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What makes a great sim game? Oxygen Not Included designer weighs in

June 8, 2017 | By Chris Kerr

June 8, 2017 | By Chris Kerr
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More: Design, Video

What's the key to creating an engaging simulation game? To find out, we asked Oxygen Not Included designer Johann Seidenz to share some of his guiding principles during our latest Twitch stream. 

For starters, he explained it's important to present information clearly to players so they can make meaningful decisions. You can't leave them feeling misled or misinformed, because their campaign will live and die on the choices they make. 

"Make the thing understandable enough so they feel like they have a choice where they're trying something that might make things better, and they're making what they feel like is an informed decision," explains Seidenz.

That said, there has to be room for error and experimentation in some of your systems. As in life, even when we have all the information to hand, sometimes we have to take a leap into the unknown. Risk breeds reward, and it's fair to say a little bit of excitement. 

"One of the challenges I found with this game is that, it being a crazy gas and temperature sim, you can't really know if you're set up, without trying it a bunch of times. You can't really know if you're actually setting up properly so that the temperature is going to be in the right range for you," he continues. 

"Theoretically I guess you could compute exactly if that system will work, but that's really hard and I'm not even sure how to visualise that. So we try to visualise the data in such a way that players can make an informed guess.

"In general, I think with simulation games [the challenge] is to try and present the data to players to they can go in and tweak things and try and make it do what they want. And then if they fail, try and make that fun."

You can hear what else Seidenz had to say by watching the full stream right here. After that, why not subscribe to the Gamasutra Twitch channel for even more developer insights and gameplay commentary.

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