Far From Terraria Firma: Starbound

By Adam Smith on April 3rd, 2012 at 4:30 pm.

It was probably when the first screenshot from Starbound emerged onto the hazy plains of the internet that a law was passed making it illegal to refer to the game without nodding approvingly and saying, “Huh, Terraria in space I guess”. Yes, it’s a side-scrolling game with mining and construction, a similar visual style, and, yes, there’s crossover in some of the design talent, but there are plenty of differences as well. For one, rather than seeding standalone worlds, Starbound takes place on planets which can be visited by other players, provided you pass them the coordinates. There’s a lot more variety in terms of creatures and landscapes as well, with procedurally generated flora and fauna. Thrillingly, the only video I’ve found is a lighting demo. Be thrilled!

The most exciting thing about Starbound isn’t the directional lighting, it’s the idea of a game about exploration and discovery, along with the crafting and construction. Although blocks can be harvested and homes can be built, Starbound’s creators seem more interested in building worlds for the player, or at least building the tools that build the worlds, rather than spaces for the player to fill.

Starting from a space station, which can be upgraded and populated with the rare and the wonderful, the player can gather crews, produce mechs and explore the universe.

Because we’re working so hard to make each planet unique, we want to give you the tools to catalogue the things you find and make sure absolutely everything you find has depth in the world. Much like old school point and click adventures, absolutely every object in the world, right down to the trees and flowers, can be examined for a description.

See a weird alien tree? Examine it! Maybe you’ll discover something about its use! For any explorer, sharing discoveries is important. So whilst the game is fully coop (Bring your friends along! Form an expedition!) you can also record your findings in an electronic logbook. Not only that, but each and every planet has unique coordinates in the Universe that you can share online, so other players can check out exactly what you found!

I think this is a game in which I can be a space botanist with a pet space penguin and I didn’t realise how much I’ve longed for such a thing until moments ago. Oh yeah, the penguins.

Creatures from different space sectors! Is the one on the right with the shell pointing the way? I think so. I hope so. I want him to lead my expedition.

As well as finding weird and wonderful new worlds, it’s possible to make a planet your home. Not just a little bit of it but the entire planet. Once that’s done, pass out its location and invite people round for tea and crumpets, or mess with the meteorology and terraform the place to your heart’s content.

When you claim a planet as your new homeworld, a whole new aspect of gameplay opens up. Everything that makes a planet unique is at your command. Feel like changing the weather? Build a weather centre! Don’t like the terrain? Terraform it! Every aspect of the planet is under your control. Once you’re happy with it, start populating it with characters you’ve met in your travels and take care of them! They’ll have needs and desires and won’t hesitate to ask for your help if they require assistance.

Different stages of gameplay, culminating in godlike abilities. Procedurally generated places and lifeforms. Terraria in space is one way of describing it, sure, but maybe there’s a little bit of Spore in there as well, along with the adventure game influences. It’s certainly a project worth keeping in mind, although there’s only the vague hope of a summer 2012 release at present.

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60 Comments »

  1. Swabbleflange says:

    Very interested it it’s more exploration-focused. I love the idea of Terraria but the arcade game aspect of it leaves me cold.

    Edit: Especially considering nothing seems to be happening with Noctis. I’m really pining for my space/planetary exploration fix.

    • krisanto says:

      This is what Noctis V should’ve been. Really looking forward to this.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Agreed entirely for the same reasons. I have immense respect for Terraria, even more so than Minecraft in a lot of ways, but I was never excited about its arcade and WoW gear treadmill bits. In fact they turned me right off.

      This game looks much more my speed; it is a lovely bonus that it’s SF based rather than fantasy. I mean, I like me some fantasy now and then, but I feel it’s just a bit overdone these days.

      The fact that most fantasy in games is just the same old elf & dwarf Tolkien fanfic fodder regurgitated doesn’t help. Someone make a fantasy game that cribs from Leiber or Mieville already. (Maybe they have and I just missed it?)

      EDIT to say I really dig the art here, as well. Sprite-y but still modern and with its own personality. Seems like it’s just a very smart little game all around. Let me buy into the Alpha, and you can have my money now!

      • Tom De Roeck says:

        To be fair, though, they removed a lot of the arcadey stuff by having switches and lava and all that neat stuff. Pumps as well?

        I think terarria is more creative than you give it credit. Maybe youre just tired of minecraftians already :D

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          Very possible, I haven’t played it much recently.

          As I said, I have a lot of respect for the game, I just felt like it was aimed at someone who is not me. But I’ll try to give it another go if I have time.

  2. Jesse L says:

    Sold sold sold sold!

    I wish I had something more meaningful to say. Instead of trying to think of that, how about I just allow you to enjoy how I’m not going to tell the developer how and where I think their game should emulate or diverge from Terraria. Do your own thing, guys, it sounds awesome.

    Edit: okay, yes, I also like the idea of something less action-packed than Terraria. I like exploration better. And I miss Noctis too!

  3. TsunamiWombat says:

    The unsustainable maw of the hivemind demands this product now

  4. Stuart Walton says:

    So… Spore/Noctis in a Terrarialike engine?

    I csn’t see mi screen as I nave thrown money at if.

  5. Bluerps says:

    It sounds like Terraria with more exploration and base building. If it has also less grinding than Terraria, I’ll be a very happy man!

    • Joshua Northey says:

      What grinding was there in Terraria? I mean the game had its faults, but I would hardly describe any part of it as “grinding”. Maybe you might need to grind out some better equipment if you were trying to whole the whole game on hardcore, but then you are choosing that.

      • Bluerps says:

        Ok, yeah, you could easily ignore that part of the game, at least until hardmode. Still, that is what annoys me the most about it (note that this may sound harsher than intended – I spent over a hundred hours with Terraria).

    • Phantoon says:

      New Game+ totally has a grind with killing the bosses repeatedly to get anything and everything.

  6. Squire says:

    Digital Bestiary!

    I’m the guy who actually liked finding the chests in AssCreed 2/2.5 so this excites me heavily.

  7. Reefpirate says:

    I don’t think Summer 2012 is that far fetched considering how quickly Terraria was developed. These guys have high dev agility scores.

  8. liquidsoap89 says:

    Terraria 2 or not I want it.

  9. Teronfel says:

    Yes,i’m sure it’s gonna be awesome!

  10. squareking says:

    Was there a falling out with the Terraria team? Haven’t visited the T. forums in a while.

  11. Torgen says:

    Wow, I’d forgotten that I own Terraria. I played the hell out of it for a week solid, then never went back.

  12. Qwentle says:

    Do we have to fly to these coordinates, or can we add them into an, I don’t know, Gate like device :)

    This sort of stuff always gets me, so this seems pretty awesome.

  13. Belsameth says:

    Please provide me with an adress to which I can ship both my money and my free time…
    (My G/F and job are thrown in as a bonus…)

  14. Skeletor68 says:

    Been following this for a while. Seriously can’t wait for it. I already emailed the devs to say I was excited and they seemed really nice and appreciative. Everyone go show support! TAKE MY MONEY!

    As an aside, there are some beautiful desktop backgrounds on their site for download.

  15. Arnrgim says:

    Yrimir has already posted two trailers for this on his youtube channel

    http://youtu.be/9ktlAGvjUjY and http://youtu.be/2v8rpUXObqk

  16. bladedsmoke says:

    Shut the fuck up and take my money

  17. RedViv says:

    Yes, very much waiting and excited for this. Terraria was a bit lacking in the exploration aspects for us.

  18. Tei says:

    Looking forward for this game. On of my favorite titles was Commander Blood, and I want more of that type of space exploration with flavour. To me space exploration is about finding amazing and weird worlds.

  19. theoriginaled says:

    Im still not sure I get the planetary aspect of the game. When someone hands off coordinates of a planet theyve found. Will I go to those coordinates to find an untouched version of said planet, or will I find them there building? Does the game differentiate? What happens when all of the planets fill up and the Starbound planet wars begin? As interesting as that sounds, what if I just want to colonize without worrying that playerX is going to come raze my planet while Im gone? Is this single player, mmo, or hybrid essentially.

    • genosse says:

      I don’t think you have to worry about this. Without using some kind of central server, the coordinates will probably just be some kind of seed that determines the planet’s climate, lifeforms, etc. So, unless you play coop, everyone will live on his “own” version of the planet, just with the same general parameters. Just a guess though!

    • krisanto says:

      I’m kinda wondering how that would work as well. I’m guessing that you’ll only be able to see your friend’s buildings if he hosts the server. Coordinates are probably be the equivalent of seeds in Minecraft.

      Edit: Same guess as genosse.

    • genosse says:

      In any case, the other players still need the coordinates of your planet to reach you, which would make griefing pretty pointless unless someone is just connecting to random worlds to spread chaos – which also somehow intrigues me. Would make for a pretty cool World Invasion scenario, fitting for a space game.

  20. dontnormally says:

    BEST THING EVER
    BEST THING EVER

    • treehugger says:

      Ikr.. :P I must have looked at all the videos they had so far… (Literraly)

  21. psychoconductor says:

    Judging from the screenshot, someone is a big fan of Mega Man.

  22. Phantoon says:

    I actually had thought that the Terraria dev quit on Terraria to work on this game.

    Apparently he’s not associated with it at all.

    • dontnormally says:

      Apparently it’s one of the Terraria devs.

      • Randomer says:

        I’m pretty sure Terraria’s former art dev is now on this project.

        • Phantoon says:

          Yes, I was completely wrong (and correct in my original idea), the lead dev for Terraria is the same lead dev for this.

          • rustybroomhandle says:

            No, not the lead dev for Terraria, it’s the lead art guy for Terraria that’s now doing this, just like the poster above said.

          • Phantoon says:

            The poster above said that he is working on the project, not leading it.

    • treehugger says:

      Nope.

  23. James G says:

    The world co-ordinates idea is one that I’d noted down in my little book of game ideas I’d like to explore. I’ve always found the sharing of world seeds a nice touch, and codifying this a bit more in the game mechanics seemed like a good idea. Said little book of game ideas also had this tied closely to exploration, one of my favourite gaming themes. So I’m definitely going to give this one a look, even if I’m going to be kicking myself regularly wishing I had designed it, rather than making it.

    But, strangely is does give also give me the impetus to begin focusing of the nascent idea I do have, before someone goes and reproduces all elements of it. (Not that the themes above have remained entirely unexplored.)

  24. Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

    I am so, so excited for this. The “infinite explorable galaxy” Lego playset was the one I always wanted but never got for Christmas.

  25. kevinzana says:

    Procedural planet descriptions, anyone?

    ..anyone?

    • Phantoon says:

      Procedural anything is good.

      Except maybe that, as it’d likely be too descriptive, or complete nonsense.

    • krisanto says:

      Procedural planet history/description to a certain degree would be a nice touch ala Dwarf Fortress.

  26. hippieslayer555 says:

    looks great but say if i claimed a world as my own would it have to be hosted on my IP address or something like that? servers etc….. because in that case handing out your coordinates wouldnt be nothing special it would just be handing out your IP address

  27. Monkeh says:

    Why are you posting about this when I can’t throw my money at it yet? :P

  28. PPOY52 says:

    Nyan cat music?!

  29. JToTheDog says:

    I’m wondering why I still have moneys in my bank.

  30. SketchyGalore says:

    I dream that this will be like Spore… you know, minus the soul-crushing disappointment.

  31. Prime says:

    Really looking forward to this one! Am there Day One!

  32. Geen says:

    I’m throwing my money at the screen, but it’s not taking it!

  33. ctarshis01 says:

    Shut up and take my money!

  34. jamers000 says:

    Why does everyone make comparisons? this is terraria in the same way terraria is minecraft which is to say not at all.

  35. Evil_cole says:

    I really, really am going to like this game, the aspect of an adventure based game designed like terraria intrigues me, although I am still sad terraria isn’t getting added on to, this will CERTAINLY brighten that feeling.

  36. lockjaw says:

    where would i find starbound to buy