Please note: This will NOT require the removal of anything in the game right now though some things may be removed since this duplicates their functionality, but rather slots out the underlying system with something that exposes a bit more of the lore to the players, provides some dynamic outcomes and new opportunities, and involves interesting repercussions for reckless decision making (not even bad repercussions, just interesting ones!)
The idea is simple, at it’s core.
Players get a new stat - “Infection Level”, or something similar. This represents the amount of sub-prime-slime in their system. It can vary from 0%-100%. They also get an “Infection Activity Level” stat, which is a straight number, and falls off over time.
This stat is invisible to the player (although we will add items that allow them to check on it, scanners of various sorts) but they can get a general idea of their infection level from various changes the character will undergo as it rises and falls.
If the players infection level is below 30% (so long as it is above 0), it will slowly climb over time. If it is above 30% it will slowly fall. Things like eating tainted products and taking mutagen or purifier or certain enemy actions will lead to an immediate and direct spike in slime levels. Other activities, like teleporting and fungal infections, will cause it to drop. A high activity level will increase the rate at which infection increases, but will not increase it above the cap. Normal environmental hazards, such as damage, cold, etc. (especially radiation) can raise the activity level separately from the slime level as it responds to try to keep you alive.
Activity level falls off quite rapidly but at a constant rate, eventually returning to zero.
Mutagens no longer have a guarantee of mutating. Instead, they raise the players infection level and then trigger an “activity spike” by adding a big pile of numbers to the Infection Activity Level stat (things like radiation will also raise this stat). They might also add temporary inclinations towards certain mutation branches, depending on the type of mutagen. If you have recently taken an Alpha Mutation Serum, you’ll get a large spike in Infection Level, a large spike in Activity Level
The chance of mutating depends on the activity level and the player’s total slime levels, as well as any “inclination” effects they have on them at the time.
Taking several mutagens in a row will strengthen both your chance of getting mutations in that line and your chance of getting mutations overall, but it means you’ll have what may be several hours or even a day’s worth of mutation opportunities.
At higher slime levels, which take even longer to fall off than effects and activity level, you might mutate randomly at regular intervals (the unstable genetics mutation will be removed, since the effect is the same).
Whenever you mutate, your activity level will drop sharply.
Taking Purifier will be like taking any other mutagen, except that it gives a strong inclination to mutate back to your original state rather than anything else. It will still increase your infection and activity levels, though, so it’s not 100% risk-free.
It means that mutation/purifier swapping will be far less valid as a tactic, or at least it will have to happen over several days in-game. Mutations will no longer happen “instantly” upon chugging mutagen, but you will receive mutations (more or less depending on your current slime levels) over a certain period of time afterwards. You may end up receiving none at all, especially if you are suffering from a fungal infection or you teleport a lot during the time period, or you may receive a lot if you’ve been particularly reckless with increasing your infection level.
What are the actual result of changes in infection level?
Infection Activity Level is almost solely for chances of mutating, as are inclinations, but the Infection Level itself will also introduce other mechanics.
NPC Interactions - At high slime levels, you will begin suffering severe morale penalties when spending too long around uninfected beings, but gain morale bonuses for killing them. You will maintain control over your character, but gain various temporary effects that make him less pleasant to deal with. (aggressive subvocalizations, nervous tics, etc.) Certain aspects of your appearance may change - at high levels, your character might be described as having “an oily sheen to their eyes and a greenish tint to your skin”, which is not a mutation but simply a result of the elevated slime levels in your body.
Increase Netherum Susceptibility - Certain zombie special attacks that yet-to-be-introduced zombies may use will be significantly more effective against you at high levels, or completely ineffective if you have a 0% infection level. Expect Necromancers and Masters to be able to do interesting things to you.
Passive Healing - At very high levels, you will heal quickly based on your Infection Activity Level. Chugging mutagen is actually a risky (but effective) way to gain very rapid short term healing.
The Cliff - At 100% infection level, certain things change. For one, your 30% normalization rate is set to 100%, permanently. Zombies now see you as friendly, unless you initiate hostilities. Police bots no longer consider your actions to be crimes, since they no longer consider you to be human. If your infection level drops below 50%, you simply die. This is known as “going over the cliff” - you have officially become a living zombie and joined the Netherum. You can no longer interact with NPCs in ways other than combat, and most will flee from you or attack you on site. There may be a way to undo this, a solution deep in a rare lab or in the densest of the fungal fields… but for the most part, once you’ve reached this point you’ve chosen teams and you’re in it for the long haul.