Watch An Hour Of Don’t Starve Devs Oxygen Not Included

Oxygen Not Included [Steam page] is smooshing together two of my favourite things: colony management simulation, and games by Klei Entertainment, the makers of Invisible, Inc. It appears to be a scifi Dungeon Keeper, or a cutesy Dwarf Fortress, or an underground RimWorld, at least as far as I can tell from the hour-long game stream embedded below.

This is from September 7th, but I only just noticed it now when YouTube recommended it to me when I clicked back to the homepage after watching many hours of a Norway livestream.

If you haven’t played Dungeon Keeper, Dwarf Fortress or RimWorld, what “colony management simulation” means is that you have a group of people (clones, here) in a barren or wild environment (an underground cavern, in this instance) and you must assign them tasks, like “dig over here” and “build a bed there”. The people then perform your requested tasks – or not, depending on how they’re feeling, which is of course based on things like whether you remembered to build them a bed or whether they’ve been sleeping on the floor of a dirty cavern for the past week.

In Oxygen Not Included’s case, it’s trying to balance a intuitive appearance with a deep core of simulation. The former is enabled via Klei’s clean, 2D artwork, and the ability to mouse over everything for information about what you’re looking at. There are also some clear-looking menus; for example, the screen through which you assign worker priority’s looks more like Dwarf Fortress’ third-party application Dwarf Therapist than it does Dwarf Fortress itself. Thank goodness.

On the simulation side, the game includes things like each of your colonists burning calories at a particular rate, determined by their current activity, personal metabolism, and replenished by the varied kinds of food you can make available to them. Everything seems to have that scientific basis at its heart, even if there’s fictional elements like rocks that release oxygen underground. Mouse over the water for example and the popup dialog lets you know about its freezing point, and if your caverns become cold for some reason the water will freeze as appropriate.

If that sounds like nerdy detail – and it does, and it is – then be comforted that the point of such detail in games like this is that it leads to emergent scenarios, as the consequences of your actions (or inaction, most often) ripple throughout the world, force hard decisions on your part, and produce funny, frantic anecdotes.

The full stream is worth watching if you can’t wait to know more, but Klei are aiming to enter early access “in the next few months.”


  1. NetharSpinos says:

    Another example of sci-fi Dungeon Keeper would be Startopia. Anyone remember that?

    • njury says:

      Fantastic game. I wasn’t very good at it though.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      As someone who missed its original release, I was very impressed when I grabbed it on Steam and it seems to have aged fantastically. Apart from the odd bout of UI-datedness, it could easily be mistaken for a modern indie game. Unfortunately, it gets unstable on my machine shortly after the second deck opens (or it did when I last tried it, which turns out to be nearly three years ago).

    • adwodon says:

      Yup, loved it when it came out. Hoping more games like that, Theme Hospital and the Impressions Games start popping up.

  2. ran93r says:

    This has been on my wishlist since they announced it, I’m not a massive fan of the genre (although I have been eyeing Rimworld) but this is Klei and they can take my money any day of the week.

  3. godunow says:

    Any news of possible release date ?

  4. sabrage says:

    I really don’t seem to be capable of getting excited about anything with a side-on view. Give me something non-grid, non-2D to manage, please.

    • MisterFurious says:

      I’m sure they’ll redesign the entire game just to please you.

  5. Babymech says:

    “It appears to be a scifi Dungeon Keeper, or a cutesy Dwarf Fortress, or an underground RimWorld,” or a dry Silent Hunter, or an upside down No Man’s Sky, or the world Earthworm Jim escaped from.

    • rabbit says:

      except that but DF, DK and rimworld are all pretty comparable.

  6. DikiyBraz says:

    Looks like an old game – Diggles:The Myth of Fenris.

    • Kollega says:

      Ah, Diggles: The Myth of Fenris… spend quite a lot of my childhood playing it, but never actually got farther than the second world, because of the game being so slow-paced, and getting sidetracked with developing my colony instead of digging towards the center of Midgard. Still love it, and maybe will even finish it someday.

  7. TeePee says:

    Welp, you had me at Klei, who have pretty much earned an insta-purchase from me based on everything they’ve done so far.

    The fact that it all-but-namedrops three games I think are brilliant (even if I’m terribad at them) has pretty much got me throwing money at my monitor whilst salivating uncontrollably.

  8. Frings says:

    That was an amazing dev stream as far as dev streams go. I really wish some devs out there took notes…

    The game looks pretty nice, too. Might even get it in Early Access, since it IS Klei after all.

    (Also, that sound design! Love it.)

  9. crowleyhammer says:

    I dont know anything about this game other than it started its life as a free to play game, All of their games did!

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      Phasma Felis says:

      Does that mean there’s an early free-to-play version out there that I can…play…freely?