The Philosophy of Thrive – How Evolutionary Progression Should Work

Just a Heads Up: This is a long post. A really long post. I have been struggling with articulating these thoughts for a while now, ever since I posted my last reply. Struggling not only because I was trying to write an effective idea, but also because this concept doesn’t really add a separate mechanic to the game. In fact, most of what I base these thoughts on are basically already implemented in the game. This is intended to be a unifying concept to base most of Thrive on, so it is an ambitious topic. But I think I did a good job at conveying it and have made my point pretty clear. I am hoping that this post kind of helps us make sense of Thrive in future discussions by giving us a clearer understanding of how exactly Thrive should work; for if we have a clear idea of the best way to simulate evolution, we will have a clearer idea of how to create a fun and impactful Thrive. Without further ado, here it is: the essence, the framework, the idea, the philosophy of Thrive.


As we start to leap from a bunch of ideas to an actual game, it is important to consider the idea of Thrive itself when talking about how the game should be designed. Development has progressed to a point that our beloved evolution simulator has some sort of shallow depth and complexity in it; soon enough and with good guidance however, this shallow depth will turn into an ocean filled with complex and alien creatures that have evolved alongside your own, and soon enough, we will have to make a design choice as to how exactly gameplay and progression/advancement should work.

Progression is a tough thing to talk about. Of course, we have to talk about how exactly a player will progress, but just as importantly, we will have to talk about why a player progresses. In other words, not only do we have to design progression, but we will have to make sure a player is motivated to progress. These questions regarding progress are a major reason as to why it is hard to create quality animal – and therefore, evolution – simulators. Not only is it hard to create a system of progression that can accurately capture the majesty and reality of nature, but it is also hard to make that system any fun. If a system is created so that it completely captures the realism of an animal’s life, that it leaves no stone unturned, then that game would be very boring. And at the same time, if you created a very simple game design with only a few options to engage with, no one would be interested after the first 5 minutes. For example, who would want to play an eagle simulator where you spend the majority of your time sitting on an egg, grooming your feathers, and surveying a rather empty airspace around you? At the other end of the spectrum, who would want to play an eagle simulator where all you did was fight other animals and unlock crazy attributes? In the former game, you suffer from a lack of personal motivation because – let’s face it – life isn’t always fun. And in the latter game, you suffer from a lack of complexity and realism in a way that rapidly turns off the player from the experience. In order to make a simulator fun, one must make sure to strike the proper balance between the mundaneness of complete realism and the barbarity of simplicity so that a player is properly motivated to play the game. To make a game realistic, you have to have it emulate whatever it is that you are desiring to emulate in some sort of way, and to make a game, you have to have a fun objective. There is some overlap between the two ends in that biological reality has an objective: survive long enough pass on your genes.

However, Thrive isn’t a life simulator just in the aspect that it simulates the life of a creature. Rather, it is an attempt to emulate the evolution of life through an endless amount of eons, which both complicates and simplifies the game; complicates it in that many new and unique game concepts have to be created, and simplifies it in that there is a tiny bit less of a focus on the day-to-day lives of organisms. Most games would simply worry about creating an incredibly in depth and detailed cell simulation for example. If you want to call yourself the best cell simulator, then surely you would want to include a countless amount of organelles, species, and unique cellular features. But Thrive doesn’t necessarily need this: all Thrive needs is a detailed cell stage which provides a large degree of customization and gameplay options so that the player could evolve a multicellular organism that is unique to the design choices they made. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to include as much unique features as we possibly can; it simply means that we don’t have to include as many features as a pure cell simulator needs to make the evolution aspect of Thrive as fun as it can be. At the same time however, our focus on evolution means that Thrive needs to worry about other unique problems a simple cell simulator doesn’t have to grapple with.

So, we have identified the two main aspects of Thrive’s gameplay: the evolution aspect and the gameplay aspect – and by gameplay, the playthrough of an individual creature’s life is meant. Both are aspects that are based on biology, and both are heavily interconnected with each other. Both are driven by the same engines, and both span a rather wide array of topics. What is more, both present an interesting challenge in converting the mundane and serious objectives behind each virtue into a game design through which a player can consistently be thrilled. We have noted how it is incredibly important that a player feels personally motivated to progress through the game by presenting them with a design that is realistic enough to have a wide array of complexity but simplistic enough not to overwhelm or bore the player with mundanity. With all this established, it is now time to consider what exactly should be the personal motivation behind progression. We know that it is a motivation that should be based on biology and a motivation that is heavily interconnected with reality, that is the driving force behind both biology and evolution. We know that it must convert the seriousness and mundanity of both virtues into a design which the player can thoroughly and consistently enjoy. And we know that this personal motivation must base progress on a concept that is realistic enough to have a wide array of complexity but simplistic enough not to overwhelm or bore the player. So, with all of this established, I will propose a personal motivation that will encompass all of the needs we identified, and that personal motivation is energy, or perhaps more descriptively put, energy-efficiency.

First, let’s demonstrate the legitimacy of using energy to explain our intended subjects of emulation. Consider this following statement, and consider it thoroughly:

Every species of organism intends to survive, and this survival depends on energy and energy-processing to survive.

There is no case in which this is not true. Everything needs some form of energy to maintain homeostasis, from the first cells to us humans. If this is true, then the following must also be true:

Every action costs energy, and all of the energy that a species spends is spent so that it continues to survive, either so that it can continue to generate more energy or preserve more energy.

I challenge you to find a situation in which the above cannot be used to explain an action that an organism commits. The energy that is spent on predation is simply a means to secure more energy. The energy that plants spend expanding their faculty are also a means to secure more energy. Animals spend so much energy on mating displays so that its species can continue to survive. Even cases of altruism, where organisms sacrifice personal energy for the sake of another, are methods of ensuring that the species as a whole has the energy it needs to persist. Also, if the above are true, then the following must be true:

Species spend the amount of energy that they spend because such energy consumption level yields the highest return of energy.

It is always true that a species never wants to either spend so much/little energy that it cannot sustain itself, no matter how excessive or ridiculous an action seems. Rams spend so much energy butting heads in the mating season because it introduces a competitive filter, meaning that the best genes for the species get passed on so that offspring have the best chance of survival. Wild dogs spend so much energy running because their food drops dead at the end of it.

The above statements can all be combined to create our first cohesive law of biology:

Every species of organism intends to survive, and this survival depends on energy and energy-processing to survive. Every action costs energy, and all of the energy that a species spends is spent so that it continues to survive, either so that it can continue to generate more energy or preserve more energy. Species spend the amount of energy that they spend because such energy consumption level yields the highest return of energy, and thus, the greatest chance of survival.

And if our first general law of biology is true, then the following law must be true:

Species are built the way they are built because their body plan is the most energy-efficient method of survival that they can manage. In other words, species have certain adaptations because that adaptation maximizes the amount of energy they get while minimizing the amount of energy they spend performing important tasks.

Plants grow stems and grow taller because it helps them access more sunlight, and therefore more energy. Tigers have fangs because it helps them kill energy better. Plants have widespread leaves because it helps them capture as much sunlight as they can. Birds have wings because it helps them find a lot of energy fast. A vast majority of aquatic animals are streamline because that shape helps them reduce the amount of energy they must spend to move, while at the same time maximizing their movement speed. Altruism evolved because it benefited the energy of the majority of the species at the expense of one. I would also like to add this clause to the law:

The capabilities of a specie’s body plan are limited by the amount of energy that is available to said organism. Limiting factors in biology, such as the square-cube law and respiration, are limiting because they limit the amount of energy that can be used for other essential functions of an organism.

This is best illustrated through an example. In the mind of a wildebeest, it would be ideal if they could sprint at a speed of 500 miles per hour for 100 miles straight. However, this isn’t possible because a wildebeest can’t harvest or generate enough energy to maintain a body plan that can generate such rapid movement. This ultimately means that a species is inherently checked by the amount of energy available to it through both the environment and its body, and that the environment checks the body, and the body checks the specie’s capabilities. And if this law is true, then the following must also be true.

A species continues to exist because their body plans are energy-efficient enough to survive. On the other hand, species goes extinct because their body plan is not energy efficient enough to maintain a steady population, which can be a result of endless factors ranging from competition to environmental fluctuations.

Compare a wildebeest and a beetle for example. It would seem like a wildebeest would generally be the most successful species, as it can move quicker, can defend itself better, and can generate more energy more quickly than a beetle can. Place a population of wildebeest and beetles on a barren mountaintop where microflora is the only food source however, and I guarantee you that the beetles would thrive, and the wildebeests would be decimated. Although beetles generate much less energy than wildebeests do, beetles need a lot less energy to maintain important functions and can survive on much less food than wildebeests can. If the above laws are true, then the following law must be true.

The most successful species in an ecosystem are the most energy-efficient species. Therefore, evolutionarily successful species are the most energy-efficient species.

The above laws implicate a harsh concept: if you aren’t spending energy wisely, your species will go extinct, plain and simple. You continue to survive by spending energy wisely, however, and you won’t go extinct, plain and simple. There is a selective pressure against inefficiency, which ultimately leads us to our final and most conclusive rule:

Therefore, evolution is generally a trend towards energy-efficiency specific to a species’s niche and therefore, adaptations are inherently a means to and a result of getting more energy. And the evolution of such adaptations develops because of an interest in maximizing net energy and fulfilling all of the previously ascertained laws.

To make it easier to follow, I have listed all the laws below and have given them names. I have italicized them so that if you want to skip past rereading them, you just have to scroll until you go past the italics.


The Law of Necessity - Every species of organism intends to survive, and this survival depends on energy and energy-processing to survive. All of the energy that a species spends is spent so that it continues to survive, either so that it can continue to generate more energy, or preserve more energy. Species spend the amount of energy that they spend because such energy consumption level yields the highest return of energy, and thus, the greatest chance of survival.

The Law of Efficient Design - Species are built the way they are built because their body plan is the most energy-efficient method of survival that they can manage. In other words, species have certain adaptations because that adaptation maximizes the amount of energy they get while minimizing the amount of energy they spend performing important tasks.

The Law of Intrinsic Limitations - The capabilities of a specie’s body plan are limited by the amount of energy that is available to said organism. Limiting factors in biology, such as the square-cube law and respiration, are limiting because they limit the amount of energy that can be used for other essential functions of an organism.

The Law of Perpetuation - A species continues to exist because their body plans are energy-efficient enough to survive. On the other hand, species goes extinct because their body plan is not energy efficient enough to maintain a steady population, which can be a result of endless factors ranging from competition to environmental fluctuations.

The Law of Survival - The most successful species in an ecosystem are the most energy-efficient species. Therefore, evolutionarily successful species are the most energy-efficient species.

The Law of Adaptation - Therefore, evolution is generally a trend towards energy-efficiency specific to a species’s niche and therefore, adaptations are inherently a means to and a result of getting more energy. And the evolution of such adaptations develops because of an interest in maximizing net energy and fulfilling all of the previously ascertained laws.


These laws are the engineers of all of the endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful that have been, and are being, evolved. All of the adaptations of all of Earth’s diverse creatures have been unified by these laws, the laws of energy-economics. Flight had evolved simply because the species which had the traits necessary for flight all had an energy advantage. The digestive system evolved because organisms which had this concentration of metabolic cells more efficiently extracted energy from the environment. Multicellularity happened because the adaptations leading to such increased the capacity of energy production for all cells, which proved to be extraordinarily advantageous. The eye evolved because species were both able to generate enough energy – a result of expanded energy-producing capabilities - to maintain such a structure and because it helped them extract energy. Everything comes back to these laws, and everything follows these laws.

So, we have demonstrated that energy-economics is a good way to interpret biology, have provided general rules and derivatives of this approach, and have provided evidence in support of these rules. Now, what does this mean for Thrive? As we have identified before, simulations are fun abstractions of reality which emulate its objectives in a fun and gamey way. We have identified a way to interpret a primary objective behind our intended subjects of emulation, and have detailed this objective in a way that is concise enough to accurately describe biology, but broad enough to explain for the complexity inherent in biology. It then must be reasonable to conclude that Thrive should largely emulate these general laws if it wishes to emulate evolution and biology.

Let’s get straight to the point. There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding how the future game we get – the one with multicellularity, land, 3D shapes, and civilization – will handle progression. It’s hard for us to imagine how the hell we will get from a single glob of cytoplasm to a complex and muscled creature in a game that will blend together stages as seamlessly as can be done. There are a bunch of concepts floating around like, upgrades and clustering, which explain how progression will occur at the microscopic level, but for some reason, we hesitate when considering how change will happen at the macroscopic level. In order to make sure our community understands how exactly the game will be designed however – the idea of Thrive itself - it is time that the underlying concept behind macroscopic progression in Thrive is articulated and revealed. And the answer, lo-and-behold, is that the motivation for the player, the base for the framework, the mechanic which will unify all other game mechanics regarding progression like upgrading and such is already implemented: it’s energy.

In the current game, every lifespan that the player takes control of is a lifespan that is concerned with finding more energy by searching for more compounds. They do this because the player wants to survive, and they do this by spending energy frugally; in fact, everything the player does is in interest of either getting more energy or saving more energy. Already then is it clear that our first law holds true. When the player successfully enters the cell editor, they naturally act in accordance to the second law because they are motivated by the first law; they attempt to design an organism that gets as much energy as possible, either by increasing energy creation, reducing energy consumption, or increasing the capacity to gain energy. The player must then act in accordance to the third law if they wish to survive, as even though they ideally want 50 flagella, they will have to apply only as much flagella as their metabolic pathway can allow them to have; of course, their metabolic pathway is also designed in accordance to what is available in its environment. If any of the first three laws are not fulfilled, then the player goes extinct. If they are all satisfied, then the player lives on and gets the chance to adapt even further to their environment, as described in laws four, five, and six.

So if we agree with all of the laws and we see that the rudimentary implementation of features in accordance to these laws have been successful so far, why is it a crazy thing to say that we already have the frameworks for the future of Thrive in place? Even though we have a somewhat limited pallet of tools and organelles in our hands as of now, the challenge of evolution is already represented; do as much as you can with as little as you have. By designing progression to be based on energy, we are therefore designing Thrive to be based on biology and evolution if we agree that the laws we described are accurate. By forcing the player to act in interest of the first rule and by basing aspects of auto-evo on the law of necessity, we are inherently forcing the player to act in accordance to the following laws built on the first, hence representing evolution. But once again, what does this mean for Thrive itself?

It means that energy should be the defining factor of progression. The adaptations which a player puts on their cell currently are already acting in interest of energy-economics, so we know it works; we just must make sure it is continued. When discussing the leap from unicellularity to multicellularity, we should discuss features while keeping in mind that a player is ultimately motivated to pursue one thing: energy. We should then motivate the player to make that leap to multicellularity by rewarding them with an increased capability to increase energy, for two cells surely make more energy than one. However, if we are to define all of progression on energy, then there is a whole story of energy behind getting to the point of adhesion proteins. As previously stated, every feature requires a certain amount of energy to be spent on the growth, maintenance, and use of said feature. And we have mentioned how every feature is an attempt to satisfy the rules of energy-economics. Applying this to Thrive, the only limitation placed on the adaptations a player can use should only be energy, and the motivation and reward empowering each adaptation should be energy. As I previously stated:

Cells did not begin to develop complex organelle functions and processes because of a selective pressure in favor of complexity, but rather because the selective pressure in favor of increased energy efficiency had allowed the cell to successfully develop and maintain said complex organelle functions in order to better gather energy from the environment. Cells did not make the leap from unicellularity to multicellularity because of the complexity inherent in such organizing, but because of the energy yield which came from being multicellular. Organisms did not develop a nervous system because it was more complex and was the next step above, but because said organisms had the energy capacity to be able to develop and maintain said nervous system. Practically all adaptations could be interpreted through this energy-productive perspective; the energy production was there, so x was developed, and x happened to be successful, so x turned into a more complex trait x2, because it used energy better, or there was enough energy to make it more complex, or etc. Reverting of a complex trait, such as the loss of legs in whales, can also be interpreted through this lense; the legs were not an efficient use of energy and it was more energy efficient to become more streamline within the environment.

If we make energy rules the primary focus of progress, then the player and other organisms will naturally be incentivized to act in a way that is representative of biology and evolution itself. The player will also be forced to innovate as evolution innovated if we make energy challenging enough. Thus, discussion and development regarding Thrive should be tailored towards facilitating this incentive, and each decision that is presented to the player should be understood in terms of this incentive. The vast diversity that makes evolution so fascinating to us will be seen in Thrive, and evolution will be powerfully represented in the player’s playthrough, as the interest of the player is to evolve in a way that is accurately conveyed by evolution. Imagine the depth, the replayability, that would be intrinsic to Thrive if you had to edit your energy production to make progress.

Imagine if we made the nucleus cost a lot of energy to maintain, even more energy than is required now. What this means is that for a while, you have to play as a prokaryote and for a while, you have to make do with prokaryotic organelles, as described. If we introduce a lot of customization and organelle upgrades, you will have a large array of tools available to you, leading to a lot more depth and replayability in a phase of the game which now takes maybe 5 minutes. Only after you engage with the prokaryotic part of the game by finetuning your body plan to best suit your niche and environment will you be able to obtain the nucleus, by grace of upgrades to your metabolosomes. If we make the primary challenge in this game the challenge of constantly innovating your metabolic pathway, then every evolutionary leap in Thrive will have a constant mechanic looping back into it that consistently adds an endless amount of depth. In my previous post, I described the result of this philosophy in the early stages of this game:

increase energy capacity by tinkering with your creature’s energy-production line, add parts, repeat, and all of a sudden you have 20 organelles. Get enough energy, upgrade your cell enough, and eventually you get bonding agents; combine with another cell, and look at that, you’ve just witnessed the most important moment in the history of complex life happen right in front of you, the first multicellular organism. Then you notice that these two cells make a lot more energy than your one cell, so you can now get those organelle upgrades that would have previously bankrupted your single cell’s ATP bank.

When other cells begin to figure out the secret sauce in the recipe for multicellularity, the arms race begins again; so, you start adding more cells to your organism to get more energy to jack up your adaptations even more. Other cells start doing the same, so you add more cells and repeat the complexity process, mess around and end up with 20 cells. You get enough energy to develop a cell-differentiation system, which then allows you to begin specializing certain cells to be toxin producing, or energy producing, or storage units, or etc.

You begin upgrading your energy producing cells, get so much energy that you don’t exactly know what to do with it but hey I can add more cells so why not - and all of a sudden, your organism has 1000 cells in it and it’s beginning to jiggle a bit. You’ve finetuned your energy production system so much - “wait, have I made a primitive digestive system?” you ask yourself as you consider the blur of an hour that has just past which was spent editing your energy producing cells and replicating them to increase your energy capacity - and as a result added enough cells to the point that you could now call them tissues. This process continues until you have enough energy to upgrade one of your cell type’s membranes in order to decrease the energy cost of maintaining inter-cellular interactions by allowing said cells to dynamically shift sodium and other nutrients to help generate an action potential; then, you stop and realize that you’ve created the first neuron. And then, you stop and try to recollect the blur of a night spent playing Thrive, only to realize that all of this started with a single tile of cytoplasm in some remote tectonic crack of the planet you’re on.

Imagine it for the later stages of the game now. You are in the midst of an explosion in biodiversity because other multicellular species have reached the same point you are now in; so much energy capacity, than anything is possible. There is so much freedom that is bestowed upon you because of these energy capacity upgrades that you can place features and unlock upgrades that you previously could only imagine, and so can other species. You place spikes all over yourself simply because you can, and you add a primitive eye, because you can. Every other species grows into this excess amount of energy by experimenting as well; giant worms, leaf-like plankton creatures, plants with huge stalks, the first chitin armor; hell, you even see something with a mouth on its butt somewhere in the ocean. You realize now that you are in your own Cambrian Explosion, that weird part of Earth’s history where things that didn’t make sense existed. However, you eventually grow into this excess amount of energy produced: as described by the 2nd and 3rd laws of energy, you need to in order to remain efficient in your utilization and capture of energy from your environment. Eventually, other creatures run into this wall as well, and eventually, this biodiversity begins to narrow down a bit. Now that there isn’t free room to experiment, the game of energy becomes harsh again; organisms which evolved traits that are a waste of energy naturally die out because they aren’t energy efficient enough, as described by our laws of energy. Although the survivors remain diverse, there are some trends emerging, mainly symmetry and a streamline shape. The basic branches of all future life on your planet have formed.

Once again, you are forced into this deadly competition of remaining on top of the game in terms of meaningfully investing your energy. You have to be a shrewd upgrader of your features, and you have to be a constant tinkerer in the energy production unit you have developed. Generations pass, and eventually, you develop a spine because you have enough free energy to maintain said feature. This spine frees up a good amount of energy for you, as you don’t have to spend so much energy supporting your own structure. With the spine comes new features, and with the spine comes another explosion in lifeforms with vertebrae. Once again however, you use up this free energy wiggle room, and once again, you are forced into innovating your body plan without adding an entirely new feature until you reach another energy benchmark, which can allow you access to land. You upgrade your parts that are responsible for this ability until you hit another barrier, and once again, you are forced to innovate with what you have. You develop features that help you breath air better, and once again, you get a bunch of free energy, which you spend adapting to land, then once again, you hit a barrier, forcing you to innovate with what you have. You get warm-blood, you boom, you hit a wall, then you innovate. You get efficient muscles, you create wings or something, you hit a wall, then you innovate. Rinse and repeat, innovate and thrive. All of this because a player wants to make sure they can find enough energy in their next life-cycle. All of this because a player edits their cells in a way that helps them in this task. All of this because of 6 basic laws that emulate evolution.

By basing Thrive on these energy laws, we base Thrive on evolution. By basing Thrive on these energy laws, we bring in the innovation, diversity, and uniqueness of evolution into our game. By basing progression on the progression of energy, we make Thrive resemble the progression of life as we know it. By building the game design in accordance to these principles, you build an evolution simulator. This is the idea of Thrive, the idea of energy-economics. And this is the principle which will make the game so effective.

I hope this makes sense, and I hope you will consider this when discussing the development of Thrive from now on.

11 Likes
You are right. This is a long post. A very long post A really very long post… … … …
Summary

blackjacksike.exe stopped working…

This is a difficult thread to try to reply to. I started off nodding along until the energy part. Then it was a roller coaster of me switching between “this is great” to “ehh” a bunch of times. But in summary I think this is perhaps the closest anyone has ever gotten to putting what Thrive is about into words. Though, I’m still not the biggest advocate of “everything’s just energy”, I more like the explanation that life is all about spreading your genes as wide as possible to make sure your lineage doesn’t go extinct.

6 Likes

I completely agree with you when you say that life is about spreading genes as much as you can to make sure you don’t die out. That is how you make more of yourself, which is of course the first step in making sure you don’t die out. I was probably dancing around this too much and didn’t explicitly state it, which might have made my point less clear, but the reason why I say evolution is a general trend towards energy-efficiency specific to a specie’s niche is because energy is the thing everything has to spend to get to that point of creating more of yourself.

In order to reproduce you need to spend energy, and of course, this comes after the process of finding and wooing your mate, which also costs energy. To survive up to the point of sexual maturity, you need to spend energy living; spend it on moving around, finding food, seeking shelter, growing, and simply maintaining your bodily functions. If any of these important parts of getting to sexual maturity cost too much energy, you are inherently at a disadvantage in the wild, and if you don’t put enough energy into any one of them, you are also inherently at a disadvantage because you’d be behind. There’s an intraspecific component in this in the form of making sure you are the one to pass on your genes, and there’s an interspecific component in this in the form of not becoming someone else’s source of energy or not lagging behind your competition by not securing enough energy for your niche. Again, all of this is to achieve the goal of life: pass on your genes.

You generally want to make sure you’re ahead of your kin and your enemies in the wild to make sure you get the most energy so that you can secure the greatest chance of mating, so you naturally want to spend energy on the task of finding a mate, and you naturally want to reduce energy spent on things that are not essential to this task. This means you generally want to be wise in your own actions so you maintain a yieldful energy consumption rate, but if you have useless features like legs in the middle of an ocean planet, your species is naturally at a disadvantage, as you have to spend ten times the amount of energy your finned competition needs to move somewhere. What is more, these legs cost a lot of energy to grow and maintain, so you lose that energy as well. It would be in your interest to not have these legs and exchange them instead for fins because that increases your chance of passing on your genes, because once again, the energy you spend will return the highest chance of survival. If you have fins, you would love to have giant, extremely powerful ones that make you ten times faster then your competition, but you can’t because your system doesn’t create enough energy to maintain that structure; so, you are either stuck or are reliant on less noticeable advances in speed that might eventually stack up one day to the fastest thing in the ocean. Or if that isn’t successful enough as fast as you would hope, you could adapt something else to keep up with the arms race. Or you could just go extinct. Everything in evolution is like that; you need to get to the point of reproducing, but that entails a lot of things that go into getting to that point, things that need energy.

So although reproduction and spreading your genes are the ultimate goal, energy is the thing you need to get to that point, hence the focus on improving energy in evolution. Creating a game is the ultimate end, programming is the thing you need to get to that point, hence the focus on improving programming through learning. Food is the thing you need, farming is the thing you need to get to that point, hence the farms and the tools and the knowledge. Security is the thing you need, money is the thing you need to get to that point, hence the focus on improving your skills, education, and whatever else it is you need.

That is kind of what I meant by “every species intends to survive” in the first law of energy. You survive by reproducing, and you get to that point by spending energy and generating energy. I probably need to revise those laws in order to make things more clear.

5 Likes

That was quite the read there! I must say that what you have said here aligns very closely with my concept of Thrive as well. Especially the task of balancing realism with fun gameplay, which is what I have tried to keep in mind with all the concepts I have posted along with other concerns.

As for your philosophy regarding energy, It is no doubt vital to life, but I dont believe it is inherently a primary goal to become energy efficient, but rather that it is an ever-present constraint that species are battling to surpass in the face of competition and limited energy sources in pursuit of achieving their primary goal. That goal likely being the persistence of their species. (Though the player will likely have other goals as well.) Basically what I am saying is becoming energy efficient is the means to attaining a goal, but is not the goal itself. But that’s just my own idea, and dont think I dont respect your own.

This right here gave me a very warm feeling when I read it. I hope that some day we can all experience this wonderful thing sometime in the near future. You are a great writer Deus and I enjoyed reading this post. I agree with Hhyyrlainen about how you were pretty spot on about the design philosophy of Thrive.

4 Likes

I agree that this focus on energy is not what Thrive should be about. Your writing about energy reminded me of how economists think of money; they are so obsessed with it that they disregard everything else. While energy efficiency is important, it is not so hugely important. There many videos on Youtube from cameras attached to animals. Those videos show that they spend much of their time doing nothing interesting. My cats spent most of their time sitting, playing, sleeping, and looking out the window. Even cats that must hunt to survive don’t do it constantly. Animals often waste energy. We humans are masters of this. Besides, the player should have some free time to mess around anyway. For example, the player will assuredly want to explore the world and look at everything just for the fun of it, not because it improves survival odds.

In natural selection, optimization is never the concern. An organism need not be perfect; it need only be sufficient. There is the classic example of that nerve which begins in the brain, goes down the neck, loops around the heart, and then goes back to the brain. This is a relic from when our ancestors were fish whose hearts and brains were adjacent. In giraffes, this results in a comically inefficient nerve layout, but it is good enough, so giraffes survive. A species does not “want” anything. Individuals want things, and even then only individuals with minds. Animals do not calculate their energy expenditure to maximize “profit”, so to speak, but instead they do whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Most animals aren’t intelligent enough to consider such things anyway. This results in great inefficiency. What you describe is not entirely inaccurate, of course, but I think it ultimately does not need to be explicitly programmed. Natural rules would emerge due to energy constraints anyway, regardless of whether these are intended or noticed.

8 Likes

I actually think what you are saying and what I am saying are practically the same thing except referring to slightly different things, as they are both accurate statements. For your first sentence, you’re right that energy efficiency isn’t necessarily the goal to life, but because it’s the means to that end, in biology the trend behind evolution is a focus on revitalizing this means. Of course, evolution is not conscious; it isn’t trying to do anything, it’s merely a result of what works. But what works is spreading genes, and what makes that work is spending energy better than anyone else. When I say that energy is the objective, I mean that it should be a primary objective in Thrive since evolution is conscious in the form of the player, but when talking about reality, I think we are both basically right. I completely agree with the second sentence.

With guidance such as yours, Hhyyrlainen, and everyone else’s on the development team, I have no doubt that we will get there.

I agree that this focus on energy is not what Thrive should be about. Your writing about energy reminded me of how economists think of money; they are so obsessed with it that they disregard everything else.

Economists focus so much on money because it is the means through which the state is held up. Of course, the state’s function is not primarily to generate more money; it is to be just, to be accountable, and to be protective over and to its people. But all of these functions depend on the state which depends on money, and therefore, all of those functions are dependent on money. In terms of energy, there is so much of a focus on energy because it is the means through which life is maintained. Biological life’s primary purpose is not primarily to generate more energy; it is to survive and to generate more life. But all of these functions depend on the body which contains them, the body which depends on energy; and therefore, these functions inherently depend on energy.

While energy efficiency is important, it is not so hugely important. There many videos on Youtube from cameras attached to animals. Those videos show that they spend much of their time doing nothing interesting. My cats spent most of their time sitting, playing, sleeping, and looking out the window. Even cats that must hunt to survive don’t do it constantly. Animals often waste energy. We humans are masters of this. Besides, the player should have some free time to mess around anyway.

Maintaining energy is not just the pursuit of energy; it is also spending and preserving that energy. Wild cats do indeed spend the majority of their time resting and socializing. Cubs constantly pounce on their siblings and their parents. Lions lounge around and rarely participate in hunts, and lionesses almost always go back to the same meal they killed for days on end.

But lions and lionesses lounge around so much because they want to save their energy for when they need it. The constant pursuit of more energy is a waste of energy; you won’t always be hungry, but if you keep chasing food, you will always be tired, and then when you need food, you won’t have the energy to get it. If a lion always hunted, then it would have to spend energy in that pursuit and in healing its wounds; if another lion came around to kill his cubs and the lion was exhausted, he has failed his kin. Cubs pounce around and play because this use of energy helps them practice the skills that will be necessary for the future, when they need to get energy for themselves. And once again, these wild cats have the body they have and the behavior they have because it doesn’t cost too much energy to maintain and the energy spent maintaining it returns the most energy. Your cats nap and rest because it preserves energy, and your cats playing is a left-over of its ancestors’ behaviors which we have artificially and selectively chosen to breed, hence eliminating the energy filter of natural law. We humans that are fortunate have enough time not to constantly pursue means of energy because when we do need energy, it is in the kitchen; so we can afford to dedicate so much energy to the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and our other pursuits. Animals spend much of their time doing nothing interesting because they are preserving energy, as I intended to describe in my first law of energy.

“The Law of Necessity - Every species of organism intends to survive, and this survival depends on energy and energy-processing to survive. All of the energy that a species spends is spent so that it continues to survive, either so that it can continue to generate more energy, or preserve more energy. Species spend the amount of energy that they spend because such energy consumption level yields the highest return of energy, and thus, the greatest chance of survival .

You might be thinking that what I meant by saying continuing or preserving energy means constantly looking for food; it doesn’t. It means that life always spends energy no matter what it does, so it must make sure to not spend that energy frivolously. It means that when we don’t have energy, we focus on getting more, and when we do, that energy is preserved by not doing things that are dangerously wasteful.

For example, the player will assuredly want to explore the world and look at everything just for the fun of it, not because it improves survival odds.

And the player should have the full right to do so; in fact, we both share that hope that we will be able to do so. But if the player spends too much energy exploring for a purpose other than survival, then they will die out. We shouldn’t have them always be forced to look for food, and they don’t have to always worry about energy non-stop; we just need to make it a challenge to get to that point in order to replicate the harshness and ingenuity of evolution, and we should base a significant portion of progress on their energy capacities.

In natural selection, optimization is never the concern. An organism need not be perfect; it need only be sufficient. There is the classic example of that nerve which begins in the brain, goes down the neck, loops around the heart, and then goes back to the brain. This is a relic from when our ancestors were fish whose hearts and brains were adjacent. In giraffes, this results in a comically inefficient nerve layout, but it is good enough, so giraffes survive.

But if there was another species which had a neatly organized nerval structure, then we’d be screwed because they can dedicate more energy towards another adaptation. We haven’t seen that species because:

A species continues to exist because their body plans are energy-efficient enough to survive. On the other hand, species goes extinct because their body plan is not energy efficient enough to maintain a steady population…

Evolution is not just a jump from simplicity to complexity; it is an iterative and microscopic change compounded over millions of years. We don’t have a perfectly organized nervous system because that would take a lot of miniscule changes to occur, changes which cost energy. It didn’t make any sense for extra energy to be spent on the individual steps it would take to get to a re-organized nervous structure. I (hopefully) never explicitly stated that evolution is the achieving of the perfectly efficient organism, and like you, have mentioned that the only thing that matters is “energy-efficient enough to survive”.

A species does not “want” anything. Individuals want things, and even then only individuals with minds. Animals do not calculate their energy expenditure to maximize “profit”, so to speak, but instead they do whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Most animals aren’t intelligent enough to consider such things anyway. This results in great inefficiency.

Animals act the way they act because it was evolutionarily favorable for them to act in that way, so that behavior developed into a tendency. They don’t think about energy, they just act in a way that saves energy because everything that did things that wasted too much energy died and didn’t pass on its genes. The lion/cat/human example kind of addressed this as well, but have you also considered how quickly animals learned not to swim in the water in Africa, or how many children are afraid of the dark even though nothing happened? Animals that swam a lot for no reason in Africa not only wasted too much energy and thus exhausted themselves, but they were eaten by crocodiles; humans in the past that paid no heed towards the dark were eaten up by saber-tooth cats. Animals are only inefficient to an extent so that inefficiency in energy doesn’t lead them to death, just as animals evolve efficient energy to the extent that the successive steps to that efficiency doesn’t lead them to excessive and unreasonable energy consumption, and hence, to death.

What you describe is not entirely inaccurate, of course, but I think it ultimately does not need to be explicitly programmed. Natural rules would emerge due to energy constraints anyway, regardless of whether these are intended or noticed.

Indeed, nothing new really needs to be programmed; most of it is already present in Thrive with that bar of energy consumption at the top of the editor existing. I think we should just understand Thrive through this perspective when considering future game design and concepts, relating it all back to that ATP bar, as I feel like it would emulate nature the best.

3 Likes

This is a long post damn, and I can see you put a lot of effort in. However, I see three immediate, rather glaring issues:

First of all, your theory of everything being merely about energy is very, very simplified, and to be totally honest, rather wrong. Not only does it simplify biology to a level comparable to saying the point of chess is to take the opponent’s queen, it completely ignores the fact that “building materials” in the form of proteins and minerals and the like are also required for basic survival.

Second of all, you first started out by asking how the game could be made fun in the gameplay stages, and then completely proceeded to completely ignore that. It doesn’t really matter how cool the evolutionary arms race would be if between every session you’d be stuck for an hour waiting for spring so you could find a mating partner.

Last of all, you are assuming the player would just randomly try rather complicated stuff. An example from your post:

I don’t think anyone will just casually build a neuron unless they’re pretty hard into biology and know exactly how it would work, and if you want them to not even realise it at first it would just be impossible.

A smaller thing I noticed:

In that situation however, it would no longer be ‘good enough’ though, right? If anything, you just made the reasoning that just being “good enough” would be sufficient make even more sense

Overall, while you clearly put a lot of time into writing everything down, the theory behind it is a tad lacking.

1 Like

I knew I would have to think really hard about this as soon as I saw that worman with a bikini pop up on active users.

“First of all, your theory of everything being merely about energy is very, very simplified, and to be totally honest, rather wrong. Not only does it simplify biology to a level comparable to saying the point of chess is to take the opponent’s queen, it completely ignores the fact that “building materials” in the form of proteins and minerals and the like are also required for basic survival.”

I do agree that the entire field of biology isn’t in fact explicitly and solely a matter of energy by itself. There is more that is required by the body than just energy to maintain it; minerals, proteins, all sorts of things go into the making and maintenance of the structures of biological life. Bones need calcium, homeostasis needs zinc, immunity needs magnesium, and sulfur is an important component of the various proteins we acquire/create. What is more, energy would mean nothing if we weren’t using it for the task of reproduction or weren’t oriented towards naturally seeking out more energy. There are certain prerequisites necessary before we even get to the point where energy is put into the equation, for if these prerequisites weren’t in place, we wouldn’t even have a structure to input energy into. And of course, the field itself isn’t just limited to evolution and life itself; to understand biology is to also understand chemistry, as the compounds which create life are the compounds found in nature, and the evolutionary forces which change life are essentially changes in chemical organization within the body.

But by that logic, wouldn’t the common phrase “the purpose of biological life is to spread your genes” also be invalid? There is so much that goes into life – eating, growing, hunting, metabolism to name a few – that the statement is a vast over-simplification of everything that is entailed in life. It’s not necessarily wrong in that you can’t really say that it is not a point of life, but it doesn’t capture the whole point, so to that extent, it is a vast oversimplification. In chess, you could say that “once you take the queen, you take the game (against an experienced person)” and not exactly and fully be wrong, but there is so much that goes into that point and so much you must understand to make that statement make sense that it too is also a vast oversimplification. Also, to go back to biological life, wouldn’t you agree that the minerals and proteins we need are either found in the environment or are created within our body through processes that require us to extract things from the environment, which would imply that we would need to gather those materials, which would imply that we need to spend energy on acquiring these materials? This is what I meant when I said energy was a means to the necessities of life; we don’t really need energy itself , we just need it to get the other things we need.

Also, energy is already an important concept that is integrated in Thrive, so I feel like basing a large portion of its game design on this energy concept is a good way to go about things. Instead of worrying about so many things, we should worry specifically about making sure this one over-arching thing is strong which would naturally make Thrive resemble evolution because of the strength of this one concept. And I believe that one concept holding a lot of things together in Thrive and in life is energy.

“Second of all, you first started out by asking how the game could be made fun in the gameplay stages, and then completely proceeded to completely ignore that. It doesn’t really matter how cool the evolutionary arms race would be if between every session you’d be stuck for an hour waiting for spring so you could find a mating partner.”

Do I make it sound like that? I was kind of making that point about the balance between fun and realism to transition into the point of identifying the things in real life we are wishing to emulate and can make into a fun game by striking a balance between realism and “game-ism”; and note, the realism-fun balance discussion was based off of a discussion which focused on motivating the player to play the game more and progress. I then used that sentiment to transition into identifying a thing that we can really focus on to bring that motivation to Thrive in a way that is both fun and reflective of realistic evolution, which I said was energy.

This entire thing was basically focused on progress remember, as ascertained in the title. I was focused on the evolutionary arms race because that arms race could be seen as “progress”, and was trying to make that specific aspect fun and realistic; of course, everything else has to be refined to make that evolutionary race fun, but that isn’t entirely the focus of this topic (although I couuuld think about that other stuff in terms of energy if you guys want me to :blush: ).

Last of all, you are assuming the player would just randomly try rather complicated stuff.

That is a pretty strong assumption, I agree. I think that a player would naturally try to experiment if they randomly received a boost in capacity because they wouldn’t exactly immediately have a strategy if Thrive was procedural/replayable enough. But you never know, so this experimentation might also have to be encouraged by other mechanics if it doesn’t do the trick by itself.

I don’t think anyone will just casually build a neuron unless they’re pretty hard into biology and know exactly how it would work, and if you want them to not even realise it at first it would just be impossible.

Oh yeah, definitely. There’s no way in hell someone will know how to make a cell create an action potential with sodium if we just give them the compounds and a cell membrane in the game, unless they were a neuro-science/biology major. When I was writing this, I was thinking more along the lines of upgrading the cells you have designated as your nervous system to do nervous stuff better and naming these upgrades things like “Primitive Action Potential”, not creating it yourself. I think the best reaction to shoot for in Thrive is “huh, this all came from a cytoplasm and this is how stuff might have formed in real life” rather than “oh my god this is actually a nerve”, although that second reaction might be possible if everything is done well.

In that situation however, it would no longer be ‘good enough’ though, right? If anything, you just made the reasoning that just being “good enough” would be sufficient make even more sense.

I assume by it, you mean our own nervous system. In that case, then yes, it wouldn’t be good enough because another species has a comparative advantage; perhaps we wouldn’t die, but we wouldn’t be at the top of the chain. Also, did I argue against “being good enough” as an accurate way to describe competition? Isn’t saying “energy-efficient enough” the same thing as “good enough” in the way I used it in the law? Isn’t this:

I (hopefully) never explicitly stated that evolution is the achieving of the perfectly efficient organism, and like you, have mentioned that the only thing that matters is “energy-efficient enough to survive.

technically not opposed to the idea of “being good enough”, and in agreeance with that concept?

3 Likes

I don’t know who you are, but that was worth my time. I agree with you with the energy part, but it could use a bit of fine tuning for Thrive as the player could evolve a creature that can run for miles and use that to kill prey just by running.
Overall a good discussion, are you sure your not a writer?

2 Likes

Persistence hunting?