Gradual, Autonomous Mutation

It’s pretty unanimous that current implementation of mutations isn’t ideal. I had an idea for mutation that would fit better with the lore, and possibly make mid-games more interesting for survivors instead of front-loading the late game with tons of stuff you don’t really need.

I read somewhere that mutation due to radiation is the blob in the player attempting to respond and adapt to stimuli that it didn’t understand and was just sort of throwing things at the wall to see if any of it helped. My thought was, why wouldn’t it always be looking out for its host in this way? If the host is struggling, it stands to reason that the player’s blob would make some sort of effort to make adjustments that can either help get them through a rough patch or better suit the host to its current environment if survival depended on it. Obviously it’s not going to restart your heart when you die or sprout a giant limb and start hacking zombies with it for you, but there are some gradual changes that it can make based on whatever the player is going through.

Say the player is out in the wilderness, and they’re struggling. Winter is here and there are no cities in sight, and resources are extremely limited. The only food available is meat, and nutrient deficiencies are starting to happen. Scurvy hits first, followed by calcium deficiency and whatever else meat doesn’t provide.

Over the course of a week or two, depending on how serious it is, the player could gradually begin to mutate and eventually becomes a carnivore. Suddenly all the nutrients they need are in meat, and things are much better in that way. There’s still winter to deal with, of course, but at least your bones aren’t going to crumble and your teeth won’t fall out.

It’s not something that will happen quickly. These would be long-term developments that accumulate over time due to specific conditions affecting the player, and will change how they operate in the long run while making their life somewhat easier in the short term.

Currently mutations are either explicitly bad, explicitly good, both, or neither. I think it would be important to make it so that all possible mutations have pros and cons based on what they are. There should not be a mutation that the player immediately seeks to remove, because that would kind of defeat the purpose and potentially straight up doom the player and their run, which is not what we want. We also shouldn’t have only good mutations, because that just becomes a snowball and contributes more to the problem players have being overpowered in the late game.

There would be some neutral ones that are the equivalent of the blob performing an experiment during times of peace, and this can branch into other more specialized mutations based on what happens to the player. For example, say the player suddenly gets these unformed nubs of appendages starting to grow out of their torso. If they do a whole lot of fighting or happen are in bad shape extensively, these limbs could manifest into claws or blades that help with fighting and little else. Alternatively, if the player does a whole lot of crafting during this time in particular, perhaps they evolve into very nimble graspers that decrease the time for batch crafting and give dexterity buffs. In both cases the limbs would get in the way and possibly do other things as a trade-off. Or, if nothing worthy of note happens or there’s not enough to tip the scale one way or the other, the limbs just atrophy and disappear, because the blob doesn’t see benefit in pursuing this particular chain of mutations.

Later on there will be ways that can help manipulate the blob’s decisions on what mutations to undergo, if any. For example, maybe producing a kind of chemical that lingers for a while, gives effects while it’s active, but encourages the blob to produce combat-specific mutations as opposed to other varieties. The inverse is also plausible. Both would be intrusive drugs, however, and not just something you can eat like candy, because you’re messing with your internal chemistry. If you’re trying to mutate, you shouldn’t be doing much else at the same time. Same for getting rid of mutations you already have, though I think encouraging mutations should be more taxing on the player. You can also take some chemicals that either discourage or prevent additional mutations from occurring, if you aren’t fond of the idea of potentially altering a specific play style when you don’t have to. This might be when you’re well-off in the late game and don’t feel like messing with limbs and their bulk or your blob deciding that you want to be a salamander for all the time you spend underground.

It takes control away from the player but I think overall it would be more balanced and much more interesting than the mutation system we currently have. It’s sort of like the opposite of bionics, which is very much controlled by the player but has its own set of requirements before the player can safely and reliably make use of them. Bionics would also progressively make it less likely that you mutate, because you’re basically adapting yourself and the blob doesn’t need to step in. On the flip side, adding bionics while mutated is either extremely tricky to do without mucking it up depending on location, or taxing in general. Certain mutations and certain bionics would not get along in this way, possibly necessitating surgery or chemical treatment to have your way with your own body. Certain things would clash differently based on how they interact. Your nanite repair implant, for example, would NOT react well if activated while you have additional growths. You may want to have some bandages on hand, and maybe some painkillers.

Let me know what you think of this idea.

Players would just game that system and possibly get anxious about certain activities once they learn how they connect to the mutations.

Also, the first step would be to track and keep statistics of all player actions on which to base the mutations. Is that a lot of data to store and process?

And, let’s say, I subject my character to cold frequently on purpose, will that result in a thick growth of fur, and I will eventually have no subsequent need for warm clothing? Or, alternatively, will my character’s blood chemically gain anti-freeze properties?

There’s also the risk that when the player tries to purposefully gain a certain mutation, he doesn’t get it. You could spend 16h in snow hoping to gain that Anti-Freeze Blood mutation, but instead you gain Fast Reader just because you spent an hour or two reading a book.

I think what we’re basically talking about here is forced mutations. Personally I don’t like mutagens, or rather how they work. But at least now I don’t have to consume any. This would be forcing mutations on players. And there are activities that can’t be avoided, meaning the player might forced to subject himself to the risk of getting certain mutations.

What we have here is an idea with good intentions, but I think it’d just pave way to hell. At least to me, that is. I would just try to turn it off, and go back to mutagens. Or I would be drinking purifiers constantly.

But… come to think of it… If purifiers were to be a thing in this scheme while mutations are forced every now and then… I mean, I guess I could try dealing with it, but I’d hope there would be a way to gain a permanent resistance against mutating, or a steady supply of purifiers to swiftly put a stop to any mutations.

In the end, this is about maintaining control over your game and character, and not all of us like losing it. On the flip side, allowing all mutations to just happen “naturally” could be appealing to try once. But once I’d get some really annoying mutation… I’d be debugging that away in a heartbeat.

It would be nice to sit in an ice lab until my body decides it doesn’t want to be cold-blooded any more. You could use a similar system to how Mycus mutations work right now.

I thought about something like this, but it could easily lead to one of two extremes:

[ul][li]Rapid mutation in one direction - eat a loaf of bread and now you’re a herbivore[/li]
[li]Tedious mutation selection - sleeping naked on cold ground to avoid cold blooded[/li][/ul]

And it may actually lead to both of those extremes at once.

Having to do all sorts of rituals or victory dances to select mutations would be a horrible mechanic, it would be better to just allow them with an immersion-breaking menu - “How do you want to mutate?”.

Sitting in the cold for a long time would kill you. Like I said, the blob in you won’t save your life, it’ll just try to increase your odds. You may get resistance in the end but it won’t carry you. No crutches.

The point would be to get rid of exclusively bad mutations and design all of the mutations so that you could live with them, and that they all serve a role. Everything should be useful somehow…but again, no carrying.

I don’t know enough about coding to begin speculating how this would be implemented.

Well, theoretically it’s really interesting indeed, sadly I think it would be abused a lot indeed, after reading the replies.

What about having a 50/50 chance for it to mutate into something good, and if not, it mutates in the least thing you’d need in the moment, like instead of fur to have some hypptethicutation where the player is even more intolerant to cold? It doesn’t make sense at all, and it has a very big chance of finishing off a wounded player, but somehow it sounds quite fun in my head. I know it’s a bad idea, but just throwing it out there.

Hey, in something completely different:

The blob is a sentient being that wants to kill you basically. And it evolves and mutates. What about making it mutate to resist whatever you are fighting it with? If you go too much melee, lower the bullet penetration resistance and upper the melee resistance, and if you use too much bullets make their skin better against bullets but lower the melee resistance it had previously gained. It would make players vary more in gameplay, and if it’s done well enough it’d be quite interesting. Too much fire deaths? Make them resist it. Too much times ran over by a car? Make them more resistant to the bump and that way making the car be damaged more, if you kill too many at night, more night zombies appear, etc. Until it evolves so much that they are super zombies. Evolving, dynamic challenge for the player!

I actually rather like this idea. It’s possible to game, sure, but it feels a little more solid than the present way mutations work. I’d maybe throw in the added suggestion to make it an optional addition rather than the main system - if someone is really worried about having to sleep on cold floors while naked to avoid a trait, they could just turn it off, with the “alternative” being the currently implemented system.

Only issue I’d see is that I’m pretty sure the blob doesn’t need you to be alive in order to “prosper”, and it would make more sense to have it keep trying to find ways to kill you (since you plainly require higher maintenance than a zombie) than to keep finding ways to help you survive. That’s pretty minor though, since the lore isn’t particularly coherent sometimes and it’s not like it’s really required to explain the exact in universe mechanics by which mutation occurs.

There’s a good chance that if you die, the blob could also die. It’s probably safer to let you run the show, thus why the blob isn’t slowly poisoning you with intent of adding to the zombie hordes. There’s no reason for them to kill you.

The blob adapts, not conquers. The reasons everyone died is due to circumstances outside of the blob’s control and they just made the best of it. Had shit not hit the fan, the entire world would be infested with blobs and maybe not have much to show for it, and they would have been just fine like that.

I’d say the reason for them to kill you is as I mentioned above - you’re lower maintenance as a zombie. IIRC, the blob continues to change things after death, which is how zombies become hulks and such. I don’t disagree that the cause of everyone dying was not strictly zombie or blob related, but without the PC running around killing everything, it seems likely that it would actually be pretty safe to be a zombie. When you really start looking at it, most of the existing mutations (at least the ones I’d call good ones) are usually aimed at making you more like a zombie - they make you less sensitive to the apocalyptic environment in some way.

All that said, the reason the system you suggest is good in my opinion isn’t because I think it fits with the unstated motivation of an extra terrestrial being, I think it’s just an interesting gameplay change. Not only is it fairly irrelevant, but the lore is open to interpretation on these kinds of things the last time I looked, and there’s no canon thing saying either way of looking at it is right, or that would interfere with the suggestion itself.