Grounded is a survival game that can be played either in first-person or a third-person. In the game, the protagonist is shrunk to the size of an ant and must strive to survive in a backyard. In the game, the player character needs to consume an adequate amount of food and water, or they will lose health due to starvation or dehydration respectively. The backyard is filled with various bugs and insects, such as spiders, bees, dust mites, and ladybugs. Different insects serve different purposes in the game. For instance, spiders are one of the game’s apex predators that will hunt down the players, ladybugs can lead players to food sources, and aphids can be cooked and consumed for food. Players can also cut down grass to collect dewdrops. The game has an accessibility option for players who have arachnophobia, which allows players to decide how scary spiders are going to be in the game.
As players progress in the game, they will visit new areas in the backyard. The game’s difficulty would slowly increase and enemies that are more dangerous would be introduced. Throughout the game, players need to scavenge resources in the world in order to construct a base so as to defend themselves from hostile enemies, in particular during nighttime as some of the insects become more aggressive. The resources can also be used to craft different tools, traps and weapons, such as axes, spears and bows and arrows, to defeat enemies. Players also need to manage their stamina as the playable character may become exhausted in sustained combat. The game can be played solo, though it also has a four-player cooperative multiplayer mode.
Following the release of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, the team at Obsidian Entertainment began brainstorming ideas for a survival game. While the majority of the staff in Obsidian worked on The Outer Worlds, a small team of 13 people began the production of Grounded. The game was already in production before Microsoft’s acquisition of Obsidian in 2018.Announced by Xbox Game Studios at X019 in November 2019, the game was released on July 28, 2020 for Steam’s early access and Xbox Game Preview.The early version will feature about 20% of the game’s main campaign, and Obsidian planned to listen to the feedback from the community as they continued to work towards the game’s full release in 2021.The early access version amassed 5 million players within 6 months of release.
The team watched films including A Bug’s Life and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in order to get inspirations. To know more about different types of insects, the team also watched long featurettes at YouTube produced by insect enthusiasts. The team chose the backyard as the game’s setting as the team felt that it is a recognizable and approachable location. Also, they believed that a backyard can also be “larger-than-life” and have a “real sense of danger”. The game’s director, Adam Brennecke, compared the setting to a “theme park”, as the team added numerous landmarks into the world in an attempt to make it more interesting.
The team envisioned a game world that was interactable, and that players’ actions would change the state of the world. Brennecke added that the game would feature a “memorable” story like other Obsidian’s games.The team worked extensively on the artificial intelligence of insects, which govern their behaviors. For instance, ants are curious about the player character and initially do not attack. However, if the player builds a base around their food, or the player character becomes stronger and the ants begin to see them as a threat, they will attack the players.
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