Editor vs Mutation

Currently the game has an Editor that allows you to edit your microbe. I feel that this is too much intelligent design and not enough evolution. Here is an alternative idea:

Lets make some assumptions here:

  1. The players behaviour sets the exemplary behaviour of his species.
  2. On a speciation event, you have to choose a branch you represent.
  3. Your mutation rate is dependant on environment factors, some you have no control over and some that are influenced by behaviour.
  4. Mutation is a gamble, you have no direct control over your mutation.

Going from those base assumptions, this is what I would propose as the gameplay:

  1. You start with the first one of your species on every speciation event. This is where your risk to loose the game is the highest. Divide a few times so that you get “extra lives” (other members of your species you can take control over in case you die). As your behaviour is exemplary for the species, the other members will divide at approximately the same rate as you.
  2. There will be mutagens in the environment. Between divisions you will accumulate exposure to those mutagens. You can try to manage your exposure with your behaviour, but sometimes it is out of your control depending on the scenario.
  • Radiation: Some of it is unavoidable part of the environment. Radiation from the sun can be avoided by sticking to the shadow. Radiation from radioactive particles can be avoided by increasing the distance to the source.
  • Chemical mutagens: If they are not in your food source, you can swim around them most the time and avoid them.
    You can also decrease the exposure by keeping the division cycle short or increase it by increasing the time between divisions.
  1. Depending on the accumulated mutagen exposure, some of your specimen will mutate during division. The more population you have, the more mutants you have to pick from to continue. The higher your exposure, the more and more drastic mutations you will see. What this could look like:
  • Imperfect divisions where one child ends up with one organelle that belongs to the other child, leaving the other child with one less organelle of that type. Some of those imperfect divisions may end up with one child unable to survive. (For example if it lost its last mitochonria.)
  • Mutated organelles. During division one of the organelles could mutate and leave you with one child that has either an unfunctional organelle or an organelle that changed its function. If you can survive with an unfunctinal organelle for a while, it may mutate further into something useful (but thats a bold gamble) or you may get rid of it later on.

On easyer difficulties you would always have the ability to retain your current form, on harder difficulties you may end up with an early mutation where you have to take some undesirable muatation. On the easiest of difficulties you could even allow to go back to the parent species on death.

This could be combined with the editor if you want some control over your species and don’t mind the creationist aspect, or you could deactivate the editing in your scenario and only evolve through mutation.

I am not a biologist, but I am sure someone can fill out the gaps here. This is just a general idea how you could make the gameplay more realistic. And the gambling aspect may actually be a lot of fun.

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This seems neat, but seems like it wouldn’t appeal to most as they would like more freedom to their creature creating.

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This would be a very fundamental change to what is the goal of Thrive. I don’t think switching to this type of system is possible to be the default way of playing. Maybe a mod like this will be made.

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While I quite like this idea, it’s true that it’s not in line with what Thrive is meant to be. We want a balance of realism and creativity, and having heavy reliance on randomness for the player’s own mutations will tip the scales more towards one than we’d be comfortable with.

In my view the ethos of the game is about you vs the simulation, whereby you have to take thoughtful initiative in your own species’ development to compete with or adapt to whatever the random evolution of other species throws at you. Designing a well-adapted species means you win, designing a poorly-adapted species means you lose. In a sense, it’s intelligent design vs evolution, though that’s not a debate we want to get into here.

Different difficulty levels will affect how much wiggle room you have. On easier difficulties, you’ll have greater freedom to let your imagination run wild as it won’t be so important to focus only on good mutations. On harder difficulties, you’re at the mercy of your circumstances for what evolutionary direction you go in.


I see your point. Maybe my inital post was overstating the case. I just tried to make it internally consistent and outline the thinking behind it clearly.

An actual game mechanic could be anywhere in between my idea and the current system. One example:

This could be a bonus system:

  1. You get the chance to edit every 2 generations, generations are shorter than currently to have about the same playtime for 2 as you have now for 1.
  2. Every generation that you don’t edit, the game offers you a number of random mutations that could naturally occur (as outlined in the inital post) depending on how much mutagenes you collect and maybe how much cells you kill (enabeling horizontal gene transfer). You can take one of them if you like it, it may just be what you would have done anyways. If you overdo the mutagen collection, you might only get mutations that can not survive, so managing the amount would still be a thing.
  3. If you get through the cell stage while skipping the actual editor, you get an achivement. If you always skip the random mutation, you get different one.
  4. If you edit and take a good mutation from time to time, this is strictly a bonus. You don’t get an achivement for beeing greedy though.

Its the same idea, but boiled down to a rather small change to the game mechanics. You could use the achivements to point out the difference between intelligent design and random mutation.

Maybe we could find some arrangements. I have an idea (which would include the Option menu that hasn’t been used yet) : we could make some options for the style of gameplay. For instance, there would be an option to have a standard gameplay which would be specialized in a balance between gameplay and realism (evolution only, just as it is right now) or a realistic gameplay which would base itself on scientific laws which would mostly be used by geeks or people in the science field who sometimes would want to play a realistic/scientific game (ex. : my chemistry and physics teacher plays this kind of game). And MAYBE will there be an option for pure simulation. But, I’m just saying…

Also, I noticed that there wasn’t any indication of units on the compounds menu (numbers without specifications of units). This would be cool if there was units (ex. : g, mol, etc.).

Well, that was my comment for the thread.

What if you had a choice between mutating and editing? Editing would allow you much more creativity, but choosing a mutation would give a chance of getting something better than editing would normally allow, but also has a chance of totally Belgium-ing up your creature. This means you can play the lottery for a super cool evolution, or a crap one.


Such a mode could not be entirely random otherwise it would be very unfun as basically only luck would allow you to advance in the game. And them we get to the model @QuantumCrab suggested where you can gamble with mutations if you want but you could still use the editor to get the key changes that allow you to progress in the game.

Why not both having random mutations (three dot mutations theory; only one type of mutation out of three really changes something; player won’t have any choice about it) each time the player is reproducing and using Editor Evolution (where player has a choice) when the player will be able to?

But you cant have other mutations when you sorta, uh, ‘play’ as the mutation? I think? Because mutations are what changes the creature, and you change the creature, therefore you are the mutation. And I think changes you cant control wouldnt be fun.

First, evolution and mutation aren’t the same thing. On the left, mutations are totally random and don’t always change something (Here’s a link to explain and watch from 20m00s to 30m01s : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dRXA1_e30o). Evolution is the combination of mutations, natural selection, physical or psychological adaptation, etc. This brings to the second point.
Second, you cannot ‘play’ as the mutation as you said so, because mutations are random and evolution isn’t as previously mentioned. Evolution is not random, because natural selection and adaption aren’t.
In brief, mutations are random and should be too in the game. On the contrary, evolution isn’t random and so it will obey the player’s whim (or will).

Or how about we dont have mutations because they would be incredibly annoying and wouldn’t improve the game at all. Did spore have mutations? No. And making creatures was the best part of the game. Adding mutations would make trying to create your species more of a chore rather than a game.

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Yeah, but mutations aren’t always annoying. They can give you troubles as they can give you advantages.

But you can’t control them. And people want control in a game where the entire point is to control your species. If you have a clear image for an animal, you don’t want a bunch of mutations (beneficial or not) screwing it up. You’d then have to re-enter the editor to rectify the unwanted changes.

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You shouldn’t worry about mutations, because they don’t always occur. You shouldn’t worry about them unless there’s nuclear or chemical mutagens in the environment (like right now, in 21th century).

Look, there’s many places for mutations, but Thrive is not one of them.

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If you want mutations, go to Plague inc.
Mutations in Thrive is literally what you do in the editor.
Not so sure about the whole radiation thing though


Wouldn’t it be pretty much impossible for an evolution game to feature “bad” mutations ? I mean if a mutation is bad for the organism it simply disappears in the next generation.

Unless it is the player who then gets mad when they lose because they randomly got a really terrible mutation.

If it ends up Mutation i will leave thrive i come from spore and to not have the control over my species will be like ur playing a story game like until dawn with preset characters for u to play.

Plz dont be mutations