Spiders are a kind of issues that may conjure up sturdy reactions. For some folks, simply the sight of one of many eight-legged creatures is sufficient to trigger a panicked exodus from the room. Others could also be comparatively nice with seeing a spider in actual life, however freak out after they need to face a large one in a recreation. Obsidian’s upcoming survival recreation, Grounded, has the potential of being the worst attainable situation for arachnophobes: not solely are there spiders within the recreation’s yard setting, however you’ve been shrunken all the way down to a scale the place they’ll fill your whole area of view. Rather than shrug and transfer on, the crew determined to do one thing for gamers who simply can’t cope with spiders.
Grounded technical director Jerrick Flores says the crew had an inkling of an concept that spiders could possibly be an issue whereas they have been engaged on the sport, however they didn’t initially respect by how a lot. “Those concerns that we had really came to a head when we released the initial trailer for the game, and there was a spider reveal toward the end,” he says. “We watched a lot of trailer-reaction videos, because as someone working on the game you’re really interested in how people respond to your game. It was kind of interesting but also concerning that when that spider reveal happened, there were a number of people who in the reaction videos they had all this interest in the game but when that came up, all that interest just completely evaporated. They’d say things like, ‘I can’t play this game.’ It’s not like ‘I won’t,’ but ‘I can’t.’”
Programmer Brian MacIntosh empathized with these sentiments. “I wouldn’t say that anyone on the team is phobic, but some of us maybe avoid that dungeon in Skyrim with the giant spider – we just didn’t go there,” he says. “That began us speaking about the way it’s truly a phobia that individuals have, and I’ve seen folks complain about it on our boards often, like, ‘could you guys replace the spiders, because I can’t play this recreation as a result of I’m actually afraid of them?’ I began pondering, ‘This is a thing we can do.’”
What did they do? Obsidian created a special arachnophobia mode for Grounded, which can be accessed in the game’s options menu. When toggled, spiders are rendered differently, as a way of making the creatures less, well, spidery for people who have an aversion toward the creatures. It’s still very much a work in progress, but its current implementation has the models replaced with large orange orbs. It’s a strange abstraction, especially when put up visually against the other bugs that are prominently featured in the game, but Obsidian is hoping that it will allow arachnophobes to play with everyone else. It’s activated client-side, meaning that in multiplayer sessions only those who want to see spiders that way will; everyone else gets the critters in all their glory.
MacIntosh says that developing the abstraction has been an iterative process, thanks in part to the studio’s collaboration with Microsoft User Research Lab. “We want to try to see how little we can change the spider, like how little we can take away to fix that problem, but have it still be a big, scary creature. We’re putting together different samples of different alternative looks, and they’re going to test it to see which ones elicit the phobia response.” He says part of the problem is that different people are triggered by different things. Their research contact, Blake Pellman, told him that it wasn’t the legs or the eyes that activated the phobic response – “As long as there’s enough evidence for them to say, ‘That’s a spider,’ that seems to be what triggers it,” MacIntosh says.
Spiders are a big part of Grounded – there’s a reason they were the big reveal in the trailer, after all. They’re one of the yard’s apex predators, and game director Adam Brennecke says there’s a lot of gameplay that’s connected to the creatures, such as combat and the gear that players can craft from their various parts. There’s also the issue of sound. “The clickety-clack sounds, even though spiders don’t really make that sound, it’s something that we just think of a spider; it’s clicking and clacking around the yard. That’s another thing we’re looking at.”
Incorporating these optional changes has been a fair bit of work, but the team sees it as effort well spent. “In a game like Skyrim, you can avoid spiders – you just go somewhere else,” Brennecke says. “In our game, you can’t avoid them. It’s so hard to avoid a spider in the game. I think that’s where, as a developer, I draw the line. Why don’t we try to do it to make sure that as many people can play the game as possible? That’s ultimately what we want as developers, people playing the game.”
Grounded is coming to Xbox One and PC via Game Preview and early access on July 28, whether or not you use arachnophobia mode.