Reviews - Updated on April 8, 2022

A day before the X019 event, where Microsoft planned to show new items for Xbox One and Windows, a well-known industry insider announced the upcoming announcement of a new game from Obsidian Entertainment. RPG fans who had completed (or were completing) The Outer Worlds by that time were waiting. But it turned out that the studio was busy with something completely different – it presented the trailer for Grounded, a cooperative survival simulator.

Did Microsoft insist on this? Why is Obsidian suddenly making a non-RPG? What should you expect from the game and how does it differ from many other survival games on Steam? I talked about all this with Roby Atadero, Lead Programmer at Grounded, who previously worked on both Pillars of Eternity games as well as South Park: The Stick of Truth.

And I’m so small

“When Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire was coming to an end, there were people on our team who wanted to play a survival game,” he began. Adam Brennecke, who later became project director, and Bobby Null, Deadfire’s lead environment designer, began to actively discuss ideas. “There were a lot of suggestions, but the one that got the most attention was the idea of ​​shrinking the players down to the size of an ant and settling in a huge version of the backyard,” Atadero continued. Everyone liked the idea, the head of the studio, Feargus Urquhart, was told about it, and he gave the go-ahead.

In Grounded, a group of people was reduced to the size of an ant for the purpose of experiment, but for some reason it is not possible to return the poor fellows to a normal state. The backyard, which seemed not so big before, becomes literally gigantic. Small spiders turn out to be the same height (or even larger) as the playable characters, and a once-useless piece of paper or empty packaging thrown once can be used as a shelter or a source of valuable resources.

Grounded will not be an ordinary “sandbox”, in which the player is thrown into a large location and simply asked to survive. There is a full-fledged plot, characters, about which there is a lot to learn, constantly appearing tasks, audio diaries and other similar elements. But if you don’t want to complete tasks, but there is a desire to have fun, like in a “sandbox”, there are all the possibilities for this too. “We want to make sure that everyone plays the game the way they feel most comfortable, regardless of the chosen style,” the programmer assures.

What to expect from Grounded?  Highlights from an interview with Obsidian

All characters (Max, Pete, Hoops and Willow) have the same abilities.

That’s why Obsidian puts a lot of emphasis on solo play – Grounded should be fully playable and just as fun solo as it is in co-op. “At the same time, we are building some co-op systems. For example, you can put the collected ingredients together at the base. Together you invest in a development tree that is common to the entire team. You can resurrect each other if someone is badly injured,” says Atadero. The authors do not forget about the dynamic complexity, which varies depending on the number of players, but so far work on it has not been completed.

Insect hunting

Since Grounded is a “survivor”, it cannot do without the basic mechanics for the genre – players will have to monitor hunger and thirst. An unusual setting allows the authors to come up with non-standard methods for filling in the corresponding scales – for example, dew appears on the grass in the morning, drops of which must be knocked down and used as water. If the water is dirty or the food is of poor quality, the character may become ill for a while. Sleeping is allowed here, but it is not necessary. Although now Obsidian continues to experiment with different levels of difficulty and can change something on the “hard”, making the process of survival more difficult.

The food is also not the same as everywhere else, and is divided into two categories. The first includes natural sources like mushrooms and nectar – they will satisfy hunger, but not for long. Much more nutritious is insect meat. “You can hunt aphids, then put them on a skewer, watch them cook, and then take them off and eat them,” explains the developer. The creators thought about the mechanics of making fire for a long time, but in the end they came up with the simplest solution – this happens by pressing a button. In the future, the process may become more complicated, but this is not necessary at the stage of early tests.

What to expect from Grounded?  Highlights from an interview with Obsidian

Small things become big things in this world.

You will have to fight insects with the help of different types of weapons – among them there are axes, hammers, spears, bombs and much more. Everything has levels of quality – to get more effective weapons you will need to find rare resources or defeat dangerous opponents. “The crafting system is designed so that in order to create certain items and buildings, you must know their recipes and blueprints,” added Atadero. — This is closely related to the progress system we are building and the story objectives. Plus, there will be a team-wide tech tree, so players can help teammates unlock new craftable items and buildings.”

troublemakers

One of the most interesting features of Grounded will be a living ecosystem – they want to make the world of insects atmospheric and similar to the real one. Therefore, each creature has its own instincts, desires and needs, and some of them will affect the gameplay.

“For example, if ladybugs get hungry, they will start preying on aphids, which are also one of the most important sources of food for the player. Therefore, if the player decides to kill all the aphids in an area, the ladybugs will have to migrate to another region in search of food, they will begin to develop a new ecosystem there. This is just one example, the behavior of insects in this sense is so dynamic that users will be able to experiment in this world in many ways, ”the programmer explained.

Does this mean that in your absence, insects attack the base you created? Not always. Some of your buildings will not be interesting at all. Someone may leave traces behind (a web or something else), someone will steal part of the food supply, and someone will leave the base and go in search of you and your companions. “We don’t have a fast travel option yet, but we certainly don’t want to allow annoying situations where you were away from the base for a long time during the mission, you come back and see the ruins where your buildings were,” promises Atadero.

What to expect from Grounded?  Highlights from an interview with Obsidian

There will be armor in the game, as well as its sets; apparently, the hat on the character on the right is his helmet.

To create realistic insects (or at least similar to those that we see in real life), developers study a lot of documentaries and related literature. “We are constantly learning a lot of new and interesting details about each insect,” says the developer. – In life, we rarely pay attention to them, they do something independently of us and are too tiny and inconspicuous. Recently, our audio team found audio recordings of what insects sound like for creatures their size. She was so impressed with it that now the group would like to add it to the game.”

There will also be a change of day and night in Grounded, and what insects you will meet depends on the time of day. Some like to sleep at night, while others are almost impossible to find during the day. The simplest example is spiders, which become active very late and get in the way much more often after midnight.

Long road

In order to understand all this, the starting zone was made more or less accessible and simple. It is called Grasslands – grass grows everywhere, neutral or not very dangerous insects live, and you can also find basic crafting materials. In the future, access to new zones will open, including Oak Tree (apparently, the whole oak tree will be a separate location), Flower Garden (flower garden), The Haze (fog-covered area where you can’t get through without gas masks), The Hedges (hedge ) etc.What to expect from Grounded?  Highlights from an interview with Obsidian

It will be possible to pass Grounded with a view from the first or third person.

“Exploring the rest of the areas is necessary to unlock new recipes, which makes the game a little metroidvania. We are constantly thinking about how much we want to develop this idea, ”said Atadero, without specifying whether there will be end-game blocked corners in the starting zone that cannot be reached without powerful gadgets.

Obsidian fans were disappointed by the announcement of a game that was so far removed from the RPGs that the studio had penned over the past few years. However, the developers are trying to keep the spirit of Obsidian even in the survival simulator.

“First of all, we want to create a survival that fans of this genre will like,” the programmer explained. “At the same time, we want to take advantage of our own experience and add elements that we think are best done by our studio, fitting them well into the game. Therefore, we paid attention to the story, we try to make the project exciting for singles, we have a progression system and the ability to choose the path of development, there are status effects, armor sets and much more.

What to expect from Grounded?  Highlights from an interview with Obsidian

For pollen, you will probably have to fight with bees.

***

The team is now continuing to work on adding new creatures, items, and locations while optimizing the game and getting rid of technical bugs so that the launch of the early version goes smoothly. After it, production will continue at the same pace – new content will be added at least until the release of the final version.

“Additional weapons, insects, mechanics, locations, buildings, and more – all this will gradually appear in the game with the release of updates,” the developer concluded. User feedback will definitely be taken into account – there will certainly be a lot of crazy ideas that are difficult for a small team to think of. Grounded will release next spring on Xbox Game Preview and Steam Early Access.

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