Chemo, Thermo, Photo and other receptions

Hi, anyone who might be reading this
I read a post on the dev forums, on the topic of detecting proteins, and would like to give some suggestions, as an amateur game dev with many a large think

I think how the big three, Chemoreception, Thermoreception and Photoreception should be that they each represent a different niche, as they do in real life, and shouldn’t just be interchangeable, and should also work differently, rather than just be a different filter over the game

On the topic of having multiple organella that provide different receptions on your cell at a time. I think that they should each consume energy, since that makes sense, while giving the player the option to individually turn them off while playing, or in the editor. This would however cause the particular organella to degenerate, as caused by being perceived as “useless” by the game, and eventually just falling off. This process would be gradular, and wouldn’t just cause it to fall off after a minute or two. But before the happens the detection range, for example, of the organella would decrease, resulting in that particular sense of detection being weaker - but you could still upgrade (read: put on more organella of that type) the particular sense to increase its precision. The degeneration would also cause the organella to consume less energy, so that would be a possible upside, while using it would cause it to strenghten again - resulting in more energy consumption once again.

Allows you to detect chemical compounds.
I think that the way this would get displayed would be that you can always see that you’re in the presence of a chemical, but all you can detect is the density of it (by which I mean a hypothetical cloud the actual compound itself is releasing around itself), but not the direction.
When you upgrade the organella, you can detect the cloud and density at longer ranges from the compound, and eventually get an arrow that points you towards the compound. Maybe a possible side-grade would be detecting wherever a chemical, like poisons, is dangerous - but that would require your cell to digest the chemical atleast once, but that would then carry over to descendants.
The degeneration effect would maybe be the density detection being weaker.

Allows you to detect temperature.
This would be displayed by a kind of shapeless blob of temperature, 0% heat being black, 100% being white, with a color gradient inbetween. Upgrading this would increase its temperature precision.
Let’s say you start on a binary detection system - anything below 50% heat is displayed as black, and anything above as white (the 50% could be changed to your own cell’s heat). Upgrading it would give you 4 sections of precision, rather than just 2 - 0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, 75-100%, and on and on. Maybe another possible upgrade or side-grade through other organella would be detecting wherever a particular heat is dangerous or not, but again needing you to get burned atleast once while you have this sidegrade.
The degenerating effect could be the range at which you detect heat.

Allows you to detect light.
I think this would work, on its base level, just as a cone in front of the organella, wherever there’s light or not, again a binary system.
Upgrading this would increase the detection precision, again. A possible sidegrade would be color detection,
The degenerating effect would be either range, or precision reduction.

You’d gain the ability to add these organella at different points in the microbial stage, of course. Maybe starting with Chemo or Thermo as the base point, with the game subtletly telling you to get the other at some point - like a cell, whose heat you can detect, chasing something you can’t - like a chemical compound. Or the other way around, a chemical compound suddenly dispersing in front of you, because you couldn’t detect the cell that was absorbing it etc.

These ideas are very ballpark-y, and more of a thing to ponder and maybe inplement at some point.

I think this would be prefferable over just having some sort of overlay or filter - like thermo vision in Alien vs Predator - as each type of reception would serve a different purpose and be displayed in a different way, with Photo kind of being the best, but still being bested by Chemo and Thermo if it comes to something camuflaging itself.
Chemo and Thermo would eventually be bested by Photo, however, as some cells wouldn’t disperse heat or chemicals all the time at some point, and would only do so at set intervals (basically taking a poo).

Thanks to anyone reading this, and be free to reply with your own ideas or corrections and what not.


Nice post. I have a few questions about what you are imagining.

Take temperature as an example. What would the gameplay mechanics be around this? Would it be that if you swim into an area which is too hot or too cold you get injured maybe?

If so there’s a bit of a problem for people who don’t have the necessary proteins to see temperature, because essentially they are swimming through an invisible minefield where they can’t see the things that will hurt them before they hit them, and I am concerned that wouldn’t be much fun.

I think that’s a good example of my main concern about making things visible / invisible. How do we make it fun for both the player that can see and not see?

I quite like ideas like marking the edge of the screen sometimes and not others, that means all players can see what is on the screen and some can see what is off it. However I don’t want to make it so that sensor proteins are necessary to play properly, if they are optional they should be truly optional.

Interested to know what you think.


Well one could have it give bonuses instead of debuffs. For example, for heat you could say something like “In a warmer temperature, organelle X functions better”. This means that if the player has a heat sensor, they could purposefully seek out warmer spots. For chemicals this would make it possible for the player to detect compounds outside of the screen (using that marking-the-edge-of-the-screen-technique), and with light they could detect cells outside of the screen


I think that the base cell could have a sense of temperature/chemical compounds in their vicinity without the sensory organs (let’s say they start with 1 of both chemo and thermo), which would counter the problem of things not being visible at the beggining, while upgrading/getting more of either type would highlight the edges to show what temperature is like/what chemicals in that direction. Maybe the base would have the screen be visible, with low precision, but higher ones would increase both the range and precision.
This was obviously just a top-off-the-head idea, so there’s plenty that can be changed.


Of course, it’s kind of weird to think about a cell/microbe having the capabilities of smelling (chemo), touching (thermo) and seeing (photo) all in one, since our cells are each specilized
I think that too low/high temperatures would be hurt-inducing, same goes for too much light or poisonous chemicals
What could work is that up to a set distance, your cell’s precision is perfect, lets say 2x its own size, so they can detect what temperature something is right next to them, but anything further, on the screen, is less and less precise the closer to the edge it gets - resulting in the edge being usually nothing

But having more of the set detection organ would increase the perfect detection range, which would artifically extend the detection beyond the screen, so it’d show you what the temperature is like in that direction, what chemical is closest, what colour light is there, how intense it is and so on.
Of course, that could get a bit overlayed, so it’d be hard to see as a player, so I’d propose a toggleable filter over the screen for the 3 detections - but you could turn them all on at once if you’d like. I imagine there’d be an If statement for turning one of them off, to check if it’s the last one True.

Having a set minimum perfect detection range kind of gets around the issue of suddenly being in an invisible minefield, and provides everyone with the necessary basic detection.
Again, you’d probably start with the Chemical and Temperature detections, with Photo being a later on upgrade, as that’s more advanced.