Bowling, Basketball And Bugs: Starbound’s Winter Update

What do you add to the game that has everything? Starbound’s procedural approach to space makes every planet a unique snowflake in an infinite sea of stars. Evidently, developers Chucklefish don’t think that’s enough and the next hefty update contains all manner of new content. There’s bowling, basketball bug catching, a new playable race, personal ship AI that can take on the appearance of a doltish golden horse, ship upgrades, a new tech system and loads of other bits and pieces. The video below shows all manner of new stuff and has managed to convince me that reinstalling when this goes live would be a fine idea.

The combat overhaul might be the most important thing, allowing for 360 degree targeting with melee weapons, guard breaks and parries. I’ve played quite a bit of Starbound and much as I enjoy seeing all of the unique content that it makes just for me, I don’t enjoy just about any of the processes that I have to go through in order to discover those things.

That’s perhaps not so much a criticism of Starbound as it is a recognition that these kind of games might not fit with my own sense of fun. I can only collect so many crafting ingredients before I’m begging for a cheat code to replicate my stash, or a way to just warp from planet to planet looking at other peoples’ creations.

I’m an admirer of architecture but I’m not a builder.

The winter update is due to be uploaded to the unstable build in the very near future and to the stable build in January and full content notes are here.


  1. DavishBliff says:

    Looks great. The developers take a tremendous amount of shit from the community for not finishing the game more quickly, but what I played of this when it first hit early access was really impressive. Quests (even simple fetch quests) should help make the game a little more guided, which is helpful. The way they’ve integrated single and multiplayer is really, really interesting.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      It really bugged me how much flak they were taking since it did seem to just be over the amount of time development was taking. Like, they were up front about it being faaaar from done from the very start, right? And I haven’t seen other similar projects taking nearly so much of a beating from their supposed fanbases, so what the heck?
      Haven’t been following it recently though so I can’t say if anything’s changed.

      • eleclipse says:

        The problem was not (at least not only that) the time (which is still a factor since they have A LOT of delay), go read some steam review for more details.

        Their behavior was just bad, promised feature were cancelled and they acted like they never said/promised things they promised, lot of people were banned from their forum just by talking about it.

        And while the game was still very late they kickastarted another game (pixel piracy, go read steam review in you want to have fun).

        And lot more, basically starbound is a prime example of what could go wrong with early access / kickstarter.

        • Sian says:

          Yeah, no. Pixel Piracy is being developed by Quadro Delta and published by Re-Logic. Chucklefish have nothing to do with that game. The complaints started when they were in the process of moving everyone to one central office instead of being spread out over the world and only being in contact over the internet – something that took a while longer than they had expected. People got upset about that and all I ever read about it was that the devs had abandoned the game because people thought nothing was happening.

          I’m trying to find features they promised, then dropped, but all I can see is people griping about the missed release dates.

          If you want a prime example of what can go wrong with early access and Kickstarter, look at the games where development actually stopped or wasn’t completed before the game was released. As long as Chucklefish are still working on Starbound, it’s not one of those games.

          • LCinn says:

            yeah, Starbound is actually a pretty well done early access project, with regular blog posts, nightly builds, etc. But for some reason they have attracted quite some uninformed, entitled people with short fuses and no sense of humor, who have no idea how game development works but have the strongest opinions about it.

          • eleclipse says:

            i love you too

        • DavishBliff says:

          How was Chucklefish involved with Pixel Piracy? PP is developed by Quadro Delta and published by Re-Logic, Chucklefish was founded by Tiy, who left Re-Logic. Chucklefish has published a few games but it’s impossible to know how much that’s slowed down development of Starbound – I’d say the bigger challenge they face is the fact that they’ve signed contracts to port it to lots and lots of platforms.

          edit: welp, beaten

        • noodlecake says:

          Surely it’s a prime example of a successful early access? The stable release is still fun and packed with things to do, and the upcoming unstable update looks insane. There’s no signs of them stopping development time any time soon, and I remember it being pretty cheap when I bought it. There is no reason to gripe about Starbound. Even in it’s current state it’s already successful as a project and they could quite easily call the next stable update 1.0 and end development, but they aren’t showing any signs of doing that.

        • darkliht says:

          Lol citing Steamreviews as a credible source. What a joke

      • twaitsfan says:

        What @eleclipse said.

        They backed away from much of the quest / RPGish functionality which is what attracted many people to the game, rather than just another Terraria clone in space. The got millions for this game and turned around and created a game publisher with the money, upgraded their offices, all the while adding ridiculous content to Starbound like a heart furnace to create stupid one-offs of armor for Valentines day and claiming that they were still working on it full time. They seem to have amended their ways somewhat, but fool me once…

        • Sian says:

          I’m really struggling to remember what RPGish functionality they promised. I know that quests weren’t dropped, because those are part of the patch, iirc.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Yeah, I don’t remember any RPG-ish features they backed away from. The quests are just starting to enter into the mix, and that’s the only thing.

        • noodlecake says:

          I agree with the previous two comments. The game is looking pretty amazing to me.

        • Shadow says:

          I haven’t played since shortly after the game entered Early Access, advertised as a beta when it was actually an alpha, as the ongoing development has proven (no actual beta remains as such for over a year). Balance and progression was a mess, there was a lot of missing content beyond the first couple of tiers, and things like that. Months went by without a single update, before the nightly builds came into the scene. They’ve been fairly regular since then, but that rocky start earned the game a lot of notoriety.

          I’m really hoping for a triumphant return, as I believe Starbound has metric tons of potential and, if fulfilled, deserves glory.

          • Sian says:

            The way I remember it, there were pretty regular updates save for a few weeks, not months, while they moved into an actual office.

    • Sian says:

      Same here. The flood of threads alleging that the devs took the money and ran was really irksome. I pointed some people to the nightly updates and the dev blog posts and all I got in reply was: “Nu-uh, they’re not working on the game!” I then pointed out that they were putting in quite a lot of work to make it look like they weren’t working, but the answer didn’t change. It just baffled me.

      Maybe this update will shut those people up, but I doubt it.

      • maccy says:

        At some point in Minecraft’s development, the blurb on the beta shifted to say “You’re paying for the game as it is now, and any updates are a bonus”. I think this is a good attitude to have for early access products.

        We seem to have an issue right now with what people expect from an early access game – and in, fact, released, complete games in some cases. Payday 2’s DLC updates on Steam are always met with complaints about having to pay for more content.

      • Reapy says:

        Yeah I find that odd… it might be the pre release work pace they had, which was basically insane, it looked like they were doing stuff 24×7 including weekends, and went back to a standard human work week. It is funny how people don’t see coding as a job sometimes, like half the people complaining probably are posting from their job or would be angry at having to put in the 80 hour work week they seem to be demanding. Crazy really.

        Does anybody get how big of a commitment the team made, to pack up and move from various countries to a central place and get a real corp in place, legal and all that? It is not the same thing as logging into your pc from wherever and uploading code. I mean right now would you pack up and move to another country if your job was moving?

        Eh anyway, starbound continues to make nice progress IMHO even though I feel a lot like Adam, the stuff looks awesome, I just don’t want to have to scroll through lists and lists of components to get started experiencing it. I really hate the UI for starbound, i feel like I’m endlessly sorting junk finding room for things, I wish a lot of it could be automated, but it might really be that constructor games like this have lots of items and thats how it has to go.

    • Holysheep says:

      It’s not “shit” form the community but actual, rightful concerns, as when you develop something, you normally are able to show something at least once every week. It’s what proper developers do. It’s fairly possible for small teams, even on big videogames.

      • Reapy says:

        It’s possible when doing artwork maybe. Not all coding translates to a show able product. Also maybe what y ok u try out doesn’t always pan out and should be discarded and not shown publically.

        I guess as a non game developer I cringe when I hear that, it’s PHB mid level management Bs to expect weekly, easily summarized progress on all software.

        Most kickstarter backers would make terrible bosses. He’ll we used to complain so much why we get crap rrleases b from publisher pressure and now we are finally sitting in their shoes being way worse about it all.

      • mechabuddha says:

        THERE IS A NIGHTLY BUILD. I put that in all caps because people like you can’t seem to wrap your heads around that fact.

        • catssss says:

          Umm. Nightly doesn’t exactly qualify as an “update” its full of bugs and is just frustrating to play, not fun at all.

  2. bengtssonmathias says:

    Haven’t played this since the first few months of beta, so it might have changed, but my issue with the game was that everything WAS procedural. There was no “harder” enemies, just enemies with higher stats. There was no “better” weapons, just weapons with higher stats, to combat the state increase in the monsters (monsters that looked and acted the same way as their lower level counterparts). Just because the sprite and/or color is different, the standard “bash” attack that monsters had always made them feel exactly the same.

    Then again, I haven’t played in a long time. If this has been improved, feel free to let me know.

    • Sian says:

      I’ve been loosely following the dev blog and I distinctly remember them adding in more weapon variety (though I don’t know if that’s based on the level of the weapon or if you can find all effects on low-level planets with a bit of luck) and I kinda-sorta remember them talking about more enemy variety, but again, it might not be tied to planet levels. I haven’t been playing either, so I can’t say for sure. I’ve been waiting for this patch before going in again.

    • Orageon says:

      Benn loosely following the development of the game and if I remenber correctly, they added a whole bunch of “unique” / special weapons / armors etc, as well as for monsters but they are usually dependent on a dungeon or something. Also mini bosses.
      They have on their website a link to a blogpost that compiles almost all the changes known from the successive nightly builds and that will make it in the next big stable build. So check the list and you will see all the changes.

      I have been folowwing this game, and to be honest I never expected more of it than an upgraded terraria, so to speak. So I have been pretty happy with the direction the game is taking overall, but they are still a bit slow, and they don’t manage properly their priorities, it seems. So I think they have mediocre project management which hampers the progress a bit.
      but yeah, I am not in a hurry anyway, and terraria gets regular updates, so I am sticking with this and will hop to starbound when it is ready, unless I forget about it in the meantime. No drama on my side about all this, but then again I didn’t give them any money…

    • Niko says:

      That kinda sucks, I like Terraria’s approach where every weapon has fixed stats with some random numbers added to them.

    • bequietpirate says:

      I completely cleared the normal beta a couple weeks ago, and then installed the “nightly build” and played through most of that..which is what I understand to be most of the Winter Update, and I can say with confidence that the update is very good. What got me was all the really little things. Monster progression is sooo much better. (You don’t struggle to fight on your first planet while you’re getting your bearings) The Ship’s AI gives you a wonderful sense of purpose by giving you a kind of racially specific partner. I can’t really just name off more specific things that changed my mind, but it truly just -felt- better and -felt- like a good game.

  3. Gravy100 says:

    I haven’t been keeping up with development but as a fan of terraria this looks like a real jump forward, xmas purchase is on the cards.

  4. emperor_nero says:

    The game has taken nearly three years to develop and it is essentially terraria in a different skin, except that terraria is actually interesting to play. It feels like you took all of the cool boss battling and loot seeking elements out of terraria and said ‘you know what this game needs? It needs to be more bland.’

    • noodlecake says:

      Bland by having a much, much nicer art style, more satisfying physics and platforming and generally just a better overall character?

      • emperor_nero says:

        That’s just dandy if it were a platformer, but it isn’t super meat boy. It’s a survive em’ up with light rpg elements.

    • darkliht says:

      So basically you just like Terraria. Maybe you should go play more of it

  5. theoriginaled says:

    As someone who has been following it for years, and playing nightlies ever since I could, dont let the pretty pixels, and cavalcade of features sway you. While it may look smoother on the surface than say Terraria, it is still riddled with terrible design decisions. They can throw all the fun crap in the world on top of it, the progression system is not only broken, they have yet to truly nail down how they want it to work. Mining is a core aspect of the game progression and its absolutely awful. Theres a wonderful beautiful universe to explore and play with and theyve locked it all behind a wall of trudgery in a way that I never felt with a sandbox game like it before.

    • subshell001 says:

      this might sound a little obvious (at least it does to me), but if you’ve been playing the nightly builds, don’t you think it’s redundant to say it’s broken and imbalanced? those are not meant for the “public” for “judgement” if you will. by playing the nightly builds you basically agree to play something completely broken.

      I played the first release, thought it was fun, but lacked a lot of content and features. they are now adding content and features.

      The progression system is indeed not finished yet, but I think that’s one of the largest and toughest problems to solve in a game like this. it looks like they are focusing on tackling the low hanging fruit, which is a necessary step to take in software development.

  6. RegisteredUser says:

    Has Starbound finally become less grindy?
    I made the stupid mistake of already owning Terraria and knowing I hate resource grind and yet still getting suckered into buying Starbound. Not sure why.
    I sincerely dislike spending half these games’ time just “harvesting” aka hitting rocks and trees for hours on end.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      This is a concern for me too.

      I’d expected with the supposed technology on display that there’d be ways and means around mining & resource gathering – tiny robot miners you could unleash, etc, rather than you physically having to bash away at rocks like someone from the iron age.

      There seemed to be a hint of that in the new video, when you see the gun zapping away the water, but yeah, the tedious, repetitive grind in these games is the exact opposite of fun.

      • winger says:

        eh i enjoy it i still kile blow stuff up but dont mind grinding a little

  7. winger says:

    so this is not out yet? have they updated the game at outside nightly steam has yet to tell me about any updates so i am a little confused