By Joseph Leray
I haven’t had a chance to talk about Klei Entertainment’s new game, “Don’t Starve” yet, even though it was announced last summer and has been in playable open beta for months now.
Thankfully, Klei — the team behind “Shank” and “Mark of the Ninja” — are updating “Don’t Starve” every two weeks, giving me an excuse to post about the “news.” This week, they’ll introduce an insanity mechanic to their open-world survival game, as evidenced by the teaser trailer above.
In any case, “Don’t Starve”’s hook is that it’s a survival sim with no quests, goals, or tutorials: a demon transports Wilson, a demure Gentleman Scientist, to a strange wilderness where he must survive long enough to get home. The mechanics revolve around gathering resources and crafting the tools and buildings you’ll need, but the in-game logic is kept deliberately murky, encouraging players to experiment and improvise in the face of danger.
The game’s hook is it’s distinctive, pencil-sketched art style, which allows for plenty of quirk and whimsy. “‘Don’t Starve’ is the easiest game to sell I’ve ever had,” Klei founder Jamie Cheng told GamesIndustry last month. “People look at the game and they’re interested. They want to know more about it. They look at the art and animation and say ‘What is that?’”
“Don’t Starve” was created in two days during a game jam in 2010, Cheng explains, but making a dangerous, randomly-generated sandbox game with no instructions was a risky plan. “We weren’t sure how exactly it was going to turn out, so we decided that we’re going to get it out as soon as we can and get people playing as soon as we can” Cheng says.
Klei developed “Don’t Starve” alongside some of its other projects to minimize the damage caused if the game were unsuccessful, which seems unlikely given the number of people already playing.
Pre-ordering “Don’t Starve,” whether on Steam or the Chrome Store, gives players access to the game’s playable beta version, which comes with and a download key to give to a friend. As a result, “Don’t Starve” already has a vibrant community, even though the game won’t be officially released until March. Klei has been releasing updates to the game regularly and receiving real-time feedback from players. Recent updates include new characters and craftable items and a food-spoiling mechanic.