Starbound Update Will Add Permadeath, Wipe Universe

A videogame, yesterday.

In a post on the Starbound blog, the game’s development team have outlined coming fixes and additions to the next version of the game. Good news: they’re adding a permadeath mode, for those who want to add a little more risk to their galaxy exploration. Bad news: they’re kickstarting this new permadeath mode by wiping the entire universe, including player’s ships and characters.

It’s like playing alpha games is already a kind of permadeath mode.

The developers say that this patch contains “a fix for save files”, which should make it the last time they have to wipe ships and characters and “hopefully” the last time they wipe worlds. If you’ve built anything you’re particularly proud of, take your screenshots now before your homestead is swallowed by the celestial wipe.

On the plus side, when you create your new character there’s the promise of a greater number of decorative hats. Here’s the full list of feature and content additions for the next update:


  • New game modes! Permadeath and drop-everything-on-death modes.
  • Revolvers, pulse rifles, hand grenades, shivs, Floran needlers, Floran thorn hammer
  • Human guards now wear soldier uniforms
  • More decorative hats! Yay, hats!
  • More random encounters
  • Possibly more content, if it’s finished on time!

There’s more on the official blog, including a list of the bug fixes the patch will bring.

I continue to vacillate wildly on how I feel about alpha games. On the one hand, I’m old enough to remember a time when PC games were regularly released in a broken state and never fixed, and so the constant updates and community engagement of the alpha process remains an exciting improvement. On the other hand, I lost a three-hour-old DayZ character the other day because I was beaten to death by invisible zombies other players could see but I could not.

Sometimes at night I fall asleep and dream of a universe where I’m a Nintendo journalist, and I write about three polished, excellent games every year. But after the sixth Mario iteration, the dream ends with me waking up screaming. So, you know. Swings and roundabouts.


  1. BTAxis says:

    I’ve found Starbound to be a tad disappointing so far. It has a very limited selection of stuff you can actually use (plus a hundred kinds of useless dirt) and dungeons never have good loot in them. I’ve put the game to rest for now in hopes that there will be improvements by the time the game is released.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      I had an absolute blast with it for the first few days. Every time I boot it up now I just feel bored. I’m regretting getting it during the alpha and hoping that the second stage of updates (where the story and ‘game’ is added) will renew that first experience I had.

    • Tei says:

      Maybe you can install a few of the billion mods with extra stuff.

      • BTAxis says:

        Yes, I had considered that, but I’m afraid that what with beta updates being fairly frequent and fairly invasive, my favorite mods might get rendered incompatible on a regular basis. I’d prefer to wait until the game is on a more sedate update cycle before diving into the mods.

        • Smaug says:

          Some mod authors are pumping out update in a day, crazy how easily the game is modded!

    • tetracycloide says:

      Dungeons have good weapons but you have to try the main and alternate attacks to realize it sometimes.

    • Knightquinn says:

      Ever heard of a thing called beta?

  2. SquareWheel says:

    They warned save wipes would be present during the beta, so no big deal. Happy to see updates coming.

    • AngoraFish says:

      It’s like playing alpha games is already a kind of permadeath mode” and it has always been thus.

      Early access is actually “early access”, not “finished game”.

      If updates didn’t wipe saves, that would be the problem, as the game would be tied up in ensuring so much backward compatibility that tighter, bug free code would inevitably end up being sacrificed.

      • SavageTech says:

        “’It’s like playing alpha games is already a kind of permadeath mode’ and it has always been thus. Early access is actually ‘early access’, not ‘finished game’.”

        The problem is that “alpha”/”beta”/”early access” are such loose descriptors that you never know what to expect. I’ve played a LOT of alphas/betas and many of them have been incredibly polished games whose release version was not dramatically different than what I played. Conversely, I’ve played plenty of horrible messes which felt more like game testing than game playing.

        This sort of thing wasn’t an issue back when betas were free to testers, because you were getting a free early look at the game. If the game was really bad then you had the option to abandon it with no cost beyond your wasted time. Nowadays we’re being charged full price to test games that range from nearly finished to unplayable shit, so it’s understandable that people take umbrage with traditional elements of beta testing that free testers might have taken in stride.

        Basically the spirit of your argument is correct, but your pedantry over game industry buzzwords is not the best way to make your point. One company’s alpha can be a nearly finished game while another company’s beta can be a loosely connected string of features that will only become a game after rigorous testing.

        • mattmesa says:

          So so so so right. I have read this site off and on for quite a while and seriously only made an account to bump your post. I wish this thought process would spread.

  3. d_chandler says:

    I was really into this for about 10 hours. As soon as the sense of discovery wears thin though, it starts to feel really shallow. Haven’t gone back to it since I got to the Delta section and realized there was nothing more to the game.

    • dE says:

      Yet. I reached a similar point and basically just closed the game, appreciated what they had done so far and decided for myself to wait for a much more finished state. I’m now sure they’re on a good track at least.

      • d_chandler says:

        Yea, true. I’ll definitely dip back in after a few updates.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Pretty much, yeah. My enthusiasm thus far for progressing has also been tempered by the knowledge that this wipe was coming—not much point mining away for metals for upgrades if you’re going to have to do it all over again soon.

        (Yes, I ended up doing some anyway. Derp. I was mostly exploring caves, though.)

      • Reapy says:

        Same here.

        I hope they add more systems, which they have mentioned they will. I guess I’m hoping for more motivators and variance on planets you explore. Sort of the first time you see another kind of tree, and really a tree is a tree is a tree no matter what color it is.

  4. JarinArenos says:

    You know, I’ve gotten used to the complaining about wipes from players who don’t read, but games journalists? This beta stage was explicitly stated to have regular wipes. The fact that they’ve spent so much effort on removing character wipes for updates (in a system that won’t be needed once the beta moves on) is actually very frustrating to a lot of actual testers.

    • Devrey says:

      Yes, a thousand time yes. I don’t understand the need for this news post either.

    • Smaug says:

      100% spot on. People pre-order and then start complaining that the game is not ready, uhh…

  5. derbefrier says:

    Even though you knew it was comming a wipe still sucks. Oh well 30 hours in the game and I am still having fun so starting over one last time is no big deal.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Just a kind reminder that you’re testing a game.

      I don’t want to test it, so I’m waiting for release. Everyone who is complaining about this kind of stuff (c’mon Graham, really?) should just wait for the full game, otherwise, you’re bound (*cough*) to be disappointed at some stage during testing, like some of the posters above.

  6. The Random One says:

    Aw, c’mon. RPS really is losing its edge if “next patch to destroy universe” isn’t followed by “and in the game”.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    What kind of madman would want permadeath in Starbound? It doesn’t have the classic roguelike more-time-you’ve-spent-better-you-can-avoid-death tradeoff. You could spend a month playing a character and finding cool stuff, then die in one hit to something the moment you beam down.

    Also it’s both unfinished and best in multiplayer. You will die to bugs and lag at some point.

    And sometimes holding lava diving competitions is just fun, y’know?

    • Greggh says:

      By classic rouge-like I read new age rougelike on purpose, I ask your forgiveness if that is brash, since classic rouge like death was just as fun as playing the game.
      Dying in Starbound is not fun at all. Losing hundreds of minutes time of gameplay meticulously invested in building and sorting stuff is gruesome – I don’t know what is “perma” death for this game, but I assume that in singleplayer that would mean some progress loss.

      (OFC I understand the aforementioned tradeoff and comparison, this is but a joke.)

      • frightlever says:

        Are you an AI? You strung all those words together but all I can think about is “rouge”.

        Anyway, I assume permadeath means that you lose the character, instead of beaming back to your ship, or the planet’s spawn point.

        Death in Starbound is already kinda brutal since you lose 20% of your pixels and progress is heavily tied to pixels. Unless you get really lucky with a weapon you’re going to die a lot against the wildlife, unless you “abuse” the building mechanic to create distance – basically creating bunkers to fight out of. By the gamma sector I wasn’t able to melee much of anything.

  8. bipaular says:

    There really isn’t any cause for complaint or disappointment when a wipe occurs for any game in its alpha/beta stage.

    The primary purpose of the alpha/beta stage is testing, not entertainment. Some changes may nuke whatever you’ve done in the game so far, but that’s part of testing. If that’s unacceptable, wait for the game to be released.

    The developers have already publicly stated what the beta involves, what will/may happen and who it is for. People who have read their statement should already be expecting wipes — having no wipes is a bonus, not an expectation.

    Talking negatively about losing progress in alpha games given what the developers have announced just makes you lose credibility.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The primary purpose of the alpha/beta stage is testing, not entertainment.

      What utter nonsense. People pay for “Early Access” so they can be entertained by something.

      • Larkin says:

        No, people pay for early access for a few reasons:

        Seeing a game they have interest in grow and develop.
        A chance to help aid that development.
        The goodies and toys that come with buying (Sometimes as simple as a lower than RRP tag)
        For multiplayer games, the chance to be the guide for their likeminded friends and relive the joy of discovery through them.

        Whilst entertainment value is there, it’s not the sole reason for buying into early access, it barely even registers as a reason at all. If you want entertainment, wait and buy the finished product, save yourself the heartache of dealing with bugs, glitches and issues.

        After all, you woudn’t buy a special edition blu-ray with behind the scenes footage and deleted scenes just for entertainment of the main film.

      • bipaular says:

        What I said was meant to be from the developer’s point of view.

        What people pay for is the game and entertainment derived from playing it, not testing it which is precisely what happens in alpha and beta. Companies restrict who has access to alpha and beta because there are still bugs to iron out and the playing that happens in these stages is to find those bugs and to refine gameplay.
        Starbound, being crowd-funded, kind of has an obligation to let backers partake in these early stages.

        A game in alpha/beta is, essentially, not ready. If it was ready it wouldn’t be in alpha/beta.
        It’s not ready because there are still things to fix and refine.
        And if it’s not ready, its primary purpose cannot be to entertain given all the problems it has since crashes, bugs and wipes are anti-fun.
        What brings the game from not-ready to ready is the finding and fixing of bugs and fine-tuning, hence the primary purpose of alpha/beta is testing. I’m not saying that precludes having fun while doing so.

  9. uh20 says:

    welp, there goes my progress into the beta sector, better luck next beta build!

    obviously it is not the time to be building something fancy just yet.

    • homosaur says:

      That’s exactly why all my houses right now are dirt holes with a door on it.

  10. Zanuka says:

    I have no complains about another wipe since I can start anew on a different building or town project (this time with temple blocks – an anti-Kluex haven with plenty of space to fly). Hoping to see more, but I’m not going to give more bucks for features that I will not use. We support the game further development but if I’m given freedom to chose, I chose to don’t fund a feature I will not use.

    Just hope they solve the deprecated biomes issue so we can keep the saved planets for as long as updates and patches keep coming.

  11. Sabinsnake says:

    this is really bad news for me, I found some rare items that I may never come across again, like a wedding dress, wizard hat, wizard robe bottoms and hiker jacket. then there’s the materials, 2 1/2 stacks (1000) of silver bars, 2 stacks of gold bars, 1 stack of platinum bars, 496 diamonds, 289 rubium bars, 552 uranium rods and 403 plutonium rods. I have 80+ items I stole from NPC buildings that I have stored in my 3D printer on my ship that I can duplicate however many I want for a price, 20k+ in pixels, 7 tech abilities and a pistol that does 448 damage per shot. I don’t want to have to re-get and find this stuff over again which took many weeks to obtain most of the stuff! it would really suck if they deleted my character, just to add an update!

  12. jehtblu says:

    Well, you can say early access, but it’s really beta. They’ve sold 1 million copies of the game with this early access. Beta’s are usualy free. So they’re getting the best of both worlds, bug testers galore, and millions of dollars from us as well.

    The problem is that they’re not dealing with beta testers, they’re dealing with people who want to play there game. It might not seem like much of a difference to some. You lose interest in games as time goes on, especialy when you sink a lot of time and effort into it. Starting over can be good, unless you’re starting over to do more of the same.