After two years of development alongside the community, and over 10 million players on Xbox Game Pass, Obsidian’s backyard survival game Grounded is finally getting a 1.0 release this September. […]
After two years of development alongside the community, and over 10 million players on Xbox Game Pass, Obsidian’s backyard survival game Grounded is finally getting a 1.0 release this September.
1.0 brings Grounded out of early access, as well as adds a number of major updates, including the introduction of a new part of the backyard (the upper yard), new armor and weapon recipes, new secrets, and a new boss: the Mantis. By far the most impactful of these updates is the completion of Grounded’s story about a group of kids shrunk to insect-size and forced to survive in a backyard full of much larger insects and other hazards.
IGN spoke with game director Adam Brennecke, who’s been with Obsidian for 18 years now – almost since the studio’s inception. Having worked on a number of projects from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 as a programmer all the way to executive producer on Pillars of Eternity, by the time Deadfire was wrapping, he’d naturally had a lot of experience with RPGs. But he and a handful of others at Obsidian wanted to try something different: a survival game that still embraced the studio’s RPG storytelling background.
A lot has changed for that small internal team since they started brainstorming the game that would become Grounded. They’ve grown from 12 to 20 members, though Brennecke says it’s still the smallest team he’s ever worked on. Their game has launched in early access to a level of success that surprised even Brennecke. And Xbox acquired Obsidian during Grounded’s development, offering Obsidian tools and resources they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to, like a user research group to help them develop accessibility features such as arachnophobia mode.
The visibility push from Xbox didn’t hurt either, with the added benefit of Game Pass meaning Grounded had a low barrier to entry. “There’s no way that we would’ve gotten to 10 million plus players without Xbox’s support and their help along the way,” Brennecke says.
Xbox has also been a big help in ensuring that Obsidian could continue to develop more small projects alongside its big swings, like Grounded and the just-announced Pentiment. Brennecke echoes a sentiment to us that we also heard from Obsidian studio head Feargus Urquhart and Pentiment director Josh Sawyer: sometimes, people working on large teams and projects need creative outlets. Leaving room for smaller projects like Grounded means they can pursue those, leading to more experimental ideals and an overall improvement in studio knowledge and skill.
While Brennecke says Xbox’s support has been critical to Grounded’s success, perhaps an even more integral element was the game’s community. Having now been in it for two years, Brennecke praises the idea of early access, saying that “the most powerful thing in game development” is getting player reactions to a thing a developer has made.
Those reactions have shaped a number of aspects of Grounded’s development since the start of its early access period. For instance, he says that internally, the team had never really built large bases prior to early access. But the community took to the feature immediately, pushing the limits of what Grounded could do as they built bigger and bigger structures.
“That was something that we never really expected players to do and they definitely pushed the limits of the tech…:We can get those saved games from players and do performance profiling on them and figure out: there’s huge, huge castles with thousands and thousands of little pieces. How do we get that really performing on the Xbox?”
With Grounded 1.0 imminent, Brennecke wants to encourage anyone who fell off Grounded in its early days to poke back in once it’s launched. Obsidian has added new biomes, bosses, creatures, crafting, and features like pets, gardening, zip lines, and of course everything added to base building since then. And of course, in September, the story will finally be able to be completed, which Brennecke says has been Grounded’s most requested feature.
While he’s focused on 1.0 for now, Brennecke is committed to Grounded’s long-term future, similar to his past work with Pillars of Eternity’s post-launch content. “I will work on Grounded until they tell me not to work on Grounded,” he says. “I think the team feels the same way.”
That means more opportunities to see what else the community, both existing and new players joining with the 1.0 launch, want Obsidian to cook up for them in the backyard.
“I like to absorb all those ideas because then you get in the player’s head space of what they’re looking for and their dreams or their fantasies, and that could really influence other things that we do on the team,” he says. “We go through everything, we have a meeting once a week where we go through all the suggestions. … I think it is really, really helpful to key in on how players are feeling. And again, what are they dreaming about? That’s something that’s really powerful for me to see where we could go with the direction of the game.”
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.
Source: IGN Video Games All