A way to adjust starting MP in the editor: Thrive Grading System

Currently, in Thrive, you always start with the same amount of MP, as it is a percentage: 100%. I propose that it could be possible to start with a lesser amount of MP for doing poorly within the gameplay section of thrive, having a grading system, another place where it is possible to have a 100%. Because this would be such a drastic change in the consequences of gameplay for Thrive, it may be a possibility that the effects of dying would have to have their effects on the population of a species reduced, lest the player die, then reproduce, then die next generation due to not being able to adapt as much as was necessary because they died the generation before, and then going extinct because they also lost population for that same reason. Of course, starting with a smaller amount of MP, below 70 percent, would lock off the nucleus, and below 50 would lock off membrane changes, but school grading systems also have a solution for this: retakes; If you get below a 50% as a grade, you failed, and if you get a failing grade, you can choose between either taking a retake, or skipping to the report section. If you were doing poorly in a patch, you would still be able to move out, but you would be unable to evolve, and auto-evo would still run, meaning the other species would likely increase in population, and evolve too. If the player chooses to take a retake, however, while the other species would still change population due to auto-evo, they would not evolve, in order to give the player a fair shot. Maybe if the player gets a grade below a certain amount, say, 80%, they could still choose to take a retake, but because they didn’t fail, they can still evolve if they want to. Still, the grading system is objectively a nerf, and without bonus points, it wouldn’t function as a buff, unless it were applied to auto-evo, where it could buff the player the same way a corset makes someone’s booty look bigger. As such, maybe on easy mode, the grading system could be just a cosmetic, and wouldn’t have any impact on gameplay. Alternatively, maybe the grading system isn’t linked to MP, and is instead used as an unlock condition for certain parts in the editor, maybe if the player gets a 100%, they get to immediately unlock all the parts, because they clearly know what they’re doing; This would only really work with the way upgrades currently work in Thrive, if there were more powerful things that had to be unlocked, then maybe those should stay locked.

Those would be the mechanics regarding the grading system once the grades were put in, but what about the grading system itself? In video games, grading systems are usually present in order to give players the “correct way to play,” which basically means whatever is cool and risky: If you’re playing in a slow way that isn’t very interesting, you’re going to get a bad grade because that’s not fun, you’re engaging in risk minimisation to avoid death. With those factors in mind, here are the 3 scores, or topics, that I have thought of in order to get the player to engage with the game. The 3 categories would all be percentages, which would then all be added together and divided by 3 in order to get the total score, and thus, the MP.

Time taken to reproduce

In order to be realistic, and assuming the grading system effects MP, the grading system should give a higher score to players who play in a way that would lend itself to evolution taking place faster, which would mean high reproduction rate: lots of reproducing, and in a short amount of time. In other words, if this were the only factor, speedrunning would be buffed, as all other strategies would be nerfed. In order to get the score, you could take a certain amount of time, which is either constant, or is based on expected amount of time to reproduce, and subtract that from the amount of time the player took. The percentage difference would then be subtracted from 100% to get the percentage score for how fast the player went. The time score would have subtracted from it the amount of deaths that the player took, where one death would be minus 10%, giving the player 10 deaths before completely failing the category. Although it wouldn’t be realistic, as evolution doesn’t really care about death, only reproduction (though this is less applicable since reproduction is directly linked to being alive for mitosis), this would probably equalize the strategies of being a big cell with a small population, and being a small cell with a large population, though likely not being implemented into auto evo.

Energy gained

Thinking about how auto-evo currently works in game, you could also add to the grading system amount of energy(atp) and potential energy(glucose, iron, etc.) gained(profited), which, similar to rings in sonic, would reset if you died; It would catalogue the ENTIRE amount of energy gained, not just what you end with.

AI score

The last score would be the AI score, which would grade the non-player cells on how well they did with the same system, and would encourage using the behavior tab to make functional cells instead of setting it to sessile so that none of you steals food from yourself.

Now, with this new grading system that hopefully balances the game and makes it more fun, it should be considered whether or not auto-evo would be able to utilize it. Currently, with the way auto-evo works, it would not be as simple as simply copy and pasting the code for the AI score on the grading system, as auto-evo does not use mutation points. However, something to consider is the fact that the grading system I have suggested is not entirely realistic: species only really evolve based on how fast they reproduce, and energy is only really a mechanism to do so. Because of this, maybe it would be best that, if auto-evo utilizes a grading system in some way, auto-evo would detect the reproduction speed of a cell, perhaps based on it’s size, and possibly speed, or perhaps still limiting the grading system to darwinian evolution, and prevent the AI from making changes based on its score. This would select against bigger species by preventing them from evolving as quickly, and thus making them more likely to die by being unadaptive. Of course, the question arises on how to prevent auto-evo from placing/removing parts, as it doesn’t use MP, but based on what I know about the code, the random amount of parts removed or gained could either be multiplied by the score, or be added to the score, then of course adjusting the numbers as necessary based on the expected range of the score for the desired cell size, or just the average one. This would only thin out ineffective large species, assuming the score properly takes into account how quickly a species would reproduce from factors other than size and speed, the two things larger species lack.

Of course, this is merely a side tangent, and I would be more open to discuss the player grading system, as that could be the player’s equivalent to the auto-evo system, because the player gets plot armor from the auto-evo system, and assuming the auto-evo system is built up, this plot armor may be too great for the player to have much difficulty, though assuming the auto-evo is fair, this plot armor may be removed, or adjusted based on the difficulty. It would likely be best for such a conversation on auto evo to have its own thread.

i feel like, with the things you proposed to do the grading with, it would be better to have the grade influence your population, rather than part unlocks or MP.

As far as I’m aware MP amount modifiers are already planned as being tied to reproduction types.

I do like the idea of giving the players a reason not to kill their speciesmates because of them competiting with you for food.

I wonder how cannibalism would work with this system…

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If we followed real-world science, dying a lot should increase the amount of changes possible. This is because in real life species evolve faster when there’s a lot of evolutionary pressure (due to for example extreme population loss).

This is the reason why cannibalism is currently disallowed in the game: there’s no penalty for it. So there is a need to design a cannibalism system that has tradeoffs. Once that is done cannibalism can be added to Thrive.

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I was thinking about how this could work, because it wouldn’t make sense to force the player to die for a grading system. The goal is to encourage trying, not dying. However, when I considered how to implement the death as a positive, I figured out that the player maximizing death as a game mechanic could actually work, if the math works correctly. The idea is simple: instead of subtracting the deaths from the reproductive score, it would be added. This would also function as a nice dynamic difficulty system, where evolution would be the little powerup the game gives you for being bad at the game, though I feel that may be a bad idea as we want the player to be rewarded for being good at playing the game, and the way that this is done in some games, like Megaman Zero, is making the game harder when they have a higher rank. The thing is though, the player is given a further reward, EX skills, from Megaman Zero 2 onwards, because just making the game harder isn’t enough of a reward.

The thing is though, is that the game still wants you to be good at the game with this system. Remember, your time score is divided by how long you take to reproduce, so the player would be forced to maximize deaths in a short amount of time, and this could work as a fun game mechanic, if not for one small feature: the suicide button. Of course, the suicide button could be kept in the game still, either by increasing the population penalty for using it, or by giving it a time penalty. Still, I will admit that it would be odd to have dying as a goal during the game in order to get an A rank. Of course, since energy is a huge part of your score, dying would still be heavily penalized, though the percentages and number for all of the different score stats could be adjusted to make it fit better.

This brings up the AI score, which has a question brought up by the changes I made above:
If the AI doesn’t reproduce, that means they would take longer than forever to reproduce, because they would never reproduce. If the point of the AI score is to make sure the AI doesn’t die, then the player should get points for keeping them alive, but if evolution works better with greater selective pressure, and the AI score is just the player scores but for the AI, then the player should get points for killing their AI. Of course, thinking about it, the reason selective pressure work is because they select against something negative: death. Thus, it would make sense if you got points for genociding members of your own species that aren’t up to standards…
The consequences of selecting against certain genes would only be positive, as long as you select for the right genes. However, if the player is bad at selecting, then they should lose points for encouraging bad genes. So, if a cell is starving, it would make sense to kill that cell, because it must’ve had bad genes if it was dying. Of course, come the Aware stage, there should be downsides to make it extremely unfavorable for the player to set this up as a form of evolution maximization there, lest Thrive encourage the player to kill the disabled and elderly. The eating part of cannibalism would be mentioned by the energy score, so there would only really need to be a “kill yourselves to make your genes good” score to get the other part of cannibalism.
In other words, cannibalism would be a skill based decision on part of the player taking into account if the AI they would be killing would up their food score, if it would take too long to kill them, and if the AI has good genes or not. Of course, there could just be a flat point loss for killing yourselves that aren’t you, in case we want to prevent this from causing a highly immoral society in the Aware stage, that would be immoral in reference to the events that took place during a certain war that I have avoided mentioning up until this point, and will not mention directly, but I would like to hear suggestions from people as to why cannibalism happens in nature, as the ideas I thought of above may not be correct.

I guess having MP be based on what the reproduction option the player chooses could work, but it seems to me that since the goal of the game is to evolve, MP is the thing the game gives good players because it is the number to make go up. In this case, it would be the number to prevent from going down, but my point still stands that MP is something the player wants, and so just giving the player less for choosing a different reproduction option should have some form of trade-off, perhaps the other reproduction options are better for getting MP in other ways?

So to recap:
Time score: the amount of deaths that the player takes, over the amount of time it takes them to reproduce. (deaths/reproduction time)

They AI does reproduce. It might be pretty rare to see normally but all cells once they get enough resources and grow will do mitosis. Non-player species get a population increase from managing to do that (similarly to how non-player species get a population decrease if they die while the player is swimming around, this is the Darwinian evo system that slightly adds extra information on top of the auto-evo algorithm).

What I should’ve said is that if the AI DIES, then they never get the oppurtunity to reproduce. I don’t know why I phrased it weirdly, but I’ll edit the post to be more clear.

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