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The Microbe Stage is the first stage of the game. The stage begins with the first species to exist in the world, fresh from the primordial origins of life exploring the nutrient rich Pangonian Vents. It is here that the player assumes the role of a tiny prokaryotic blob of cytoplasm, one of a few individuals of their species. At this point the player must rely entirely on finding loose glucose to survive as they do not yet possess ways to process other nutrients, and seek out phosphates and ammonia to grow bigger in preperation for reproduction. Once the player has reached a sufficient size they will be capable of reproducing, which will bring the player to the microbe editor should they choose to do so. As the game continues, the player will steadily adapt their cell to better survive in a world that grows gradually harsher each generation, and compete with new species that have arisen from the player's own.
The Microbe Stage takes place in a 3D enviroment viewed from a 2D perspective, as if being viewed from a microscope. Here, the player must steer their cell into brightly colored compound clouds to sustain and grow their cell until they can reproduce. At the beginning of the game there will be no predators, the only dangers being starvation and the occasional toxin. However, as the player reproduces, new competing species will branch away from the player's species and steadily become an increasingly dangerous obstacle for the player to overcome. While at first the player is a tiny cell only capable of consuming glucose ammonia and phosphates, the player will be able to adapt their cell in any way they choose after every reproduction, granting the player new abilities and options as time goes on. This comes at a cost however, as the player cell becomes larger and more complex, it will require more food to sustain. The player must take care to ensure that their cell is always sustainable or they will quickly starve. Additionally, species that arise from your own will inherit your adaptations, so the player must be cautious of how soon they develop things such as weaponry.
The Microbe Stage is played using the keyboard and mouse. The cell always faces the mouse cursor's position, while the WASD keys will propel the cell in a direction relative to the cursor's position. For example, pressing the W key will make the cell travel forward towards the mouse cursor. Where as pressing the S key will make the cell travel backwards away from the mouse cursor. These controls allow the player to strategically move their cell to dodge toxin projectiles or position themselves to catch as mnay prey cells as they can. The mouse is also used to interact with the various UI elements on the screen.
Pressing the G key will enable Engulfment Mode. In this mode, the cell will begin flashing with a blue overlay, and damage any cells smaller than them they come into contact with. All cells have this ability, regardless of adaptations so it would be wise to avoid approaching larger cells if the player does not have any defenses.
Pressing the E key will expel a toxin projectile from your cell, should your cell possess toxin generating parts.
Using the mousewheel, the player can adjust their field of view. This is very useful for navigating the enviroment around them, or taking a close look at their cell.
These are unique parameters that relate to the climate of the current patch, and act as a passive effect on the cells.
- Temperature: The measure of heat in the current environment. Temperature currently has no effect in the game.
- Pressure: The amount of crushing force in the environment due to depth. Pressure currently has no effect in the game.
- Lux: The amount of light reaching the environment. Lux is vital for photosynthesis to function, so photosynthesizers should make sure that the environment they inhabit has enough light to support them. 100% lux and above makes for a perfectly suitable home for photosynthesizers.
These are gasses that are present within a patch, and do not have a physical presence in the game world. These elements act as a passive effect on various processes of the cell, and can be required for certain proteins and organelles to function.
- Oxygen: An important gas for aerobic respiration, oxygen is used by parts such as metabolosomes to perform their purposes. The more oxygen that is present in a patch, the better these parts will perform. Currently, oxygen has no other effect on cells and is at a constant 21% concentration in all patches.
- Nitrogen: A gas used by cells for nitrogen fixation in the synthesis of ammonia. Nitrogen currently has no other effect on cells and is at a constant 70% concentration in all patches.
- Carbon Dioxide: An important gas for chemosynthesis and photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is currently at a constant 9% concentration in all pacthes.
There are several compounds present in the Microbe Stage. Below is a list of all compounds and their uses.
- Glucose: Primary ATP storage for cells, and initial source of food for the player. Glucose is consumed by several organelles and proteins to produce ATP, the most notable being the metabolosomes and mitochondria as they are specifically used for glucose. When the player dies they will respawn with a reserve of glucose within their cell, allowing them to readily resume gameplay without fear of starvation. The player must take care should they rely on the readily available glucose found in the environment, as every generation the global glucose amounts decrease by 80%. Glucose clouds are white in color.
- Ammonia: Vital compounds required for reproduction. Ammonia is used to grow and copy the proteins and organelles within the cell, and can be found readily throughout the environment. Parts such as the nitrogenase and nitrogen fixing plastid can produce ammonia from ATP and nitrogen, saving the player from having to actively seek it out in the environment to reproduce. Ammonia clouds are orange in color.
- Phosphate: Identical in purpose to ammonia, phosphate is a requirement for reproduction. Unlike ammonia however, there are no methods of synthesizing phosphate so it can only be found in the environment or from predation. Phosphate clouds are purple in color.
- Hydrogen Sulfide: An alternative source of ATP for cells, and can be found in high quantities in a select few patches. Should a player intend to use hydrogen sulfide for energy, they must take care to ensure that the patch they inhabit contains the compound. Hydrogen sulfide is only usable if the player posesses chemosynthesizing proteins, otherwise any hydrogen sulfide consumed will be quickly expelled from the cell. Hydrogen sulfide clouds are yellow in color.
- Iron: Another alternative source of ATP, iron is a relatively uncommon resource found in almost, but not all, patches in the world. Unlike any other compound, iron can not only be found in clouds, but also as variably sized chunks that trail iron clouds as they drift. Iron can only be used by a cell if it possesses rustycyanin. Iron clouds appear brown in color.
The editor is the strategic side of the microbial stage and is accessed whenever the player reproduces. It is in this editor that the player is allowed to evolve their species by placing parts from a list of available proteins or organelles onto their cell. Each generation, the player is given 100 Mutation points or MP that is used as a currency to buy these parts. The editor is currently divided into three different windows; The report page, the patch map, and finally the editor itself.
The report menu is the first page the player will see upon entering the editor. This page describes all enviromental changes that had taken place before entering the editor such as changes in species population, compound concentration, and etc. The information provided in the report can be helpful, but is not a necessity for performing well in the game, so players need not concern themselves with analyzing it's contents.
The second page a player will visit is the patch map. This menu displays what is essentially the world map, with patches representing biomes the player can visit interconnected by lines that represent traversible paths. The player can select each visible patch to display the environmental statistics of that biome, such as compound concentration, species present, and so on. Should the selected patch be connected to the players occupied patch via a path, the player wil be able to choose to play in the selected patch upon leaving the editor. Players who intend to move to new environments should take care and inspect a patch before moving to it to ensure they are prepared for what is to come.
Below is a complete list of the preset patches currently in the game. In future updates, the plan is for patches to be dynamically generated on each world.
- Pangonian Abyssopelagic
- Pangonian Bathypelagic
- Pangonian Mesopelagic
- Pangonian Epipelagic
- Pangonian Sea Floor
- Pangonian Tidepool
- Pangonian Estuary
- Pangonian vents
- Pangonian Coast
- Ice Shelf
Main Article: Microbe Biomes
Each patch will be a certain biome. The biome defines the physical properties of that patch, such as the temperature, pressure, and light levels.
The editor page is where the player will be able to customize their cell part by part. The majority of the editor is taken up by a hexfield where the cellparts are placed, with the center being occupied by the player's current cell. To the left of this large space is the partlist where the player will select parts to place on their cell, or otherwise change it's qualities such as color or membrane type. The top right space is occupied by the ATP balance bar which informs the player on the amoutn of ATP they produce versus how much they consume. The player should always make sure that the red bar is shoter than the green bar, or else they will meet an untimely demise of their own creation. The top left of the editor contains the tabs used to navigate between the previous pages, as well as the MP bar that displays the player's current bank of MP. The player is able to place new parts or hexes adjacent to any preexisting occupied hex, or atop a cytoplasm hex to convert it to a specialized part. Should the player desire to, they can delete parts of their cell by right clicking placed parts at a cost of 10 MP per deletion. Alternatviely, the player can use the arrow buttons located at the bottom of the editor screen to undo or redo previous actions, however this functionality will only work on changes made in the current editor section. The button in middle of the arrow buttons is the symmetry key, which when clicked will change the player's current symmetry mode. All parts can be deleted except for two exceptions, the nucleus and the last hex of the cell, so be sure that the nucleus is exactly where you want it to be.
The cell editor contains three different tabs, each with a unique function.
The structure tab contains all of the parts the player can choose from such as proteins, organelles, extracellular structures like the pili, and the nucleus itself. In order to place these parts the player must click on their desired part icon to select it, and then click where they desire it to be within the hexfield. The structure tab is divided into three categories; prokaryotic structures, external organelles, and internal organelles. Internal organelles in particular cannot be used by the player until they have evolved the nucleus, which is the only exception.
The membrane tab contains options for customizing the cell's membrane. Here, the player is presented with a list of buttons representing various membrane and cell wall varieties, each with unique stats. In order to select a membrane type, the player need only ensure they have enough MP and click the desired type. The player is also granted a slider that adjusts fluidity and rigidity at the cost of 10 MP per change. The more fluid a cell is the more faster and fragile it is, while rigid cells are durable but slow. At the bottom of the membrane tab is the color wheel, which allows the player to choose which color their cell will be. This feature is entirely cosmetic nad does not cost any MP to change.
This feature is currently unimplemented and cannot be accessed.
There is a separate game design document for the microbe stage that goes into more details: Microbe Stage GDD
There are some tables and other things collected in the Microbe Stage Appendices