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 Building Microbe Stage

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~sciocont
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:27 pm

Tritium wrote:
Hi guys, fresh meat here. As i was reading through movement and "sprint" posts above, wouldn't a separate key for sprint be a good solution, so lets say either mouse click on screen-2005 sporelike, or ASWD movement is chosen you just press for instance space bar-> your cell consumes 2x ATP for 2x acceleration. Something like 'boost' or 'metabolic induction', maybe could affect other processes.
Good point. Truth is, we really don't need to worry too much about keybindings until playtesting begins in earnest.

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PostSubject: asdas   Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:50 am

NickTheNick wrote:
The reason I chose fast tapping the W key is because then it adds an element of skill required on the player's behalf for sprinting, as well as some added intensity from rapid key pressing.

Fresh meat as well.

Just my opinion here I wouldn't it make sense to be able to switch your running button? I understand the skill element but myself many others find it un-unnecessary to have this when you could just as easily press a button and be on your way - but here are a few others I could think of:

-Your hand getting tired after long periods of space mashing
-Having a mechanical keyboard would contribute to this as well

-Being unable to use other keys while run/sprinting
-e.g. This is especially prominent when using push-to-talk on Skype or Teamspeak

-This is quite a mild one but still an annoyance during some furious mash-fests you can accidentally activate sticky-keys
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:55 pm

True, but its hard to tell which one of any of these ideas are best until playtesting.

However, either method, the player will be unable to use the same finger to sprint and do something else, tapping or not.

I was under the impression Sticky Keys is shift only.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Wed May 15, 2013 2:31 am

As I've already pointed out in another thread, the engine is coming along nicely. I'm optimistic that Daniferrito and I will have the very basic features done in a matter of days. However, an engine is not a game. For that, we need a detailed specification of how the game starts out, how it ends and everything in between. For now, we should concentrate on the microbe stage.

To keep the specification focussed and consistent, there should be one person responsible for it. They would gather all the information and suggestions we have available on the microbe stage in the forums and the wiki, and then fill out the Microbe Stage wiki page. If necessary, they should decide on whether a suggested feature is cut, and if there is a contradiction, how to resolve the clash. They would work closely with the programmers to translate their design into a running program.

The initial design doesn't have to be complete, but it should be detailed and precise. For example, this is an imprecise statement:
Quote :

It will be 3D top-down environment
Most humans can imagine what that means, but it leaves a lot of ambiguity, because it doesn't say which axis is "top-down". Let's fix this:
Quote :

Camera angle is locked at a top-down angle on the Y axis
Slightly better. But it's still not completely clear which direction the camera is facing, so another try:
Quote :

The camera is locked to look along the negative Y direction.
This still leaves room for improvement, but I hope you get what I'm trying to say. The less ambiguity in the design, the better.

Now, if you're discouraged by the above example, don't be. When I'm working on implementing your design and get to a point where it's not precise enough, I'll poke you with a stick until it is.

So, any applicants?
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 1:10 pm

Since no one wants to take the lead so far, I've typed up a first draft of a specification I think can be implemented without too many technical difficulties. You can find it here.

I've taken the liberty of introducing some of my own ideas. Some sections are still vague, such as what kind of compounds and organelles there will be, how the upgrade procedure will work, and so on, but it's a starting point.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 2:28 pm

Nimbal wrote:
Since no one wants to take the lead so far, I've typed up a first draft of a specification I think can be implemented without too many technical difficulties. You can find it here.

I've taken the liberty of introducing some of my own ideas. Some sections are still vague, such as what kind of compounds and organelles there will be, how the upgrade procedure will work, and so on, but it's a starting point.
I'm reading this and will add to it. Good work. I'm very sorry I haven't been around all week and haven't started restructuring the forums. I will get on writing more for microbe stage so you guys have something to implement.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 3:31 pm

Hate to double, but I want to encourage this discussion. I've read through nimbal's Design Doc, and it is fantastic. I will reprint it here differences in my ideas for the stage appear as notes in {curly brackets} next to underlined parts of nimbal's original document.
My doc is here.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 3:43 pm

Thanks for the feedback, but your notes are a little hard to read. Github doesn't do automatic line breaks (since those are usually unwanted in code). Could you maybe quote the relevant parts here in the forum, pasting your notes below them?
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 4:52 pm

Nimbal wrote:
Thanks for the feedback, but your notes are a little hard to read. Github doesn't do automatic line breaks (since those are usually unwanted in code). Could you maybe quote the relevant parts here in the forum, pasting your notes below them?
Sure thing, I realized after making all of my notes in Word that I'd have to change things up for GitHub and it got messy.
Spoiler:
 
- {Do we want a currency? I’d rather we not have it and find another way to limit mutations, but I can’t think of a great way to do that. The best option in my opinion is to make this currency not collectible for the player and just be an allowance that is given at the beginning of each cell editing session. The same amount would be given each session to limit mutation size, so if players want to make major changes, they have to reproduce faster (more realistic). This is up for debate though, because we also want to encourage players who play more conservatively.}

Spoiler:
 
-{this applies only to mitochondrial bacteria (free swimming bacteria that can be eaten and then have a chance of turning into a mitochondria inside your cell) and chloroplastal bacteria (free swimming bacteria that can be eaten and then have a chance of turning into a chloroplast inside your cell)}

Spoiler:
 
-{organelles other than mitochondria and chloroplasts are made available randomly (mutation)}
* Organelles upgrade a microbe in various ways

Spoiler:
 
{I agree about buying upgrades, but not the gathering of nucleobases}

Spoiler:
 
{again, nucleobases. I do like the idea of getting some organelles through eating your enemies. I’d recommend that you can only get them by eating the nucleus of the enemy, since then you’d have their DNA}.

Spoiler:
 
{good idea, but what does this mean exactly? I’d assume it is “carrying” all of its organelles and compounds.}

Spoiler:
 
{When a player has maximum energy and high stores of most compounds, they can reproduce, budding off a slightly smaller version of themselves which will grow to their size quickly}

Spoiler:
 
I love, love, love this idea- but not for microbe stage. I’d think this would be perfect for early multicellular because you could then put different kinds of cells in different grid cells and do all kinds of cool things. I want to stick with something like funnygames’ microbe editor prototype for unicellular stage.

Spoiler:
 
{love this idea. It means that you can follow a flowing rail of compounds to where a cell has just died, eating along the path until you reach the main course}

Spoiler:
 
{because I only want mitochondria/chloroplasts to be available, and even then only available by chance, I don’t want this}

Spoiler:
 
{I’d say color, since we already have models for some}

Spoiler:
 
{great idea. I’d say stores should be gauged by the opacity of the organelle}

Spoiler:
 
{sounds like a great idea}.

Spoiler:
 
In the future, I’d like to add in interesting AIs for cells, giving them a compound-distribution based hive mind {cells release signal compounds that alert other cells of the same species in the area to what they are doing}, having them hunt or attack in packs, etc.

Spoiler:
 
{Not all cells have a cell wall. They all have a cell membrane, which is what determines the cell’s shape. A cell wall is a thick coating on the membrane that provides extra protection and is available only as a mutation. I would say the only thing we need a bar for is energy, and possibly light exposure if you have chloroplasts}{I think if we only have one UI bar, we may as well incorporate it into the cell somehow and do away with a UI during gameplay altogether. I recommend that the color of the nucleus tells the player how much energy (ATP) that they have. Green being plenty, red being too little, black being negligible}

Spoiler:
 
{I hate to be that guy, but just want to confirm that these bars should be a UI option, not necessarily part of the basic UI}

That's all I have for you now.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 4:55 pm

Hehe, just as I was about to finish the edit on my previous post.


Upgrade and Mutation Mechanic
I'm a little skeptic of energy-based mutation rates. If we couple the mutation rate to an overabundance of energy, we are practically forced to provide the player with enough energy to mutate regularly. Otherwise, the player will get frustrated at the lack of progression and quit. If we provide that much energy, there will very rarely be a situation of low energy. Basically only when the player plays very poorly or has incredibly bad luck with our procedural environment (which we should avoid anyway). Now, if energy rarely has any meaning besides providing the mutation rate, what's the difference to a gatherable currency?

Furthermore, if high energy is required to upgrade a cell, some upgrade paths will be really unattractive (unless organelles don't use any energy). Who would make a really fast cell with multiple flagellas that can zip through the tidepool at breakneck speed, if that would mean having an extremely hard time in upgrading the cell?

Acquiring Organelles
I understand your desire for scientific accuracy, but to be honest, I don't find the prospect of eating a nucleus and then *maybe* getting a new organelle to play around with particularly appealing. It may be a minor difference, but seeing a glowing item floating there, and then moving towards it to claim the prize is a whole different experience than having a message box or something pop up when I've eaten a nucleus and had some luck.

Seeing the organelle floating there also creates interesting situations where the player sees two AI microbes battling it out. One of them dies, dropping an organelle the player doesn't have or even know yet. That will give great incentive to race in and snatch it up before the victorious AI can gather it, even if it may mean getting hurt by the AI.

With a "mutation for eating a nucleus" system, the player will know from experience that the chance of actually getting a mutation is relatively low. This will cause him to not interfer with the AI unless the risk is equally low, in which case he probably would have gone in either way, just to steal some compounds and maybe kill the leftover AI.

Another edit: I just realized I may have misunderstood you. If I didn't, I may have a compromise that's the best of both worlds. Would the nucleus only "drop" from a killed cell once in a while? If yes, it could always give a guaranteed organelle (although not necessarily one the player doesn't have already). That way, the above described situation can still arise, with the only difference being that the player doesn't know if the nucleus contains anything worthwhile. But he can be sure that it does contain something.

Microbe Editor
Note how I really tried to describe the process of creating a cell in detail. A free-form editor that doesn't use a hex grid for simplification would need even greater detail because it has more degrees of freedom. It also introduces difficulties in rendering the final product, especially when the cell's organelles are supposed to be visible. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following questions that need to be carefully considered:

  • How close to each other and the cell membrane can organelles be placed?
  • How will the player rotate organelles, assuming they are not all circular in shape? With a hex-based editor, we only need two buttons for that. For a free-form editor, we'd have to do it with the mouse somehow.
  • How do we render organelles attached to a pointy extrusion of the cell? If we just put the object there, it will look weird, as if it's not really attached to the cell. If we don't allow such situations, how can we programmatically detect them? How should we communicate to the player that he can't attach the organelle there? Handling this in a general way can be really hard. With a hex-grid, we only have to make the organelle look good for one edge, then we can rotate it to attach it to another edge, and it will look good everywhere.
  • Edit: Another problem will be the physics engine. First, narrow spikes could cause problems with the collision detection and, in the worst case, make the simulation explode. Second, I would really like to use soft body physics to give colliding cells an organic elasticity. I'm not sure that will be possible with some shapes players could come up with in a free-form editor.


Then there's the questions of space and cell size. With the hex grid, cell size translates naturally and transparently into more organelles. With a free form editor, we have one of the following situations:

  1. We still couple the cell size to the space for organelles. This will first be a problem when calculating the area of the cell, which is non-trivial for complex forms, but still doable. More importantly, it kind of "stresses" the player into arranging the organelles optimally. If he just squeezes this organelle just a pixel to the right, the other one might just fit. Belgium, too far, maybe a more sensitive mouse will help. That can get frustrating really quickly and cause the player to shape the cell as simple as possible to easily fit in all organelles.
  2. We allow the cell's physical size to be much larger than the volume of the allowed organelles. This will eliminate the above stress, but will degenerate the organelle placement to "just throw everything in there". After all, it will all fit regardless of arrangement. So we effectively rob ourselves of a mini-game that makes players think about their cell design not only aesthetically, but also functionally.


I just see too many problems with a free-form editor, that's why I suggested the hex-based in the first place. If we can solve these problems satisfactory, I'm all for it, but until then, I'd prefer a simple but robust editor over a complex, but fragile one.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Sun May 19, 2013 9:22 pm

Working from a quote of your post.

Upgrade and Mutation Mechanic
As I understand it, you're pointing out that being able to reproduce only when you have enough Energy to make a second cell is essentially the same as collecting a gatherable currency. I'd agree somewhat, but remember that the primary goal of getting energy is maintaining homeostasis, and if you're happy with where you're at, you can elect not to reproduce. If we allow you to reproduce only when you have enough Energy, that gives the game a goal and some level of difficulty, instead of just letting yo swap out and then hoping you don't get killed because you chose to mutate. Personally, I'd find being killed while I'm totally helpless more irritating than searching for resources, because the search for resources and the competition over them is sort of the point of the game.

On organelle energy usage: you're right that some paths will result in organelles that use more energy and therefore would slow down reproduction. I think that's fine, because as long as we don't let people take huge mutations (as they could if we used a collectible currency instead of an allowance) the steps towards any high-powered organelle would be small and gradual, and probably require mitochondria upgrades or a different play strategy. By making players wait to mutate and letting them mutate only a little bit each time, we can give them the opportunity to plan long-term goals and make the game more fun (and more realistic) by making overspecialization a real risk.

Acquiring Organelles
What you said about maybe or maybe not getting an organelle from a nucleus makes sense, but we aren't going to have a whole lot of organelles to give out. We can't afford to make this like Spore's cell stage where you can play through it in 10 minutes, it needs to be something you come back to and want to come back to because there are rewards waiting for you. If you're familiar with operant conditioning (learning by rewarding a behavior with a stimulus), remember that a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule is the most successful by far for making a behavior recur. Here, the behavior we want is playing the game, and the reward is getting an organelle, which I am suggesting is being handled on a variable-ratio schedule- you get a new organelle after a random number of nuclei eaten.

I was suggesting that a nucleus drop every time, but having it drop variably is essentially the same. If you agree on nucleus-drops on a variable schedule, then this topic is pretty much solved.

How can we increase the availability of new organelles for less violent players?

Microbe Editor
Everything you say here makes perfect sense. We'll go with the hexagonal editor, and I've though of a couple of ways that it makes even more sense than you pointed out.

Surface-area-to-volume ratio: as cells get bigger, their surface area has to grow bigger and their surface geometry more complex in order to account for the fact that volume increases exponentially faster than surface area when overall size increases. Since the cell will cover more of the hexgrid when it's bigger, it can become wrinklier, andwe can afford high surface area only to high-volume cells.

Having a hexagonal grid will make players think differently about the shape of their cell, and makes asymmetry easier to deal with, since you can correct yourself visually to make your cell symmetrical with a grid.

Working on a grid also allows people to make torus-shaped cells in order to deal with the surface-area to volume ratio problem.

The cell wall is easy to program, since it will just be drawn in any open grid spaces adjacent to a space that's part of the cell. We can also let players draw in extra width in the cell wall.

It's just going to look cool.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 6:19 am

~sciocont wrote:

As I understand it, you're pointing out that being able to reproduce only when you have enough Energy to make a second cell is essentially the same as collecting a gatherable currency.
Well, yes, but my main point was that coupling mutation rate to a high energy level would make it very hard to balance energy in an interesting way. Either we make it challenging to keep energy up, at the risk of frustrating players that they have to work so hard just to survive, much less reproduce. Or we give the player enough resources for a comfortable energy level, in which case a situation of low energy would rarely occur, making any punishment for this meaningless.

~sciocont wrote:

if you're happy with where you're at, you can elect not to reproduce.
I don't think many players would choose to do that, though, unless they've run out of upgrades. In my opinion, that should only happen near the end of the microbe stage, so there's a steady sense of progression until we want the player to move on to the next stage.

~sciocont wrote:

instead of just letting yo swap out and then hoping you don't get killed because you chose to mutate.
See, that's what happens when people don't describe their ideas and the reasoning behind them clearly enough. The "helpless during mutation" mechanic was, for me, just a tool to keep the player from mutating just to deal with another microbe that's pursuing him. I actually thought we would tell the AI to mostly ignore a mutating player, unless it's already "locked" onto him (another concept I didn't add to the AI section for some reason). I didn't write this down, so you imagined a situation where a player mutates, and out of the blue an AI comes and kills him. I agree that's not fun, but as I said, we would have been able to avoid such scenarios.

Again, I can't stress this enough. If we want to get to a point where we can start implementing actual gameplay, the concepts must be clearly defined and written down. If you (not just you, scio, anyone) have a picture in your head of how something is supposed to work, describe it in a way that makes sure other people get the exact same picture. If you can't do that, your own conception of the idea probably isn't clear enough yet, in which case you'll have to think about this some more to flesh out the details.


~sciocont wrote:

the search for resources and the competition over them is sort of the point of the game.
That actually gives me an idea how we could decouple energy from mutation rate. How about this: The player has a reproduction bar (before you ask: yes, we can make it hidable and show it on the cell somewhere), that, when full, allows the player to drop into the cell editor. This reproduction bar slowly fills everytime the player collects compounds, regardless of the current energy level. That way, microbes with high energy usage are not an evolutionary dead end, but efficiently gathering resources is still the way to progress.

~sciocont wrote:

By making players wait to mutate and letting them mutate only a little bit each time
How much is "a little bit"? Here's a list of the mutation types the current cell editor concept would allow:

  • Removing a hex-field from the shape
  • Adding a hex-field to the shape
  • Removing an organelle
  • Adding an organelle
  • Moving an organelle
  • Upgrading an existing organelle (Just to make sure, is that something we want? Using a mutation to increase the efficiency of an organelle?)


The thing is, we need to be careful on how to limit the mutations that are possible in one step. If the player just acquired a new organelle, it would be pretty frustrating if his mutation budget wouldn't allow him to increase the cell's size enough to cram it in there. We could make removing and moving an organelle free, though, so the player can decide to replace existing organelles.

As a suggestion with arbitrary numbers, say we give the player 10 "Mutation Points" (MP) for each reproduction, and allow the player to "save up" up to 20 MP. Then we set the mutation costs like this:

  • Removing a hex-field from the shape: 0 MP
  • Adding a hex-field to the shape: 2 MP
  • Removing an organelle: 0 MP
  • Adding an organelle: 3-15 MP, depending on the organelle
  • Moving an organelle: 0 MP
  • Upgrading an existing organelle: 2-10 MP, depending on organelle and upgrade

Letting the player save MP for later use will offer him the decision whether to have small upgrades now, or a large one later, which I think can be an interesting mechanic. Capping them precludes extensive mutations in one go.

Note that the above costs would discourage reshaping the cell, as there's no benefit in removing a hex field other than aesthetic reasons. Maybe we could make that cost -1 MP, effectively giving the player a little bit back, but without making reshaping free.

~sciocont wrote:

I was suggesting that a nucleus drop every time, but having it drop variably is essentially the same. If you agree on nucleus-drops on a variable schedule, then this topic is pretty much solved.
Great, that's settled then.

~sciocont wrote:

How can we increase the availability of new organelles for less violent players?
Tough one. The easy solution I can think of is to procedurally generate "murder scenes" that the player comes across in the environment. Those places would have the remains of an unfortunate microbe floating around, sometimes including a nucleus. Additionally, we could set the number of nuclei per hour we want the player to find. With a little statistics, we can adjust both the likelihood of those murder scenes as well as the drop rates of nuclei from killed microbes to give the player the desired number of nuclei per hour. That would also allow us to control the pace of acquiring new organelles.

Alternatively, we could rethink the mechanic of acquiring new organelles. What if we changed nuclei to give bonus Mutation Points for the next mutation, and then let the player "buy" new organelles with his mutation points in the cell editor? I guess it's pretty far from reality, but as a non-biologist, I'm looking at this more from a gameplay perspective.

~sciocont wrote:

Microbe Editor

Glad you like it.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 7:48 am

In reality most of the organelles originate from the cell membrane, a bubble of the membrane invaginates to form a vesicle. That is the origin of the endoplasmic reticulums, golgi apparatus, and even the nucleus. How about there are "bubbles"-vesicles in the cell and with mutation points you can specialize them into different organelles, with the nucleus and the ribosomes organelles given by default in the beginning.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 8:08 am

Some very interesting stuff going back and forth here, though it's a little difficult to keep track of what changes in each post unless you read the whole thing each time... could I suggest this goes on the wiki asap so that it can be edited with updates? Nice work Nimbal on getting something like this started!

A few of my own points:
- instead of having nucleobases as a currency for mutations, what I'd suggest (I may have mentioned this in the pop dynamics thread...) is tracking genetic diversity for different traits. The larger a population is, the greater genetic diversity can become, and higher reproductive rates increase the rate at which it is gained. Mutating a particular trait uses up this diversity, so that it may not be able to be mutated again for several generations. In effect, the player would have several 'pools' of diversity to spend each time they wanted to mutate their organism. One of these pools would control organism size, another might go towards generating new organelles, or upgrading existing ones. Ideally, I'd like to see each individual organelle (or organelle type) have it's own pool, but that's probably excessive, though it may be possible to give each new organelle an 'upgrade timer' which has basically the same mechanic. This would also solve the 'swap-out' problem mentioned by preventing players repeatedly tweaking an organelle or other trait. It would also work better for AI species, as they won't need to worry about acquiring mutation 'currency', only spending it. ...and having finished reading the rest of the thread, this is similair to Nimbals MP suggestion, but not quite the same, I'll have to flesh this idea out if we think it may be the way to go.

- i like the idea of nuclei dropping only occasionally but guarunteeing an organelle, even if it isn't new. The only thing I'm a little skeptical of is that it's a nucleus which provides this, perhaps a plasmid would be a more realistic drop? Also, when the player collects one organelle, are they able to place just that one, or any number of the same type? Realistically, if you have an organelle you can easily reproduce it, but for gameplay it may make sense to limit the number you can place? Plasmid/nulcei drops like this could also grant you new processes or compounds (e.g.: toxins, digestive enzymes) in the same way.

- everything requires energy, not just moving and attacking. Basic metabolism (all the processes your cell undergoes) will slowly drain your ATP. This is both realistic, and provides alternative advantages to high and low metabolic rates.

- instead of having seperate health, we could consider energy to be health. As energy levels drop, everything will slow down (metabolism, movement etc.). If energy reaches 0 your probably dead already. I don't know to what extent we'd want to model this, but as the cell becomes energy starved it would basically start digesting itself before eventually ripping itself apart, probably leaking a fair bit of it's contents in the process.

- the movement controls work well for 'swimming' cells, such as those with flagella or cilia. They won't work for those with pseudopodal movement (those which change shape to effectively drag themselves around), but at this stage I'm not sure it's worth including them yet, though we will want them later. I'd also consider adding alternative controls where the player simply presses WASD to move relative to the screen, and the cell orients and propels itself to move in that direction, which is relatively simple to code. Also, do we want to allow lateral (left/right) movement?

AI behaviour:
- organelles which aren't assimilated can simply be digested, either by the player or AI cells, so they have an energy/compound value as a food source. This saves us having to predict what the value of an assimilated organelle would be. Given that assimilation should only happen on rare occasions, I'd say the AI should see organelles as a food source, and ignore any chance of assimilation when deciding how to behave.
- who suggested the hive mind? I like that idea a lot!

- I agree with scio about the editor, while the hex grid is nice for multi-cellular, it won't provide enough freedom here. The current editor prototype does tend to lead towards spiky cells, but those spikes are (I think) meant to resemble flagella. A realistic cell would be fairly rounded, solving a few of the problems you mentioned. What we need, then, is a modified editor which produces relatively smooth cells - either something like Bashi's meta-ball editor (which I think is still on ModDB), or scio's cytoskeleton based editor, which would be my preference (@scio - could you link to that topic please?).

I think that's all for the minute. There's plenty of smaller points to nit-pick about, but at this point I think they're a lot less important than getting going on the programming. I'll check back here tonight, and work on a better explanation of genetic diversity.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 11:50 am

Seregon wrote:
- instead of having nucleobases as a currency for mutations, what I'd suggest (I may have mentioned this in the pop dynamics thread...) is tracking genetic diversity for different traits. The larger a population is, the greater genetic diversity can become, and higher reproductive rates increase the rate at which it is gained. Mutating a particular trait uses up this diversity, so that it may not be able to be mutated again for several generations. In effect, the player would have several 'pools' of diversity to spend each time they wanted to mutate their organism. One of these pools would control organism size, another might go towards generating new organelles, or upgrading existing ones. Ideally, I'd like to see each individual organelle (or organelle type) have it's own pool, but that's probably excessive, though it may be possible to give each new organelle an 'upgrade timer' which has basically the same mechanic. This would also solve the 'swap-out' problem mentioned by preventing players repeatedly tweaking an organelle or other trait. It would also work better for AI species, as they won't need to worry about acquiring mutation 'currency', only spending it. ...and having finished reading the rest of the thread, this is similair to Nimbals MP suggestion, but not quite the same, I'll have to flesh this idea out if we think it may be the way to go.
Seconded. I had my own ideas about linking this to a trait called "generation time" (the minimum amount of time that a cell needs before you can multiply again,) but this seems simpler to implement.

Seregon wrote:

- everything requires energy, not just moving and attacking. Basic metabolism (all the processes your cell undergoes) will slowly drain your ATP. This is both realistic, and provides alternative advantages to high and low metabolic rates.
Yes. Your cell, unless encysted (which would drop the metabolic rate to 0) requires ATP to simply exist. Even non-motile cells will use ATP while lying in wait for juicy nutrients to float towards them. High metabolic rates should allow the cell to move and seek out prey quickly at the expense of ATP: slow metabolic rates mean that it drifts but can drift for a long time before the energy fails.

Seregon wrote:

- instead of having seperate health, we could consider energy to be health. As energy levels drop, everything will slow down (metabolism, movement etc.). If energy reaches 0 your probably dead already. I don't know to what extent we'd want to model this, but as the cell becomes energy starved it would basically start digesting itself before eventually ripping itself apart, probably leaking a fair bit of it's contents in the process.
Seconded again. Cells hit with an attack will need to use energy to heal from it, meaning that the rate of energy usage is higher for quite a while after the attack.

Seregon wrote:

- organelles which aren't assimilated can simply be digested, either by the player or AI cells, so they have an energy/compound value as a food source. This saves us having to predict what the value of an assimilated organelle would be. Given that assimilation should only happen on rare occasions, I'd say the AI should see organelles as a food source, and ignore any chance of assimilation when deciding how to behave.

- I agree with scio about the editor, while the hex grid is nice for multi-cellular, it won't provide enough freedom here. The current editor prototype does tend to lead towards spiky cells, but those spikes are (I think) meant to resemble flagella. A realistic cell would be fairly rounded, solving a few of the problems you mentioned. What we need, then, is a modified editor which produces relatively smooth cells - either something like Bashi's meta-ball editor (which I think is still on ModDB), or scio's cytoskeleton based editor, which would be my preference (@scio - could you link to that topic please?).
Adding up the organelles should give the approximate nutritional value of the contents of the cell as a whole, assimilation should only be possible at random intervals (and only for proto-mitochondria and proto-chloroplasts, extremely high energy cells.) A cytoskeletal editor and some fluid mechanics (motion mechanics? Somebody please read my mind, I don't speak programmer,) would solve all our problems re: amoebas and anything else with pseudopodia. I want to point out though, since I'm meant to be studying just that for my final, that the cytoskeleton in real life is a dynamic system.

Tritium wrote:
In reality most of the organelles originate from the cell membrane, a bubble of the membrane invaginates to form a vesicle. That is the origin of the endoplasmic reticulums, golgi apparatus, and even the nucleus. How about there are "bubbles"-vesicles in the cell and with mutation points you can specialize them into different organelles, with the nucleus and the ribosomes organelles given by default in the beginning.
Some, but not all. In fact, it is more common for cytoplasmic proteins to assemble a lot of membrane lipids, which will automatically form into a "bubble" that can be filled with chemicals produced by the cell, and which then travels towards the cell membrane and asimmilates into it, relying on random diffusion to open the pocket and eject its contents into the extracellular space. Invagination only happens when engulfing outside objects, and as far as I know, there are a lot of conflicting theories as to the origin formation of inner membranes, such as the golgi and the nuclear membrane, of which that isn't even the most common one.

Yeah, sorry to be that person, but I'm having a final on this exact stuff in four hours. My Cell and Molecular Biology class seems to be useful for Thrive for some reason...

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 12:41 pm

^Good luck on your exam now you are right how transport vesicles and such are made in the cell i was talking about how membrane organelles evolved and that's the general theory because the membranes similarities(sorry if i am wrong on it had my exam some years ago) For what Seregon said about tracking genetic diversity i don't think i understand it well, the game is gonna track the population of your microbes and give you better upgrades for bigger population? If that's it how is the game gonna track that i thought the microbe can go anywhere left and right up and down and new microbes are gonna be generated randomly and those too far removed.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 2:06 pm

I've updated the specification to reflect some of the discussion results so far. You can see a list of changes here.

After reviewing the scenarios I described at the bottom without the upgrade currency, I am a little concerned that it will get a little boring if all the player does is swim around and gather compounds with the occasional nucleus. Just waiting for some reproduction meter to fill up sounds very passive, even if the player needs to do something to keep it filling up. As another alternative, we could implement a rather classic leveling mechanic. The player gathers points, and when he's got enough, he gets to edit his cell in a small, but meaningful way. This would introduce more variety in the stuff the player can gather up, while still keeping the mutations small and incremental.

Concerning population tracking and genetic diversity: That sounds really complicated, both in implementation and for the player. I would really like to avoid simulating any kind of population dynamics in the microbe stage. It's also ill-defined, because I have no idea what your idea of "trait", "diversity" or "population" is. It might be very different from mine.

Next, what would dropping health in favor of energy gain us? It's not like we have dozens of resources already, so I don't see the need to simplify in this spot. It would also give a huge (and in my opinion, unwanted) advantage to the first attacker in a confrontation, since the victim's defenses might rely on a modicum of energy to be effective.

And another thing: please keep in mind that I (and probably many other readers) am no biologist. So if you describe some potential feature, please do it in simple terms that don't require the uninitiated to consult Wikipedia twice per sentence.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 2:19 pm

How about collecting genes or genetic codones? Codon is a sequences of DNA or RNA. For example you are swimming killing cells here and there and some of them release a green DNA fragment you gather 3-4 of those and unlock a certain organelle you collect 1 red fragment and 2 green and you get another organelle.
Or the fragments can all look the same-pretty glowing molecule just floating there and only when you take it you see little colorful text above you, that way the player would have to risk to take these cause some give only little energy others are the ones that unlock the organelles and some are harmful for your cell( you know like virus DNA, not all DNA is good DNA) like playing a puzzle blind.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 3:37 pm

seregon & Nimbal wrote:
Lots of thread
@Nimbal-
-Compound collection=>reproduction available sounds great, we should have been working with that in the first place.
-we do want to upgrade organelles, and I think your system of points there works perfectly, though I am sure we'll tweak it later.
Quote :
Alternatively, we could rethink the mechanic of acquiring new organelles. What if we changed nuclei to give bonus Mutation Points for the next mutation, and then let the player "buy" new organelles with his mutation points in the cell editor? I guess it's pretty far from reality, but as a non-biologist, I'm looking at this more from a gameplay perspective.
This pretty much leads us back to somewhat of a currency idea, but I'm starting to warm to it a bit in this context, since it is slightly more realistic to only acquire organelles through mutation. I tend to agree with a dropped nucleus giving maybe +2 mutation points (based on your values) to you.

@Seregon-
Quote :
perhaps a plasmid would be a more realistic drop? Also, when the player collects one organelle, are they able to place just that one, or any number of the same type? Realistically, if you have an organelle you can easily reproduce it, but for gameplay it may make sense to limit the number you can place? Plasmid/nulcei drops like this could also grant you new processes or compounds (e.g.: toxins, digestive enzymes) in the same way.
-You could say a plasmid would be more realistic, but they're (to my knowledge) only used by bacteria, and a dropped nucleus seems nicer in gameplay.
-I'd say once you have one, you can buy as many as you want. Cytoplasmic (within the cell, but not connected to any one organelle) processes and enzymes should be possible mutations.
Quote :
Next, what would dropping health in favor of energy gain us? It's not like we have dozens of resources already, so I don't see the need to simplify in this spot. It would also give a huge (and in my opinion, unwanted) advantage to the first attacker in a confrontation, since the victim's defenses might rely on a modicum of energy to be effective.
-I have to agree with nimbal here. I'd rather just stick to an energy meter measuring energy and not have a dedicated "health" bar. If your membrane is pierced, you leak and die. If you're ingested, you die. It's a pretty binary survival, and I think it makes predator-prey interactions more interesting, since they're going to be focusing on attacking with a precise goal rather than just hacking away at a cell until it dies. One of the things that bothered me about spore was that the combat was pretty much entirely illusory: either you were stronger, or you died. You were presented with options of attack, but the only way to use them was just to continuously activate them all until you'd died or bludgeoned the other animal to death. If we present a more binary system, we create not only a more exciting system, but a greater fear of exploration, which slows the game down, because players are going to stick with what they know until they feel ready to venture out into the open, because death can come very quickly.

-I just want to reiterate that I'm all about Nimbal's cell editor right now.

@Tritium- that's a cool idea, but unless someone else really, really wants it in, I think we should stick with what we're developing right now: Mutation points are given in an allowance, you can get a few extra through ingesting a dropped nucleus.


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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Mon May 20, 2013 7:58 pm

For the energy as health thing, I was thinking more of what would happen if you swam into some mildly toxic substance (colchicine, for example: it messes with inner cell biology without killing the cell,) but so long as we find something to do that allows organisms to actually get away from the toxins other bacteria secrete and gives the player some incentive to do so, I'm not too picky. I don't expect anybody here to relive my biology labs with me.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Tue May 21, 2013 2:31 am

~sciocont wrote:

[About health...] -I have to agree with nimbal here. I'd rather just stick to an energy meter measuring energy and not have a dedicated "health" bar.

Either I'm misunderstanding you, or you don't actually agree, because my vote is for a health bar, just not a combined energy / health bar. If I understand you correctly, you'd like a "touch it and you die" mechanic, with little or no grey area between alive and dead. Apart from being pretty unforgiving, it also raises the question what happens if two cells touch each other with something that causes damage. Do they both die? If not, who wins? In any case, it will feel pretty random to the player. And what about stuff like poison that (traditionally) kills slowly? Especially when the player first encounters a toxin cloud and maybe thinks it's a weird compound, he should have some time to realize his mistake and get out of there.

If you just meant "health bar" as in "UI element", but agree on a "health number", please disregard the above.

By the way, we should probably document not only what we agreed to put in, but also what was rejected along with the reasons. If the same suggestions ever comes up again, we can dig the reasons up again. And if the circumstances change, invalidating the reasons for rejection, we can reconsider it.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Tue May 21, 2013 5:46 pm

I agree on having a "health number" of sorts, I was mostly arguing against that number defining membrane integrity and having a UI element to represent a health number. Also, what would the "health number" measure? Again, I vote that membrane integrity is out of the question here. I would like any toxins in the game to target specific organelles and reduce their efficiency directly, rather than chip away at hitpoints.

You have a good point in asking what to do about accidental collisions. I suggest that attacking with a weapon be active rather than passive, to prevent unwanted damage to your cell and other cells you don't want to eat.
Nimbal wrote:

By the way, we should probably document not only what we agreed to put in, but also what was rejected along with the reasons. If the same suggestions ever comes up again, we can dig the reasons up again. And if the circumstances change, invalidating the reasons for rejection, we can reconsider it.
This is a good idea.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Tue May 21, 2013 11:11 pm

I rather agree with ~scio's 'binary life/death' system. That's how it is IRL, and it should add a nice challenge element to the game. Just like he said, it shouldn't be like Spore's cell stage where you just poke at another cell 'till it dies. You should strategize what types of cell you can actually attack based on what offensive abilities you possess, whether it be a strong cytoskeleton or secreting deadly toxins.

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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Wed May 22, 2013 12:30 am

I'm also with a binary life/death system, as long as the player is not too penalized for dying. Its the way all interactions happen anyway, in all levels. Unless both oponents are really trained in the fight style they are doing and are on a similar level, all interactions end really quickly:

A predator hunts its prey: Either the predator quickly bites/ripes/whatever its victim and it ends there, or the prey just outruns the predator.

Two microbes: They get close to each other, and one swallows the other. It ends there.

Two men fighting each other (for example, with swords): The first men that lands a hit either kills or leave the other heavily damaged, so the fight is over anyway.

Thats the way nature imposes anyway. If the predator doesent kill its victim right away, it will just run away inmediatly, and the predator will lose its food.
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PostSubject: Re: Building Microbe Stage   Wed May 22, 2013 1:42 am

Ok, I have the impression that we're drifting off into vague-land here, which makes it extremely difficult to have a focussed discussion about what could and what wouldn't work. So please, if you have an idea on the health system (or anything else, for that matter), write it down as detailed as possible. Also note any concepts in the current specification that need to be modified or outright removed to make it work as a whole.

Here's mine:


  • Each microbe has a health number, initially ranging from 0 to 100
  • The maximum health can be modified by organelles
  • When health reaches 0, the microbe dies
  • Health slowly regenerates by itself up to the maximum amount. The regeneration rate can be modified by organelles.
  • Lingering in an environmental hazard such as a poison cloud slowly reduces health over time
  • Touching another microbe's offensive external organelles reduces health by a variable amount for each collision. The minimum and maximum damage depend on the offensive organelle and the external organelle of the damaged microbe at the point of contact


Note that the above is more of a clarification of the current specification. It doesn't need to modify or remove current concepts. It also makes no mention of any UI elements, mostly because I think those are of secondary concern. Gameplay should be the first thing to agree on. Then we can flesh out what numbers to display, and how to display them.
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