Space, Cubed: Blockade Runner

By Adam Smith on November 9th, 2011 at 9:47 am.

My ship is going to have arms that are holding guns

Much has changed in the world of crafty space sim Blockade Runner since I last took a look so it seems only correct to don my fishbowl and head once more into the void. The game receives a lot of updates, many of which are only truly appreciable from within, and the free version now reflects the latest additions in stripped-back form so if you have the slightest interest in building and crewing a cuboid starship, it is advisable to download the trial immediately. Or perhaps read on to learn more.

Before actually moving on to the business of blocks, the most important change since I last wrote about the game is a rejigging of the pricing model. I didn’t think the original model was unfair, structured around payments for each major release, but I worried it may confuse people and dissuade them from purchasing an early version of a game they were otherwise interested in. With alpha releases, there’s a strong temptation to wait for the next version, with increased stability and fancy new features. If buying one version gives access to the next, there’s a greater incentive to buy in early, thereby funding development of those fancy new features.

Under the new model, $10 gives instant access to all versions of the game, with updates occurring approximately bi-weekly until release in mid-late 2012. Early adopters will also receive a discount on any expansion packs produced after that date.

I would totally turn this into a minimalist lounge with a cocktail bar in the corner

The crafts that glide through the dark and silent abyss are becoming easier to shape. Here is the latest:

Metal frames are the foundation for spacecraft in Blockade Runner. After placing down frame, you can armor any part of the frame with a variety of hull platings, decorate the hallways within and soon you’ll be able to rope powerlines and utilities right through the frames.

All this is progress along the path to ships with fully functioning systems that can be broken by severed power lines as corridors are shredded by incoming fire. Much like the ships, the game is being built to support more and more complex interactions between components as it expands. In the coming weeks the game will receive non-blocks in the shape of computer consoles, doors and weaponry, as well as point and click design for interiors.

There will even be furniture, hopefully allowing me to fulfill my dream of easing back into the faux-leather comfort of my captain’s armchair on the bridge of the Valiant Brandy-Snifter Of Gregarious Gentry, the corridors lined with antiquated book cases containing the knowledge of cultures long dead. I want an interstellar library-vault, which happens to bristle with lasers.

This is also the rare post in which I can say ‘procedurally generated voxel asteroids’ in a sentence that isn’t angrily demanding their existence in a genre where they are far from appropriate. They really would spice up the majority of racing games though. I’m not wrong. Blockade Runner will be clogging its space with them though and here’s one that it made earlier.

pretzel-face-asteroid. we meet again

Marvelous.

Plenty of other changes have taken place, including the addition of a new lighting system, which will eventually provide dynamic lights inside and outside ships. It does appear that there’s plenty of work going into the visual appeal of the game, which is certainly something I approve of. Building things, especially giant space things, is more enjoyable when it’s possible to give them character and individuality.

This video contains visual approximations of all the words above, which means you could probably have skipped them and gone straight to this. And maybe you did. Well done you.

Have any of you actually tried Blockade Runner yet? It seems like the kind of thing that practically demands an intrepid crew of RPS folk explore it in a ramshackle construction. Perhaps in the future, once I can captain my library-vault, I’ll lead some brave souls to distant stars. Expect a recruitment drive later this year and, in the meantime, train yourself to survive the heat of a thousand suns. I only want the best.

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51 Comments »

  1. Conrad B Hart says:

    This looks… pretty awesome, actually. But some of the ships are pretty daunting in size. I’d build a small, fast one, I think. Something like an A-Wing.

    • Kdansky says:

      Fighters make no sense, though:

      http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/spacegunexotic.php#fighters

      I recommend everyone to spend a few hours on those pages. While ugly, one learns a ton about how space flight really works.

    • Nallen says:

      And bore myself silly, too.

    • hotcod says:

      Look space fighters are fantasy. Just take a look at how much of the flying and fighting is already controlled by on board systems in modern fighter air craft. By the time we spend enough time in space to be worried about such thing any “fighters” will have hugely advance AI to the point of either not needing a pilot or really only needing to be remote controlled.

      Which is a point seemingly missing from that page. A missile bus that can deliver it’s pay load and then act as a close range AI fighter? makes perfect sense. Delivering a fighter drone as part of the “pay load” forces a different set of defences and tactics to be put in to play. The page also ignores a fighters use as a screen for the main ship.

      While transposing how one form of combat works to another there is a lot more in common in between fights in air and fights in space. Bombers got a fighter escort screen, in part to deal with other fighters but in part so the fighters could screen the bombers from fire. The lose of a fighter on a mission is a lot less important than the loss of a bomber.

      So in that case a screen of drone fighters around a high value single ship makes sense, they can track and destroy missile buses and other drones and can even if needs be take a hit instead of the main ship. It then gives the ship more options in combat around planets and if the drones can act in atmosphere then the ship can strike at planet based targets in a more surgical manner.

      So ya, manned fighters are no realistic but remote or AI controlled drones could be useful.

      What does that all mean for games? fuck all, manned fighters are fun. Enough said. The likely hood of any “realistic” space combat is that it will be at such long range, using such powerful weapons that it will be AI controlled and over in a human instant… the Culture novels do a great job of showing this off…. but it’s boring. Real stuff often is.

    • BAshment says:

      ” A team of scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, has been awarded $100,000 by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist to study the feasibility of developing tractor beams — the ability to trap and move objects using laser light ”

      http://www.photonicsonline.com/article.mvc/Tractor-Beams-On-NASAs-Wish-List-0001

    • mondomau says:

      Kdansky: Your face makes no sense!

      Seriously though, you must be a lot of fun at parties.

    • Kdansky says:

      And that is why we can’t have nice things: People actively oppose being educated. And how can you call realistic space flight boring? If anything, it is vastly more interesting than what movies offer. The page even lists the reason for space fighters in media right there, and nobody will dispute that this is a very important argument.

      As for parties: If you can’t talk about the advantages of a propulsion system that works by detonating a nuke every two seconds, it’s not a good party anyway.

    • DrGonzo says:

      What you are talking about isn’t ‘realistic’ space flight. Come back in a few hundred years after the space wars have started and many, many scientific breakthroughs have completely changed our understanding of space travel.

      Or, just remember it’s a game dagnabbit!

    • ZamFear says:

      @Kdansky:
      When you have space ships firing massive pewpewlazorz at each other from point-blank range, you’ve already done away with making sense, so it hardly matters that “fighters make no sense.” Pointing that out in this context looks less like education, and more like pointless nitpicking or pedantry.

    • Jesse L says:

      That is a really interesting link. Thank you!

    • Reapy says:

      *reply fail, meant to be in main thread*

      I’m glad minecraft made it ok to bring mega sized voxels to gaming. This looks pretty cool, I love the blocks adding a layer of fidelity to the destruction you don’t see with something that is more detailed. I guess that is sort of what made minecraft nice as well when you were digging through the ground.

      I think what this needs are more rules to govern everything. I only know whats on the video so its possible this is already there, but was thinking…ships should probably be made with either some sort of budget or material cost. Each material and/or ‘system’ you build should set its properties.

      The ships should probably handle differently depending on how much mass they have vs how big the engines are. Like say an engine could be built with a thruster and power source block. The thruster can either touch the power sources, or must be connected with a ‘pipe’ block. The amount of thrust you have is proportional to the number of power sources. Say power sources also are really volatile and explode when hit.

      So say you need 10 power source blocks for adequate thrust on your ship, so you could do something like one central mass of them in the center of the ship with a pipe running out to the thrusters, or instead maybe put the 10 blocks spread out all over the ship, each individually running to thrusters… each config allowing the same amount of thrust and getting the same handling properties.

      Just continuing to layer systems in like that…weapons, shields, comms etc, where you have more of a flight model than the bare bones thing going on right now, and you’ve got a pretty cool ass voxel ship system going on.

      I really hope its going in that direction, to balance defense, offense, and performance based on how many and what/where each block is.

    • FalseMyrmidon says:

      How rude.

    • Josh W says:

      The best explaination I heard for spacefighters was target aquisition in a spatially complex place: Send out a load of fighters, and their pilots weave around stuff and make sure they don’t hit the wrong thing. Suggests that spacefighters are good for dealing with people hijacking/smuggling themselves within material streams being sent to planets, or police type jobs on crowded ports.

      Of course, if you decide what you really want is people shooting lazers everywhere you could just handwave “conversion beam” weapon systems (independence day gun) with limited range as the source of power and reason you don’t want big fat ships slumfing about the solar system.

  2. arrjayjee says:

    Great. Now that they’ve re-done their previously…let’s go with “silly”…pricing model, I’m all in. Life, meet your new competition!

    • Premium User Badge

      Biscuitry says:

      The pricing model itself – essentially an annual subscription – wasn’t that silly, but the way they were trying to sell it was. Call a spade a spade, say I. Don’t call it a yearly “release” that you buy access to, with this, that and the other caveat.

  3. Elltot says:

    This looks AWESOME! Who’s up for building a full scale Red Dwarf?

  4. Premium User Badge

    princec says:

    This does look fantastic. Just needs some proper lighting in that renderin’ engine now!

  5. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Only one ock away from a Bladerunner game. So close.

  6. Inigo says:

    The ship interiors are designed to repel boarders by inducing crippling migraines wherever they look.

  7. sexyresults says:

    30 Sounds? SOLD

  8. ZephyrSB says:

    This looks like it’s coming along quite nicely – and sounds to be heading in the direction of an ultra-detailed ship damage model I’ve always dreamed of. And now I understand the pricing I might actually get it too!

  9. Mattressi says:

    Awesome, this looks like it has a lot of potential (and even looks fun as is)!

    I bags being your Codicier Librarian, Adam. Also, I want power armour and psychic powers. You are captaining this library for the Emperor, right?

  10. jape says:

    I have been following BR for quite a while. The main problem is that it has been in development for half a year and still it is mostly a mod for Infiniminer, not a game: you can build a ship, drive it and shoot stuff, but nothing else. Collisions don’t work, and with the weird entity gravitation wells, it’s uncertain if they ever do. This is sad, because I’d REALLY want a game like this.

    Edit: half a year with 6 developers…

    • CptFresh says:

      You might be interested in what my roommate and I are doing. We already have functional planets and solar systems in addition to ships.

    • jape says:

      I agree, I might :) Can you space any details, a link, anything?

  11. faelnor says:

    I always seem to read only halfway through this kind of news where I discover a new, potentially exciting game.

    I usually give a good look at the screens, glance at description and start downloading the game, smiling with anticipation until I first launch it and go: “UH. Multiplayer. :( *delete*”

    • jape says:

      I’m not sure what you mean mate. Not having multiplayer is that bad, or did you misunderstand that it is a multiplayer game?

    • faelnor says:

      Multiplayer only is bad, and I suck at not downloading games before I read that they are multiplayer only.

      EDIT: or are they? I can’t understand from either RPS or the game’s website if you can play this in SP. I can’t get it to launch anyway.

    • jape says:

      It’s not multiplayer only. The devs are apparently thinking about some kind of MCesque system, but for now it does not have any kind of MP.

    • faelnor says:

      Thanks for the info. And apparently I was missing the latest XNA framework update.
      Time to be excited again!

  12. Nerdcubed says:

    If anyone wants to see a bit more about the game in detail I did a let’s play type video on it a few days ago. Enjoy!

  13. vivlo says:

    for anyone interested of blizzard and crossovers thingies, those guys are also responsible for this rather incredible thing : http://www.moddb.com/mods/warcraft-vs-starcraft :)

  14. Tams80 says:

    I know it will probably improve, but at the moment it just looks rather ugly and clunky. Not something I’d be prepared to pay for at least.

  15. patton says:

    Too bad it crashes every five minutes or so. Doesn’t help that I simply can’t buy it either, due to not having a real credit card.

  16. Randomer says:

    Is there any sort of game to it right now (e.g. minecraft in space), or is it just a 3d spaceship builder?

    • jape says:

      No game yet. You can fly with a pretty horrible model and shoot static stuff, but that’s it.

  17. hjd_uk says:

    Interior : Oh God my eyes!

    Needs a Lo-Fi texture approach like Minecraft. Look at the interioir of the International Space atn etc, plain-white panels etc.

    • Rawrian says:

      That’s true. What’s the point of “realistic” textures if the ship is made out of frelling cubes?

  18. YourMessageHere says:

    It can’t just be me that’s somewhat attracted by the promise of “build whatever you want” and then utterly repelled by “…so long as it’s made entirely of two-foot cubes”. This and Minecraft both, I’d like to like them, but just watching videos is enough to make my eyes itch. I like curves and triangles and stuff like that, thanks.

  19. Rocket Fiend says:

    This is what my brothers and I always wanted. I feel rather foolish that i’ve missed it thus far.

  20. elpistolero says:

    You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought…

  21. Sabre_Justice says:

    Improved collision physics? I was hoping they’d have actual ramming sometime. Perhaps later. The frame system looks interesting, though I’m hoping they’ll start implementing some actual engines and components to build with.