How does Antidote relate to science?

We’ve had a lot of people ask how Antidote maps to science. It’s a big topic , but I thought I’d run through an example here on the blog. Our immune system is really, really cool, and full of unknowns. (it is cutting edge science!) That said, we know that our actual immune system is fully automated. There is no strategic thinking or mind behind it, instead it’s a series of chemical reactions that cause cells to specialize differently over the course of a wound/infection. Of course, a fully automated game would be pretty boring…! So with Antidote we make compromises between science and game play.

The stem cell in Antidote is like a “cluster” of stem cells. It’s roughly (this is the last time I’ll say roughly – all of this is roughly) based on the hematopoietic stem cell, which is produced in our bone marrow. Stem cells are constantly dividing, and each time they divide they create two new cells, one of which is normally a stem cell (so you don’t run out!). When you place cell walls in Antidote, this represents how blood is drawn toward certain places like wounds, parasites and infections. This is quite a shaky bit of science, where we honored game play over science – the microscope itself is providing the ability to place cell walls freely.

After you places cell walls, it appears that you can “upgrade” using sugar, but the right word for it is “differentiate”. Cells use energy to differentiate in response to different chemicals nearby – for example, if a toxic antigen is in your nose, you’ll get a runny nose from all the dead neutrophils falling out. When you tap a cell in antidote, you differentiate it – the chemicals that trigger differentiation are normally automatic, but once again, in Antidote this is done through the microscope manipulating the cells.

The utterly thrilling thing is that in our bodies, the same cells produce the chemicals as a byproduct of their function, regulating the next wave of the bodies defense! We mimic this through cell interaction – taking one random example, the basophil regulates our response to allergens. So when it’s next to an eater, the eater will ignore any harmless allergens and focus on true threats. In reality, basophils also regulate the response to allergens.

So, let’s examine what really happens in your body…

1. You slip in the garden and stick a rusty fork into your foot (;_; ow…)
2. Your insides, in response to being “no longer fully inside” immediately demand some of your cells to become lymphocytes, which prevents quite a bit of the bad stuff getting in and the good stuff getting out
3. There was Clostridium tetani, on the rusty fork, and now there are billions of them in your foot too. Nearby macrophages detect the “antigen” (kind of like the bacteria’s signature top hat) and start to slowly eat some of them.
4. As macrophages digest they emit chemicals – one that says “GET HERE” and one that looks exactly like the Clostridium hat….
5. Meanwhile, the most dangerous bit : tetanus (the toxin that causes tetanus symptoms) is hurting your cells, and they’re screaming for help, and it’s quite sad, and they get all red and swollen. It’s not too serious yet though, the number of Clostridium is fairly small.
6. Nearby B cells scan the Clostridium – or one of the billions of hats lurking around. Thankfully, the B cell recognizes the bacteria (from vaccination jabs) and starts responding
7. The B cell’s response is to start mass producing chemicals that look like a hat on one side… and a hamburger on the other. These chemicals stick onto the bacterial hats, and because the macrophages go WILD for hamburgers, they quickly gobble up tons of bacteria
8. With most of the bacteria dying faster than they reproduce, the message of your M2 macrophages becomes more audible… “Go to sleep” it says, “rest and respire”… and the wound calms down and heals!

Antidote, doesn’t have this goal of healing wounds – instead, the scene is framed as an experiment. Someone (maybe an intern lab assistant? maybe something darker…?) has put bacteria in the stem cell experiment! The bacteria are being drawn to the stem cell for some mysterious reason, and you have to clean up the sample, by defeating all the enemies (they’re waiting just off to the left!). This should be much clearer when we’ve cleaned up the incoming wave indicator. There’s a ton of science fiction at work here, because we need a good game – we’ll be adding more about this story into the game as we progress.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the game. Also, an important disclaimer – I’m not an immunologist, I’m a game designer. While I’ve read, researched, and asked a lot of clever people, it’s possible there are mistakes. If you spot any, just message me and we’ll get it fixed!