Game Features

Across all the stages of Thrive there are several main features and systems that the gameplay revolves around. This ranges from the compounds and populations and evolution to the system of game screens and switching back and forth between editors and gameplay. Many of these features are a set of simulations which allow gameplay to function. For the most part, these are not completely accurate depictions of the real world, but abstractions, which require far less processing power and give the player a more intuitive view.


Ideally, the rules of the simulation should allow many possibilities, with sensitive reliance on initial conditions to create entirely new scenarios on each playthrough. Balancing for this goal will be difficult – it would be all too easy to accidentally create an environment where one survival strategy or exploitation of the simulation beats everything else. As in the real world, one way to counter this is to present different challenges in different locations or at different times throughout the game, destabilizing the dominance of some species and allowing others to rise.

Underlying the simulation is a system known as CPA (Compounds, Population Dynamics, Auto-Evo), the bedrock of the game itself. The CPA System is perhaps the biggest draw for people towards the project, as it allows evolution to take place. There are direct links between CPA, metabolism, AI and environment creation. Each feeds into the others, creating a set of feedback loops as in nature. Again, making this system work correctly will be a challenge, especially since the game will be built iteratively.

All simulations work using a different time measurement to that used by the frame rate.

Game Screens

Main Article: Game Screens

The network of game screens that the player will be able to navigate through.

User Interface

Main Article: User Interface

The interfaces used across all stages. Thrive will aim for a sleek, minimalistic graphical user interface (also called user interface, UI, or GUI). It will typically differ between the stages.

Procedural Generation

Main Article: Procedural Generation

Featured Stages: All stages.

Procedural generation is an underpinning method of content creation for the entire game. In summary, it uses mathematical algorithms to create anything from planets to organisms to both save space and to create a wide and virtually infinite set of diverse encounters for the player through the stages. There are several systems in the game that will use procedural generation.

Environment Creation

Featured Stages: All stages.

CPA System

Main Article: CPA System

Featured Stages: All stages.

In essence, the CPA System is what the entirety of the game is about. It controls player and NPC evolution, and builds the world the player must fight against. There is no major adversary in the game other than the power of evolution. Other species will become successful and present a challenge for the player, which skill should be able to overcome.

Everything in the CPA System is interlinked. Compounds are relatively simple, but Population Dynamics and Auto-Evo rely on heavy abstraction and complex formulas. Many things are likely to fail when actually used in-game, so new systems will need to be devised.

Though the CPA System is the basis of everything, it might be a good idea to implement it after most other gameplay features have been added. This will give a list of all available compounds and processes for use in the simulation.


  • Everything in the game revolves around compounds. In the scientific sense, compounds are substances comprised of two or more different elements chemically bound together, but for the purposes of simplicity this definition has been expanded to include single elements and mixtures too.
  • Each compound has an associated atomic weight (which allows for calculations of how much can be stored within a vacuole, for instance)
  • All compounds are measured in units derived from the mole.
  • Compounds are always conserved. They can be converted into other compounds via chemical reactions, but the weight of the products should always equal that of the reactants. If the exact reverse is applied to the products, the same amount of reactants should appear.
  • Conservation of compounds applies also to the environment as a whole.
    • The game world is divided into patches. Each patch is assigned a biome type, and a full game world can be constructed using adjacent patches.
    • Compounds can flow between patches, but there is no influx or outflow of compounds from the game world as a whole. Compound concentrations are determined at the beginning of the game and generally never change.
  • One exception to compound conservation is Energy/ATP.
    • Energy enters the environment as heat or light, concentrated in spots or in certain biome types. Photosynthesizers and thermosynthesizers can utilize this energy.
    • Once ATP is produced, it is consumed by organelles, dissipating as heat again.
    • Heat flows at a constant rate out of the environment to prevent the heat death of the game universe while the player is still playing it.
  • Another non-conserved compound is water. Water in-game is unique in many ways.
    • (((It permeates everywhere at maximum capacity???))), providing a transfer medium for compound clouds.
    • It’s assumed that there is an infinite supply of water flowing in from outside the world boundaries at all times.
  • In a single patch there are species which fill slots in the ecosystem. There are a limited number of slots per patch.
  • A species is defined by three variables – its genetic code (an abstract representation of its structure, appearance and behavior), a total number of compounds, and a population number.
  • Depending on what organelles a species has, it can convert compounds into other compounds. Compounds are also processed by bacteria and the environment.
  • There is a steady flow of some compounds out of a species and others into a species, due to the death of its members and their consumption of environmental compounds.
  • Each individual has a certain amount of locked up compounds which make up its internal structure. When a cell dies, its collected compounds are released as compound clouds, but its locked up compounds remain stored in floating organelles. Digesting agents or engulfing microbes can break these down, creating more compound clouds or absorbing the compounds into their own visible stores.
  • Organelles have a defined amount of compounds they represent. For instance, each mitochondrion might consist of X of this compound and Y of that compound. When broken down, the organelle releases those amounts of each compound into the environment.
  • The amount of compounds in a patch determines the environment the player will see. If there is a large amount of calcium in a patch, the player will see many rock surfaces (these dissolve to release calcium into the environment). If there’s a lot of ammonia, there’ll be large ammonia clouds, and so on. The player’s surrounding area is the only area not simulated abstractly, but it takes information from the compounds model to create itself.

Population Dynamics



Featured Stages: Microbe, Multicellular, Aware, Awakening.


Featured Stages: All stages.


Featured Stages: All stages.

Opening Cutscene

  • The video opens with the viewpoint flying through a chromosome, past intertwined strands of DNA in a bubble-filled liquid. Most elements should be shades of green, blue or purple, in line with the general colour scheme.
  • Somewhere in the chromosome there is a 3D model of the Thrive logo tied up in strands of DNA. It should not be initially apparent to the player that this is present, but the camera should stop and turn to face it on cue. The cutscene then fades to black after pausing on a shot of the logo.
  • The soundtrack is the Opening Cutscene Theme, which more than most themes is tailored directly to its intended use. A crescendo should accompany the camera’s change of direction, and bubbling, somewhat electronic noises are a must.


  • Developers should be split into groups based on their area of contribution (programmers, composers, etc.) and presented sequentially on several different screens. Collecting a total list of contributors may be difficult, but the forum memberlist is a good place to start.
  • The soundtrack will be an excerpt from the extended Main Theme. The credits are accessible from the main menu, returning the player there once finished.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License