Starvation and a Chemical Needs System


Here is an AI/ Gameplay suggestion. I know the thoughts below will be hard to balance, but I think they are important for gameplay. I love the game btw, these are meant to help and not detract from the amazing game that you have built.

Many advance species in the real world of the size that you have modelled in the game have evolved a chemical "needs" system (related and attached to, but separate from a neural system) that is primary for survival, I think the game should attempt to use and account for that fact.

I understand that each creature's full game cycle is designed to reduce CPU load, but aspects of that cycle break immersion fairly badly in my opinion, for example...

-Why would an organism "explore" over a nutrient rich environment when it is chemically starved for nutrients?
-Why would an organism "search for mate" over a nutrient rich environment when it is starved (an argument could be made here that mating and gene pressure exceeds chemical needs, except that this organism is sometimes wallowing in edible plants and does not choose to even sneak a bite, ...unlikely)
-Sometimes game organisms switch to "graze" then get real close to their target only to switch again to one of the above and starve to death. Watching this is frustrating as the aforementioned chemical needs system just wouldn't allow it.

Here are some related suggestions that if implemented together might allow the system to work better,

-Feeding does not have to destroy the plant resource, this would allow for more frequent "ate" events without disrupting the game's plant growth and spread dynamics that themselves are so hard to balance. I can think of complicated (and fun) ways to do this, but to keep it simple allowing a plant to be grazed 10 times (a simple counter per plant) before it is destroyed could work.

-Next, implement an algorithm where an organism at the 0.0 (red) survival stat level (or some other near-zero threshold) would implement an overriding impulse to feed until 0.2-0.75 survival is reached (children stat... still at zero). After recovery to a "fed" state it could return to the current AI algorithm and proceed with whatever else it needs to do in the cycle. At the normal "grazing" part of the existing AI cycle it would search for food to achieve a 100% survival stat and to facilitate future children.

-Implementing the above will result in a huge increase in population since the death rate would plummet, offset this by introducing a death check at perhaps every 1/10 cycle instead of at the end of the cycle. On a large population this is quite a bit more calculation, but not unreasonable. On "rolling a death" you can provide a storytelling fiction that the animal died of "natural causes or injury"

Yes, this new message will frustrate players almost as much, and you will be bombarded with questions on how players can counter it, to which you would have to reply that life in the wild is hard, and the player needs to expect a fair amount of loss to chance events, disease, low nutrients in the egg, or whatever stressors you like, resulting in a weaker constitution, etc. At least we would not watch starving critters swimming casually over food sources and ignoring them. The current state of the game, which does allow that to happen, is to my mind really jarring to see in the simulation.

I hope this suggestion has merit, the devil is in the details of course.