The Game Developer's Journal: Biology 102: Microscopic Organisms

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Biology 102: Microscopic Organisms

If you're like me, then you actually enjoyed Biology in high school. No? Let me make it interesting.

I had to really dissect some concepts to understand them to a point where I was satisfied. Hey, speaking of dissecting, I didn't mind cutting open picked animals at all! I enjoyed it. 

Have you ever noticed how every complicated scientific word that has an "f" sound uses the letters "ph" instead? Phosphorus, phosphorescent, phloem, physics, flagellum--except that one.

What does this have to do with today's amazing post? Nothing, really. Well, actually...

These grass-colored animals are called euglena. Do you see see the black "hair" protruding from the back end? That's a flagellum, in case you weren't aware.

Amoebas and euglenas are both itty-bitty creatures, so small that you can't see them without some kind of aid (such as a miscroscope). I want to share some of the other critters that appear in "The Amoba of Light." Sometimes they can be helpful to Amoenu on his journeys, but usually they're more of a hazard.

Waterbear (Water and Bear)

Definitely an interesting looking creature. Real waterbears can withstand crazy environmental pressures, and they can be found pretty much everywhere. Even on specs of dust floating thousands of feet above the ground. Yeah. 

Their super power is the "ability to enter a dehydrated state that closely resembles death," according to "When encoutering environmental stresses, a tardigrade [in our case, a waterbear] curls up into a dry, lifeless ball...reducing its metabolic activity to as low as .01 percent of normal levels." 

In "The Amoeba of Light," this strange creature will appear docile and slow, but it may be that the amoeba is its prey...that means trouble for you know who.

Vorticella (Vor - tuh - SELL - uh)



Vorticella possess a ring of cilia (little hair-like projections) that surround the opening of the structure that looks like it should be the head. As the cilia beat, microorganisms are swept into its mouth. Microorganisms such as amoebas.  But once again, this is a "we'll see," as I'm not sure if I want these creatures to be able to ingest Amoenu and Wisenchyme.

Paramecium (Pair - uh - ME - see - um)


In my high-school biology textbook, the author related the paramecium's shape to that of a slipper. I was thinking "shoe," but everyone's entitled to their own opinion. 

You'll notice my drawing isn't much different from the real thing. When I designed the creatures, I tended to give anthropomorphic features to those that possessed parts similar to common animals. For example, I saw a "head" and "feet" on the waterbear, so I edited its form a bit to make it resemble something you may see in the wild. It has an identifiable form, in other words. However, with odd looking creatures like the paramecium, I left the body shapes as they were.

The paramecium is somehow a hazard to our heroes, despite the size of its bottle-neck esophagus--called a "gullet." Cilia line this gullet to sweep in food, just like on the vorticella. A string of cilia also outline the body to allow for movement.

Euglena (You - GLEE - nuh)


What goes around comes around, and we're back to the euglena once again. These little guys are no harm at all. Real-life euglenas are blind; however, they do possess a red dot called an eyespot that can detect light. Because they are photosynthetic animals (which is really cool if you think about it) they want to move towards any source of light. 

That flagellum thing that we learned about earlier is for moving around. It rotates rapidly like a speedboat propeller to push the euglena forward.

For the game, I gave this creature two red eyes instead of an eyespot. A euglena appears in one of the cut-scene storyboards that I've created.

Look at's so cuuuute!

And there's your science lesson for today. That wasn't hard at all. 

These four microorganisms (as well as others that I didn't mention) provide a challenging dynamic to the game. Have you played Super Mario Bros.? What do the goombas and koopas do in the game? They follow an action pattern that is quickly learned, such as walking back and forth across a platform. Not so with my critters. I want to make it so the paramecium, waterbear, vorticella, etc. go about their normal life activities as if they were really alive, reacting to their environments as they do so.

It'll be like they're living in their world, just going about their daily physiological activities. Therefore the creatures won't as if the whole world revolves around the main character, but will act defensively, and to meet their own personal needs. One more point for realism.

It will be exciting to see how this pans out. You know something even cooler? I won't necessarily know how these creatures will always respond, because I'm not programming each individual action. They instead react to a set of rules and the outcomes may be unexpected. 

(1) "How Does the Tiny Waterbear Survive in Outer Space?" By Joseph Stromberg. Published 9/11/12. (C)

First euglena image by Josef Reischig. Under CC Attribution-Share Alike Unported 3.0 License. All rights reserved, and I don't own it.

Waterbear image by Darron Birgenheier. Under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. All rights reserved, I don't own it.,_California_-_Stacked_Macro_10x.jpg

Paramecium image by Barfooz. Under CC Attribution-Share Alike Unported 3.0. All rights reserved, and I don't own it.

Second euglena image by Julian J. on

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