Foldit players start out as soloists. As the name implies, soloists play on their own, and can only work on their own solutions.
Players can also join a group, which allows them to play as "evolvers". Members of a group can share their solutions with each, with a goal of improving them. (Evolver play was called "improver" in earlier versions of Foldit.)
Evolvers have a separate set of Foldit rankings.
Evolver play has certain restrictions. A player must improve a shared solution by two points before registering on the evolver scoreboards. While 2 points is only a gain of 0.025% on an 8000-point puzzle, it can be hard to achieve toward the end of a puzzle. Fortunately, only whole points count, so a solution shared at 9173.927 points requires only 1.073 to evolve to 9175.
Another restriction on evolver play involves when a player joins a group. Players can't evolve solutions to puzzles that were open when they joined a group. Only puzzles that open after a player joins a group are available to evolve.
Foldit also forbids players from using evolver solutions in their solos. Under "Gameplay Guidelines", the Foldit Community rules state:
- Any method of copying data from other players or external sources in order to increase your solo score is cheating. If you'd like to collaborate or expand upon another person's work, you must do so as an evolver.
The gameplay guidelines do include some exceptions to this rule:
- [Y]ou may copy or attempt to reproduce secondary structures. In addition, you may copy sequences inside a design puzzle.
But copying the overall shape of a protein is forbidden:
- Copying tertiary and/or quaternary structures from other players or third parties is forbidden.
Early description of evolver playEdit
(This section has a lot of historical references, but it's still of interest.)
As of 6/1/2011, evolving is only available for teams. The Foldit developers have indicated that they hope that a small group of people can take a unique solution (a good soloist score) and with interaction, bring that score to a higher point than by one person's efforts.
As an example, in puzzle 420, although Team AD's highest soloist was only in 11th place, the team as a whole came in second, due to the work of its many evolvers. The record for pushing a solo to evolver rank one is currently held by GargleBlasters on puzzle 803... bobandpenny was able to take frood's rank 33 solution to an evolver win!
The ideal way to approach evolving is from this perspective. This approach serves the science and the developers needs.
In mid-game, team evolvers can help a soloist to find the best manual rebuild area or a high yielding script to improve their solo.
When the software allows, as a puzzle nears the time limit, many soloists and teams will "walk" their proteins (this was more common when the software acted differently than it does now). This involves local wiggles which will stiffen a protein to the point where it will only yield fractional gains. At this stage, soloists and teams may be in a tight race for fractional increases to finish in the top slots.
Until the recent implementation of the two point evolver credit, it has been easy for any team (since the inception of Foldit) to post an evolved solution as close to the next point as possible, for many team members to use that to get on the evolver board. After suggestions from the community, the developers have indicated that the current two point increment may be raised to a higher point level at some time in the future.
A useful evolving technique, even at the last stage of the game, is to try for the "hail mary" - one last rebuild, one last unusual or older script, one last chance to boost that solution to a substantially higher score.
Highly placed teams often upload their high solos and evolved solutions as quickly as possible, to allow the other team members to work on them efficiently. It's not unusual to have two or three different solo solutions being evolved at any given time for the same team.
Ideal teamwork in late game usually has some team members looking for the last score jump, while others are using all of the walking/manual end game techniques possible.