So a really common issue on the forums here is the concept of progression in the microbe stage; right now, it feels a little… Two step-y. You exist, you get the nucelus, you exist a little more, and then you win. (I guess that’s 5 steps, but you get the point.)
I’d like to propose a few potential methods of making the microbe stage’s progression feel a bit more well-rounded. It leans intothe concept of a “tech tree”, but the hope is to make it feel natural and somewhat scientifically logical.
So, mutation points are the concept of descent with modification kind of “solidified” into game mechanics; you get a certain amount of points to spend modifying as you descend. That all said, it strikes me as strange that these mutations don’t really add to any kind of total complexity; think about it, what’s more complex: A bacteria with 1 flagellum and a couple of metabolosomes, or a eukaroytic protist with thousands of mitchondria and plastids, as well as potentially dozens of nuclei? In thrive, currently, the only fundamental differences would be the presence of a nucleus as well as just “haha eukaryote big”.
I think there should be a rough metric describing how complex your cell is. (The following numbers are completely arbitrary.) Unfilled cytoplasm is worth 4 complexity, proteins are worth 12 complexity, vesicles (vacuoles and toxin vacuoles in thrive’s case) are worth 14 complexity, organelles are worth 40 complexity, and a nucleus is worth 75 complexity.
Complexity would be kind of like a “spend to receive” currency for use in the evolution tree (I’ll explain this in a bit). It could also be a limiter of a cell’s total organelles, which would be expanded via chromosomes or polynucleation (I discuss chromosomes in my modular membrane-bound organelles idea; not critical to understanding this post, but I like to treat my ideas as if they were interlocked systems in the game).
The Evolution Tree
As stated above, Complexity points would be like a sort of second-tier currency for use in the evolution tree. The evolution tree would be a way for the player to unlock things. I imagine the player would start with almost nothing, and would work their way up. I’m gonna do a mockup (with a couple of bonus concepts), so here we go.
(The odyssey of my waiting 7 minutes for my slightly fubared thrive to start up will go down in legends. I apologize to hhyyrylainen for doing his best to troubleshoot over nothing but discord texts before the gaame started up mid-problem “solving”.)
(Brief Legend: An arrow points at the child unlock; if multiple items can be used to unlock the same thing, their lines are merged into one arrow (in this case, Chitin, Silica, and Cellulose can all be used interchangeably along with the flagella to unlock the pilus.)
As you can see in my rough mockup, I’ve made it so that the player must unlock doubled membrane before they can get to the nucleus (normal membrane and cytoplasm are unlocked by default). This is to guide the player in the direction of unlocking extra membrane types, white also playing into the biological principal that eukaryotes are separated from prokaryotes thanks to the fact that they have interior membranes as well as external ones.
You’ll also notice the appearance of the golgi apparatus, a key component of all eukaryotes, and more importantly, multicellular creatures; the golgi body is responsible for the packaging of proteins into vesicles (which is why it unlocks special vacuoles), before marking them for transport outside of the cell (either into the environment or towards other cells). This would be an ideal “step 4”, as it would introduce large-scale storage and distribution to the player (perhaps Adhesin Vacuoles would be unlocked from the golgi apparatus as well). Other ideas the golgi body would help with would be a trading pilus, where multiple cells with golgi apparati and trading pili would be able to share excess resources.
As suggestions for complexity prices would go…
The Flagellum, Cilia, and Pili would be fairly cheap; Flagella would be about 30 Complexity, Cilia would be 60, and Pili would be 65 or so.
The double membrane would cost roughly 100. It’s supposed to be a big step, as one of the 3 “core” upgrades.
The 3 pre-pilus shells would all be 80, or maybe even a bit above 100 (110 or 115?). They are still major mutations, but would be largely undifficult to get once you start getting more proteins and whatnot.
Calcium Carbonate would probably be 400 or so. Building an exterior shell is marginally different than making doubled membrane or adding various synthesized compounds to a membrane.
Most proteins would have a starting range of 25, with Oxytoxysomes starting at 35. However, every protein unlocked would increase the price of every other protein by 10 or 15 complexity (subtly pushing the player to avoid gluttonous behaviour).
The nucleus is the next core upgrade, and would cost… 300? Maybe a little more? It’s another huge jump in power, granting the player access to organelles.
Membrane-bound organelles like mitochondria and plastids would start at 100, increasing by 50 or 60 complexity every time a new organelle is unlocked. However, if you endosymbiose a prokaryote that matches the corresponding organelle, its cost is cut to 20% for that replication cycle only, returning to 50% the next, and then to full the replication after and so on (the player still has to invest in organelles, but this way, the player is rewarded for endosymbiosis).
Then, the golgi apparatus is the last huge step, providing access to vesicles (and potentially, the multicellular stage). It would cost 750 complexity (a reasonable fee considering the player has access to organelles, which provide 40 complexity each, plus the nucleus providing 75 complexity alone).
Vesicles would vary in price. Vacuoles would only be 95 Complexity, however Toxin Vacoles would cost 150, and Bioluminescent Vacuoles would cost 175 (the reason being, bioluminescence can be used for communication, leading to colonial behaviour in some microbe species).
All above numbers are arbitrary, and could use tweaking. I tried to get the best of every world in this concept: Genetics, a steady progression system, some fun organelle concepts, and even an unlock system that somewhat punishes organelle gluttony!
This has been yet another of my ridiculous concepts; thanks for reading and have a great day.