Second-round Playtesting: Evolve

Hello FBG community!

Thank you so much to the people who tested the original version and provided feedback. After a lot of work, I’ve completely recreated Evolve based on the responses I received and my own personal concerns about representing the science accurately. Even now it’s a bare-bones version of modern evolutionary theory, but it at least follows the process a little more closely.

I welcome all of you to try Evolve, version 2.0. Feedback is greatly appreciated, but especially on the following topics:

  1. Game balance - did you feel like some things progressed too quickly, others too slowly?

  2. Game vs. Educational Tool - I want people to still have fun playing the game, and if you feel that the educational content is too heavy handed that would be useful to know.

  3. Of course information on any broken links, typos, etc.

  4. Feedback on what else you’d like to try to do in Evolve - if your goal is really to become a dinosaur, I’d like to know (honestly, mine would be). Or if that Kingdom path that opened up at the end is really fascinating to you, I’ll know to prioritize it more.

There are some things I should warn you about in advance that I already know about. The “Defenses” quality does not have enough story options, and I’m looking to expand them soon. All sidebar qualities go to a maximum of 10 right now, and if you get over that somehow let me know. Also, the “Harmful Mutation” menace isn’t particularly scary. Content will be developed for that soon as well.

Thanks again, and happy gaming!

  • Caitydid

hey Caity, Just started and noticed this, I’m fairly certain it’s not supposed to look like this, or at least if it is it seems odd, the same applied to the card as well

since this seems to no longer be an issue, I’ve removed the image.
edited by Doomlewa on 9/9/2012

You mean the images? That’s actually correct for now. Some of the icons are just “placeholders” for what will be there later. I found it easier to use these so I don’t forget later that I really want the comet to represent extraterrestrial origins. ^__^

Could be more education as it is. :) Don’t know if it is progressing too slowly and there is more content or if it progressed at a decent rate and I’ve been grining the content barrier. Possibly make converting energy into a fixed card? As I have quickly gathered 200+ energy and a large population in the 40 zone.
edited by Samuel Goodall on 9/2/2012

Hmmm, more education. I can work on that. There’s a bunch of stuff I left out so far, but I can put in, like fitness and r/k-selection.

200+ energy reserves?! @.@ Ok…I’ll put a cap on that, because there really isn’t content developed at that sort of level yet. Population needs more content as well, I know. Could you elaborate on the slow content barrier issue? Is it just that you want there to be more or that there could be more details in what’s already present. Thanks!

I feel gaining adaption is a slow process easily set back so give more chances to increase adaption. Also, I haven’t even seen an opportunity to increase defense yet so definitely increase that.

My long term goal is to evolve into a Coyote and then nudge them toward intelligence.

sidebar qualities actually go to 11, rather then 10.
You’ve set it to stop raising them when they are higher then 10. so as long as they are on 10, they still gain changepoints.
In addition, you haven’t capped the “try to replicate more quickly” option in the “competition” card. it still boosts my adaptability even when it’s at 11.

Theatermonkey: Good to know. I knew about Defenses, and that’s the next big update I’ll be making. I focused on location cards first. I was worried about the pacing with adaptation, though I wonder if it just feels that way because there aren’t enough resourcefulness challenges to match the adaptability requirements. Something to consider. And coyote - awesome!

Tamir: Yikes, good point. I’ve fixed all of it now (to my knowledge), and caught the competition one. The whole competition card hadn’t been fixed yet, but should be done now. Thanks!

Taking into account the way Cabinet Noir works, I’d rather change the way Adaptability and Resourcefulness works.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know it works more like Fallen London, where the random cards DO change your stats, but battling my way through Resourcefulness 2-3 and failing twice at Low Risk is… umh… weird.

Somehow, I’d like it more to see the pinned cards at the beggining giving you your neat stuff.

Learn about yourself - Gives you nothing, I think it could be skipped.

Your Cell Walls - Gives you nothing. It could give you “Defenses” quality and increase from unicelular to elephant skin and immune system…
Defenses 1.- Lipidic membrane - What separates you from the external world.
Defenses 2.- Hard proteic casing (would send you down a virus “life” path) - Hard proteic membrane, traditional viral membrane, scientists wonder if you’re alive or not.
Defenses 3.- Enzimes - Your membrane is coated in enzimes you release into the environment to deter would-be predators.
Defenses 4.- Hard carb casing (say, plan-road?) - Your cells are protected by polygonally-arranged carbohydrates. It allows for cheaper protection at the cost of mobility.
Defenses 5.- Scales (way down the fish/reptile road) - Patterned to match your environment.
Defenses 6.- Feathers (prerequisite for bird path) - Feathers both protect, adorn and allow you to travel faster. Maybe even to fly…
Defenses 7.- Fur (down the mammal path) - Nice for cold weather, but inconvenient while wet. Avoid hot climate.
Defenses 8.- Skin - Good for hot weather and ok for swimming, but rough for cold climate.
Defenses 9.- Exoskeletum (sp?) - Awesome external protection at the cost of small size.

Your cytoplasm - Gives you nothing. It could give you “Metabolism” quality, which as it increased could give you better resources → energy conversions. Having Metabolism 1 would be a prerequisite for all “you use resources, you gain energy reserves” cards, which would increase or lower it.

Your Rybosomes - Gives you nothing. I’d make it a turning point between primitive life and protein-sintethizing life.
Primitive life could allow you to go through the virus, primitive bacteriae, algae, fungi and plants.
Protein-sintethizing would be a prerequisite for advanced bacteriae, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Unless my biology is flawed, and “primitive” life has plenty ribosomes and needs complex proteins… in which case, it could increase “Metabolism” or could be a pair to it as “Adaptability” and “Resourcefulness” are.
Thinking about it, you could have “primitive” and “protein-based” bacteriae and plants.

Your nucleoid - Gives you nothing. Could give you “Genes quality”.
Genes 1.- RNA - You have a simple chain that allows you to replicate.
Genes 2.- Loose DNA - Your DNA swims in your cytoplasm. When you replicate it divides into identical copies.
Genes 3.- Nucleus - Your DNA is protected in your nucleus. Instructions for growth and replication are sent through RNA.
Genes 4.- Sexual reproduction (WAY down the road) - You mix your genes with another member of your species of opposite gender.
Genes 5.- Retrovirus - You invade another cell and change its DNA to make it craft your descendants for you.

Your Transportation - Gives you nothing. Could give you “Mobility” quality.
Mobility 1.- Inert - You are subject to the devices of your environment (virus, non-flageled bacteriae).
Mobility 2.- Rooted - You are rooted or hooked into a stable surface, but that doesn’t prevent you from interact with your surroundings (plants, coral, etc).
Mobility 3.- Flagellum - You have one or more apendixes for moving around. You bat it fast to advance.
Mobility 4.- Fins - Excellent for propelling yourself through water at high speeds.
Mobility 5.- Slither - You manage to travel land by dragging your body over it.
Mobility 6.- Legs - Nice for treading the land without lying your belly over it.
Mobility 7.- Wings (down the bird/flying insect roads) - You venture into the air.

You know yourself well - Gives you… what? is it a biology test?
Yes, you fail and you repeat the course. I fear it might drive people away.
Also, it is an “energy drain”. Failing the test carries a rather harsh punishment.

The energy pool of 20 with 1-minute refreshes seems too much to me. I’d rather lower it to 10 energy reserve with the same refresh, so that people don’t just spend a lot and leave, but rather remain around for a refresh or return after a few minutes of checking mail.

~ Puntos mx

I would also transform it into tiered stuff…
Replicate 1.- Mitosis - You divide yourself into exact copies.
Replicate 2.- Virus - You infect another cell to force it make copies of you.
Replicate 3.- Multiple fission (?) - You mix your own genes with another to improve your survival chances.

Harmful mutation…
I think I’d leave it as Mutation. It has the opside of genetic variability and increased Adaptability, though it has downsides.
Evolving into other kingdoms or realms could require a certain minimum mutation score.
The random cards could have a double-check (like some in Fallen London) where a score (like adaptability or cytoplasm) could be checked for success in the leap while a check in Mutation would lower stats significatively or cause organism death (“Evolution leads into many dead ends, and you just found one. You can try again, but watch out for harmful mutation.”)
edited by Puntosmx on 9/3/2012

Exclamation does not exist.
It appears when trying to replicate with 10 population: “Population hasn’t changed, because it’s higher than 9”
It doesn’t even have a placeholder.
Also, Competition does not limit your population I’ve achieved 15 without problem.
Also, first action “Binari fission” is not marked with Energy resource but it still spends it. Even more, there is no way to drop the card or chose not to replicate. It eats energy away and it does not yield any benefit. Can you add a “not for the time being” option?
edited by Puntosmx on 9/3/2012
edited by Puntosmx on 9/3/2012

Thoughts in chronological order as I play through:

“Prokaryote” isn’t a proper noun.

Bacteria are no longer grouped into a kingdom. Biologists have recently invented an even higher level of classification, domains, and prokaryotic bacteria are grouped in a separate domain from eukaryotes (which contain all the old kingdoms).

The results messages look very weird the way you’re doing them. Since you’re using titles instead of numbers, I would advise using something like the “your x quality is now y” message instead.

I would actually advise making the “Where You Are” card come before the kingdom card, since your location would actually determine which lifeform you would evolve into. Hydrothermal vents would produce archeans rather than bacteria, for example.

The “Death Comes For Us All” card – it may be prudent to classify the game-speak with a separate text style to be less jarring. (See City of Phire and Iced Oolong for examples of what I mean. Or even Fallen London.)

The “Learn About Yourself” card – “It’s time to find out how you work” is missing a period (so is the text in the next box).

I agree with Puntosmx that the self-knowledge cards should have a mechanical benefit instead of being painfully obvious educational text dumps. Like all games, a good edutainment game should do its best to merge gameplay and story instead of having them be in separate worlds.

…Prokaryotes do not have nuclei. (Some organisms, such as viruses (although whether or not they’re actually lifeforms is a controversial topic) don’t have ribosomes, either.)

The “Your Transportation” card: “You might be small but you need to get around somehow.” There should be a comma after “small”.

…A biology test, really? Especially when actions take time to regenerate, this is really off-putting and is not going to endear your players to the game. It isn’t even a very comprehensive test.

I don’t really like how linear the “character creation” cards are – there are so many options for so many aspects of an organism, even at a unicellular level, yet we only get one option? It would be nice to have some more freedom.

(Perhaps change “evolution” to “fitness”, if it’s supposed to be a kind of “score”?)

The “Explore Your Environment” card: “Regardless of where you are in the ocean there are many things to discover. Of course as a basic organism your ability to get around is limited.” There should be commas after “ocean”, “of course”, and “organism”.

The “Fight Back” branch of the “The First Predator” card: “If it can become a predator than maybe so can you.” There should be a comma after “predator”, and that “than” should be “then”.

…You have cards that are unlocked by changeable qualities. This is a big no-no in StoryNexus design. I’m finding it frighteningly easy to get locked out of cards that require the main qualities, since it’s possible to lose them entirely. Perhaps add a low-end cap, to prevent qualities from dropping to 0, if such a thing is possible?

The “you’re a chemoautotroph” thing is kind of sudden, since one would think it would be in one of the initial formation cards or the self-knowledge cards. Perhaps add it there. (I suppose it does make sense that that’s the starting option, though, since other trophs didn’t evolve until later…yet apparently there are already ingestive heterotrophs running around, if there are predators?)

I second the notion to change energy generation to a pinned card. Resource conversions are situational, so it’s not good to force them down players’ throats when they don’t need them, nor force them to rely on the whims of chance when they really, really need them. (It also does make logical sense as something that should always be available…)

The “Chemoautotroph” card says it will give me Resourcefulness, but it does not.

Due to the way StoryNexus is structured, it’s best if you merge as many possible options into one card. I would advise making a single card for energy generation, and simply have multiple branches for every -troph type that lock or unlock depending on what the player has chosen.

Qualities decreasing on failure is interesting in theory, but horrible in practice, due to the random nature of StoryNexus. To be honest, I actually think an advancement system closer to Cabinet Noir (or, more applicably, Spore) would work better, where you can purchase specific upgrades for resources or “fitness points” or what have you. At the very least, you shouldn’t punish players for failing luck tests. (This is exacerbated by the fact that some cards only have stat challenge branches as options, so it’s not always possible to “play it safe” to build up enough stats, possibly locking players into a loop where they only gain as much as they lose.)

The game seems extremely grindy from here on out. I would advise adding some kind of pinned card with a central plot thread to motivate the player. Clicking buttons endlessly isn’t terribly interesting or fun.

Anyway, this has potential, but it’s still very rough around the edges, I think.

Edit: Erm… “Waves crash down around you, tossing you back and forth and threatening the integrity of your cell walls”? Crashing waves would not have even a remote possibility of disrupting cell walls. Cells are so tiny that we need an extremely specialized piece of technology to harm them with blunt trauma.
edited by Little The on 9/3/2012

BTW, nice to see population has been capped… even nicer to keep my population at 20 =^_^=

~ Puntos

Action have an appropriate refresh rate, though could probably be cut down. I managed to eat my through your content and get ludicrous amounts of energy and population in about half an hour. That said I know you have a lot of content that isn’t unmade but under revision because it existed in the previous version. Excited to see where you take this.

On the “Drought” card, you probably want “A terrible disaster is affecting your habitat.”

Hi everyone,

Thanks very much for the feedback over the last few days. I’m working to get every typo, grammatical mistake, and cards that didn’t get the right min/max stats added to them. That sort of feedback is always welcome, cause I certainly can’t catch everything on my own. :-)

On a couple of other points:

  • I’m trying to make any loss of the main traits have a floor of 1. So you wouldn’t ever get back down to 0. That should help a few of the issues of repetition or feeling like you’ve lost a lot of progress.

  • On “Harmful Mutation:” that one I’m leaving as it is. This is the primary menace quality of the game, and it’s important to make people aware of the fact that not all mutations kill something. All changes happen through mutation - only some of them are really really bad for you.

  • With no longer being able to play cards: I think most of you know the creators only have nominal control over that. The idea is to add an element of strategy to the games - yes, you may have you read every opportunity card before you play them and choose which order to do things in. I could provide a way out on every single card…but in a larger game that’s going to start being very complicated and feels a little boring. When you drew a card, you were probably able to play it. I’ll take a closer look at specific cards that have been mentioned though and whether or not they warrant a way to effectively discard them. But I trust FBG in their decision to design Story Nexus like this. It will take a while for people to get used to, but eventually we’ll reach a happy medium I’m sure.

  • For the “Learn About Yourself” storyline, I’m really wary of adding a new set of qualities, as there’s a lot of potential for quality clutter in this game. But, the very least I’ll do is work on re-writing the “Progress” tracking aspect, and hopefully have a better reward at the end of it all for players. But otherwise, yeah. It’s my testing out the concept in a small way - if this game ends up having more utility with schools than the general public, it will probably stay in. Vice versa will have to be determined later.

Now, I’m sorry, but I feel like I have to respond at least briefly. LittleThe, telling people their game as a whole isn’t good enough yet just feels unkind, honestly. You provided a wide range of feedback, and I appreciated a good deal of it, but the tone especially towards the end was just discouraging. I have very few misconceptions about the state of my game, namely the idea that this is anything but a beta test for a new platform in it’s current state. I even specifically cited where I would be adding content and what in this first round of cards was unfinished. I know this is my second play test and maybe it should be better at this point, but I’ve chosen to do this very publicly, as I hope that a very transparent beta test for FBGs will be more valuable than being 100% professional about this. Which, incidentally, is partially the result of my having never written a structured game before a month ago, and again I have no misconceptions about how much I have to learn. I feel like your expectations after a month of the platform being released are unrealistic; there are some who have obviously already flourished, and there are going to be others of us who mess around for a while with varying success.

Additionally, I will respectfully disagree with most of your biological commentary, with the exception of the nuclei issues - bacteria have nucleoids, it’s true. I’ll be sure to go back and change the reference that confuses prokaryote with eukaryote characteristics. Otherwise, all of the content I’ve provided is what I consider the best overall presentation of a field that consistently rearranges it’s thoughts on the matter. Not everyone will agree with this, and it’s not going to be perfect. I’m ok with that, and the inevitable case that some people will choose not to play as a result.

Anyway, I’ll be happy to have more feedback and beta testers, and will continue to make changes over the next few weeks. I’m not sure there will be a major addition to the pinned storylines, but I’ll definitely be adding more opportunity cards, especially in the realm of Defenses.

Again, sincere thanks for the feedback so far!

My opinion is my opinion. I’m not saying your game was objectively bad, just that I, personally, felt it needed some improvement. I wouldn’t have spent so much time on a mammoth post if I didn’t think the game was any good.

Re: the card thing, I mean it’s literally impossible to play them at all, if the unlock requirements aren’t met. I mean like the cards that are unlocked at 1 Defenses/Adaptability/etc., if you lose that quality, they just sit in your hand and refuse to be played…making a floor cap would fix this, though.

Wait, they do? This is news to me. I was taught the definition of a prokaryote was the absence of a central nucleus. Perhaps you are thinking of eubacteria? Wikipedia backs me up on this:

Hrmm…yep, I’m coming up with multiple sources describing the genetic material in a bacteria as a nucleioid. Links all lead to images:

That being said, it’s a good point that I can certainly be clearer on what having a “nucleoid” means. It’s not a formal organelle, it’s basically just the genetic material floating in cytoplasm. So, I’ll look at updating that description. :-)

EDIT: A few other places just say “DNA” or “Genetic Material.” But enough of them say nucleoid that I feel comfortable using the term and adding to everyone’s vocabulary.
edited by Caitydid on 9/6/2012

The game seems amazing to me =) Can’t wait to be able to evolve to something else =) That being said; when I did the biology test twice, it seemed as if the flagellums increased both times, leaving me with Mobility:Pseudopydia instead. I expect this is a bug?

Thanks Aximillio, glad you’re enjoying it. Yeah, hopefully sooner than later people will be actually moving towards their creature of choice. Now that we have glycolysis we just need photosynthesis and then finally we can all become multi-cellular creatures!

And ahhhh, yes, definitely not right. As you’ve seen now, the mobility quality is already programmed to include a few other options that will come up soon. And while actually, it’s not wrong to have more than one flagellum for some bacteria, that’s going to be an option on a different card. I’ve re-programmed the biology test accordingly. Thanks!

Losing an ability while failing the test feels bad. Twice I have lost my resourcefulness by failing at a test and I don’t have resourcefulness anymore.