The game operates on the notion that in order to survive, players must balance three gauges: health, hunger and sanity. As the character loses his or her sanity, they will begin to see creatures that exist only in their heads, which also gradually become more real and more hostile.
"You can entirely lose all of your sanity, and then come back from that," Sound designer Matthew Marteinsson said. "There's lots of things you can do to keep up your sanity: you wear dapper clothing, you pick flowers, you do civilized things, and then your sanity comes back." The game offers an advantage to those that lose their sanity, as some items can only be collected when players are severely unstable.
The game won't just feature its main character, Wilson, but will include other unlockable characters with their own special abilities. One example shown at PAX East was Willow, a girl that lights her own fires when the screen goes pitch black during the game's night cycle.
Klei Entertainment is promising six months of free content to come after the game's full release in April. Don't Starve is currently in closed beta, during which Marteinsson says the team has released additional content every two weeks.