Space Station 13 sits high on my list of Favourite Games I’ve Never Actually Played. When chums started talking about their space station adventures – mixing toxic drinks in the bar, turning people into clowns as a space-wizard, amputating crewmates’ bottoms to turn into autonomous cyborgs – I assumed they were talking about a pen & paper RPG. Nope. It’s a mystifyingly complex multiplayer sandbox, somewhat hindered by being built in a hacky way. I had hoped to jump onboard with its upcoming standalone remake, but development slowed over the years. With life imposing, the remakers have open-sourced their work so others can take over.
Space Station 13 is a strange and wonderful round-based game where each player is assigned a job from a list including security, quartermaster, captain, janitor, engineer, botanist, bartender, geneticist, and loads more, along with a few related-ish goals. That sounds quite orderly, but it supports terrible chaos with complex interactions between umpteen tools, items, and abilties. A round might see bar snacks made of deep-fried body parts and ID cards, someone rewriting the AI player’s governing laws of robotics in odd ways, swarms of space bees, a curious chemist blowing up half the station, and a hunt for a Thing-like changeling devouring people.
Quinns played it as a bartender a few years back – do have a read.
I’ve always been put off by tales of its learning curve and wonkiness, though. Space Station 13 is sorta hacked into an engine never meant to support anything like it, Byond, and suffers because of that. For several years, a team have been remaking it as a standalone game, hoping to make it more stable and versatile, but development slowed.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to dedicate enough time to work on this project full time,” the developers explained yesterday, as families, babies, jobs, and all that jazz happened. “We made a promise to open source the project if we ever decided to stop development. While this was a heated internal debate, the decision was ultimately to call it and go ahead.”
The source code is over here, if you want to tinker, and I’d be surprised if fans haven’t already grouped to pick up development. I do hope some will, anyway.
(While loads of variants exist on different servers, here I’ve mostly referred to Goonstation. Cared for by Something Awful Goons, it’s sort of the progenitor of most variants, and the one I know best because of this Let’s Play series.)