Obsidian is a studio best-known for deep, intriguing role-playing games like Fallout: New Vegas and, most recently, The Outer Worlds. But the studio’s next release moves in a completely different direction. At X019 in London, Obsidian revealed Grounded, a survival game set in a suburban backyard where a group of four friends has to fend for themselves after being shrunk down to the size of an ant. “It’s a little different than what you’re used to seeing from Obsidian,” says director Adam Brennecke.
Grounded, which is the first new property from Obsidian since the studio was acquired by Microsoft, is a four-player co-op experience that can be played in both first- and third-person. Like most survival games, you’ll build a base, craft gear, gather resources, and hunt and cook food. What Obsidian hopes will make the game stand out is the setting.
The game has a very Honey, I Shrunk the Kids vibe. The four main characters were all shrunken as part of an experiment and are now forced to survive the untamed wilds that are actually a standard American suburban backyard. Seen from this new perspective, things feel very different: bugs become giant monsters, while a simple baseball is a huge structure. A patch of grass is a forest to traverse, and weedkiller turns an area into a toxic zone.
According to Brennecke, part of the appeal of the setting for the studio was its accessibility. “It’s something that everyone is familiar with,” he explains. “Everyone has an expectation for what they’ll see in this world. It’s very approachable, even on a global scale. Everyone knows what insects do, how they behave; even the man-made objects you find in the yard are familiar. It’s a pretty cool environment as a game designer to come up with ideas. It’s a setting where everyone on the team, and even outside the team, can be a designer and contribute ideas.”
It’s also much more elaborate than it might seem. Despite being developed by a relatively small 12-person team, Grounded features what Brennecke describes as a robust and realistic ecosystem. “It’s a huge ecosystem where the insect life is being simulated outside of the view of the player,” he says. “We want to make insects to behave like we all expect insects to behave. So an ant colony will send out scout ants to search for food, and will battle the player over food. They communicate through a pheromone system with other any colonies. And there’s a day / night cycle where this ecosystem is constantly changing. Things come out at night like giant spiders and fireflies.”
Grounded will be available in spring 2020. It’s coming to Game Pass on both Xbox One and PC, and it will also be available through Steam early access.