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Cart #thepanspermiaguy1-2 | 2023-02-01 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

Spread life! The universe needs you
But watch out for life-hating spider-droids!

Create seeds from bio samples and shoot them out into the universe. The more seeds you shoot, the more score you'll get, and the more the universe will come alive.

It's not a hospitable place though, the wilderness is not evil yet still dangerous. There are other lifeforms out there too. Some tolerate you just enough to maybe meet some common goal, while others hate your life-spreading mission and will hunt you down as soon as you reveal your position.

Arrows - Movement
O - Ship actions, sampling/showing sample case
X - Run faster/use tool


  • Procedurally generated planets
  • Progress and highscore persists
  • 20-30 minute game sessions
  • Random events
  • Universe comes alive from your hard work

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia (SFW)



  • tweaked early difficulty curve
  • artefacts and aliens show up a little more frequently
  • add more distinguished levels of types of stones and flora, e.g. lava can't show up after a certain score threshold etc.
  • add special case for green planets, they have a lot higher chance of being lush
  • minor token hunt


  • add spider-droid talisman. They can now become peaceful, but it's super involved and hard to accomplish. What you need to do is to put the talisman on a special pillar (distinguished by color) on a droid planet. Then they all will become peaceful until you kill one of them.
  • change how much score is needed for maxed universe life, was 1000 but is now 640.
  • fix ship laser vfx
  • remove spider-droid cheap-shot when trapping them
  • add skulls and ribs to martian planet
  • add restriction so droid planets can't happen two sectors in a row
  • token hunt galore
P#123311 2022-12-30 13:31 ( Edited 2023-02-01 10:44)

I have no idea what is going on in this game!

P#123325 2022-12-30 20:27

Hi @dredds thanks for trying it out! is there anything in particular you're wondering about?

P#123329 2022-12-30 20:55

Okay, here's what I've figured out so far:

  • On planets with life to collect, you can collect bio samples.
  • On planets with non-polluted water you can also collect water samples
  • You can put water samples in your engines to use as fuel
  • You can combine any 4 samples, bio or water, and shoot a seed.
  • Water in the seed gives you +1 to your score, bio samples +2, special samples give up to +12
  • If there's a flying saucer around the planet, have water on hand before you go down if you can.
  • If there's a spiky ship around the planet, don't take any tools because you're going to need to be live bait for their prey. (They'll also shoot the hostile spider droid aliens.)
  • You can get repair parts and tools on the planets sometimes
  • When the hostile "stop spreading life" spider-droids show up they'll hunt you down on the planet and kill you, or they'll damage your ship depending on where you are. It's best to just get back to the ship and jump as soon as you can when they show up
  • If it moves it will kill you if you touch it. Even if it looks like a little butterfly. It's not a butterfly, it's a death hawk, or something.
  • Don't put down the trap if you don't have anything to trap. You can't pick it back up until it goes off.

What I don't know:

  • Aside from score, does the various seed values do anything? What's with the grayed out +0 at the end of your last sample?
  • What the "repeller" does. It seems you can put it down on the planet, I assume it move the hostile spider-droids away from you, but I'm not sure about that. However, the one time I survived I dropped the repeller, and it ran into a red alien who shot it and told me "good job".
  • When do the repair parts show up?
  • Why would you ever go back into hypersleep?

Here's what I don't know, but suspect

  • Shooting off a sample brings the hostile spider-droids, so it's best to hold off on that as long as you can before jumping unless you're ready to take them on.
  • Storage is a good solution for strategically prepping and firing off seeds when it will impact you the least.
  • It seems that sometimes the hostile spider-droids follow you from planet to planet, but stop when you hyper jump.
  • I suspect the seeds you drop only effect the system you're in. When you hyper jump you're starting over. So you can setup later planets to be more lush, but you'll be fighting the hostile spider-droids sooner, or you can play it safe, but then maybe there's something you're missing out on if you get the score high enough in a given system?

That's as far as I've gotten so far. This game is great, but it could really use a manual.

P#123335 2022-12-30 23:24 ( Edited 2022-12-31 15:53)

Had an interesting game. At an early planet I ran across the green aliens in the flying saucers who demanded I give them water. I didn't have any so I went up to my ship to make some, made some, but they shot at me and damaged my seed shooter. I went down, traded the water, got the green stuff from them, and they stopped shooting at me, but I thought that I couldn't shoot my seeds so I went planet to planet looking for a repair part. In the process I found the drill which I discovered was basically free water. Very cool. But I never found a repair part. But apparently that doesn't matter because I could still shoot off seeds, it just failed sometimes.

So I was going around, having a good time, got a score just over 100, found a the trap, decided to try to figure it out, so I put it down, realized there was nothing to trap on this planet, went to pick it up... game over.

Got it, be more judicious with the trap.

P#123336 2022-12-31 00:06

@joealarson omg what a godlike write-up! Superthanks!

First off, hi and thanks for playing! I thought I do a "soft launch" on the BBS while I prepare the itch page, just to sort out any kinks, and also find out where people need guidance (so I only put the most needed info on the front page.) You helped me tremendously with this task!

You got the things right that you figured out.

Here's the answers to the things you wondered about:

  • The greyed out at the last seed score is your diversity bonus. You get it if the seed has 4 different colors.
  • The deterrer you understood correctly, it scares away anything that is hunting you.
  • Spare parts come randomly, the same places as other tools (crash sites, ruins)
  • Hyperjump gets you away from any ship that is following you.
  • The cryo sleep has one purpose when playing (except a flavourful starting point): If you ever find yourself afloat the universe, without water, without hope, it's up to you to pull the plug.
  • When the ship is attacked and things start to break, you can still continue to fly and shoot seeds, it just gets harder (cost 2 fuel, reboots when trying to get away from hostile ships, water converter broken etc.)

I suspect the seeds you drop only effect the system you're in. When you hyper jump you're starting over. So you can setup later planets to be more lush, but you'll be fighting the hostile spider-droids sooner, or you can play it safe, but then maybe there's something you're missing out on if you get the score high enough in a given system?

...this is actually a really good idea for the design, I'm jotting that down. How it works though is the seeds affect all coming planets in the universe, it's a sliding scale with some randomness sprinkled on top. When you start out it's mostly barren planets, with no life. When you have spread a lot of life you should probably always see a lot of flowers and a lot of animals on each planet.

Fun tidbit for you:
I never actually tried running a spider droid into the hunter, but I'm glad it works :D

P#123350 2022-12-31 10:55

Knowing what I know now, I had a game run to 300 points before I finally died to... something stupid, I don't remember. But I think I "get" the game now, and that's kind of a problem. I've got a lot of notes here, so bear with me.

What got me here

So in my 300 run I got the trap and the drill, so I was never out of water and was able to tackle most hostile lifeforms and even the spider-droids myself (Hey, cool bonus sample when you do that). But even if you kill the spider droid on the planet, their ship still fires on you. So unless there's some way to stop them from shooting up your ship there's really no benefit to calling them any earlier than right before a hyperjump, because you always end up with at least 1 damaged system and repair parts are too sparse. (Spent the entire game with the up elevator broken, and it was the most annoying thing. Though it did give my ship a little character.)

So I don't really like the idea of seeds only benefiting the system you're in because if the spider droids are going to follow you through the whole system shooting you up because you'll still never be able to land.

Repelling the invaders

...Unless you can somehow upgrade your ship with offensive and/or defensive capabilities. The first one that comes to mind would be shields that will absorb a hit, but cost you engine water. But there could also be evasive engines (slowly but constantly burn engine water to keep you away from their attacks), or lasers or torpedo weapons that could neutralize the attacker. Maybe turn shooting back or dodging into a sort of mini game? Or make firing the weapons cost different things. Like water powers the lasers, and bio samples power the torpedoes, maybe.

Thinking about it more, maybe no on the offensive ship weapons. Just add shields or evasive engines. That's the easiest one to implement and it adds a cost to calling the spider droids early but makes it possible to start harvesting them to boost your score, you just need to top up the water faster.

Spreading out biodiversity

As my score went up, I unlocked trees, but was kinda disappointed they were also only worth 2, same as the mushrooms. It's a whole fricking tree I was cutting down! Newly unlocked samples should be worth more IMHO, and there should be a lot more of them. Or take the existing ones and spread them out more. I was also using my trap more often (I have bird PTSD from and earlier run and didn't even try to see if traps would work on them) and those give a good bonus. But I guess I wanted more bonus for more diversity. Even if you just make trees worth 5, and then spread out the existing bio samples so they don't show up until you get your score to a certain point. Like at first it's all mushrooms and those breadloaf things (no idea what they were supposed to be). Then when your score is up to 200 you start seeing the things with the eyes and the fruited bushes and maybe they're worth 3 points. Then at 400 trees worth 5 points and roaming monsters show up.

This creates the possibility of score spread. As your score goes up, it goes up faster, but this will make higher scores more accessible. But it also means there may be some fiddling with when to introduce new levels. So instead of mushrooms until 200, simple life at 400, and trees at 600, you'd spread it out like basic until 50, simple life at 150, and complex life at 400.

A reason to play

But I didn't feel like I was progressing towards anything. The game needs an overarching goal, some kind of something to drive the search and progression.

Maybe add to the ship an artifact room with 3 artifacts that can only be found at certain score levels. With each one you find you get a little flavor text that once complete tells the story of a precursor race that also seeded the galaxy but lost their way and (mega twist) became the spider droids. Then once you have all the artifacts you get a new tool that you can use to engage with a spider droid on the surface to unlock them from their exo suits to return the precursor race to the galaxy. At that point you can have a win condition and end the game or let people keep playing, but they never get attacked by spider droids and can run up as high a score as they like. Personally I'd say just let them win.

The way this would work, I would think, is bump up the chances of a surface anomaly a bit, and if they have have less than the number of artifacts they could find at that score level, then make a 50% chance that it's an artifact. Maybe the score levels are at 100, 300, and 500. So if you're score is at 300, but have 0 or 1 artifacts, then there's a chance of an artifact, but if you're at 2 artifacts, then there's no chance it will show up until you score goes up and it's a normal surface anomaly object. It could be handled cleverly with tables or just 3 "if" statements like "if ((score < 300) && (numartifactsfound < 2)) then chanceofArtifact = true" or something. Then roll what you're going to get with or without the chance of an artifact in the possibility table.

These numbers would need to be balanced with the score creep mentioned above, keeping in mind that you don't want to end the game before they've seen everything the game has to offer. I like like biodiverity with score bumps happening at 50, 150, and 400, and artifacts showing up at 100, 300, and 500 because even at 500 you're not assured you'll find an artifact, so players will be playing in max bio diversity for a while. But maybe it can be artifact limits at 50, 200, and 500 so that players can find one early, find another fairly quickly, but have to really grind for the last one.

Also, the way the story could be presented could either be in snippets either presented in order or even backwards if you want to be clever, or have the whole story, but you only get the text in the bottom left 1/3, bottom right 1/3, and then top 1/3, so you're getting words cut off and not even getting full sentences until you put it all together. Let me know if this appeals to you and if you want help writing some flavor text. I'm kinda intrigued by this idea myself and would love to see it happen.

A little something for the beginning

I'd also like it if, like, in the first system there was a guaranteed spare part drop, just to insure that you start the game with a backup and to teach new players that they can search for stuff and carry them.

Manual Notes

I know I'm advocating adding a lot to this game and I don't know how much more room you have to add stuff. But as it is I feel like the way you've presented the game, giving as little information as possible, is really the only thing driving engagement in the game. Which that means once you figure the game out there's nothing left to keep playing for. (I might be doing people a disservice here by writing this all down, in that case.)

That said, as far as minimum information given, I'd love for it to be more clear about movement at least. Something like the manual for porklike that introduces the story, tells how to move, and in this case, run, pick up tools, use them, and not be able to run while carrying them, how to drop them off, how to load up the seed launcher, and maybe a word about the variety bonus, and then a word about things to explore and possible encounters, and let them figure it out.

You've made a good game

I don't know why I'm so invested in this game. Maybe it's because it reminds me (pleasantly) of Star Control 2, but in a boiled down fashion. But this game really scratches an itch for me. Well, it did for a while. And I think it still could.

P#123357 2022-12-31 15:26 ( Edited 2022-12-31 15:50)

@joealarson I'm very humbled someone cared enough about my game to write all this, and thanks for the kind words!

I'm currently at 8106 tokens / 99.73% compressed. I left a bit of headroom for fixes, but also for small additions so your suggestions are wholeheartedly welcome!

The score range is set to

right now. This was set while I developed and played the game so I knew it might be off, and seeing your suggestions on score levels I now know I might need to change it. Changing this might make it more clear that there is a speed-up in score already in place.

I'll definitely up the possibilities of ruins and crash sites.

The artefact idea would be a great way to keep players engaged in a more focused manner, to finish the game. I'm not writing it off, but I have a rule for when I'm developing my games and that is that I, myself need to really like to repeatedly play through the game. And if there was a certain thing to complete - I would become bored with it fairly quickly. (Same reason planets are procgen, I like just going down to a planet and see what it looks like.) It might not be a perfect fit for a highscore game, but you're spreading life and one of the awards is seeing the universe go from almost barren to bustling (and then be annoyed with how crowded it becomes.) That said, helping the spider droids was a thing in the design phase, but it was sliced out due to lack of tokens.

I've started working on a manual, as you suggested. I'm convinced it's needed, but should be short and sweet with minimal tell.

breadloaf things? Do you mean these? They are my attempt at skulls and ribs (like in a canyon) :)))))))

P#123360 2022-12-31 17:03

Oh, those are skulls and ribs! I thought the one was a slug-like creature, I ad no idea what the other was. That makes sense now.

That kinda plays into the "There was once life here, and we're just revitalizing it" aspect, and not just that we're creating life out of nothing. But I may be overthinking things (I tend to do that).

So what happens when you get to 1000? I may have to find out. That would still work with the point spread I suggested. At 500 you can end the game, but there's no reason for you to do that, so you can keep going to 1000. Multiple endings. Maybe getting to 1000 without saving the Spider droids results in a more hostile galaxy, where as saving the spider droids results in a more benign universe with a wised overseer.

I played with the idea of drawing the manual art for you, but if you've got some ideas how you'd like this to look, I can't wait to see what you come up with.

P#123366 2022-12-31 18:15

This little game is off to a great start; I hope you continue working on it. Thanks for sharing!

P#123372 2022-12-31 19:05 ( Edited 2022-12-31 19:05)

Aha this is the kind of game I enjoy a lot! 👌
A lot of things are even quite intuitive. One 'alien event' I faced "Help us hunt or.." but how? (a creature thing appeared and decided to see if 'hunt' meant 'collide' with the animal but I was very wrong (deceased). What was the right move then?

P#123387 2022-12-31 22:18

@Heracleum Bring the fight to them.

P#123396 2023-01-01 00:18

@binarycrusader Thanks for playing!

@Heracleum Thanks! I'm happy you like it!

@joealarson I'm interested in what you think about this: how many seeds do you expect it to take for a "complete play-through"?

P#123425 2023-01-01 10:53

@ironchestgames That's an interesting question, because if the number of seeds matters, then with a drill and a sufficiently hospitable planet you can load up and fire off 2 water filled seeds at every hyperspace jump, but you won't be getting very good points with each one. I like how in the current system higher scoring seeds take a little bit of luck, a little cleverness, and sometimes a little risk.

I take back what I said about needing more repair parts. They show up in wrecks sometimes and now that I'm better at the game I'm having to leave them behind because I rarely get my ship damaged. Well, except for this last time. I wanted to squeeze out as many seeds as I could, so I dumped everything I had into them, diverse or not, and the spider droids showed up while I was finishing. They got a pot shot off just as I jumped, and it happened to be at my water converter. And of course I accidently left the drill I found a few planets back, so all I had were plant and even animal samples to pick up, but the engine won't take blood, and so after a few jumps and some bad luck, I was stranded without any fuel. I fired off whatever seeds I could to boost my score, and went down to the planet to see if I could lure the spider droid into my trap so I could at least have that victory. But my aim was off. It ran around the trap, and that was the end of that game at 289 points.

But, really, that was on me.

On thing I might recommend, though, is the first planet should always have something to pick up for first time players, even if it's just a single clean water patch. I think new players need that interaction if only for learning how the game works.

P#123433 2023-01-01 15:51

@joealarson I added a kind of end-game "quest" in 1.1. It's super hard to do though as it takes either several pieces of equipment, or a real good run-n-dodger. Thanks for all the suggestions!

P#123453 2023-01-01 21:55

I found something new...

I found the talisman, but no idea what to do with it yet. I summoned the spider droids, went down to the planet, put down the talisman down and tried to use it like the trap, and they ignored it and killed me. Guess I won't do that again.

Also, the trap is killing me every time I use it twice for some reason. It's ended 2 of my runs. I put down the trap, get a monster to trip it, pick up the trap, use it on a different planet, and as soon as I put it down, I die. Bug?

P#123583 2023-01-03 05:15

The Talisman needs to be put on a special pillar on the droid planet. It's easily distinguishable since it's another color. It can be a bit hard to get there though... 😈

I'll look into the potential bug, thanks for the report!

P#123602 2023-01-03 16:39 ( Edited 2023-01-03 16:40)

@joealarson I added a manual on GitHub https://github.com/ironchestgames/pico-8-carts/wiki/The-Panspermia-Guy

I took a lot of inspiration from your posts above, many thanks for the write-ups again!

P#123654 2023-01-04 17:03 ( Edited 2023-01-04 17:03)

@ironchestgames I love the idea of the end plan, but I am having the devils time making it work. I've gotten as far as getting to the spider planet with the repeller, repelling them, trying to get back onto my ship to go get the tallisman... and somehow getting too close to the radius of death.

At this point the only thing ending my runs are monsters on the planets. Everything else can be mitigated, but monsters are one hit kills. I wonder if there couldn't be something done about this, but I don't know what. I'd like if there was some way to... I don't know, not die. Maybe and emergency rescue system on your lander activates and it takes you back to the ship and hyperjumps, but you lose your inventory (samples and gear).

But maybe in that case there'd be less chance of the game ever ending.

P#123671 2023-01-04 19:59

@joealarson I know it might be a tad bit difficult to get the talisman in place, but I think the reward is so good (especially for highscore) that I think it's aligned. Still, if you have more ideas I gladly hear 'em out!

P#123884 2023-01-07 14:12

Whoa, this is cool. The sound of the seed cannon is chef's kiss

P#125190 2023-02-02 17:13

thanks @quadrupleplex ! I'm glad you enjoy

P#125194 2023-02-02 18:02

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