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

By Graham Smith on September 23, 2016

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.

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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.”

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