Plant gameplay

I think if you play as a plant then the game should act different then as an animal, I don’t know how maybe it could be like plague inc or something similar. But you guys need to make it interesting not just something that’s implemented just to be implemented and doesn’t add anything to the game, make it a realistic choice the player could make and have fun with.

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Never thought of it being a plague inc style gameplay, in fact, i think it would play out the best since it would be useless to just play as one plant among many of the same species.

There would be only two actions as a plant:


Fun times!

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What about carnivorous plants?

What i meant about the Plague Inc. style gameplay was to see how your plant species would be doing and such, with options such as select areas you want to adapt and move to, etc.

Along with what @Untrustedlife said it could take on even more Plague Inc. style gameplay with that.

Heck you could even use a thing called Sub-Mutation Points to use them like you would in Plague Inc.

thread from earlier forum about plant gameplay

I’d think the key to making plant gameplay “fun” lies in one or both of two different systems:

  1. Plant gameplay could be somewhat like an extended version of the Multicellular stage. One could think of plants as a colony of cells in the process of becoming as efficient as animals(something that would be virtually impossible as a plant). Likewise, it would be a bit of an excuse to continue playing the Multicellular stage once that stage gets mechanics that one would see as “fun”. two birds with one stone.
  2. Plant gameplay could be used to test out a much simpler version of how Awakening Stage(the stage of paleolithic early sapient bands if I don’t have that wrong) will work. From what I understand, the Awakening Stage isn’t worked out much at all but I’d imagine there’d at least be a mechanic of exploring your environment and collect resources and eventually colonizing whole patches of land/sea. Looking at plants like much more dumbed-down tribes scouting for resources to continue their survival could be a very fun way to make plant gameplay worthwhile. again two birds with one stone.
    /B/. Plant gameplay could mix aspects from both Multicellular gameplay and _ gameplay. Perhaps one could go through multicellular as something like an algae bloom but diverge after that as animals go to all the established stages and plants go to the megastage that works a lot like the Awakening stage.

Plant play has some major problems in my estimation:

  1. Plants are rather inefficent energy-wise.
    There is a reason that an omnivore, the human, became sentient before all other species, and that is energy. Herbivores have a hard time eating enough to sustain their energy, they don’t do much more than eat. Carnivores have a much higher energy intake, but only if they are successful on the hunt. Omnivores can hunt but use energy rich plants at the same time for sustenance. In a way an omnivore can always go the easiest way and potentially free up time. Time to think, strategize, craft and build.
    Plants are even more inefficient than herbivores. Its about how much energy you can collect and metabolize in a given time and how much excess energy you can manage to gather.

  2. Plants can not move
    That brings us directly to the second problem. Plants have so few excess energy, that they are unable to fuel a movement apparatus. There is very limited movement in plants. It is far more efficent to just stand there in the sun and be sturdy enough to survive the weather. Excess energy is stored for regrowth and winter, no energy to waste for moving around.

  3. No sentience without movement
    This one is a bit harder to understand, and it comes from research into AI and psychology. It is argued that you can not perceive without a body that can act. Even if you have senses, there is too much information to process. The only way to perceive in a meaningful manner is to choose a resolution that matches your actors. For humans this means, that we are focussed on objects that we can use with our hands. The second category of things we perceive are things that influcence our movement, obstacles and paths through them. Our sensory processing is highly linked to how we move and act in the world. The same problem of resolution and interpretation stalled AI research for decades, it was just too complex to simply “see something”.
    This means that a plant without movement will not evolve a complex sensory apparatus and it will never evolve the complex processing necessary to interpret it. And processing sensory information, planning actions and executing them is the way to sentience. This way is blocked for plants.

There are many examples of plant intelligence in scifi, but those are more science fantasy than science fiction.
If you find a way to solve the energy problem, you can probably find a logical way to solve the others. But i fear you will have to sacrifice some scientific accuracy anyways.

I would support the idea of moving into a plague-inc like gameplay that is about spreading your species, but you would never get to sentience with a plant.


Nice post! I think we will allow plant gameplay regardless, even now (though unlocking is broken in 0.3.4) you can play as a plant (add chloroplast to your cell) and in 0.4.0 we are adding a nitrogen fixing plastid, which further cements plant gameplay ( a way to generate the ammonia you need for reproduction). I imagine we will keep the ability to play as a plant and we can make that, interesting, eventually. Though honestly (though in 0.4.0 you also need phosphate for reproduction so even your plant is almost forced to become a motile plant anyway) a player is more likely to resemble a photosynthetic animal in the end (assuming they arent actually trying to be a plant) But i see no reason to not allow you to be a plant gamneplay -wise, its boring but someone might have fun with that (microbe gameplay is pretty simple, and some people just like hanging out and listening to our soundtrack, so a plant gameplay style suits them more assuming we allow them to reproduce in that state (adding the plastid is a way of re-inforcing plantoid gameplay))

Also all cells will be able to move (albeit slowly) in 0.4.0 so you can get chloroplast, nitrogen fixing plastid and spend your game chasing after phosphate and you are then a plant. Since you no longer need to chase c02 either (since its now represented as a “diffused gas”) plant game play will consist of chasing after phosphate.

If as a plant you need to move in order to reproduce then how will the AI respond to that ? I feel it will prevent the AI from becoming true plants and more like what you said “plant animals” Also at the moment chloroplasts don’t weigh more then mitochondria like they do in real life (this isn’t in the game right?) making even more plant animals

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maybe this article is interesting for the discussion:

organelle weight is in the game.

What is the consensus on shifting represented-time-per-second. If this is allowed then plants could in fact move. From what I understand, the major problem with plant gameplay is extreme slow movement. Likewise, “the plant gameplay dilemma” is mostly “the sessile and subsessile organisms dilemma”.
Even some complex animals like slugs, sloths, and most cnidarians and echiderms would be incredibly grinding to play as despite their ubiquity. A dynamic-enough represented-time-per-second could help this even if it is a “below-this-minimum-speed?-change-to-this-rtps”.


That’s an interesting idea but how will other creatures be affected? Will they speed up as well and become really fast speed demons that randomly nom on your leaves?

Maybe. It wouldn’t be too hard to pull off just have a base speed for each creature and scale their speed by your speed… (it would become an issue once we have to scale the speed of other aspects of the simulation)

That kind of reminds me of this scene from Life. In theory you could render comparatively super-fast lifeforms in a more rudimentary way to save processing power, although I have no clue how well that’s supported by your stack.

I’d like to bring up the issue of how the editor would work for plants, which is why I’m reviving this thread. My apologies if this is the wrong place. Plants don’t typically have fixed body plans, but rather grow in a sort of procedural way in response to their environment, with the adaxial-abaxial distinction being the only overall pattern. Is there any ideas already on the table for how to deal with that?

The best way I can think of to do that is allowing limited changes to body plan outside of the editor, where it’s been paid for. That could be useful for segmented creatures and the like too.


I have no idea how this would affect the editor. However I think the word you are searching for is radial symmetry as opposed to bilateral symmetry. Radial symmetry is commonly found in immobile organisms like plants, but also observed in mushrooms and other things like this. However as I’m writing this I wonder if there is a term for sporadically growing organisms like coral.

Most plants aren’t radially symmetric, though. If they grow in a place where there’s light and space in every direction equally, they can look like that from a distance, but up close they’re asymmetrical.

Ok, I agree, but environmental factors affect even bilateral life-forms. For example, if you chop off one of my arms I may appear somewhat asymmetrical to the experienced eye. In all seriousness though, if we expose animals to the same asymmetrical things that we are talking about here (sunlight, water, etc.) they will turn out just as asymmetrical as plants.

No, most plants do not grow symetrically, though their parts can be symmetrical (e.g. a leaf).

Anyway, the editor would presumably be the same for all organisms. The organism is comprised of metaballs (as described in the developer thread), and those balls are comprised of various materials (for plants these could be lignin, cellulose, etc.). Your point of non-fixed body plans is an interesting one, though I think it isn’t such a large concern. While every oak tree is different, they all share the same basic structure and growth plan. I presume that Thrive will allow for variation between individuals, so some members of a species could be bigger/smaller, faster/slower, stronger/weaker than other members. I imagine an organism’s size would be randomly selected from a range between some maximum and minimum. Perhaps such a system could be utilized to determine what height a tree should have. So if there is little water in a certain biome, the maximum size for a tree is much smaller than in a biome with plentiful water.

Although I should note that this is speculation. We must remember that Thrive is presently only a microbiology game.

The question of plant gameplay is an interesting one. The goal of the game is to have an intelligent, spacefaring species. Plants do not have nervous systems, so they are incapable of this. To what extent should non-LAWK (life as we know it) options be implemented to allow players to make triffid spaceships? Do we want the game to have dead ends after which the player is allowed to progress no further? An intelligent aquatic species would be stuck there, unable to advance to the later stages of the game. I think this would be very frustrating for a player. Imagine playing the game for 20-30 hours, only for you to be unable to advance any more. Those hours would feel lost, and I imagine this might dissuade people from playing the game.

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