The lights are on
Players have always dreamt of tackling the final frontier in
video games, but creating a limitless universe of unique planets to explore isn't
exactly easy. Just don't tell Chucklefish Games that; the small indie developer
has been feverishly plugging away at Starbound, a procedurally generated sandbox
game that expands on Terraria's 2D mining and crafting formula in exciting new
ways. While checking out the early-access beta, I chronicled my adventures in an ongoing journal, which you can read
Stardate 6546.5: The Birth Of LittlefacePlayers begin Starbound by creating and customizing their
character from one of six playable species. The creativity of the species is
impressive, as they all sport their own cultural style. Avians are birdlike
beings whose culture is based on the Mayans, Florans are a tribal plant people,
the Glitch are robots stuck in the middle ages, and the aquatic Hylotl draw
their cultural inspiration from feudal Japan. Then there are the humans, which
are just boring old humans. None of these choices matter once I see the final species,
however: sentient space monkeys called the Apex.
After choosing my species, it's time to customize my
character's appearance. I give him slicked back hair, a short beard, and a
personality (i.e. stance) the game describes as "proud" – I am a monkey that can
pilot a spaceship, after all; I think I've earned it. Despite the Star Trek
implication, I give my character a red shirt under his commander jacket for a
splash of color.
All that's left is a name. A few minutes of brainstorming
doesn't come up with anything decent, so I click the randomize button. After a
couple of tries, the game suggests "Littleface." It seems accurate enough (my
character's face is pretty little),
and sounds like something a sentient monkey might be named, so I go with it.
Starbound's art style is lighthearted, as is my character's
backstory: As a member of a failed rebellion against the Apex's Ministry of
Scientific Progression (also known as MiniKnog), Littlefoot narrowly escapes death by hijacking an enemy ship. Now out of fuel and in orbit above an unknown planet,
it's my job to stop the Miniknog and topple its despotic ruler, Big Ape. If I'm
going to get anywhere, however, I'll first need fuel for my ship. After picking
up a few handy items including a Matter Manipulator, it's time to beam down to
my first procedurally generated planet.
Stardate 6546.6: First ContactI use my ship's teleporter to beam down to the planet, a
temperate forest world named Alpha Vaastolaan Minoris II. The name doesn't
exactly roll off the tongue, but it's unique to my game, and presumably not
even the developer has seen its particular mix of flora, fauna, and procedurally
The surface of AVM II is covered in purple grass, and soaring green roottrees with bubbly magenta-colored leaves tower overhead. The dirt on
the planet is blue, though ore-infused stone is a more familiar grey.
Following the tutorial instructions, I use my Matter
Manipulator to fell one of the trees, which collapses into a pile of logs. As a
veteran of Minecraft and Terraria, I know the drill; I use the logs to craft a
work bench, then collect some stones to make my first crude tools and weapons. The
Matter Manipulator can dig up to four blocks at a time, though it takes a while
depending on the material. After a while I create a pickaxe, which in addition
to mining nine blocks at a time is a great deal speedier as well. Sometimes
technology can't trump a classic.
After building a few items, I start exploring the hilly landscape
and come across a variety of animal species. Small lizard-like creatures attack on sight, as do a species of weird yellow snail monsters that have spiny
purple shells on their backs. A species of squat black creatures is also indigenous
to the planet, but despite their massive teeth, they don't seem to mind my
After a while my hunger meter drops, and the tutorial
prompts me to procure some food. Killing creatures with a weapon (in my case a
rusty old sword that was on my ship) causes them to drop pixels, the game's
currency. In order to get meat, you need to use a bow. I craft one out of some logs
and vines, and set out to hunt. Despite only hunting aggressive creatures
(Littleface strikes me as a live-and-let-live kind of monkey), I have a
backpack full of meat by sunset.
Nighttime introduces a temperature gauge to the mix as the
planet cools. I build a fire underground and grill some meat for eating, and
then craft an anvil and furnace for making more advanced tools. A star shower
illuminates the sky overhead – another surprise of my particular planet. My
little forest paradise does have one drawback, however; pools of poisonous green
acid litter the landscape. Luckily, you can craft bandages out of vines which
are plentiful in the various underground caves I've come across.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
Nice write up! I have been enjoying this game immensely. It's like Terraria, but so much better and expansive. The game has a lot of great features, but there are more on the way.
Awesome article. I've been looking at this closely lately. Looks quite interesting.
I think my 113 hours of gameplay on Starbound so far is a good indication of how much I love this game.
You may not realize that there is a "small" death penalty. You lose 20% (or is it 30) of the pixels you have. This isn't a big deal early on, but as you increase the crafting tiers, items cost pixels and items to craft. Not to mention that you occasionally find vendors on the NPC villages that will sell items.
I have really enjoyed playing Terraria but haven't really gotten into Starbound. Its been a few updates since I've tried it though. I think its time to give it another go.
I recreated my character from memory after every character wipe. I am so glad that I do not have to do it again.
I like all the interactions with furniture and the environment. Also thought it was a really neat touch you could mine the background as well to shape the world to your liking when making a home.
Every time I hear the title, "Starbound", my gut instinct is, "A new Mother series (Earthbound) game announced!?"... immediately followed by disappointment. DARN YOU, NINTENDO!!!!
This sounds incredible, though I'm guessing it won't run on my laptop... Hopefully they do a console version as Minecraft and Terraria did, though I'm sure one day I'll get myself in gear and buy a decent PC.
A played this game every once in awhile during the Xmas/New Years break and I really enjoyed it. I haven't played much since then, and I'm sad to hear that my character Captain Mal might be lost to the update. Sad, but reading your journal makes me want to play again. So, off I go!