Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Don't Starve (the world)

In my current game, I decided to do nothing but explore the outer boundaries of the world. It took me 12 game days to eventually get to this point:

Click on that screenshot for a full-screen image and be amazed. The world is HUGE. Those are just the outer boundaries--there's a ton of space on the interior that I haven't even seen yet.

If you're wondering what's in the world, here's a list of the terrain types (although I doubt it's exhaustive):
Rock shelf

I'm not sure those the words the developers use to describe those land areas, but they're what I call them. It's an amazing, wonderful variety, and world is also jam-packed with things to do and explore. There's a much greater sense of exploration than there is in most rogue-likes, and I think that's one of the reasons I find the game so hypnotic.

That's not to say it's an easy game, because it absolutely isn't. It's quite difficult, because the other residents of the world disturb your careful planning. There are both herbivores and carnivores, and to the carnivores, you're meat. They're not plentiful, fortunately, but they have to be handled. And there are plenty of odd moments and events as well.

It's also very tough to survive winter. Yes, there's winter. Temperatures drop, and there will be snow at times. Crops mostly don't grow in winter, so to survive, you have to forage daily or have a stockpile.

I haven't made it yet. Winter starts after roughly three weeks of game time, and it lasts three weeks more. But the game is so fascinating that I don't even mind that I haven't made it to spring.

If I get frustrated, I can customize the world so that summer lasts longer than winter. I can customize just about everything, actually, so if I particularly enjoy a certain style of play, I can create a world that suits that style of play.

Having said that, though, the random world generation is so interesting and so robust that adapting to different resource constraints/abundance in individual worlds is a big part of what I love about the game.

What Don't Starve does incredibly well is that the interface is perfectly signposted. Everything is easy to do, and everything is clearly marked. It's textbook design, and interactions with the world are clearly signposted as well. And that's important, because the other thing the game does incredibly well is give you more choices than you have time. There are so many things you could potentially do, and you have to make difficult choices on a daily basis. There are many ways to succeed, and just as many ways to fail, and that's why the discovery process is so interesting.

It's quite an incredible experience.

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