Oxygen Not Included drifts onto Early Access May 18th

Klei are the developers of Invisible, Inc., which is the best turn-based game since Chess. It stands to reason, then, that I’m always going to be interested in their releases, and Oxygen Not Included [official site] has had my interest since I first heard about it. An alpha has been sold for a while but the space colony management sim is moving to the next phase of its release, entering Early Access, on May 18th. The best way to learn about Oxygen Not Included is to look at Brendan’s Premature Evaluation article, which contains very little oxygen but large quantities of piss.

The game will be in Early Access “well into 2018”, say Klei, with updates aplenty along the way. For example, the first major alpha update, Thermal Upgrade, added “new items, advanced temperature systems, Duplicant customization and a new icy biome to exploit and explore”. You can see in the video below.

Though the perspective is different and the graphics have a resemblance to Klei’s own Don’t Starve rather than @scii, there are some similarities to the complex simming of Dwarf Fortress. There’s also a similarity in the chain reaction of disasters that can unfold when production, storage and life management collide in spectacular fashion. Spectacular pissy fashion. Here’s the culmination of Brendan’s dysfunctional sewage system.

“All these crises culminated and Yellow Water soon descended into absolute piss carnage. Stress levels among the colonists sky-rocketed and a man called Grub began to vomit from the anxiety of living in such a stinking yellow hell. Snores O’Duggan, a man who slept apart from everyone else because he snored so loudly that it kept the others awake all night, began to destroy batteries throughout the colony in a blind rage, systematically disabling filters, air pumps, the distillery and the mush machine. Even in the dark and quiet nights, piss dripped down from the sleeping quarters, going from level to level before finally getting into the water supply.”

I don’t think I’ve ever built an efficient colony/fortress/station in one of these games. Even my Cities: Skylines urban planning often leads to dismal disaster, such is my ability to waylay even my best laid plans. Failing is a learning experience though, and that makes me the best educated manager in the business. I look forward to further lessons in space suffering.


  1. JarinArenos says:

    My problem with the early builds of ONI is that it’s impossible to reach a stable state. Everything requires limited resources. There’s no game mode where you’re ever more than a blip away from failure. I know that’s some peoples’ cup of tea, but it’s not mine.

    • Qibbish says:

      “Impossible” isn’t good, but “difficult to achieve” would be fine. Don’t Starve sets a good precedent in this regard — if I had only a dozen hours of play under my belt, I might be inclined to think it impossible too.

      I’m not dismissing your warning, however, because 1) I have yet to try ONI (hopefully a mac port will come with the Early Access change), and 2) it makes sense the balance would be off at this point. Balance is one element that will continue to oscillate throughout development and into full release, I imagine.

    • Vilda says:

      Fully sustainable base is achievable since Thermal Update and introduction of geysers. Depending on number of Duplicants you have, of course.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Don’t Starve was interesting to me in that regard. I struggled for a good 10 hours to figure out what was actually happening, and then all of those various parts finally clicked and it all made sense. I’m curious to see how ONI is in that regard. I’m not sure I have a desire to figure out another DF-lite.

    • Kirasath says:

      Don’t have to worry much here then, would not say this is a DF lite even though it has some realistic simulations of temperature and such things it is more reminisent of dungeon keeper in space having sex with terraria.

      Or maybe a more polished and nice craft the world, which is also a game worth at least one try IMO

  3. Dorga says:

    I think these games should define themselves by something other than dwarf fortress. It’s like comparing an antquarium to the the amazon rain forest.
    It’s not that it can’t be interesting, the scale is just on another planet.

    • davethejuggler says:

      To be fair it’s not the devs that are making that comparison.

      Definitely looking forward to trying this but i’m going to let it get way further into development before trying it out. Massive fan of Don’t Starve, but i kinda wished i’d waited for the full release.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Disagree. There are quite a few people who love the idea of Dwarf Fortress but are put off by its willful obtusity and frankly incompetent UI design, and “Dwarf Fortress But” appeals to those people.

      Conversely, for folks who have no problem with Dwarf Fortress’ issues, nothing else will ever measure up.

  4. Hoot says:

    I bought the game on Steam but ended up getting a refund. I’m not sure what I expected, I’ve loved every Klei release (Mark of the Ninja, Invisible, Inc., etc) but Oxygen Not Included just feels like a simpler, less complete RimWorld.

    And as long as I own RimWorld, there isn’t a need for another game of it’s type in my collection. Certainly not when a lot of the mechanics are practically identical, I mean aside from the top-down / side on difference, the characters and the traits and what not are bordering on blatant rip off.

    • Deemedrol says:

      Oxygen Not Included just feels like a simpler, less complete RimWorld.

      I respectfully disagree. I think that Rimworld can be described as “Prison Architect, but more social and random” (and no, I compare it to PA not because of similar visual styles). Rimworld too is a management game that creates stories by throwing random/semi-random events at player, but unlike PA, it’s focused on the social aspect, which means you spend a lot of time caring about your colonists “directly”. Playing PA that way is boring (at least it was for me), it’s more focused on growing as wide and big as possible without really caring about every individual prisoner’s needs. Basically, Rimworld is “micromanagement”, while Prison Architect is “macromanagement”.
      Oxygen Not Included, in the other hand, throws entirely different problems at its players. Those problems are more focused on logic and physics, and – at least currently – duplicants’ needs, moods and personalities play almost no role in the game. I’d compare ONI to Factorio – while maybe it sounds surprising, I believe those games have much more in common than ONI and Rimworld; like in Factorio, in ONI players must solve different problems, those problems create logical “puzzles”, and players solve those puzzles in a way that they deem acceptable. The difference between Factorio and ONI is that in ONI, you have several “artificial motivators” (oxygen, food) that force you to solve problems more or less quickly, while Factorio doesn’t.
      It’s because, unlike Rimworld, Factorio and ONI have almost no random factors – they don’t try to create stories about overcoming problems, they instead motivate players to entertain themselves by creating their own puzzles. I call Factorio and ONI “sandbox puzzle games”.
      And that’s my opinion on why Rimworld and Oxygen Not Included are much, much more different than people think.
      TL;DR: Rimworld creates random problems for players, while in ONI players create their own problems, which indirectly leads to a very different gameplay.

    • PaulV says:

      I think the focus is very different from Rimworld. This game is much more focused on playing around with various materials and processes upon those materials. You can heat and cool pretty much everything until it freezes/condenses/melts/evaporates, which by itself gives a lot of unique gameplay. And they intend to add a sizeable portion of the periodic table to play with. Plus having to actually worry about the air quality opens up a lot of gameplay as well.

      So sure, this game is simplistic where Rimworld isn’t. But it’s also complex where Rimworld isn’t either. Also Rimworld has been in early access for years, so of course it’s more feature-rich right now.

  5. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Invisible Inc. is chess! The whole game is about your cyborg hacker kings avoiding being put in check.

    I love Inc. and Mark of the Ninja but I didn’t get along with Don’t Starve for whatever reason so I am a little apprehensive about getting this. I’ll probably still give it a go eventually as there does seem to be a lot more to like about it. I’ve not played this type of game very much so I am terrible at them, couldn’t even get very far in Nom Nom Galaxy.

  6. Eagle0600 says:

    What this game really reminds me of is Caveland Pro. Does anyone remember that one?

  7. Cvnk says:

    I bought this last week and had the same puke-stained experience most people seemed to have. But I also noticed the crisis seems to reach a certain critical level and never gets worse. You can still get work done (slowly) with all of your people at 100% stress and CO2 filling up most of your base. If you’re willing to put up with the chaos you could probably recover eventually (assuming the mechanics even allow for a nice well-functioning base at this point in development which seems to be debatable).

    But with Rimworld (the game this most reminds me of) when things start to spiral out of control you could easily lose everything. And when you manage to survive a major crisis (like getting hit by multiple overlapping diseases that leave everyone bedridden and puking while food rots and generators die) then there’s a massive flood of relief and a sense of accomplishment.

    ONI is obviously early in development but I hope they manage to improve the crisis escalation.