The Complete Beginner's Completely Incomplete Guide to Oxygen Not Included


The short answer:

However many (or few) you want.

The long answer:

It's easy to think that more dupes will make the game easier, but this isn't entirely true. (It's actually completely false.)

More dupes means you can get things done faster. But it also means you need a steady supply of more (and more) oxygen and food.


Many if not most of the disaster stories new players tell stem, in one way or another, from taking on too many dupes. Fewer dupes means things take longer to accomplish, but overall the game is a *lot* easier.

I once tried playing with just one dupe. (The base pictured on the front page of this site is from that game.) This was back before the DLC. After a few thousand cycles of painfully slow progress, I was ready to send Ruby to the temporal tear. (The temporal tear is a destination in space that is arguably the "final" achievement or goal of the game.)

At the other dupe count extreme is the "100 dupe challenge." Several YouTubers (including at least Brothgar, Francis John and GrindThisGame) have done this, where you need to take a new dupe every cycle until you have 100 dupes or more.

In a 100 dupe challenge just keeping everyone alive is a challenge. In a 1 dupe challenge the main challenge is boredom.

Get to the point already - how many dupes?

My advice is the same advice pretty much any ONI old-timer will give a beginner: keep your dupe count low until you know what you're doing.

As advice goes, that is frustratingly vague. So let's break it down a bit.

What does "low" mean?

I'd say six dupes (or fewer) is a pretty good number while you're still learning. There is nothing you can't accomplish in the game with six dupes. (It will just take a while.)

From a practical standpoint, you can also think of bases as "small SPOM" or "large SPOM" bases. (A SPOM is a setup that will produce oxygen for your base - we'll look at them later in the guide.)


A small SPOM can produce enough oxygen for 10 dupes. (But you'll want a bit of extra oxygen production, so let's call it 8-9 dupes.) If 6 seems like too few, a SPOM-based alternative is to stay below 10 dupes.

What does "know what you're doing" mean?

As a rough target to aim for, I'd say you can start piling on more and more dupes once you have the hang of oxygen and cooling.


More specifically, learning how to build:

The SPOM will sort out your oxygen. And cooling will enable lots of things: you can keep your base cool enough for plants to grow, you can tame water geysers to fill your water supply, you can tame metal geysers for resources, etc.


Then again...

I have a fridge magnet that says: "I've learned so much from my mistakes that I'm thinking of making some more."


So another option is to ignore this advice and instead just try to learn something new from every playthrough. Even - or especially - the ones that end in disaster.