Signalling agents and behavior

Hello everyone,

It seems that signalling agents are on their way to Thrive : Add signaling agents · Issue #2364 · Revolutionary-Games/Thrive · GitHub. While cell communication is cool, I feel like it could be a bit different than what is proposed at this moment.

My main issue with such signalling agents is that it feels like the player is the mastermind of his whole species; yet, he’s just a cell at this point. I think that this can be further split down in two:

  1. Signaling agents have no reason to only affect one’s species. Say the player uses an agent as attracting: then not only could he attract his species member (for binding/being in a pack), but he could also attract preys or predators (especially the latter, the former having all reasons to find the agent actually repulsive).

  2. The player has also no reason to be immune to these agents. Of course, there’s a major difference with other cells: the player is an actual person looking for fun, among other compounds. So, while there needs to be a balance, the player should be affected by signalling agents as well.

In the wake of this trail of thought, I came up with a system I rather like, although it could (and hopefully will) be expanded.

There would be N signaling agents (SAs) available, that player could access through specialized SA organelles (SAO). An SAO could be linked to a given SA (either with having different SAOs, or, and more nicely, SA-specialized generic SAO). Thus, to use all N signaling agents, the player would need N SAOs, which leads to having to balance between communication efficiency & cost.

What would these SAs do? Giving outright orders seems a bit complicated. However, it would be possible for the players to associate behaviors to given SAs for their species (AI would evolve it). I see two classes of behavior at this point:

  • Attractivity
  • Agressivity

Attractivity would define if the cell moves toward or away from the SA source : it is interesting in finding binding mates, attracting preys, repulsing predators or concurrents… The player cell can easily be affected by this as well, by applying an attractive force to its movement : it would then be up to the player to decide to move away from it (but being slower, which has its cost), or to move towards it (with its associated movements), and conversely for repulsive agents.

Agressivity can be used to trigger defensive behavior from fellow cells (attacking cells of different species), but it could also trigger agressive behavior from nearby cells. Conversely, it could also trigger passive behavior* to allow preys to calm down predators. It is still unclear to me what the effect on the player should be: reduced damage for passivity, increased oxytoxyn production rate for agressivity? Attraction/Repulsion again? HP/ATP related things?

Anyways, I think that this system could allow for very interesting strategic choices, while still working out at the level of individual cells rather than hive-minded species. I’d love to have your feedback on this, because signalling agents could enrich the current game so much that they definitely deserve to be thoroughly discussed.

Thanks for reading me. :slight_smile:

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How would the AI evolve resistance, for example, to avoid predation?

How would that work? I can’t imagine it being any good if control is taken away from the player regularly.

While the signalling agents could be expanded along these lines, the gameplay implications, and user interface implications need to be thought through before these could be considered as complete designs that could be added to the game.

Well, take the case of a signalling agent A, and suppose we only consider attractivity. Every species would have a DNA-encoded behavior toward this agent: Attractive or Repulsive (Neutral could also be added)

Evolving resistance is then choosing the most suited behavior, fully depending on the environment: if most predatory cells ‘release’ agent A, a prey would have all interest to evolve A-repulsive behavior.

Yet, on the contrary, if preys ‘release’ agent B (for finding mates), it would prove very interesting for predators to evolve B-attractivity (also, if the preys use B to attract mates, implying B-attractivity on their side too, evolving production of B is interesting as well).

Changes in A and B behavior would be ruled by genetic behavior like activity, fear, etc are at the moment, and evolve through auto-evo. The player species’ behaviors would be defined in the behavior tab of the editor.

Precisely, as I mentioned above, the player should not be taken control away. But there may be incentive to follow the natural behavior, or penalties for no doing so.

Taking attraction again, a possibility would be for the player cell to be driven toward releasing sources, yet not enough to prevent them from turning away from this. This could either be done through:

  • a constant drift (not too strong, e.g. 50% of the player movement ability, split evenly across sources if multiple)
  • or a increased speed/movement cost for opposed directions.

Repulsion would be exactly similar, but reversed. My ideas are less clear when it come to agressivity, one could imagin, e.g.:

  • reduced damage for ‘passive’ behavior
  • reduced compound absorption for aggressive behavior

(which could makes sense because the cell’s systems, reacting to the SA, would deactivate unnecessary functions)

I agree very much on this point, this is part of why I posted it in the first place. I don’t think it can be called ‘complete’ indeed. I’m thinking of user interface, as for external action on the player cell, there should be some kind of visual indication of it on screen, yet I’m not sure what would be the best option here.

This is starting to sound very much like the “lock and key” approach to toxins:

Which I think might be a bit much to have two of these interaction type systems (predators and prey try to out-evolve each other).

I have a guess that this would not feel good. We actually have a current system in the game, but due to it missing graphical visualization, it currently doesn’t affect the player as we noticed very quickly in playtesting that randomly causing the player to move around does not feel good.

It has a lot of common points indeed. I get the concern, although isn’t that prey-predator interaction part of the very essence of evolution? But indeed, the two similar systems might be too much for a game.

Now, I would also say that it is only basically expanding this system of toxins to another agent. That means no or little conceptual complexity is added to the player’s mind, while allowing much more diversity in the gameplay. And that makes coding easier as it pretty much reuses other parts.

Overall, I’m not sure whether its proximity to the proposed new toxins system is a bane or actually a boon. However, the necessary integration will require thoughts to be given to it, for certain.

I can relate to this. I’ve played a Spore game a few days ago in cell mode, where there were currents, and it was indeed not very pleasant to be thrown around every there and then. But it may have come from lack of visualisation (only small bubbles displaying it) and the fact that it made me fully lose control. And this seems to have also been the case in playtesting. So, perhaps fixing these two issues could overcome this feeling? (Losing control can be fixed by limitation below player’s capacity, as I proposed).

Alternatively, there is this speed or movement cost penalty/bonus that is a possibility (among others I guess?).

Again, I’m not pretending at all that this proposal is fully fleshed out, but I think the general idea adresses the two concerns about a SA system that I developped above. If some people have further ideas/tweaks to make it fit the best into the current and planed game frame, I’m all ears!

I think I might have a better idea.
You know how some resources are off screen to the player, right? How about - with the introduction of signaling agents - arrows point towards near resources that are off screen, but also towards attractants as well? That way, there’s somewhat an incentive for the player to move towards attractants unknowingly- no drifting or penalties required. Then the player can upgrade/evolve to distinguish between attractants and resources by shifting the color of one of the arrows gradually (the arrow that point towards attractants and the other towards resources start out having the same color). And of course for the non-player cell this means a percentage of moving towards the attractant.

I don’t know if this is already a thing since I didn’t bother checking the dev forums (sorry), but do the cells secrete SAs constantly or in moments/by a trigger (by key press)? It’ll be a good idea for the SA production to be limited by resources.