Game feels confusing for a new player

So, i have played Thrive for the first time and i have a bit of trouble with it. The first few generations were ok, i simply moved to a patch with 100% light and added some proteins for photosynthesis, changed the membrane and added a pilus. However around the 6th generation i start to lose every time.

Regardless of what i try to add to my cell, auto-evo tells me it’s going to do worse than if i didn’t add anything. I don’t have enough ATP production to get a nucleus, but if i try to add more proteins for ATP production it tells me the population will go down. And when i get out of the editor either the other cells kill me or i run out of glucose and i have to sit still so photosynthesis produces some, but it’s boring.

I don’t think this has necessarily something to do with the game’s difficulty, but with the way it’s explained. It just gives you a wall of text and throws you into the wild. It would be nice to receive periodical tips that guide new players, like, hey, at this stage all the other cells are going to become bloodthirsty and you should probably get some spikes or something, or this is why and how you should get this really cool organelle. I simply do not know what i’m supposed to do, since anything i try appears to get me closer to extinction.

One thing the game does not really explain is that the more stuff you add to your cell in general, the more “energy” they need to sustain their population. So, what you are seeing is that your population reaches the limit of what the amount of sunlight can support, therefore your population stops going. At that point, anything you add will drop your population a bit because each cell has more energy in it. That’s really not a bad thing, so do not worry about it. As long as your population does not crash completely, focus on what you think you need as the player to survive.

I do not think losing the game a few times is undesirable (assuming you are not playing on easy). Over-tutorialisation or the game handing you the correct answer is a problem in many games. It seems like you already got some ideas on what to possibly improve next time (maybe add more spikes, maybe add more glucose production) so I feel it is working as intended.


I’d like to also add that the nucleus is such a big evolution you need to prepare for that it is basically guaranteed you lose some population when you prepare for it, but after you get the nucleus and can place (and replace existing organelles) with the more effective variants, you should be able to recover your population easily.

I’ve seen a lot of players get stuck with just 50 population when auto-evo wants them extinct. You seem to be stuck in the opposite problem: you are paying too much attention to the small population dips that you need to accept for long term benefit. So my suggestion is to try to find the balance between not looking at the auto-evo prediction at all and looking at it too much.

Lately I’ve started to think we need some kind of hand holding mode that would enable a lot of really intrusive tutorials, which is what I really want to avoid in the main line of tutorials as those always remind me of really annoying mobile game tutorials that take 20 minutes of random tapping around and at the end you don’t really even remember anything. But seeing quite many beginning players struggle I think we need to make that an option, but as it will be a lot of effort, I think we’ll need to save that for when the microbe stage is much more complete.


I think the biggest issue is that the game has trouble communicating what makes life easier and what doesn’t, rather than needing tutorials. The cell stage is fairly simple when you get down to it, there’s only three major goals-

-Exploit a resource faster than you burn it.
-Have enough storage capacity and sensory input to find resources before you run out.
-Don’t get ganked by other cells.

-and as long as you can reliably complete them, you don’t really have to worry.

I’d lean towards adding features that make it easier for a player to ID how good they are at that goal, rather than adding more tutorials, which can backfire (e.g Don’t Starve having players quit the game after implementing a tutorial, and having much better success modifying the crafting system to make it easier to ID your own needs This Psychological Trick Makes Rewards Backfire - YouTube ). For example-

-Adding a ‘Biomass’ metric to use as an alternative score to ‘Population’, to encourage players to use big, efficient cells without worrying about Population loss so much.
-Moving the ‘Vacuole’ part from eukaryotic to prokaryotic, or otherwise expanding the ability to store particular molecules for prokaryotes (e.g ‘Starch Grains’ for glucose, equivalents for iron and sulphides). Currently the game is balanced such that it’s rather difficult to find food faster than you burn it as a prokaryote, and becomes much easier once you get a nucleus and evolve vacuoles; making vacuoles the ‘general storage’ but letting prokaryotes use specialised storage would make life much easier for them.
-Providing rough estimates of scarcity-versus-seeking-capacity. For example, if the generator is producing glucose blobs such that you can travel 50 micrometres in any direction and probably spot glucose, and your cell can only move 30 micrometres before starving, give it a ‘Glucose: Too Scarce’ warning.
-Add a few highlights to creatures in the ecosystem, for features that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, on the mouse-over you could add ‘Potential Prey’ for creatures you can engulf (regardless of digestibility), ‘Chitinous’ or ‘Cellulous’ if they’re protected by membranes, ‘Potential Predator’ for creatures that can engulf you, ‘Toxic’ if they’re poisonous, and so on. Maybe a measure of their resources, too- an iron-eater might not want to develop chitinase if the only chitinous prey are obligate sugar-feeders or suphide-feeders!

But ye, tutorials tend to be better for games that have the same goal every time, instead of being ‘make-your-own-fun’. As long as the game can communicate how hard a creature is to play, and what might make it easier, it probably won’t need them more than the very basics like movement and editor tools.


I think a major thing that contributed to this is that because i found out about this game when looking for similar ones to Spore, i started it with similar expectations. Spore is fairly simple, it’s the type of game you can complete without using too much brainpower, just use parts that have a lot of points and you’re set. Especially in the first stage. So i guess it threw me off a bit when the situation jumped from “you can make your cell however you want and still win” to “you have to learn how to play and to be strategic to win”.

I like these types of games, but it didn’t really click that it was going to be like this.

Also i agree with what DawnTyrantEo said, making it easier for the player to identify how good they’re doing seems like a better idea than adding tutorials, maybe if it’s good enough there won’t be a need for a hand holding mode.