How RPG Master Obsidian Built Backyard Survival Game Grounded With Help From His Community

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Grounded has always been designed to be shaped by its community – director Adam Brennecke told me this almost three years ago when the game was first announced. But the size of this community and the suggestions they would bring to the (picnic) table exceeded Obsidian’s expectations. Over the two years in Early Access, the small Obsidian team that worked on it learned a lot. Much of this learning comes from a dedicated player base that has been shaping Grounded since July 2020, offering suggestions on everything from gameplay additions, quality of life updates, and UI tweaks.

Now, with Grounded 1.0 set to launch on September 27, Obsidian is finally ready to offer those players – and a whole host of new ones – a most final version of their survival game.

We’re gonna need a bigger pitch

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(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

In February, Obsidian announced that over 10 million players have joined Grounded since its launch in July 2019 (opens in a new tab). The Grounded Discord has nearly 40,000 members; his subreddit has 52,000 members. “It was definitely a big surprise. Most of us are all people who really like survival games, most of the team have played Forest, Subnautica and a bunch of other survival games. survival and really enjoy the genre. So it was kind of just a bunch of people on the team really loved that genre and wanted to make a game out of it.” Adam Taylor, Chief Quality Assurance Analyst, explains. “But I don’t think any of us expected him to be as big as he is. And it’s been going on for two years now, which is crazy.”

I hope the community feels this game is as much theirs as it is ours.

Aarik Dorobiala, Obsidian

Grounded exploded so unexpectedly that Obsidian hired former community manager Aarik Dorobiala after leaving the studio in 2019. “The team didn’t really expect the game to explode as much as it did. did, which is why they called me back to Obsidian to help the community,” Dorobiala tells me. “They really wanted to make a game alongside players in the community to make sure it was the game they wanted to play.”

At this point, days before Grounded leaves Early Access, Obsidian is clear: this game was made with its players. “I hope the community feels this game is theirs as much as ours,” Dorobiala said.

More spiders, please

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(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

photo mode

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(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Ground players have also convinced Obsidian to add a photo mode to the game. suggestions that surprised me,” Taylor said.

But what kinds of changes has the community contributed to in the past two years? Obsidian says they run the gamut from some typical UI requests like changing how items are named in storage to gameplay suggestions like allowing players to sprint while carrying furniture. An early update allowed players to enable Arachnophobia mode if they wanted to avoid the scares of eight-legged monsters in the backyard. The Arachnophobia Safe Mode slider allows players to determine how spidery spiders are, with one end of the slider giving you traditional spiders and the other end turning them into floating balls.

However, Obsidian says some of the most popular requests from players have been for After scary bugs, no less. “What surprises me the most are the insects that the community wants to see, like the camel spider – which is massive – or a trapdoor spider. It’s like…they want to more spiders?” Dorobiala said laughing. “But the one we got that players really pushed for was – the infected bugs in the game in the mist biome – they wanted the infected wolf spider, which is already one of the biggest spiders in the world. The backyard. But they wanted an infected version, which we implemented. They want more scary bugs, which is one of the most surprising things.”

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(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The Early Access version of Grounded not only gave Obsidian more spider work, but set the stage for players to suggest significant quality of life improvements that might have gone under the radar if the game had gone straight to launch. “In the beginning, people developed metas on how to take down the big creatures that are normally very difficult to face at the start of the game. Players would jump on a rock and just reprimand arrows at bugs until “they die, which could take 40, 60 arrows. At the beginning of Grounded, you had to go to each arrow and press ‘E’ to collect them all, so the player really pushed for an automatic collection system,” explains Dorobiala.

Players also lobbied for new storage naming conventions, a “multi-craft” option, and the ability to move furniture around instead of destroying it. “Just sitting on chairs was a very desirable feature,” Dorobiala says with a smile. “We had chairs in the game, but they couldn’t do anything with them.”

Anti crunch

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(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Grounded’s long early access period gave Obsidian the space and time to adapt the game to its player base. “Because we’re in Xbox Game Preview, we can have instant feedback from our community, especially on social media or our Discord, where we get most of the feedback from our players. Just having that instant interaction with players and see what they like and what they don’t like…that’s super helpful If we had just made the game and then released it and then tried to get feedback from this way, it might have been a lot harder to adapt and make changes,” Dorobiala said. Explain.

I don’t think I’ll ever come back to a project that’s not in Early Access

Adam Taylor, Obsidian

While it’s clear that this development process was good for the players who were able to shape the game in real time, I wonder if he was just as kind to the developers. In an industry too often defined by crunch, how does a two-year early access period help people working on a game? “I’ve been on three or four different projects. And I think with Grounded since it’s in early access, and it’s a smaller team, I think, overall I would much prefer the workload we’ve had through this project,” Taylor replies. “I don’t think I’d ever go back to a project that isn’t early access.”

Obsidian isn’t going to give up on the survival game after leaving Early Access. Not only is the team keeping tight-lipped about the story that will unfold at the game’s full launch, but Dorobiala promises that Obsidian will be supporting Grounded for the next few years to come. Grounded 1.0 will launch on September 27 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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