Game development

Major update anchored, ending Early Access and allowing the community to help shape the future

During PAX East 2022, Obsidian Studios’ Grounded development team hosted a live panel where they showcased some major features coming to the game in the upcoming update. 0.13: The Bugs Strike Back, brings new base defense gameplay to Grounded. The first activity in the update is MIX.R, a new type of structure that can be found scattered around the yard that players will need to defend against multiple waves of aggressive insects. This tower defense inspired activity is a highly strategic challenge that requires a lot of effective building and insect knowledge. Complimenting MIX.R is the new Faction Wave system where hordes of bugs will occasionally attack your bases depending on the chaos you have caused in their nests and home environments.


As Grounded nears its 1.0 launch later this year, it’s finally time for the bugs to start fighting back against the backyard colonizers. Update 0.13 will put your building and survival skills to the ultimate test.

After the panel, I sat down with Game Director Adam Brennecke and Lead Animator Zach Spurlock to talk about the update, what they learned through the Early Access process, and the huge impact it will have. the community had on the development. Update 0.13 was born out of the community’s love for base building, something the development team didn’t initially plan for, according to Brennecke.

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“Before our release, all of our bases were quite small,” says Brennecke. “Even in the first month some of the players were building these amazing, super fancy bases. The Bounce Pad lifts and stuff like that blew my mind, we started thinking we needed to invest more in our base building. Over time this has evolved into high rise mushroom bases, suspended walkways and now, base defense activities Watching how the community has used the available tools in creative ways has been a huge source of inspiration. inspiration.” We never even thought it would be possible,” Brennecke says. “It’s been very powerful and has shaped a lot of our decision-making about how we approach different things.”

0.13 won’t be the last update before launch, although the team isn’t sure how many more we’ll see before 1.0. “There are a few things we still want to test before our final release,” says Brennecke. “There are features we really want more feedback on, but 1.0 is definitely this year.” While some releases are relatively set, like this year’s launch, much of Grounded’s development had to remain flexible in order to consider and design based on community feedback.

This collaborative process between Obsidian and Grounded players has been a dream come true for the development team. Brennecke never wants to go back to a traditional exit model. “If I had the chance, I would choose Early Access for everything,” he says.

“For a designer, developer, or even an animator, being able to iterate is the most powerful thing in game development, and getting player feedback is extremely important in that process,” Brennecke says. In a traditional development structure, all feedback is considered after launch and filtered into a sequel, which typically takes several years to develop. Early Access allowed the Grounded team to not only iterate in real time, but also to take feedback and implement it into each new update. “It shows us what you need to focus on,” Spurlock says. “When we see the public saying ‘this needs to be fixed or this needs to be improved’, we see all of that and you can see what drives the players.”

Analyzing player feedback is what allowed the team to change direction when needed and focus their energy on building things that players care about, like base building. Brennecke says he meets with community manager Aarik Dorobiala and quality assurance manager Adam Taylor for an hour each week to review all social media comments. “We pour through it all and see what bubbles up to the top,” he says. Often, feedback leads to bug fixes and problem solving, but it can also lead to new features and game systems.” The super powerful thing about Grounded is that everyone can be a designer,” he says. “Anyone can participate in this discussion and contribute interesting ideas.”

The development teams’ openness to collaborating with players seems to have had a ripple effect, leading to a more positive and patient community. The downside to the early access model is that iteration can actually take longer, as anything added to the game requires a certain level of polish to ship to players in an update. Even still, new features don’t always work as expected right away. It takes a certain level of understanding and mutual respect between the developers and the community to make an Early Access project successful. “It’s sometimes difficult as a developer,” says Brennecke. “As a director, I want to be like, ‘I know you want to polish this, but sometimes it’s nice to ship something in alpha quality. Let’s get the feedback before we do our final polish.'” Spurlock adds, “I think a lot of our fans have figured out the weird stuff or bugs that pop up because it’s not a complete game yet.”

The launch of 1.0 is fast approaching, and while there is some sense of finality, Grounded is by no means finished. “Our launch is the game we’re proud of,” says Brennecke. “The construction site is completely finished, the story is completely finished, but we still want to make Grounded the best game.” Brennecke says the team is eagerly awaiting feedback on the story and the ending before the team creates the next roadmap for the future. He hopes Grounded has a long future ahead of him. “As long as [CEO of Obsidian Entertainment Feargus Urquhart] let me work on Grounded, I will work on Grounded. Obsidian is known for supporting its games and communities long term, as it did with the Pillars of Eternity series, and now that the studio has been acquired by Microsoft, Brennecke feels his team has even more support. to continue.

“If we show that we’re committed and passionate about continuing to make the game, even after the launch date, the fans and the community appreciate that. They appreciate our dedication to making the best games possible. we believe strongly in Obsidian and we will continue to do so with all of our products, and Xbox will allow us to do so as well.

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