Mouthwash's 0.4.0.2 review


#1

So, this review will mainly be complaints. Not because the release itself is bad - it isn’t, and is a fantastic accomplishment. But most of what’s good in it is the introduction of features, all of which have been explicitly announced. I don’t see much point in describing them in a post that will only ever get read by the devs and community.

Now here are some issues I think the team should focus on:

#1 The game feels way too cramped and things happen so fast that they feel trivial. This affects everything. I can barely move without running into another cell or bacteria (speaking of, those vaunted swarms don’t mean much - they just seem to scatter in random directions and occasionally group themselves into weird formations. I suspect it’s because of the lack of space). Worst of all are the compounds, which are absolutely ubiquitous and remove any incentive to become a predator.

#2 The starting cell seems to move quickly without any means of doing so, which feels very immersion-breaking. That and the fact that it literally can’t ever run out of ATP initially almost turned me off the game.

#3 Reproduction should happen about ten times less quickly, whether by making compounds rarer or making the process itself slower. You barely get an opportunity to get used to the environment before you’re dragged out of it, and makes the playthrough as a whole too fast.

#4 I don’t get bacteria. I understand it’s probably a bad idea to engulf the ones with toxin vacuoles, but can they hurt you otherwise? Do they have the same AI as normal cells? What are their formations intended to do?

#5 Engulfing is very inconsistent. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and there is absolutely no feedback on why (it can’t be size, as I was often unable to engulf bacteria). The game is crying out for some kind of info feed.

#6 The ingame sound needs to be bumped up tenfold or so, while the menu’s should stay at the same level. Not exaggerating.

#7 How size affects speed is VERY counterintuitive. After adding two chloroplasts, boom, I went from a relatively fast cell to a helplessly crawling one (I was large and had seven flagella, I think). Plus, other things seem to affect speed, such as moving through compounds. This should all be explained somewhere.

#8 On my first run I only added flagella to my cell. This proved to be a mistake and I burned through my ATP in no time - and the game suddenly didn’t seem to realize that I had glucose left? I stopped moving entirely and started taking damage. Even if I was clean out of ATP, that shouldn’t be possible if I had glucose left in the tank. It’s either a bug or yet another one of the many, many ways this game gave me the impression that I was playing on an incredibly opaque, hidden ruleset.

9 Except for ATP, your base storage will be more than enough for the entire game. I only make an exception for ATP because it can’t be produced while moving, forcing you to make stops in order to replenish. That’s a clever system!

EDIT: Not sure what happened to #9. I don’t even see an option to change text size.

#10 The rate at which glucose is converted to ATP is obscenely efficient. After the first generation, I never needed to worry about it again.

#11 Shouldn’t there be some sort of progress bar for reproduction? Given the state of the game, I think it should be pretty easy to implement (though I’ve been wrong before).

#12 I didn’t much notice the auto-evo, probably because most cells were of my species after a few generations. The ones I saw, however, still looked much like the sorry jokes they started as. How many generations does it take for them to become interesting?

Now with all these in mind, I’m going to make a suggestion on where the game should go: Thrive, as it currently exists, needs to start feeling like a self-contained game. I think this can be accomplished with much less effort than trying to build the entire microbe stage incrementally, and it will give you more and better feedback for the ultimate design.

So here is a suggestion targeted at the specific problems of this build:

Space things out. Make it the friggin’ Wild West. Not everywhere; there should be oases where other cells flock and compete over resources (biomes can definitely come in handy here). But outside there should be a gap of, oh, ten seconds of travel on average before encountering another cell. Bacteria should come in larger swarms and be even rarer. The oases would encourage peaceful gameplay, and the Wild West aggressive gameplay.

This is probably not much like your final vision for the microbe stage, and it’s not meant to be. I just think the priority should making the game fun as quickly as possible, and I think this idea may be enough to bump Thrive up to the ‘online flash game’ level of playability.

Sorry if any of this seems conceited or demanding; I’m just trying to throw the idea out there.


#2

Are you talking about not being able to kill something? Or are you talking about that if you don’t enter engulf mode before hitting something you can’t swim over it, but you can kill it? The second one can be fixed, it was caused by a change that was made to mask a physics related crash, but should no longer be required.

I feel the exact same way. @Untrustedlife did sound volume lowering that I think was a step in the wrong direction.

I think this is due to the fact that there is a speed limit for converting glucose to ATP based on how many cytoplasm and mitochondria you have. So if you don’t have enough for your ATP consumption when moving you need to sit still to regenerate. This should be communicated to the player more clearly.

Currently they are completely random. And the time it takes for them to change depends on the time in the cell stage, not editor cycles. This will be changed once we get proper auto-evo.

I hope @tjwhale will see and maybe address your other points.


#3

No, it felt like the engulf function simply wasn’t working.

I think this is due to the fact that there is a speed limit for converting glucose to ATP based on how many cytoplasm and mitochondria you have. So if you don’t have enough for your ATP consumption when moving you need to sit still to regenerate. This should be communicated to the player more clearly.

Actually, I picked up on that pretty easily. I was sitting still at the time (couldn’t move anyway without ATP), with glucose left over, and starved to death.

Currently they are completely random. And the time it takes for them to change depends on the time in the cell stage, not editor cycles. This will be changed once we get proper auto-evo.

Didn’t the devblog mention some bacteria turning transparent in order to better hide from the player?


(tjwhale) #4

Thanks for the feedback. I agree we’ve gone from a tech demo to the lowest level of a good game, which is awesome and I’m really proud of that.

I don’t agree we should just aim for “‘online flash game’ level of playability.” I think we should just keep building and make an awesome, groundbreaking, game.

A lot of what you’re talking about will get sorted out, tutorial, balancing of game flow etc.


#5

No, I just suggested that to be the immediate goal. I want the microbe-to-galactic empire Thrive as much as anyone.


(tjwhale) #6

Yeah cool I understand. I have high hopes for the microbe stage, I think it’s going to be a groundbreaking standalone game without anything else.


#7

You are right about that. I forgot to mention that there is also the darwinian component where species get their populations randomly altered (to cause new species to appear), but also when some simulated cells manage to kill something or reproduce that also affects the population. So if the player only kills species they can see then that can cause that only the species with transparent colours would survive better.

It should only be possible to take damage when you are out of ATP. So if you have glucose, and your osmoregulation cost isn’t higher than your ATP production, you shouldn’t take damage by just sitting still.


(Untrustedlife) #8

There is a Darwinian component, if cells, escape predators, get a kill, or reproduce their populations go up. If they die their population goes down once they hit a certain population they can split off one or multiple new species with new mutations if the pop is below a threshold they go extinct. So in the long run things are tending towards Darwinian evolution. (Also when one does the population drops by 50 per individual death) (and up by 60 when they do something good) However the population numbers we are dealing with are huge , in the thousands. Also the reason things do so well aren’t exactly always straightforward. In 0.4.1 dev builds you see larger bacteria populations and more effective evolution because I improved fleeing and hunting behavior.

Also, the way being able to engulf is calculated is the amount of organelles a species has. So you see bacteria you can’t engulf because they have a lot of stuff in them but are scaled down 50% and have more tightly wrapped cell walls.


(Rathalos) #9

Hmmm, is it in the design yet to change this? It’s doesn’t exactly seem like an intuitive way to determine “engulfability”, since it doesn’t match their visual size. Perhaps bacteria shouldn’t have that many organelles? Or, since “eukaryote” cells look so much bigger, the nucleus should add a lot to the size of the cell so they are almost always able to engulf bacteria.


#10

Yeah, a smaller bacterium chock-full of organelles just successfully engulfed me.

Also, one that I previously engulfed released about a 100 units worth of glucose (I only got about 30, but the entire cloud looked like a hundred). This was right after I started a new game, so I assume it’s just a balancing issue.


(Untrustedlife) #11

30 glucose, is what you got no matter how it looked , we try to keep our clouds visible, so they look big and spread out sometimes but dont contain as much as you would think, and i think that part is fine. (especially considering a flagella is 7 atp per second), you need to get rewarded for your kills.


#12

I never got anywhere near that much when I engulfed bacteria other times. And, as I said, the glucose conversion is way too efficient.


(Untrustedlife) #13

We plan to totally change how death works. No more exploding into clouds.


#14

I’m talking about how many compounds other cells are carrying inside of them. But since your plan is eventually to start everything off as a single basic cell (if I understand correctly), they should start with the same amount of compounds, correct?


#15

Well, looks like the next release is going to have some interesting mechanics. It’ll probably be bad for balance but that’s what the playerbase is for. :grin:

I may have misinterpreted how biomes will work. Can you travel to different ones at will, or are you just sent to a new one after leaving the editor?


(tjwhale) #16

There’s going to be a patch map and species can spread between the patches. You’ll start as a single hex of cytoplasm in a hydrothermal vent, the only life on the planet, and by the end of the stage the world will be filled with ~3000 species of microbes or something like that. Should be pretty cool, though will take several patches to get all the mechanics in and polish it up.


#17

I just opened the game and, for no apparent reason, everything seems to be going twice as fast as before. It’s either too fast or was always too slow up until now (feels like the former; I can’t even dodge toxins like this). I assume it’s a framerate issue?


#18

I think you might be experiencing what was discussed here:


#19

Huh. After watching that video, it appears that it really was just performing slowly before. I have a pretty high-end computer.


(Rathalos) #20

Looks like it’s not just me then. I wonder if more people are having this issue, but don’t realize the game isn’t running as it should.

@hhyyrylainen: The speed in that video is the intended one, right?