Thrive is a game in development by Revolutionary Games Studio which the player controls a species that evolves from a single-celled organism to a galactic god having realistic gameplay. It's being developed for ten years now. This page shows the history of the project since the start of the development.
Spore is a game made by Maxis, featuring a gameplay that guides the player species from a "cell" to a space civilization which was conceived in 1994. In 1997, Maxis was acquired by Electronic Arts.
By 2005 early previews of Spore appeared to live up to Wright’s hopes, and many fans of simulation and video games, in general were hooked.
A schism emerged within the Spore development team. According to Wright, one group of developers wanted heavy realism while another wanted to emphasize cuteness and child-friendliness. There have since been accusations that the cute camp was backed by EA sales directors in the hope of appealing to children, hence selling more copies, but these claims have never been confirmed. Whatever the reasons, after missing its slated release date of 2007, Spore was released in 2008 to mixed reviews. Critics praised its effortless editing abilities but found gameplay shallow, with many of the features highlighted in the 2005 presentation missing. Fans loved the creativity aspects but some were angered at how EA/Maxis had shied away from realism and depth. In their view, it didn’t live up to its grandiose vision.
Almost immediately fans called for sequels or expansions to fix these issues, and while Maxis created several DLC packs, none addressed the core complaints: no realistic evolution, needlessly cute aesthetic and lack of gameplay depth. Concepts for improved versions abounded, but few had any rigor or attainable goals.
In June 2009, a Sporum user named Hirnsausen posted screenshots about a game named Evolutions!, a promising and more realistic version of Spore and was being developed by students at the Berlin University. Some time after the announcement the user revealed it was a hoax. The intention of starting such a hoax was to make EA or Maxis address Spore’s issues regarding realism. EA never noticed, but they thought it wouldn’t be so terrible to make this concept into a real thing. Notable members included Hirnsausen himself, ParadoxJuice, and ~sciocont. They wrote a basic design overview, with the realism going to an extreme, from editors for organs to editors for events! But as the entire team was composed of dissatisfied Spore fans and not many programmers or other developers, there was no proper work done except some gameplay mechanic concepts like ~sciocont's organism editor and planet editor, society centres and some prototypes made in Scratch. Some notable members of Thrive’s history appeared, including US_of_Alaska, Tenebrarum, Commander Keen, Inca and The Uteen. They all joined the Evolutions! forum at one point.
Much like the development of Spore itself, many people grew to dislike each other, but this time it was Hirnsausen versus pretty much every other user. Spambots were appearing, and Hirnsausen was too absent to deal with them all, and he didn’t give anyone else the same power as he did. Because of this, some users made a backup forum in case the worst happened.
Many users packed their bags and took the most developed concepts and made a new development forum. The new game was called Thrive. That happened in somewhere in the 210’s. Hirnsausen returned to try to bring back Evolutions but was too late as the forum shut down forever… Some developers found Thrive, others were never found again… This marked the beginning of the development of Thrive.
In 2010-2011, Thrive was now fully branched off from Evolutions! and the forum was active, with ~sciocont as the leader and other moderators to deal with spambots. Other developers went to the Sporum to ask more developers. Several programmers appeared during this time, most notably Bashinerox and roadkillguy. Bashinerox was the most skilled out of them all until he disappeared without a trace. Following that, the forum was just speculating ideas with almost no one to bring them to life. Most discussions never made it into development. Understandably, the programmers felt overwhelmed.
In order to expand their presence on the internet, the developers made an IndieDB page, which had more news updates. A devblog also appeared, being written mostly by ~sciocont (and also NicktheNick in the future.) In an outsider’s perspective t,he project looked like it had a bright future, but almost nothing was happening. In 2012, Seregon made a Thrive codebase which the developers still use, but it was mostly experimental at the time.
Due to the community being frustrated at the lack of progress for the game, it resulted in the other programmers and eventually the last remaining one, roadkillguy, to abandon the project due to sheer stress. He believed the team was in the wrong state to ever create anything tangible, having been founded by ideas people who had a distorted perspective of what was achievable, rather than programmers who knew how difficult it would be to implement ideas suggested by ‘everyone and their dog’. Without the help of programmers to bring ideas to fruition, this left the project in a dark state. This was most likely the first time the project has faced true doubt on when this is even going to be released. At this time some people joined the game (NicktheNick, Seregon and Oliveriver), but also many people left the project during that time.
The Rise and Fall
By 2013 the project had recovered a little from 2012, but still had little chance of succeeding. It should also be noted that the opinion of Spore had gotten a bit worse as even some of the biggest fans of the game use it as the reason why EA is so bad as a game company. Eventually, it got to the point when some redditors were angry that Spore hadn’t lived up to its potential, and linked the Thrive forums. It quickly made it to the front page and suddenly the forums had gained a lot of popularity. It was utter chaos, but was also a blessing: it gave the project programmers, something the game desperately needed.
At this time a new website was programmed and made by Oliveriver, WJacobC, and ~sciocont during 2013 as well. Later, a new microbe prototype was made and it simulated Darwinian evolution. A bit after that, developer Oliveriver made a now popular concept animation to demonstrate what the Microbe Stage would be like.
Nimbal was the most important of these programmers. With ~sciocont, NicktheNick and the other developers, he made the first Game Design Document for Thrive. Others made prototypes, and a few months after the influx, the project was in its fasted development rate at the time. roadkillguy returned then vanished once again most likely at 2013 or early 2014.
Eventually the activity declined and updates were slowing down. Another developer named jjonj joined during that and he was the only programmer who worked actively on the engine.
In an attempt to stop useless discussion, the developers made a separate section for the developers, and it worked, but led to the fan discussion sections to be worse than before.
After a while, the project had changed forever once again. It was no longer just an attempt to make Spore what it could have been, but an entirely different game as a whole. This new perspective had changed the project for the better, as it allowed people to give the project less stupendous expectactions, so the devs would now feel more motivated to work on the game as they now don’t have the stress they formerly had when people just wanted a Spore 2.
Development was slow once again, but this time also game-changing. During that time, Nimbal made the first version to actually look like a playable game, before leaving, and jjonj finished what Nimbal had begun. In 2014 moopli rejoined the game after leaving in 2013 and he accelerated the release of 0.2.3.
Later, developers such as TJWhale and StealthStyleL joined, but ~sciocont, one of the most important developers left.
Game Changing Developments
In mid 2015, the forum structure for Thrive was clearly not working well. So it was obvious something had to be changed, so the devs split the forums into the development forums and the community forums, and it worked. Now fans were allowed to do more stuff while development discussion will be properly discussed. The old forums was abandoned, but as much of a loss that was, it needed to happen as it became full of malware, and a new forum was constructed.
During that time, TheCreator joined as a programmer and began to work for the membrane needed for 0.3.0. It was one of the biggest changes in the history of Thrive ever made: Cells were not made of hexagons anymore. It was released in 2015, followed not long after by 0.3.1.
Since then, the game’s progress depended on the developers free time and progress for the game was relatively semi-medium. Also, the team released annual dev blogs, which usually included new releases, mini updates and events.
Many of these mini updates were made by NickTheNick, and these mini updates proved successful as the project's development was going faster because the community now knew what was going to be planned behind the scenes.
These mini updates were slowly being replaced by progress updates in the future, but they still happen from time time.
A Twitter for Thrive was also created to remind everyone that the development team wasn’t dead. At the time, Thrive was stronger than ever.
More releases were made, one of the most notable being 0.3.3, as it majorly changed graphics as well as the GUI.
Version 0.3.4 also released, but it didn't change much of the gameplay. However, a Thrive launcher alsowas released during that time, which the developers still work on to this day.
The Engine Changes
After the release of 0.3.4, it was clear that the old engine wasn’t working for Thrive so they had to change it. So they were going to have to rewrite the whole game in Leviathan, which was the new engine. This meant that they had to rewrite the whole game in a different engine, so you could imagine how long it would take.
More mini updates were coming out, but even that couldn't seem to satisfy the empty hole many fans were having after it was more than months since a new release came out. People were beginning to lose hope on the game, not even from outside perspectives but in the community as well.It left the project in a dark time, with the game seeming as dead as ever, aside from the time they had no programmers. Even some of the dev team were beginning to have their doubts.
Later, The Sandbox Social made a video on Thrive, and it helped as the game gained more popularity, but also made things a bit worse as many people noticed that Thrive was still in Microbe Stage after many years. Few people realized the game needed more programmers, so not many developers actually joined the game. On the bright side, the video helped Thrive gain a bigger community than before.
Eventually, after a year of development, doubt, darkness, and most importantly determination Thrive switched to the new engine, Leviathan. It made the forums as active as ever, as they finally released a new version of Thrive after a year. Thrive also gained popularity from outsiders as well, and the game was successful as ever. For the first time in Thrive’s development history, it had looked like the game would succeed. To add to this, newer versions were coming out quicker, and it will only speed up from there.NickTheNick started making an algorithm for the Auto-evo in August 2019, but unfortunately, he became inactive before finishing it.
After releasing 0.4.3 and many progress updates, the developers agreed to switch Thrive to a new engine again. At this point they’ve already had some experience with switching engines and rewriting their games, so this would be an easier task. The engine chosen was Godot,because it’s much less laggiythan Leviathan and its also less prone to crashing.
Some other history includes new members of the development team joining, including DonGororo, Uniow and Buckly. During this time, Untrustedlife, once an active programmer for Thrive, sadly announced his departure from the project because he wanted more time to pursue his own creative desires, the theorist TJWhale also left the team.
Aside from all of that hhyyrylainen was one of the few active programmers left. Oliveriver was still involved in the project, and so were other devs as well, even if they were relatively inactive.
In response to the suggestions made by the community, hhyyrylainen made a thread in the forums to showcase progress for the Godot beta version. The thread was met with high reception, with others noting that the game ran very smoothly and it wasn’t as prone to crashes as the other releases. So it was settled, the game was going to switch to the new engine. After about two months of programming, the dev team had finally made the 0.5.0 release. It had a ton of features and was a lot quicker too.
In 2020, hhyyrylainen proposed to create a no-profit association to manage the donations reserved for the server and host costs, and salaries. He, Buckly, and Nunz accepted to be the founding members. Soon a Patreon was made to collect the donations.
Development is accelerating faster than ever now, and who knows when the Microbe Stage will be completed? The Thrive releases are being developed faster than ever. The dev team is also as large as ever, so this may help with the consistent releases of Thrive. As I write the team are implementing the binding agents, which can mark the transition to Multicellular.
The game hasn’t even completed the Microbe Stage yet and it already has an essay’s worth of history. When the game reaches Ascension and gains a lot more popularity, no one would probably believe that the game spent more than ten years developing the first stage.
The story of Thrive is a story of persistence and perseverance, of developers who were tasked with the seemingly impossible and still managed to make it further than anyone expected it could. If this game is completed, it’s development story will go down in the history of gaming forever.