mechanics. Some way to avoid damage perhaps, or even some tradeoff between emergency speed to escape a predator, but heavy usage of ATP, or another component.

Exploring in general also needs more detail; I’m not a developer myself so these are only some loose suggestions: more component spawn but less components in the clumps. Activities other than collecting, since I believe that simply adding more components wouldn’t be the best choice, so more things to do other than that would be fun, like interacting with your species for example (loose example). New things to experience even, like the Ice Patch, which had some new spikes that caught me off guard and where interesting. Things like just water streams, or just some bubbles around like Spore had would definitively make it way more interesting, while being simple to implement.

TL;dr (too long; didn’t read): The gameplay is satisfying at the beginning but slow after acquiring a nucleus, which takes a while for you to adapt to having, and to rebuild your speed. Which also makes it a bit frustrating, but that is more part of the editor section of the review. It also gets more monotone the more you play, since you basically repeat the same actions, as well as having the prominent strategies needing no skill, or being a little incomplete. The monotonous feeling could be avoided by having more in-depth combat, more activities besides collecting, such as interactions or something else. As well as having interest environment, such as water streams or just ice giant ice chunks floating about. The speed problem could be resolved with MP scaling with size, allowing for more organelle placement, or perhaps faster organelles unlocked after the nucleus.


This section will include combat and others. Starting by the elephant in the room: combat is shallow as of now. Not only considering means of attack or defense, also in basic mechanics. You can only poke, engulf, shoot and run. Sounds plentiful, but engulf is not much mechanically different from poking, and in shooting, you’ll eventually have to resort to the first two. Not gonna lie, engulfing and poking are very satisfying. In contrast, firing poison definitively isn’t. The projectile is slow and the feedback isn’t the best. Escaping is not a very good option as well, since the enemy is basically a mutation of you, so they’ll either be faster than you, or about the same speed (of course they can be slower but I have experienced few cases in which they were a threat and I had to escape).

My suggestions for these would be varying different forms of attack and defense, such as area stun for crowd control, some kind of shell that only protects a certain part and is very costly, and some of the ones stated in the Compound Gathering section, as a short speed burst with high ATP usage. Of course, these suggestions only take into account the gameplay aspect and not the scientific theory, but I’m more of a game design guy anyways, and think that there may be a way to implement these while still being scientifically accurate.

Another part of combat that could be improved is basic set of mechanics, outside of organelles. These could be anything ranging from some kind of dodge, tactical split, adrenaline that makes you use more ATP in exchange for more damage or speed, etc (loose examples).

Another criticism is the enemy AI, as well as ally. NPC AI in general in this case. They are good and bad at the same time. They interact with each other, survive on their own, but also mindlessly bump into you and chase you with no means of attack. I know this is very W.I.P; worthy of criticism regardless. Beginning by the simplest: ally AI. They generally serve their purpose, help you in battle (although sometimes they attack even if they have no weapons, or forget to engulf). Get their own “food” and just do their thing. Sometimes it even feels strangely comforting to move around with them, even looking like a multicellular organism at times! Problem is: they’re too mindless. Won’t try to collect Ammonia or Phosphate, only “food” (things that produce ATP like iron and glucose). And this, in contrast to the player, is pretty janky. After all, here we are doing our best to evolve, survive and thrive, and the rest of the species just messing around a miniscule iron chunk (it’s pretty funny actually). They also tend to eat all organelle chunks and leave nothing for you, which is very annoying. Maybe this could be balanced a bit better, like eat 80% and leave the rest for the player or other cells from the same species.

Now, the enemy AI. They are a big problem. Not only being mindless but stupid, suicidal and irritating. They make the combat too easy at times, and at some, too difficult. First of all, weak cells seem to insist to try and kill you. Ok, not a big deal, that is, if they ran after seeing their friends die. But no, they just keep coming and coming, and it seems like no matter how many you kill, their species only reduce size when you evolve, so it’s a giant wave of meaningless globs. They also don’t use their attacks, only shoving themselves against you, expecting that they might have spikes in their fronts. Something very weird: when they die, they just shoot toxin everywhere; so, you kill a few weaklings and then you die all of the sudden because they blew up some kind of kamikaze toxin that takes 25% of your health each. I suppose that this is so you don’t kill too many cells too fast, but it is not only confusing, unintuitive, but a very bad way to do It. And if the enemy cell does have spikes on its front, and you do as well, since spikes have the same size, it’s basically a 50/50 of who wins; since they’ll collide and one might or might not hit the other, and you can’t attack them from the sides since they turn too fast (maybe a fast-turning organelle for you to have an advantage in this scenario, just like Spore?). You also, most of the time, can’t escape since they have a similar speed. So, it’s either a bunch of weak cells being kamikaze or big cells overwhelming you, or making it a 50/50. Predators also don’t seem to be able to evolve fast enough to keep up you, making it even easier (if you can engulf them). Only saw like, 3 Eukaryote cells in my playthrough.


This part will consist of the Cell Editor and reproduction in general. Starting out, I have to say, I have no big problems with this Editor. In fact, I believe it’s the most polished part of the game. It’s all relatively intuitive and simple. But I’ll go from tabs first, starting from the Report Tab. For now, it’s all right. The information isn’t shown in the best way possible, but it’s enough. Doesn’t do much now but has plenty of potential for the future. My only problem being that it lies about the glucose decrease, or maybe it’s a bug, I’m not sure, not that big of a deal anyways.

The patch map; confusing to understand, there are some seemingly useless areas, but I’m sure they’ll be useful soon, when compound changes get implemented. Could clarify some things better, like why and when you should move to a patch, but that’s more of a problem with the tutorial. The names are also confusing and there should be explanations to what each patch is.

Now, the main focus, the Editor. It’s pretty good, very intuitive. It looks neat, is smooth, does has some problems with some bugs but nothing major. The main criticism being: it doesn’t allow for much creativity. You can create a long cell, place all the organelles wherever you want, change color, style; but at the end of the day, the shape of the cell will be generalized, and even if you make a long cell, it’ll look more like an average circle. The colors don’t incentivize change from the first color you chose, style change is minor and more related to playstyle (also, they are all too similar to each other), and organelle placement is just going to look like a mess regardless. Now, comparing to spore. You can define your “cell” size in each part and it’ll be well defined (as I said, thrive generalizes the model so it’s more of a smooth transition, that makes almost all cells look like a circle). You can add different eyes, decoration with spikes and any other part (you can kind of do this in Thrive but it’s very limited), change texture and a color from a pallet, and since you start with a “random” (it’s actually from a predefined set of creatures) color and name, it Incentivizes you to start working from that name and color.

Thrive compared to Spore is very limited creatively. My suggestion would be for the cell to round less, making it look more like the original concept you made in the Editor, or if this breaks realism, this will only happen after you get a nucleus, so your cell can have more complex shapes. Another thing would be random names and colors at the start of the game, as well as highlighted colors (an option of colors to use from the pallet, so the player doesn’t have to keep messing with the pallet) cosmetic organelles, or variations of more noticeable ones, like Spore did with the eye parts.

Another problem I have is the preparation for the nucleus. This is more of a personal problem I experienced, but I’m afraid other new players might experience this as well. Preparing for nucleus is a bit confusing for those that don’t understand it very well. The player knows that he will need to make more ATP, so he starts working on that. But because of this, the cell gets large, so the player places more flagellas and spikes. Then you’ll need more energy to balance those organelles out, and end up trapping himself in a loop. I’m still confused if you are supposed to sacrifice your speed or circumvent this in some way. Regardless, it is not conveyed very well.

And in the topic of the last paragraph, mutation points are too low for eukaryotes, since the transition from no nucleus to nucleus is very ATP heavy, you’ll need to place a lot of organelles to start producing fast enough to evolve, and removing old organelles also takes too many points in this stage. My suggestion would be MP scaling with size, or after getting the nucleus. This also affects your speed since you need to get faster because of your size, and you can only place few organelles per reproduction; it’s a choice between speed or ATP that is not so engaging that requires mass evolving until you can balance them (which is also monotone to do).

TL;dr (too long; didn’t read): The game has too many creative limits. You should be able to make your cell more personal. Examples would be a more defined shape, resembling more what you planned in the Editor. As well as random names and colors at the start of the game, as well as highlighted colors (an option of colors to use from the pallet, so the player doesn’t have to keep messing with the pallet) cosmetic organelles, or variations of more noticeable ones, like Spore did with the eye parts. Preparing for nucleus is also difficulty and not well explained, making people that don’t understand get stuck trying to make more ATP and getting speed to balance the size, which costs more ATP, creating a frustrating loop. After getting the Nucleus, Mutation Points are too low for you to balance your speed and energy production, making you have to mass evolve, which is not particularly fun.


This section will include UI, Graphics, Performance, Tutorial, etc. Starting by the more important progression, and tutorial, respectively. Progression is not well presented to the player. I’m always unsure of if I should move to the next patch or not. But I’m sure this will be fixed soon with compound changes in the environment. Not much else to say about it, not many features to discuss.

As for the tutorial, it’s an incredibly great feature and I could not have understood the game without it. Even then, it’s still primitive. It tells you to get glucose and shows you where, but then doesn’t explain the other compounds; only once you get the ammonia and phosphate, then it says to evolve. The rest of it is fine, still being implemented. The other main thing about it is not explaining the whole nucleus process; how to get it, why, and then how to survive with one. But this was previously discussed in the Evolve section.

Now, the style, graphics and performance of the game. I said before that the Editor was maybe the most polished part of the game. Unfortunately for the Editor, this award goes to the general style, graphics, soundtrack and performance. The style itself is very clear and gives a weird vibe of futuristic and primitive at the same time. The graphics only add to this; while they lack in environment, they nail the rest. Cell, effects, UI, all well done. The performance is surprising; an early alpha independent game made by volunteers with no profit, and running this well? I have to give props to the devs here, this all, it’s the biggest quality of the game. The soundtrack, while not as good as Spore (procedural soundtrack would be cool as well), it’s still fantastic.


Thrive is an ambitious project, for now it doesn’t have much going for it and can be considered a cell simulator. The gameplay is generally monotone, little to do, and the combat is clunky at its best. The AI is primitive. But yet, it manages to engage you in its simplicity. There is something satisfying about collecting compounds, surviving, and evolving. The fact that you can still evolve more, collect more, make your cell better, perfect, as it’s not the best it possibly can, makes you not want to stop playing. The minimalism in the general game and editor fit very well, a place to rest between farming compounds and getting into fights. The combat is shallow and needs more mechanics, not only means of attack, but basic mechanics. The editor doesn’t allow for much creative options. The style is on tune with the game, the most polished part of it.

A good game to play, a great development to follow. I’m excited to see what this will become, and do more reviews in the future. The best of luck to all the developers.


I really do appreciate this review! I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to know how players feel about each aspect of our game.

As you yourself have already acknowledged, alot of the issues you have will hopefully be resolved as we implement our planned content. Things such as terrain obstacles within the environment, flowing currents to push things around, smarter AI, etc.

I can’t say I agree with MP scaling, if anything that might be more of a cost issue with eukaryotic parts. I’ll take a look and see if it might need adjusting.

I agree that combat feels shallow, and after reading your post I now feel rather inspired to get back to the drawing board and focus on redesigning the movement system of Thrive as I feel that movement plays a large role in the flow of combat. I already have a few ideas on making the current offensive parts more engaging as well.

Thank you for your feedback!


This is actually kinda intended, though the features are a bit broken currently. The idea behind the environmental glucose reduction (which doesn’t work currently) is that it forces cells to not just rely on the clouds to survive.

MP is actually a percentage. It makes no sense to be able to make more than 100% of the mutations that can occur during the editor cycle (100 million years).
Organelle discounts are plausible though. The timespan the editor session represents could also change.

In the next update the AI will be able to properly (it is bugged in to become bored of chasing things and go do something else. The AI definitely needs some love but so far we haven’t found anyone willing to put in the work to significantly improve the AI.

This is also partly a bug. There was a bug that AI didn’t know how to shoot toxins, this is also fixed in the upcoming release.

This mechanic is to prevent engulfing cells with toxins. You are meant to use a pilus to stab them to death and then you can also use a pilus to deflect the resulting toxins. So evolving toxins is a counter to engulfing and pili are then a counter to toxins.
I agree that the combat needs more work, both in design and improving the implementation.

At least when I last tried, you can deflect pili with other pili if you rotate slowly enough for the physics to catch up. We are planning to move to a physics based rotation at some point so the pili no longer can phase through each other (at least as easily).

It’s a bug. We are hopefully getting an overhauled spawn system soon where it works correctly.

There is a major change, which is taking a long time, coming where the 3D mesh generation algorithm will be entirely redone to make it match the player made shapes better. No timeline on when this is done.

I agree. I made the initial set of tutorials, and they are purely for the early game.
I think we should add a tutorial for how to get the nucleus (and later how to advance to multicellular once that’s done), but there isn’t an immediately obvious time when it should trigger: ATP production, certain generation? Should there be a separate tutorial after many generations if the nucleus tutorial hasn’t triggered?
Needs some design work here.

I don’t think there’s a thought out design here, but I think the effect currently is that, bigger cells just are slower. But after getting the nucleus you get better energy generation organelles, so you can increase your speed again.

I’ve seen let’s plays on youtube that don’t have this problem as they go about it like this:

  • Get big, with ATP surplus
  • Move slowly
  • Get a nucleus
  • Get better energy generation
  • Can now afford enough flagella to move at quite a good speed

Some potential designs:

  • Prokaryote parts are cheaper to remove as an eukaryote
  • Upgrading prokaryote parts to eukaryotic ones can be done with an MP discount
  • MP cost of eukaryotic organelles is rebalanced

It does actually explain them to you, if you are stuck for multiple minutes.
The main design philosophy with the tutorial is that it isn’t in your way, like in some games you need to click through multiple minutes of tutorial popups. In thrive instead the tutorials are mostly context-dependent so they should trigger at regular intervals when it makes sense to do so and not all overwhelm the player at once.

I’m actually kinda disappointed with the performance as it tanks when a lot of cells exist and run code needed to process them. As for the overall performance, we don’t use expensive graphical effects, so the game doesn’t require much power to render.

Please do. We have a kind of a tradition to get these kind of bigger review posts only after major new versions are released.


Thank you for the in depth reply, and for some corrections!
So, after reading most of this, the main criticism is how some mechanics are not easy to understand. As example:

This is not easy to notice as a new player, and it’s also difficulty to know if a cell has toxin (since organelles are really clumped togheter). Maybe it could be explained in the organelle details in the Editor? (maybe it already is, i don’t really remember seeing it).

I see. Nice to know then, excited for new ways of getting suplies.

That is really interesting, i think it’s a good addition.

I’m glad you could take some value out of my review!

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The pilus description is really lacking as it is the only new organelle added since 2015 (which was when I joined the project, at which point all the other organelle descriptions were already written and fleshed out). When I added the pilus to the game I wrote the bare minimum text for its tooltip.
Someone should really give the pilus description the love it deserves by making it as fleshed out as the other organelle descriptions.

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Might I suggest that mp not be a static number tied to an arbitrary amount of time and instead use the features that already exist within the game. Mainly that you have storage for phosphates and ammonia that fill up after you gather enough to evolve. Make those excess stores of those materials add additional mp proportional to the amount necessary to evolve when you decide to evolve so that players who spend the time gathering resources can benefit more from their extra effort. Also make it so any excess mp you have when leaving the editor is converted back into phosphates and ammonia to give a little boost towards the next evolution. In regards to time, make it so each point of mp spent corresponds to a certain amount of time.

I personally think that this could be at least part of the solution for the issues with the editor.


Mp base when you evolve would still be 100 but you can store a lot more phosphates and ammonia than it takes to evolve your cell and say you gathered exactly double what you needed to evolve, you would go into the editor with 200 mp rather than just 100. That being said if you only gathered ammonia in excess then you would get no extra value from it.

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I think this would benefit gameplay a lot

Why not make it after getting a nucleus you have a higher amount of MP, so nothing goes over 100% (like some of the light in the old patches) but the player has a bit more they can do in one evolution.

Perhaps the player could have an option to merge 2 organelles together, like a Pilus and Toxic Vacuole could inject toxins into a cell. Is that LAWK?

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You can already “bank” a free evolution by filling up after the editor becomes available.
It doesn’t make much sense that by doing well you can mutate faster in some timespan. It should be the opposite, if your species is doing bad, evolution can happen much faster with extreme selection pressure.

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What i was suggesting scaled with time, basically it allows the player to skip forward a larger amount of time than default to account for the extra changes made. It’s purely to help with the monotony the current cycle has. Why should you have to exit the editor just to immediately go back in to it if you have one banked? Just add more mp in the first editor instead.

And if you want to do the extreme pressure thing make it so each death gives a small discount on parts

It’s not supposed to be monotonous.
If you can skip ahead too much you can game the system by making a species that wouldn’t have really survived the time jump the editor would represent.

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I also wanted to give some feedback to this latest version of Thrive. With zoom university, I haven’t really had the time or energy to play the game in a critical, detail-oriented way. Now that I finished my finals, I did so recently.

I played Thrive for a bit while keeping in mind four things that I felt were important: The Good (things I liked/was impressed by), the Negatives (things I felt broke the game loop for no good reason), Potential Improvements to Consider (things that aren’t necessarily bad but could be improved, personal and subjective) , and things that extract from immersion (hurt the immersive/realistic tones of Thrive for no good reason). I also put some suggestions and things to consider based on negatives and improvements I brought up; ideas that I am sure have already been considered.

Background Information About Reviewer – Played for about 45 minutes or so. Player with an extensive, not expert amount of knowledge about biology and paleontology. Decent experience with previous versions and decent success with all of them. Seems to be pretty good at the current version. Pretty cool guy; gets a lot of likes on forum.


  • First of all, everything run smoothly with minimal drops in performance on a good, not great laptop not made for gaming.
  • Beautiful first steps on the tutorial, well-integrated and informative. Although, for a less-knowledgeable player, a more immediate and accessible explanation of the processes is needed to go along with the first trip to the editor.
  • Report area is very well made. Ability to expand graphs on the sidebar is much appreciated. Some color-coding and some of that ability to expand/hide certain sections is needed in the main chunk of text, however. Also, zooming/scaling would be helpful for the side graphs.
  • Statistics and processes information are very effective and conducive, although they take just a bit to properly understand what was going on.
  • Of course, soundtrack. Exceptional, and sets the mood well.
  • Pacing in gameplay feels smooth, at least in the beginning. Amount/rate at which environment gets cluttered with other cells seems sensible, natural, and inuitive.
  • Difficulty level is solid (atleast, until photosynthesis). You can’t cheat the system, but you don’t feel like you’re being cheated either. Besides a few minor issues that’ll undoubtedly be patched, you feel that the game is fair and properly balanced.
  • Great sound effects that let the player understand what is happening around them.
  • Predation is much more viable than I remember it to be.

To summarize this section, I want to end with this observation: that Thrive is actually fun. Not fun for an early-development, not fun for an open-source, but fun fun. Before, I felt that sometimes, I had to mentally go “this aspect of the game will be more fun in the future so it’s fine right now”; now, I actually felt some time melt away pretty fast. So bravo: there’s a speck of gold here.


  • Spawning with compounds collected in the previous life after you reached the reproduction threshold kind of undercuts game loop in an abstract and off-putting way, enough so that mentally, I kind of considered my first “spawn” in after evolving as not legitimate, and only considered it legitimate when I died and started with those preset compounds. Spawning with a surplus makes you feel like you’ve cheated, and spawning with a deficit handicaps you right off the bat; the former felt worse personally. It also doesn’t let you adequately judge if your tweaks were good or bad, which is pretty crucial in a game about evolution. I think that spawning after evolving with the baseline values you get after you die works the best.
  • New players can be overwhelmed with just how much stuff is thrown at them in the beginning in terms of how many parts you have in the editor.
  • There’s a “whoop” sound effect going on when you or something near you moves that is a bit too loud and feels a bit too intrusive. Could it not just be replaced by a current or splashing sound?
  • As was previously mentioned, some AI problems that need to be ironed out. Won’t go into much detail here as I don’t feel like I have much to contribute.
  • There’s a general graphics issue where certain organelles exit the bounds of the membrane when the membrane rhythmically shrinks. Was already an issue, though.
  • Photosynthesis is still an endless benefit with negligible detriments. Probably 80% of current balancing issues is centered around it.

Potential Improvements to Consider

  • Part of this is inevitable because of player choices effecting prioritized organelles, but after the point of the tutorial which explains that cytoplasm is almost always a safe bet in placing parts, a new player can feel a bit lost as to the direction they will take in placing parts. This could be solved by, when tutorial is enabled, locking the player to hydrogen vents until after a certain point in the tutorial and tipping them that either chemosynth or rust proteins are solid first objectives in the vents.
  • GUI is great overall, but I personally think the GUI boxes in the editor and report HUB (dark blue fill with cyan outline) could be improved/somewhat softened. Could be personal preference.
  • Organism Statistics could be friendlier to a new overwhelmed player if a stat akin to “time it would take for your cell’s processes to drain 20 glucose without any input” is included as a benchmark. Once again, stats are great overall however.
  • Could benefit if other organisms moved to other patches just a bit faster. Right now, I play like the other patches depend completely on my presence because they essentially do. It would be cool if you moved into a patch that already has its own dynamic going on.

Things that Extract from Immersion

  • Fact that the nucleus, and basically entirety of organelles, can be accessed and placed immediately. Makes it feel more like an experiment than you watching/controlling evolution through eons and eons of time; a bit too much KSP sandbox and not enough of its progression system.
  • Not really a priority currently and of course not new, but parallax backgrounds. The aesthetic beauty of the game, which is already sprouting, would be ‘roided up whenever you guys can implement a properly dynamic background.
  • Cells feel a bit too hardbodied when colliding with each other. Also, small organelles discarded from cell-death oftentimes feel too heavy and massy.


A Day-Night Cycle For Balancing Photosynthesis – I remember seeing a day and night cycle suggestion somewhere on the two Thrive forums, and I seriously think that would be a good way to go about balancing photosynthesis. A big reason why plants are sessile, besides the low output of photosynthesis, is because they need to spare as many energy expenses as possible; for 12 hours, they have practically zero input. I think implementing this real-world dilemma would go a long way in implementing the same sort of pressures a photosynthetic lifeform deals with on Earth. Perhaps as a baseline, two minutes of UV and two minutes of dark would work. Properties of the planet would have a say on how long a day lasts, of course.

I doubt a day-night cycle would have any serious repercussions on the timescale of Thrive, as in the microbe stage, time only means something when you click a button. By that, I mean that the actual “playing” part of Thrive right now, where you interact with the environment, is an abstract representation of your cell’s fitness in an abstract place and time. A player isn’t going “this is exactly 70 quintrillion days ago”; instead, the player’s understanding of time is dependent on the time jumps in the editor. As such, representing a day-night cycle in the microbe stage is basically meaningless in terms of your organism’s temporal journey through evolution.

The Basics of Organelle Upgrading –

This suggestion is much more long-term than the one above, but it’s still worth some thought.

I don’t mean things like improving the stats of certain organelles iteratively; I mean something basic along the lines of “upgrading metabolosome to sulfide-fixating proteins”; or, essentially, upgrading something on your cell to unlock something. As I previously mentioned, Thrive feels more like an evolution “experiment” rather than an evolution simulator because of how easy it is to place certain blocks down. It feels too much like a Kerbal Space Program Sandbox rather than its mode based on science and progression; and evolution is inherently dependent on some sort of progression.

Articulating the targeted thought process a player should have when playing Thrive best represents this. I think that ideally, at the start of a Thrive playthrough, player should be thinking something along these lines: “I see that I’m dealing with these compounds and these problems; how do I get to a point where I have the tools I need to deal with this situation?”. Without even a rudimentary progression system however, the player is thinking something along these lines: “I see that I’m dealing with these compounds and these problems: which of my many tools do I use?” The differences between the first line of thought and the second are big. With the first one, you have to use whatever rudimentary tool you have right now and make it work and develop it into a tool that adequately deals with the situation at hand; you proactively evolve. With the second one, you just pick whatever tool patches the hole you have and spam it with every trip to the editor; you react to your current environment. Thrive needs to balance those two trains of thoughts, and right now, it’s veering much too close to the latter and farther from the former than is necessary in an evolution game.

As such, implementing some sort of basic progression system solves this problem and implements depth. It also deals with both the problem of overwhelming a new player with a large amount of currently useless organelles and the problem of breakdowns in immersion when it comes to the player’s perception of evolution. Having the nucleus be hidden behind, say, a couple of membrane upgrades that increases osmosis efficiencies, or having prokaryotic proteins be locked behind a certain base structure or protein (metabolosomes as a base maybe) would help. Having the pilus be an upgrade of the flagella or v.v. would help. A lot would help when it comes to progression.

It would also help with ensuring that the player feels the world around them is evolving instead of randomly selecting a part from a list of random mutations. If you see a cell with a part you don’t have, you would realize that species of microbe had a certain evolutionary path/niche it was filling in order to get to that part; it had to get through certain parts before getting this one. Right now, if you see a cell with a part you don’t have, you just think of a dice. It goes without saying that this entire section depends on auto-evo being optimized however, so its more a future benefit than an immediate benefit to gameplay.

Do you guys think that Thrive is still not at the point where a basic progression is needed? Of course, with organelle upgrades and endosymbiosis still needing to be fleshed out, anything put in now would be subject to much revision and tweaking. But I think putting in certain things, such as having upgrades to the membrane that increase osmosis efficiency leading to an upgrade that unlocks the nucleus, or tying the unlocking of proteins to upgrades to a part, such as the metabolosome, are pretty safe options.

And even if the above upgrade suggestions aren’t necessary, I still think the need to focus on finalizing the organelle upgrade concept is apparent; we are edging closer and closer to a point of no return in Thrive’s development, where a system of progression will be soon needed.

Overall, however, the potential of Thrive is all the more apparent – and it’s flaws all the less legitimate. Exceptional update.


Perhaps hide locked parts and parts that haven’t been added into the game yet until the player can place them (getting a nucleus/finishing tutorial)?

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Has already been suggested, many different possible implementations were already come up with, and there was a poll asking the community which they would prefer.