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Space Oddities: The RPS StarMade Server

"the style and grace of a dead fish"

Featured post Ship shape

If you log-in to the RPS StarMade server at a quiet hour, you’d think some terrible and mysterious incident had occurred. Ships are left floating alone and unloved, apparently abandoned and left to the ravages of space. It’s as if some vast, alien intellect had made itself known to the players and scared them off with threats of an intergalactic tickle fight. The truth is a lot more mundane. They probably left because it was dinner time, or bed-time, or maybe the server crashed? Whatever the reason, there is life at certain times on the server, and they have already made awesome things.

The abandoned ships are just a function of how StarMade works. I don’t know if it’ll change, but right now when you leave this Minecraft inspired space game your ship is (usually) left where it is for others to find. When you log-in, it might be gone. Or it might be floating in space. Because of this, the spawn sector can look like a ship graveyard: it’s currently surrounded by several ships in various states of being built, hooked onto the loops of material that surround the shop at sector 2, 2, 2. It’s one of the way players stake their claim: a hooked on ship is something someone is invested in. They’re definitely working on it. Elsewhere, a floating hull might be truly abandoned, or it might just be floating where another player has logged out for the night. If the player hasn’t added it to a faction, using a block that’ll lock the ship to a group of people they’ve designated, that then it could be yours for the taking. I’m not here to be a moral guide in that regard, because I don’t care. That’s how the game currently works and it makes it interesting in lieu of missions or decent opponents. All I care about is what impact the players have made.

There are two ways to get things in StarMade: build or buy. Bought ships are imported to the game via blueprints. They are kind of obvious.

Yes, that is a Star Destroyer just floating in the void. Something that big and expensive probably won’t have been built on the server; it’ll have been built elsewhere and imported, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Someone worked on it, and having it there on the server can serve as an example to others: this is what you can make if you have the skill, the resources and the patience. Construction is pretty easy in StarMade: it’s left-click, right-click Minecraft style build and destroy, with additional shapes and lighting systems. It’s more about the building than the flying, so there are some lumpy ships out there. See.

That small collection of boxes is as much of a ship as the more impressive, bigger builds. It doesn’t have cannons, or gravity, or docking stations, and no-one but me is going to stop and take a screenshot of it, but as a way of moving around the solar system, it’s a perfectly serviceable solution. It suited me as I zipped around snapping screenshots. It brought me to this.

This is more like it. The big, big thing in the distance is one of the game’s stations. Their main purpose is to be scavenged. You can see the pock-marked surface if you enlarge the screenshot. To build things in StarMade you can scavenge wrecks like this, and either use the blocks in your own build, or you can sell them to the shop to buy what you need. The players have already eaten into this huge structure. I love that you can see where people have taken meaty bites out of it. The holes were big enough to fit my clot of blocks inside.

To me, that destruction is as beautiful as ship that’s been built. Below the station is a Homeworld 2 Vagyr Battlecruiser that player Askar and friend Madraz built on another server and brought over to us. Here’s a better angle of it.

Marvelous, eh? But it was responsible for the server crashing. He was out in it and I teleported to his position without a ship. I was left drifting beneath one of the randomly generated planets the game creates. They’re discs floating in space, with gravity and a very thin bubble of atmosphere. I managed to make it to the surface of the planet by drilling up from below. If I were, inclined, I could have claimed the planet as my own by placing a faction block on it and tying it to my group, but I was too transfixed by the view of the ship hovering over the planet. Bigger ships can have docking points, so a smaller ship peeled off from the main bulk to collect me. As it arrived, landing with the style and grace of a dead fish, I only had one thought: could the bigger ship collect me instead?

It was a very stupid thought. Here is the ship slowly entering the atmosphere. I don’t have a screenshot of it hovering near the ground, because the interplay between the planet’s physics and all the blocks in the ship tore the universe a new space hole and crashed the server.

Still, you live and learn. Or you crash the server and learn. I hope one day it’s possible. The server restarted and I teleported to the home area. The shop at spawn is busy with ships, as you’d expect. There are never fewer than five ships there, and they show a broad range of the building possibilities. I particularly like the purple squid ship that shows you can at least hint towards an organic styling. It stands out more because the ship beside it is basically a flying warehouse. I’m not mocking its boxy design: everything I build is made with the principle that a line of boxes with other boxes stuck to it is good enough. I aspire to making a flying warehouse.

Look at all those glorious, lumpy spacethings. You could have one parked with them. The game is free, and the server details and admin contact are as follows.

Server details.
IP: 85.236.101.238:4542
Admin contact: craig@rockpapershotgun.com, @bucksexington

What’s next? I might look to making the game a bit tougher and the top speed a bit higher. Right now it’s mostly running on the base game, and that’s a bit unbalanced. Loot is plentiful and pirates are easy. If it’s set-up as a pure building server, then that’s not much of a problem, but if people want to make something of it and to have to fight a little for their survival, then I’ll happily change settings. I’ll check comments here and on the forum post.

A challenge to the people on the server: take a planet, or a station, and build. Don’t destroy. Make something wonderful.

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Craig Pearson

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