Hello everyone! It’s ya boi Sentiant back with another convoluted concept that will never actually get implemented into the game. Let’s get started!
So, I’m sure anyone who has/had biology class in high school has seen pictures of a plant cell before. This is one:
What organelles take up the most space in this cell? The nucleus, because it is an eukaryote? NO. The chloroplasts, because it is a plant? NO. Out of all things, it is the storage vacuole.
Now, IDK about you, but I have never once taken a vacuole as a plant in Thrive. So if storage is apparantly so important to plants irl, why isn’t it in Thrive?
Well, one thing that plants irl have to contend with that Thrive ones don’t is the day/night cycle. In Thrive, once a plant has enough chloroplasts to support it’s metabolism it is basically immortal, making plants very OP. It makes sense that plants would be hard to balance in this system: The hard part of being a plant isn’t to produce energy while the sun is already in the sky, it’s still being alive by the time the it rises!
Implementing some sort of day/night cycle into the game would balance out autotrophs, and make storing energy for the night realistically hard for plants to do. As for predators, I think they are fine right now. Cells can be sparse at times so storing your energy from the previous kill is already quite important.
Now that we’ve figured out how to make storage important, let’s look at how a cell can make its storage system better.
This is where the ‘Sugars’ part begins. Basically most energy in a cell irl is stored in one of three ways. These aren’t mutually exclusive by any means, organisms regularly convert them into each other:
ATP: The fastest, but least efficient, form of energy storage. ATP is mainly used for moving energy about to the places where it’s actually needed.
Sugars: An intermediate form of energy storage. Used when energy must be readily accesible, but can’t be used immediately. Glucose is not the only sugar, ‘sugar’ can mean any small carbohydrate. I’ve seen the term used to refer to more complex molecules like chitin and cellulose too, but wikipedia agrees with me that this is stupid. If I ask for sugar in my tea don’t bring me a fucking exoskeleton.
Carbohydrates: Speaking of more complex molecules: The third way to store energy is in a bigger carbohydrate. What sets these apart from sugars is that they can’t be used as energy directly. They must be converted into sugars before they can be used. The advantage of using them is that larger molecules are more dense, allowing them to pack energy more densely too.
With that said, how should we implement these into the game?
In my opinion ATP is already handled quite well. But I’ve seen concepts on the dev forums about making more diverse uses for ATP (e.g. ‘sprinting’) that look cool.
Sugars could maybe use a bit more attention. Currently only one sugar is implemented into the game at all: Glucose. Glucose is a good default sugar since almost every organism uses it, but it’s a bit weird that it’s treated as the only sugar in existance. As I don’t see any game design benefit to actually defining stuff like fructose and sacharose in game terms, a solution might be to simply call the compound ‘sugar’. One small inaccuracy about sugars that frustrates me when playing the game is that some energy sources in the game actually produce sugars directly, whereas others produce ATP. This leads to a dichotomy that doesn’t exist irl; in reality energy is produced in the form of ATP and then converted to glucose if it can’t be used immediately.
In game this should be represented by having thylakoids (and anything else that produces glucose instead of ATP) generate ATP. This means simple plants don’t need metabolosomes anymore. If the player wants to have a good chance of surviving the night though, he can then add a seperate organelle that converts ATP into sugar, and metabolosomes that convert sugar back into ATP.
The third type of energy storage actually isn’t in the game right now at all. The most common larger molecules for storing energy that I know of are Starch (various kinds) and Glycogen.
Starch is mainly used by plants. I’ve seen suggestions on this forum about organelles that convert back and forth between glucose and starch but I’d prefer a simpler mechanic. We should add an organelle called an Amyloplast that stores sugar in starch form. The organelle acts as a vacuole that only stores sugar, but stores a lot of it. It is assumed that energy is converted back and forth between sugars and starch whenever needed, allowing us to avoid adding an entire new compound to the game. Of course, any cell eating a cell with starch might still have problems. They would need a lysosome to digest starch. An amyloplast would be common in plant cells but a lysosome might be the mark of a predator.
Glycogen is used by pretty much everything that isn’t a plant. I’m fairly sure that this is because it can be converted back into glucose faster; this is supported by the fact that muscles can use glycogen directly (and quickly) while starch must be digested. Glycogen might also be lighter, lending itself to a mobile lifestyle, but I can’t confirm that because google doesn’t know the density of glycogen.
There might be some challenges in differentiating starch and glycogen but I think it’s worth it.
In conclusion there are a lot of ways to store energy, and a lot of things that still need to be figured out about them. How do we differentiate between different storage molecules within a category, if at all? Are there options that I missed? Fat maybe? Let me know what you think if you made it this far into the post.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.