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Behind the design of hit sim game Oxygen Not Included

June 7, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

If you’ve read today’s feature about how Oxygen Not Included manages to build difficulty out of layering multiple systems, you might be wondering just how developer Klei makes all those simulations actually happen. 

Well you’re in luck, because on the Gamasutra Twitch channel today, we were able to talk with Klei designer Johann Seidenz, a Dead Rising veteran who was able to fill us in on the challenges of building individual simulation mechanics while working with feedback in Early Access. 

You can watch the full video above, but in case you’re in a rush, here are a few key takeaways from our chat with Seidenz. 

What makes for a good simulation?

As both of us from Gamasutra noted in the video, Oxygen Not Included is only a few steps away from technically being work. So how do you define a functioning simulation and make it fun? Seidenz gave his thoughts on what defines a simulation game, and how you can make it fun enough to not feel like a chore. 

Tutorials can kill a sense of reward.

As Seidenz points out later in our conversation, a big part of the “fun” of Oxygen Not Included is the sense of figuring things out. With that understanding in mind, he says that makes it very hard to introduce proper tutorials for the game since hand-holding players through the early moments would kill that first joyful moment. It’s not advice that works for every game, but Seidenz was able to share how they still “introduce” elements to players to keep them from being in the dark. (And admits they still have work to do.)

“Everything will be okay.”

When asked what he would tell his younger self who had just departed Capcom Vancouver to join Klei, Seidenz said he would try to reassure his younger self that “everything would be okay.” “It’s perseverance, and working through the problems one by one. It’ll get you there…sometimes you’re not even sure if whatever system will work in the end, you just have a long list of problems you have to get through, and I’d just tell myself it’ll be okay, it’ll be fun.” 

For more developer interviews, editor roundtables, and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel. 

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