Worlds Of Wonder: The Space Engineers Steam Workshop

By Craig Pearson on March 4th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Can't get enough of that wonderful Duff

I wanted to know what state Space Engineers was in, because it’s been a few months since I last tried it out and it was already pretty impressive back then. How much could a game about building space ships and flying them change in a few months?

Well, on my first playthrough I was slinging ships across the void, watching as they met and crumpled and cooing at the damage model and simple building tools. Since then they’ve added multiplayer and Steam Workshop support, which was how I ended I ended up flying a spaceship the form of a shark into the crotch of a monolithic Homer Simpson. I apologise in advance.

'Oh the huge manatee!' 'It's a shark, actually.'

I was joined on this trip into the Workshop by Philippa “The Undoing” Warr, who was helping me test out the game’s new-ish multiplayer. It’s an easy set-up: you can start a server by editing the settings of one of your saves, and selecting it as ‘online’. Then you can invite friends only or open it to the public. I foolishly invited Pip.

The Steam Workshop files are actually save games that players upload, so you can take any build and turn it into a server. As with every game that enables the player to create and form and fashion things, fandoms shine through: Warhammer fans, Mass Effect fans, and even Crysis fans have been building and distributing. But however impressive those were, I ended up grabbing the sillier uploads, and I started with Homer & Marge Simpson by Comagable.

There are limits to what you can do with ship shapes, but this little Simpsons scene is still recognisably Simpsonsy: Homer and Marge hung in the grey sky and a little gathering of Simpsons themed ships–some glazed doughnuts and a few Duff beers–drift nearby. Homer’s mouth was agape, and it was the entry-point to a ship that was way more detailed than we’d imagined. We disappeared into the oesophagus and ended up looping through corridors. The complex innards of Homer put Pip in mind of a duodenum, and for a while we wandered intestiny-feeling tracts of corridors before arriving at a cavernous section that held the rib-cage, spine, and heart.

It’s so cavernous, in fact, that we got lost and had to punch our way out of his body, which is not how I imagined this little adventure going. Nor did I think I’d be adding nipples to the body before smashing a can of Duff so stiffly into Homer’s mouth that his face bent. Life is full of surprises, and the complexity of the inner workings of the Homer-ship was a pleasant reminder that people make extraordinarily ridiculous things in games for us to break.

Here is a recording of our adventure, with apologies for Pip’s mic, my breathing and Scottishness, and the overall aimlessness of the thing. We’ll get it right one day.

The best thing about setting up a server is it didn’t warn Pip of what was coming, so I’d be able to surprise her with the Workshop’s whims. To that end, I grabbed “Giant Articulated Shark” from the Workshop and invited her in.

I first thought this huge space shark was a bit of a cheat, as it appeared to me that the sections weren’t joined, but Pip proved that notion was incorrect by hopping behind the controls and waggling the head side-to-side. That waggle passed along the length of it the shark, tapering out into the void of space. It’s been so long since I’ve messed with Space Engineers that I’d forgotten how a lot of the mechanics work, so this impossible creature seemed even more fantastical as it slowly sculled the grey void, looking like a lost Discworld character. In fact, you can hear the awe building in my voice, a sense of wonder slowly swimming up from the deep, just before Pip exerted the carcharodon carcharias just a little too much.

The horror! With the shark decapitated, it was time to try another Workshop entry. This time I was intrigued by what claimed to by a huge representation of Han Solo being frozen in carbonite. Excited at the thought of having an inert Harrison Ford as a personal plaything, I grabbed it and led Pip into the game.

Now I don’t quite understand the concept behind it, but it’s a surprisingly good render of Han, even down to the pursed lips that the movie model has. As a ship it left a lot to be desired, though. The main problem is that it wasn’t built with maneuverability in mind: there was a pile of thrusters and reactors built onto it, but they all pointed in one direction. While it was impressive to scoot around it and see where the game’s building tools had allowed for angled blocks to shape the galaxy’s greatest ruffian, it could only go in one direction very quickly.

Which was another opportunity for Pip to Pip things up. We both wandered over it and she found the controls first. I backed off, attempting to frame an *amazing* screenshot of the monolith. Seriously, this was going to be a shot for the ages. Angels were preparing their trumpets to celebrate it, the Louvre ripped old Mona off the wall and reinforced the floor’s concrete for the crowds, and the world’s calendars were recoiled so an extra day could be added just to worship it.

And then Pip hit accelerate and disappeared off into space.

Sigh.

I love her, really. But given the previous evidence, the next download was playing with fire. It was a giant Ballista. At first I thought it would be static, but that’s not giving Space Engineers the credit it deserves: the bow was linked to the frame by a chain that we could see gently drifting in the solar winds, and the apparently ingenious idea was that two people could ‘pilot’ either end, providing the kinetic energy it needed to straighten the chain and fire the loaded arrow. In theory. I’m including this mostly because I want to know where we went wrong. When sitting in the cockpit of each prong of the bow, neither of us could figure out how to drive the mechanism that snapped the bow. It should work, but there were no attached thrusters, and those we did hook up failed.

Of course, the best thing about Space Engineers is that I could fix it, and so I did. Behold, my arrow with added cockpit, reactor and thruster. I aim to puncture a planet with this, just as soon as I find one.

With me heading off on an arrow into deep space, we called it a day (not really: my PC was getting wobbly). There are plenty of things that I wanted to try on the Workshop, but I had space to pierce. I regret not getting to play Space Chess or Space Mario. We didn’t have the time to try out this maze, and I was worried about the carnage Pip would wreak with this Chaos Engine. I am a coward, but I’m also fascinated by the creativity of the Space Engineers community, because without them this couldn’t have happened.

I already apologised, yeah?

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13 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Needs the staring eyes tag.

  2. RaoulDuke says:

    I vote Craig Pearson as the new “RPS person who does play-throughs/previews/funny vids” because sorry Nathan but you’re voice sounds like a bass-less Tom Waits, he is unintelligible even on my stupid-loud sound system.

    If this isn’t possible then please send me Nathan’s audio files so I make them listenable.

    OT:- Great videos Craig, rather funny.

  3. Tei says:

    All I have asked for is sharks with frigging laser on the eyes.

    Do this game have lasers already?

    • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

      It has small ship MGs and Rockets.

      No capital ship weps yet though :’(

  4. Skiddywinks says:

    So how has the actual, you know, game developed? Mods sound great but is that all there is to SE? Novelty spaceships?

  5. MinisterofDOOM says:

    It’s certainly a fun physics sandbox, but the lack of support for even small-scale spherical gravity fields is a killer for me. My brain doesn’t work in terms of flat gravity. Perhaps I’ve been tainted by Super Mario Galaxy, They Need to be Fed, and a bunch of other gravity-oriented platformers, but I just can’t make myself enjoy a game that’s partly about gravity in which gravity functions completely wrongly.

    Crashing large floating objects into other large (floating or grounded) objects and watching them deform dynamically is a lot of fun. But it won’t be more than a crash-test-dummy simulator until gravity is improved.

  6. frightlever says:

    I bought into the alpha for Miner Wars 2081, so you’ll excuse me if I wait until this is on sale for peanuts, if then.

  7. MajorManiac says:

    Many years in the future two strangers meet in a secluded corner of a dimly lit jaunty space tavern.

    “I’m looking for information on this pirate” – The suited man said as he handed over a holograph.

    “Arrr! That-be the infamous space pirate Philippa Warr.” – Answered the man across the table. Pausing to quaff some grog, he continued – “Listen up me-hearty. I’ve heard tell that she single handedly ripped a giant space Shark’s head clean off.”

    “But do you know where she is now?” – The suited man asked impatiently.

    Resting his free hand on his space-musket the other man replied – “Know one rightly knows where she is. Last I heard she boarded a giant obelisk looking for booty and without warning, shot off into uncharted sea-space. Never to return again.”

  8. Ed_kend says:

    For the Crossbow you need to use the rotors to fire the projectile. This is the video of it being built: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ2fQWH9_10

  9. YogSo says:

    Now I don’t quite understand the concept behind it, but it’s a surprisingly good render of Han, even down to the pursed lips that the movie model has. As a ship it left a lot to be desired, though. The main problem is that it wasn’t built with maneuverability in mind: there was a pile of thrusters and reactors built onto it, but they all pointed in one direction. While it was impressive to scoot around it and see where the game’s building tools had allowed for angled blocks to shape the galaxy’s greatest ruffian, it could only go in one direction very quickly.

    Following the link to the author’s workshop page, I’ve found his/her explanation for that: “The thrusters were not included to move this thing around, but only to turn it towards the sun for a nice screenshot. :) “