Space Station Titanic: Centration

By Adam Smith on July 8th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

As I pressed the gleaming red button that launches the Kickstarter Katchup onto the internet, the sound of screaming klaxons and crunching gears echoed around my apartment. It was past midnight and the Publish-o-tron 5000′s precise machinery had triggered an automated warning, informing everybody in a four mile radius that one project in particular deserved to see the light of day. For those who may have missed it, here is Centration, a game in which multiple players must attempt to maintain a space station while catastrophes occur. Heavily inspired by Space Station 13, a game on which the project lead has worked, it’s a first-person survival game that hopes to combine comedy, chaos and cruelty.

You’ll understand why Centration is an exciting prospect if you’ve ever sat around a table shouting orders during a game of Space Alert, only to sit ashen-faced when your crewmember inexplicably spends the latter stages of the game painstakingly making his way to the irradiated engine room and then bumping into a wall while his organs burst like eggs in a microwave. Expect decompression, crazed medical staff and sabotage.

You’re a crew member on board one of the state-of-the-art space stations in the Keplar-16 solar system, on a mission of vital importance to UniTech. You have duties to carry out, whether you’re and engineer or a medical technician, you’ll go about doing what you need to do to make sure the space station stays in working order. We call this the maintenance period. It’s also nicknamed the calm before the storm.

Sooner or later, someone inevitably breaks something. Someone might have a mission to kill you, or one of your crew. They might be tasked with sabotaging the station, stealing some chemical or data, or they might just be doing it because they want to.

The station’s security will naturally try to keep order, protect the crew, while the engineers will keep the station functioning mechanically. The medics will heal and the officers will lead. We call this the active period; nicknamed the storm.

Almost anything can happen on a space station and most of those things eventually involve people suffocating, burning, exploding or being sucked into space. The goal is to take this one setting and present many different play experiences within it.

Centration is played your way, and what happens during a round will differ massively from one to the next. A quiet shift where you don’t even realise something’s gone wrong until it’s all done and over with. A crazy shift culminating in the death of the entire crew. A really long shift where everything goes wrong, and you and your crew try your hardest to keep on top of everything and it just seems never ending… then comes the conclusion period. The end of your little story. Have you survived this long? Will you survive to the end? There’s a shuttle on its way to rescue you. There are escape pods, space suits, and there’s also death.

The round or ‘shift’ ends when everyone is dead, the shift ends (time-limit), everyone has left the station permanently (shuttle or escape pods), or the antagonist has successfully fulfilled all of his/her duties.

That sounds to me like the ‘betrayal’ aspect that is oft-used in games of the board being applied in a digital multiplayer environment. Excellent.

As well as having an interesting pitch, Angry Engineers are operating a decent campaign so far, exceedingly honest about the learning curve that they are now navigating. Meanwhile, something is stirring in the depths of Space Station 13.

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33 Comments »

  1. Evilopoly90 says:

    It certainly seems like an intresting game. I couldn’t get past SS13′s clunkyness but still had fun with it none the less so I’ll certainly give this game a try when it comes out.

    • Jinkeez says:

      I am addicted to any games where things can be repaired/upgraded/etc. Every now and then I’ll even launch Moonbase Alpha, log into a game, and spend a few minutes being the only astronaut fixing things. Incidentally, I hope you can exit the station and explore/damage/repair the exterior, too, that’d be pretty neat.

  2. noms says:

    Hey Adam! Thanks for the amazing article! For the record, most of our dev team love SpaceAlert!

  3. alexQueue says:

    I used to mod one of the largest Space Station 13 servers.
    I’m excited for this! I’ve been wanting to make this game for years, though honestly I wonder what the first-person perspective will add.

    • LionsPhil says:

      In theory, it could add quite a bit of interesting tension to the whole sneaky-sneaky bastardry part by narrowing people’s field of view.

      I’m more concerned about if the needs of a first-person 3D engine mean you can’t build things out of random floor plating, or systematically disassemble the station leaving gaping holes, and such. From what (admittedly little) SS13 I played, there were fun times to be had as engineering trying to put the reactor together right, then watching it slowly chew its way through the station when inevitably put together wrong.

      Also when everything was going right-ish, fixing the holes left by meteorites. But mostly the reactor vortex one.

  4. TekDragon says:

    $15 for pre-alpha funding of an indie game made by a small group of mostly untested teenagers and young adults?

    I might have jumped in at $10, but asking for $15 at this stage of development, with all the risks inherent, is well over my risk point. This is coming from someone who has funded dozens of projects.

    For $15 buy-in at this point, what will their release price be? $25? $30? This indie inflation is getting out of hand, imo.

    • BeaverBep says:

      $30 dollars is still half price of the average new release. I think you are being way too greedy.

      • KirbyEvan says:

        “$30 dollars is still half price of the average new release. I think you are being way too greedy.”

        Except for the fact the project is asking for 15 bucks for a promise to add an FPS camera to SS13 with less complexity. (And the average indie release is around 10-25$)

        It’s no different than if someone for instance made a 3D remake of Hotline Miami with half the features, and charged everybody three times the price for it.

        Also word to the wise, if you are indeed on the project as I gathered from the earlier comment:

        Insulting potential buyers isn’t a good idea, and because of that I simply refuse to fund this.

        • PopeJamal says:

          That’s a damn good point, actually.

        • Harlander says:

          I’d give someone $15 if they managed to implement a first-person camera in BYOND. I’d also hope that it would go towards funding the therapy they’d obviously need after such an ordeal

        • noms says:

          I’d like to confirm that BeaverBep is not on our development team, and no-one on our team thinks that anyone who is concerned about the cost of indie games is ‘greedy’.

          In fact, I agree – the pricing is the way it is because of the fact that we’re in development and we need the money in order to make the project a success. When we approach a real release, we’ll take our community’s opinions into account and price the game accordingly.

          I would also like to mention that Centration is in no-way a ‘clone’ or sequel to Space Station 13. It’s its own game, with similar mechanics and inspiration. Tagging Centration as ‘SS13 with a first-person-controller and half the features’ is simply unfair to the effort that our entire team is putting into the project.

        • TekDragon says:

          Games that went for $5-$10 for either early access alphas or upon release include Minecraft, FTL, War for the Overworld, Maia, Banner Saga, Dungeons of Dreadmore, Binding of Isaac, etc.

          Games that went for $15-$20 for either early access alphas or upon release include Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Satellite Reign, Stonehearth, and Planetary Annihilation.

          Now consider this title offering early access for $15, and consider Jim Rossignol making excuses for this and for Prison Architect going for $30 and you can see that we have a problem. Some (and only some) indie game developers are grossly overcharging their products in comparison to the indie market norm, and some (and only some) game industry journalists refuse to see this as a problem.

    • drinniol says:

      I kinda see your point but a fiver, though? Really? That represents to you game price inflation is out of hand? Fuck man I have to pay $80 USD for Company of Heroes 2 if I want it on Steam.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Tell that to the four million dollars made by Prison Architect. The point is: people will pay for depth in games, and $30 really isn’t that much.

      • TekDragon says:

        $30 isn’t that much? Really?

        In comparison to what? In comparison to a AAA title for $50-$60? In comparison to a weekend skiing trip? In comparison to a down-payment on a house?

        No, $30 isn’t that much in comparison to those things.

        $30 is, however, a hell of a lot in comparison to the indie game market. Making excuses for a one-man indie game with minimalist graphics and relatively narrow scope and scale costing $30 is disturbing. It makes me wonder what gaming journalists will do when we see similar titles releasing for $40, then $50, then $60.

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          > It makes me wonder what gaming journalists will do when we see similar titles releasing for $40, then $50, then $60.

          We’ll watch as the market refuses to pay for those titles and they drop their prices, obviously.

          A game is worth what people pay for it. Instead of posting nonsense, look at Prison Architect charging $30 as a baseline and think about what that means.

          • TekDragon says:

            It means the next Call of Duty could release at $90, hordes of people would buy it, and you’d still shrug your shoulders and refuse to examine what it means to the industry and the market when a handful of outliers attempt to jack up prices unilaterally.

            And see my post a few posts up. Prison Architect going for $30 for early alpha when Planetary Annihilation, Project Eternity, Torment, Satellite Reign, Shadowrun Returns, etc are all going for well below that IS a problem. Your refusal to address it doesn’t make that problem go away.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            Absolutely. And then I would laugh at the idiots spending $90 on a Call Of Duty game.

          • Nick says:

            Journalists don’t control market forces ffs.

  5. Skabooga says:

    Their design specifications pretty much mirror my dream game. If they can pull this off, I will be a happy person indeed.

  6. Dana says:

    No Clown, no buy.

    • noms says:

      You can mod a clown in. :(

    • cloudnein says:

      Yeah, me I don’t see the “comedy” side of Centration. SS13 excels at being hilarious and bizarre, this is all dark and gloomy and serious. I pass.

    • Phantoon says:

      Yeah, some have said this is a possible successor to SS13, but it only has the scary elements, none of the funny or zany elements. You’re cutting off half the game for something ridiculously gloomy. And what about Rev Rounds? The HONK mech? Natural Selection isn’t that scary either, and it has nothing BUT aliens.

      • noms says:

        The “comedy” and “zany” elements of Space Station 13 stems directly from the community. Nothing – I repeat, *nothing* is stopping you from making the games you play as crazy and clown-filled as you like. We’ve focused a lot on the ‘survival’ and ‘scary’ part of Centration, but that’s not all it’s about.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      What Clown finds, Clown keeps!

  7. noms says:

    Hey Adam, here’s a little demo of how our airflow system works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYQalMJRaWU

  8. SgtStens says:

    I just tried to get into SS13, and I had a hard time getting past the interface, though I can certainly appreciate the appeal. I hope this progresses well, I’d play it. I still have fond memories of Paranoia.

    • Phantoon says:

      Paranoia can also be one of the most hilarious games you’ll ever play if it’s handled right. I just don’t like the look of this.

  9. Brossacks says:

    I used to be pretty big into the game, and from what I recall the “project lead” was kicked out of working on SS13 for repeatedly attempting to add and requesting sexual assault added into the game as a mechanic. And the few times I saw him on the servers (talking about this game in pre-alpha) he seemed very controlling and petty. That’s just my experiences though, and I can’t say how it’ll reflect in Centration.

    • Sian says:

      I don’t have a problem with controlling and petty, as long as the game doesn’t suffer. I do hope they don’t try and add sexual assault into Centration – that would be a deal-breaker for me.

      You wouldn’t have a link substantiating your claim, would you?