Seeking Spacebucks: Astrobase Command Kickstarter

By Adam Smith on November 20th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

If ever proof were needed that Kickstarter is capable of warping the mind, I almost opened this post about Astrobase Command by claiming that the game probably already had more features than Spacebase DF-9. The two do look similar but in fairness to Doublefine’s take on space station management, its current Steam Early Access version may be lean but it is possible for the public to play it. Astrobase Command, which I’ve enthused about before, is currently seeking 145,000 Canadian Dollars via Kickstarter and although there’s nothing to play just yet, it’s an appealing project. It’s part single player Space Station 13 and part sci-fi Dwarf Fortress.

There are many ways in which Astrobase Command may cause your interest to become perky. Let’s begin with fully customisable player species, procedurally generated universes with stories and histories, and the potential for advanced technology to become a danger in the hands of an incompetent crew. Despite all the fine sci-fi trappings, interactions between characters sound like the core of the game. There’s a long chunk of copy-pasted text below but it’s well worth reading:

Characters have personality traits, and these hook into the AI story engine. So your guys aren’t just bags-of-stats with a name! You care about them because they make decisions based on their personality, and you’ll promote and empower units who make decisions that fit your playstyle.

For example, if there is a reactor fire between a medic and the wounded crewman he is tasked with saving, that character might deal with the problem in a number of ways. Someone logical might first put out the fire, and then deal with the wounded. An adventurous character might try to make it through the fire and be the hero. A focused character might put on a space suit, and avoid the fire altogether by going outside (leaving someone else to deal with it). If he’s creative, he could to seal the burning module and vent the oxygen, and then use the spacesuit to traverse the de-pressurized module.

Every goal has many valid solutions, and it’s the personality of the character that determines how he chooses to fulfil your orders.

The personalities of characters emerge from the situations the player puts them in, as outcomes of the AI story engine. We currently have 280 traits, and a character may posses up to four.

The devs reckon they’ll need at least nine more months to finish the game and they’re currently operating without an artist, so hiring somebody will be one of the first steps when/if the money comes through.

The biggest risk is that on an indie project, everyone is a bit out of their comfort zone as everyone does a bit of everything. But we’re confident we can make this happen based on the prototype, and that each of us has substantial expertise in our core areas (programming, design, technology) and enough general knowledge and experience to figure out the rest. We’re also plugged into the indie scene in Montreal, and they’ve been a big help.

The $30 (Canadian) tier provides access to a beta when it’s ready but otherwise, the wait will be until around November 2014.

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16 Comments »

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I’m not your buddy, guy.

  2. BurningPet says:

    Sounds very interesting. how i wish for a playable build to judge before pledging..

  3. The Random One says:

    This is seriously giving Double Fine a run for their money, and it’s giving my money a run for their pledge pile.

    That variation switch on the race creation screen is fascinating. I already envision having a race of identical grey androids and a race of wildly different blobpeople.

    • Quiffle says:

      You’ve got the same idea as I do. If I can create a race of gelatinous cubes to jiggle about the station, I’m more than sold.

  4. JamesTheNumberless says:

    It looks a little bit less like Space Colony than DF’s Space Colony rip-off does.

  5. Glottis1 says:

    Make it so.

  6. TechnicalBen says:

    This is what the Doublefine game should be like. :(
    So might actually keep an eye on this one. :)

    • jonahcutter says:

      Yeah, kind of regretting my impulse buy of DF-9. Not that it can’t become good. It’s just so empty now. Though I think they’re planning things like multi-levels. I probably should of waited to see some more concrete features before jumping in.

      The interaction of personalities, if they can pull it off, sounds exactly like what I want a game like this to be about. Base-building, economy, tech trees, alien attacks, etc are good and all. But nothing we’ve not seen many times before. But gameplay with interaction of actually modeled personalities is what will be compelling. Standard management sim dynamics will hopefully all orbit around that as the core gameplay.

      • Ilaliya says:

        This is Dave over at Astrobase Command. :)

        Characters, and how they interact with each other & the world are really important to us. And all the core gameplay revolves around the crew behaving believably as actual characters.

        I kind of call it the “X-com problem.” I’m a huge fan of X-Com, and in fact X-Com: Terror From the Deep is one of my all-time faves. And I actually think the reboot really did the series justice, and is a great game independent of the legacy. But the problem is the characters kinda don’t matter. Because the game only incentivizes you to simply pick the guy with the highest stats.

        So we’ve spent a lot of design and technology investment into the Trait system (and AI in general), because as a gamer it’s so important to me that I care about the dudes I’m ordering around in the game. We feel they should have legitimate personalities, which influence their AI-decision making to have a real in-game impact that is both tangible and not numbers-based. And then as a player it’s really about who you “trust.” So your go-to guys don’t necessarily have the best stats… rather they’re the guys who make day-to-day decisions in their jobs that best fit your playstyle. Which is why you trust them.

        What’s really cool about this system is that it’s reusable for AI-opponents as well. Because we really believe that sci-fi is fundamentally about characters (that’s why we love the shows we love, right?), but we’re also huge players of sandbox games.

        So really it’s about combining those two loves in a seamless way. :)

        • frightlever says:

          “Because we really believe that sci-fi is fundamentally about characters -that’s why we love the shows we love, right?”

          I love SF shows because of the way they squeeze the female cast members into revealing costumes. I don’t even learn their names, I just identify them by their most prominent body parts. Also, I love all the magic in SF shows. Oh they hide it under all that mumbo jumbo tech-speak but we know that at its heart, it’s Jesus that saves everybody. Every single show.

          I liked ALF. He was a character.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            Your watching the wrong Sci-Fi.
            Look at those who hate the new Star Trek, because it does exactly what you say. The same with “magic”.
            Sci-fi should be about asking questions like “what would happen if this happened in the future”. With the subject hopefully something that may happen (thus excluding magic).

            Some of the best sci-fi just looks at how people would cope in space. How people would cope with future technology, tools, resources, events.

            All media suffers from other types of entertainment creeping in. An action sci-fi is not about science, it’s about lens flares and explosions. :(

            PS, it’s a silly plug I know, but I’ve attempted a sci-fi short story, and as it’s written, there are no scantly clad ladies! Though I do find it hard to avoid the “main character saves the day”, but find allowing other characters more active choices helps the world around the character progress more naturally. Or even having no main character. I do use plot devices, but try to only use them to move the story, or as an excuse for the concentration on the event (it’s a story, we want the interesting bits, thus it’s going to be the exceptions/special events). http://techy-ben.deviantart.com/gallery/38281467

            Post in the general forums, I’m sure others can find some better examples of some good hard (that is accurate and thinking) sci-fi.

          • frightlever says:

            Being able to spell isn’t a prerequisite to being able to write, but it shows you’re taking it seriously.

            “Your watching the wrong Sci-Fi.” – (a) it’s “you’re” and (b) you offer no counter-examples. Also “scantily” and “or as an excuse for the concentration on the event” begs to be “or as an excuse to concentrate on the event”.

            In a 330 word prologue you use “was” 9 times. So what? Every time you use “was” you’ve missed the opportunity to write something better.

            “Its discovery was heralded as a breakthrough” – by who? “Elite scientific institutions/The Grand Order of Knights of the True Way/Bingo Smith heralded the discovery as a breakthrough.”

            “It was soon to become a mining facility, second only to Jupiter in scale.” – “Rapid development forged it into a mining facility, second only to Jupiter in scale”. Avoiding “was” forces you to find a better, more dynamic way to express your point.

            “A project was started, the first of its kind, to colonize a gas giant.” – “Grand Poobah Brian – a character whose later importance we are sign-posting – initiated a bold, revolutionary (be careful around cascading adjectives. Adjectives in general but they serve a purpose. To be fair I’d pick one or other.) project to colonise the gas giant”. You’re pummelling your point down when you use “was”. You’re taking the subject and saying something happened to it, thereby making the subject passive, instead of taking the subject and making it DO something. So instead of something happening to the project, SOMEONE or SOMETHING initiated the hell out of the project.

            Google “be” words in writing. “was” “is” “were” etc. all threaten passive writing and you should cut your usage to the bone. Dialogue is an exception – in general you don’t want every character to sound like they’re thinking too hard about what they say. If nothing else cutting down on the “be” words is a good exercise in broadening your word usage. I appreciate that you’re probably not a native English speaker but you’ll only get better if you stretch yourself.

            I scanned “Chapter 1″ but you clearly don’t proof-read, so you’re not demonstrating a desire to take it seriously. I do like your imagery, but you need to buckle down on the lazy writing.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          “The Xcom problem” is an interesting one. It’s ok that your adding the details to the game it’s self (DF style self writing history, gives really interesting results). But XCom just missed a custom bio/story box that the Sims redundantly used.

          Never wanted to use the bio boxes or story pages to the Sims to write about them. But the levels and events in Xcom (the reboot)? I could write a novel for what that squad went through! :P

          But I’m guessing it’s easy to open up the engine to customization/player writing once the content is made. It’s just a text box away after all. :)