Ideas for Part Ugrades and Mechanics

Hey there folks! Here lately I have been giving the upgrades system some attention and now that I have devised a plan for how it is going to be implemented, I have now started on the daunting task of planning out numerous upgrades and specializations for each part currently implemented in the cell stage.

In hopes of assisting me with planning out what modifications players will be able to place on each part I have decided to start this thread so that everyone can come up with their own ideas on what upgrades will be available!

Before we start, let me start you out with the rules;

  1. You don’t have to worry about synergy between upgrades, worst case scenario is that they will not be combinable on one part.
  2. You can have variable properties on parts, but preferably only on external organelles. (Ex: Customizing length of pili).
  3. You don’t have to limit yourself to what it currently in the game! While it is preferable to ground yourself in the current features, it’s okay to think of the near future when proposing upgrades.
  4. Don’t fret too much over the inherent balance of an idea, As long as it isn’t anything superfluous I can personally handle the tedium of balance if an idea is nice.
  5. Have fun with your ideas and respect the ideas of others! If you want to come up with silly upgrades like disco ball nuclei, power to you. Even the most silly ideas can inspire innovation.

With all that said and done, here is what I have so far in terms of ideas, feel free to use them as an example for your own proposals!


  1. Capacity: Further devotes cytoplasm to compound storage, reducing glycolysis function in return for possessing more storage
    Glucose consumption reduced by 0.006 and ATP production reduced by 1.5 in return for +4 additional storage capacity.


  1. Efficiency: Reduces glucose consumption and ATP production of the metabolosome.
    Metabolosome ATP production reduced by 18, and glucose consumption reduced by 0.08. (3.78 ATP at 21% oxygen)

  2. Thermogenesis: Metabolosome will consume extra glucose and produce heat in return.
    Will consume 0.05 more glucose (0.042 glucose at 21% oxygen) and lowers temperature tolerance by 1C (EX: Temperature range of 21C-30C becomes 20C-29C)

I look forward to seeing what everyone thinks of!


how about different types of chloroplasts that specialise in different wavelengths of light. there could also be efficency upgrades as on earth plants arent very efficent but they produce enough to sustain their lifestyle so evolution has been slow on fixing this. if you wanted to say make a mobile plant you could get a more efficent chlorophlast to make more energy.


When I posted my upgrade proposals in the dev-forums, brown pigmentation was among the upgrades for chloroplasts which I intended to be used for allowing players to photosynthesize in much dimmer environments. I did not consider any more than that however.

Being able to modify the wavelengths chloroplasts can use would be a great idea, there has been discussion of calculating things such as the wavelength output of a planet’s orbiting star to determine what usable light would be provided for photosynthesizes in the past, and should that be implemented then hopefully the upgrades system would be able to mesh well with adapting different kinds of pigments!

edit: By orbiting star I meant orbited star.


You can maybe make a version of melaninplast when and if it comes that might give more radiation protection but for example produces less glucose(or whatever it would specifically produce if it isn’t glucose)

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Vacuole Upgrades:

Lysosomes & Food Vacuole: Vastly reduce (or eliminate) the storage capacity of the vacuole, to provide a boost to the processing of engulfed particulates (this would less be a single vacuole and more a complex containing the Vacuole and Lysosomes)

Heavy Metal Storage: While I can’t remember off the top of my head if there are thoughts on implementing heavy metals as environmental hazards (I don’t see anything on the dev forums, sad), if this is added, it would be useful for survival there (don’t get proteins that protect against it, just an organelle that does the same job via sequestering). Mostly just another option for extremophiles. That, and who doesn’t want a species that casually processes out gold/silver/nickle/ect (shinnies, ho!) For possible adjacency bonuses, this and a melaninsplast (or more) would allow the radiation powered organism ideas that have been being kicked around (uranium is a heavy metal too). Seen in hyper accumulator plants.

Salt Vacuole: This would be an alternative for migrators, increasing the saline tolerance by some arbitrary amount (+ and -). Would also be useful for any species that hops from low salinity locations to high salinity regularly. Seen in bull sharks, alligators, and some halophile plants (halophile bacteria tend to use other methods, given that the vacuole is most useful when you don’t spend all your time in a particular concentration).

As I come up with more useful ideas I’ll add them in, this was just some ideas to throw out now.


That actually sounds like a good idea for a basic version of melanoplast. That is, it could be a part that simply protects you from radiation but can later be upgraded to harness radiation as energy!

That would make for a fine addition for strict predators, as right now they are really lacking in specialized parts catering to that playstyle! Something like this to boost the amount of resources gained from engulfing is a nice idea.

Heavy metals might be implemented in some minute form (Such as radioactive isotopes to allow for radiosynthesis in certain areas.) but I am uncertain if they will have any deep interactions with the player beyond being a small hazard for the unprepared. Really cool idea though!

Solution for salinity?
Yes. Nice.


I’m going to be honest, it was mostly just looking at things that already exist.

So, my pitch for why heavy metals would be useful is this:
Remove environmental toxin clouds as toxins that would be found normally, and replace them with a catch all heavy metal. If you wanted to keep the random land mines of doom around, well, there is a reasonable solution for why something toxic would exist (heavy metals are found in the world, and do inhibit protein function). Then, once a player has ran into/died from it, leave it as an opening for a simple toxin. It would be an interesting playstyle, actually: you don’t produce your own toxins, but find them naturally. From there, you could give the option to branch out into other toxins (this is just my pitch, but it provides a straightforward way for players to deal with an enviromental hazard, and an opening for more interesting toxin play that isn’t the current idea of die a bunch → get toxins). Just an idea though.

On to more ideas for extremophile organelle upgrades:


Hydrogenosomes: Found in low oxygen environments, these nifty little guys produce ATP from glucose without requiring oxygen. Less efficient, but useful when in anaerobic environments. Also produces hydrogen, and is often the basis for methane production. Useful when you want to make your organism produce flammable gasses for whatever reason.

Alkili-dependent gradients: Found in Alkaliphile bacteria, this set of proteins makes use of the massive inverse gradient found when attempting to produce ATP in an extremely basic environment to vastly increase the efficiency of production. In practice: This would have a lower base ATP production than standard, while becoming far more efficient as the alkilinity of the surrounding environment increases. Could also be used to minorly shift the optimal PH for a bacteria. (We’re still not quite sure how the bacteria manages to make an inverse gradient work as well as they do, but somehow they manage it.)

While there isn’t any good counterpart I know of on the Acidphile microorganisms, acids are commonly found in areas with heavy metal concentration (look up acid mine drainage), so I offer this:

Acid Dependent gradients: Given at extremely low PH values, iron can actually have a higher oxidization rate than oxygen, these proteins would be far more efficient in areas such as undersea vents (where the PH can be as low as 3). More or less as above, see this as a version that is more efficient in the vents where it would normally be found. (I would actually argue that this would be the starting Rusticytene, where the protein under highly acidic conditions evolved to use the more efficient electron donor). See Ferroplasma for roughly what I’m thinking of.

Acid Independent: This would be a side evolution, removing the acid dependency for iron eaters, leaving it more or less how it’s set up now. (If the above suggestion is taken, this would be the evolution someone leaving the vents would take to keep ATP production up, possibly unlocked once you actually leave the vents? If not, I’m personally fine with leaving the specialist as just an upgrade, it’s just a little closer to LAWK if it follows that path, and gives a straightforward upgrade path.)

Now for a new Vacuole upgrade:
The “Oh Belgum Button”: A near surface vacuole that when activated causes the microbe to forcefully expel it’s contents. While in the beginning this would just be water, it could be applied to toxin vacuoles (or their equivalent). More or less, this would be an option for everyone looking for jet propulsion. I’d personally expect a fairly long cooldown (you would have to reform the vacuole in it’s entirety) and be somewhat energy intensive, but would be interesting both as a predator (fast lunges anyone) as well as prey (have some mild paralytic toxin if you want to follow me). While there isn’t anything I can think of that uses this method off the top of my head, it would be interesting.

Psuedopod: Rather than having the Pili do damage in and of itself, this would increase the range that engulfment could be achieved at. Think of it less as “there’s a psudopod here” and more along the lines of “I tend to use psuedopods”. Basically, just trying to get some love for engulfers, because right now it can be hard to catch the little annoyances that are bacteria. Don’t run, I just want to eat you! Not sure if you want this to be incompatable with cell walls, ect, or it there could be a niche for this (tanky with a glaring weak spot?).

Increased cellular machinery/double bound nucleus: Since gogi bodies and endoplasmic reticulum are currently all wrapped up in the nucleus, this would be an upgrade to the nucleus that increases the amount of these that would be found in the cell. While this could have variable effects, it would be interesting to see this as a way to gain access to another protein, representing the cell’s increased ability to fold and package proteins, and allows some granularity: An early nucleus wouldn’t provide a lot of slots, and then once you upgrade it you get access to the full breadth. (This is mostly just from the feeling that dropping a whole nucleus is expensive → offering a - still very expensive - intermediary makes it still feel like you’ve achieved something, but gives that wiggle room that if you need just a little bit more to stay ATP positive you could drop one more metablisome if the idea that copies are cheaper to add holds true.) If not, then maybe just the option to trade mutation points for an extra slot.

Micronucleosis: If the above option doesn’t work, then wrapping everything under the banner of microncucleosis and instead trading ATP (and some mutation points) for the extra slot(s). (I tried to see what the final decision on how micronucleosis was to be treated, but I couldn’t find anything in the dev forums besides that it was not going to offer more mutation points/reduce mutation slots, so this is attempting to give a use for it.)

Question, are cell walls, ect on the menu for possible upgrades? It might be interesting as you start to transition towards multicellular to create an exocellular matrix as an upgrade to binding proteins/base for bones/scales/ect (I hope I have the right terminology, been a while since I took anything close to microbiology).


I think the “bioluminescent vacuole” should be an upgrade to the normal vacuole.

Not sure what it would do tho.

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Bioluminescent Vacuole is good for multicellular stage and up.

But for a ‘I don’t know how new’ idea
Randomly mutates your cell and it would cost mutation points to revert it, so it can be high risk high reward system.
Obviously this would be more dangerous the more cells you have, but it would be a nice system for early game and a danger for late game

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it wouldnt be fun though
thrives goal is to let the player create their very own creature and customize it, it wouldnt be fun to deal with something that goes against that

I do appreciate the idea, but it’s a bit off topic from the thread.

I though this thread was for part upgrades and/or mechanics
I guess not game mechanics

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So, I raise this from the dead with a few other important questions: Would this be a series of vacuole upgrades, or become their own option:

  • _________? Section of the cell where indigestible particulates are created, in order to note acceleration (the same mechanism as your inner ear uses, but microbial scale).
  • Magnetosome: Found in some bacteria, and many complex prokaryotes, matnetosomes generate some flavor of magnetite in order help the organism orient in the magnetic field. While bacteria tend to be literally pulled in line by their matnetosomes (which tend to be found bound to the cell’s outer wall), prokaryotic magnetosomes are free floating organelles in their own right, found very rarely as a sensory component.

Either way, one their own the options are… less useful for a single microbe. But as colonies begin to be formed, specialized cells designed to sense direction and acceleration could be more and more useful.

Sadly, no other good extremophile ideas yet, just had a thought I wanted to throw out.

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Those are definitely pretty niche functions, they might not have much practical use in Thrive’s gameplay unfortunately.

I can see them being an upgrade to vacuoles though.

I feel like it would be nice for realism’s sake to have very little field of vision as we get larger as a cell up until, we develop a nucleus we could put points into a vision based organelle, or capture and attempt to either spend ATP and Glucose to prevent the cell from fully consuming the organelle we captured and kind of domesticate it, or just consume it.

This would make adding and discovering ‘potential organelles’ a lil’ more involved by treating every enemy you find a future organelle or food source.

Also it would be nice if you could decide whether to divide into a cell or treat your budding cell as an extension of your own cell after mitosis, like a colonial and protective mass, or choose to ditch it. Sometimes the AI ‘in-game’ does this ‘massing’ on it’s own, but each cell is independent.

Also if you could have the choice instead of using war to grow you could use love, and divide via meiosis after meeting a former ancestor cell, or using an organelle to produce a new ‘you’ with the traits of both, but at half of the organelles of both, this would make evolution a lot cheaper if you make different kinds of cells for different biomes or situations.

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I’m not coming up with a lot of good ideas anymore - extracellular matrices are really only useful when you are multicellular, and there’s been a lot of interesting ideas brought up already (I’m also not the most original person, so that doesn’t help either, I’m mostly pulling off the interesting setups I can find in nature).

I can’t think of many more extremophile setups, radiation, high/low acidity, variable temperature and salinity all have at least one organelle and protein option by now.

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I feel there’s a lot to be said about a cell producing unique substrate to create an environment or pocket around it to protect itself from cold, by secreting glucose, or cells that produce/fix the area around them to make life habitable for them, and them alone.

Producing complex energy molecules for energy storage the way yeast does it is very clever, or acetic acid fixing bacteria allows those organisms to dominate an entire area by killing even multi-cellular organisms competing for the same substrate.

If our cell was able to ‘pump’ out either anti/pro-oxidants, alcohols/esters, acids/bases, sugars/salts, it would be like varying degrees of poisons but producing citric acid, sugars, alcohols and things like those are essentially more helpful because it means other friendly cells could re-consume those types of produced molecules. Anti-oxidants, and producing anti-body simple proteins would be helpful against viruses and cells.


As much as those sound awesome (and they really do) it seems like quite a few of those ideas end up overlapping with the exterior/proteins tabs that have already been tossed around on the community and dev forums. Exterior for any substrate right next to the cell (a calcium carbonate shell is just a substrate that the cell has excreted, after all).

I know there’s been rumblings of more complex energy storage, whether by more complex carbohydrates or otherwise, though it has been a while since I actually heard anything on that so not sure what the final decision was, sadly.

Most of the others - part of the issue is that the poison system sounds relatively robust - it’s focused on target effects rather than the specific path to create those effects, whether by damaging the membrane, inhibiting motor proteins, ect.

As for pumping out useful bits for other cells, I don’t think we have any of those actually implemented. Eventually we’d go to signaling proteins, but I don’t remember there actually being much talk of resource transfer before multicellular and binding (which makes sense, given that binding proteins are one of the major milestones the dev team is working on). Having something you could do for signalling would be kind of cool - spam the help me button to have others of your species group up to hunt/exchange resources/rave around the mighty iron chunk would be interesting.

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I decided to focus a bit on ironing out a potential progression/upgrade system, with some overlap in endosymbiosis. I feel that it does a pretty good job at covering a lot of related parts, and overall, I feel like it is the comprehensive "progression and upgrades based on organelle upgrade-‘paths’ " idea. It doesn’t really introduce a complex or unique idea, so much of this has probably been repeated; I think I just made it so various previously mentioned ideas are unified into one comprehensive, illustrative, and articulated idea that connects across various aspects of Thrive.

Player starts out with a single protein part in the beginning of the game. This single protein basically does the same job metabolosomes do, except much less efficiently/productively. Protein has five upgrade “paths”:

  1. Glucose to ATP path, corresponding with metabolosome.
  2. Iron to Glucose path, corresponding with rustycyanin.
  3. Sun to Glucose path, corresponding with thylakoids.
  4. Sulfide to ATP path, corresponding with fixating proteins.
  5. ATP to Ammonia path, corresponding with nitrogenase.

For each upgrade, the amount of the path’s source material being processed at a time increases, which basically means increased efficiency. After a certain point is reached in the upgrade “path”, the corresponding prokaryotic structure is unlocked. For example, at the end of path 3, thylakoids are developed, at the end of path 1, metabolosomes, etc.


  • Helps to develop the iterative aspects of evolution in the simulator.
  • Rather simple concept that can be replicated across many aspects of the cell; upgrade system can be applied to pigments, enzymes, membrane, organelles, etc.
  • Upgrades generally make sense and are intuitive.
  • Adds depth and progression.
  • And on a side note, I feel that endosymbiosis could be dealt with pretty easily through this framework if upgrades are applied to the end path structures as well. Membrane-bounded organelles could basically just be end path upgrades to metabolosomes, thylakoids, etc. And as such, endosymbiosis could basically be a shortcut to a rather long and expensive path of upgrades; go through the hardships and complexity of endosymbiosis for less expenses, or deal with the easier yet more expensive and long-term upgrade path?


  • Could unnecessarily extend and complexify a basic part of Thrive’s gameplay.
  • Requires some new models; one for the base protein at start, 5 for the transitions.
  • Needs incentives for the player at the beginning to progress through upgrades; more a problem of the one-blob cytoplasm being OP.
  • Overall, upgrades will necessarily become more abstract than free-flowing; in other words, less weight will be placed on organelle altering to create different versions of organelles. For a simplified example, instead of tweaking rigidity, processes, etc. of a metabolosome to become something else, you are just spending MP on upgrades to do that for you (of course, customization/sliders aren’t mutually exclusive to this concept; they’d just have less importance).


  • How big should the gaps between each upgrade be?
  • How much should each upgrade cost?
  • If you upgrade, does every corresponding part of the cell upgrade, or are only newly placed parts properly upgraded?

Upgrades to cell membrane correspond with evolution of external parts. These upgrades focus on the efficiency/production of osmosis and basic metabolism. After certain upgrade level, the pilus is evolved (thinking more of the hairlike pilus on prokaryotes which helps with attachment rather than predatory pilus in Thrive) which can increase speed of engulfment.

  • Upgrades to this pilus enhances engulfment processes. Eventually, after a certain upgrade level, the predatory pilus can be unlocked, and either cilia or flagella (whichever one came first).


  • This is a pretty realistic representation of how those external parts probably evolved.
  • Again, adds depth, progression, and complexity.
  • Plant cells with cell walls would have no incentives for pilus, which would mean little access to flagella.


  • Player may not have incentives for each individual upgrade gap.
  • Player could subvert the cell wall problem by just evolving a certain way then changing to the plant path later (although cell walls might not generally have much capacity for external organelle structures in the first place).
  • Once again, added level of complexity that might be unnecessary or otherwise better oriented towards a better concept.


  • All previously mentioned questions above.
  • What would improvements to engulfment look like? Higher % of compounds/organelles recovered, or faster digestion speed? (keep in mind engulfment is planned to be more robust in the future where a cell stays inside another cell for some time as its processed).
  • The plant paradox generally needs to be defined better.

Additionally, upgrades to the cell membrane should result in the obtaining of a nucleus. I was going to go on a whole tangent on how a certain path could lead to the “developing” of the nucleus; but how about instead of this, upgrades to the membrane’s energy abilities are effectively necessary to get enough energy to adequately supply energy demands of the nucleus? The nucleus could be made so expensive that you need to go through a lot of upgrades to even think of obtaining the nucleus. Upgrades to the cell membrane could maybe compound the effects of all cell energy-production functions to a certain degree. This is quite a powerful upgrade however, so it either needs to be scaled perfectly, or certain energy requirements must be met before unlocking the upgrade (minimum of x ATP produced necessary for upgrade y on the membrane).

However, basing the unlocking of an upgrade on ATP benchmarks introduces (maybe) the first abstract restriction to Thrive. It generally breaks away from the main gameplay loop, so we would have to be reeeeally careful in considering its implementation. I feel like a better system here could be conceived.

General Notes

  • I feel that with matters of efficiency and upgrades, organelle “bloat” could be a problem. That is, players would likely put down like 400 inefficient metabolo-proteins at the start, and would likely keep those 400 inefficient proteins as they unlock more efficient parts for more energy overall. Solving this could be pretty simple; the more organelles you have, the more protein/ammonia you need to reproduce, so it takes you longer to gather those resources overall. Having it so that upgrades don’t jack up protein/ammonia costs too much could provide incentives for the player to smoothline their cells, hence providing incentives for less organelle clutter. This sounds like a headache to balance though; you need to consider energy demands for the nucleus, gaps in energy production, how strong each upgrade is, etc.
  • Oxy-Toxy hasn’t been covered much, so that’s definitely an area that would need consideration. Vacoules too, which connect with oxy-toxy in some way as well probably.

I really appreciate the thought you put into this! The upgrades system is no small thing, and there is no easily “right” answer to how it should be handled so it’s always good to have new ideas and perspectives.

I do like this idea, as it would grant some players some sense of control and progression over their pace of unlocking new things. However I feel that progressive upgrades could be a bit awkward to handle for multiple parts, unless you make upgrades apply to all of the associated parts, but that in turn could be suboptimal for players wanting to adapt separate things at once.

Personally I’m sort of leaning towards a similar idea as well. Leaving the requisition of specific features entirely up to RNG could be frustrating for players, so having (admittedly more expensive) methods for players to acquire such things is always a plus.

At the very least the cytoplasm could act as the base part.

Depends on how gradually we want players to progress. Were we to go with this idea, we would probably want reasonably chunky jumps in effectiveness to match a meaningful MP price. So maybe 2-3 editor sessions to fully upgrade a part.

I have personally been very conflicted about one or the other. Each choice has big pros and cons.
Individually upgrading parts allows a great degree of freedom, as well as allowing players to adapt two different parts simultaneously.

Having upgrades cover all associated parts would make things much easier to handle as players wouldn’t need to tweak each individual part one at a time to cover their needs. However; This would obviously prevent them from simultaneously possessing different features. (For example; Players would not be able to adapt both thylakoids and metabolosomes using your concept, they would have to do one at a time. Pretty awkward.)

Personally I feel like it’s better to just handle the external parts like other parts rather than tying them to the membrane. Simply for ease of use and comprehension.

I do like the idea of a more primitive and less specialized version of the otherwise specifically
predatory pilus.

Depending on how we might change it in the future it could;

  1. Increase maximum amount of ensnared cells at once.
  2. Increase strength of speed debuff on ensnared cells
  3. Increase damage to ensnared cells.

I agree

I feel that upgrades should not crank up reproduction costs at all, personally, as it will typically not involve any significant change in size. Hopefully that will better encourage players to focus on having smaller amounts of parts, and help teach them the less is more approach to Thrive.

I’ve been holding off on toxins until I get to agent customization in general. While it will likely be related to upgrades and unlocks, agent customization might possibly be a different animal.

Again, I really appreciate your ideas here! It is quite refreshing and after reading through all of this, I feel I might take another look at the concept and see if my current direction is really the right way to go. As I mentioned earlier, there is no easy correct way to handle the system, and personally my ideas feel shaky to me still.