Astroneer blasts into Early Access, December 16

Astroneer

Astroneer [official site] caught my eye at… GDC? Yes, it was GDC, earlier this year. It’s a kind of planetary potterer where you bimble around doing space exploration and terrain reshaping as you search for crafting/trading resources. I remember I rather liked the polygonal art style and figured I’d probably end up with a bulging screenshot folder when I got to playing it. It looks like my screenshots folder should start preparing itself as Astroneers is popping onto Early Access this Friday, 16 December.

This is something which got announced earlier in the year but which I’d forgotten because CHRISTMAS THINGS! until a dev update landed somewhere in my newsfeeds.

You can see what I mean about the art style and the terrain deforming/reforming in the trailer above, as well as some bits of the crafting. I particularly like that it seems to be pushing a co-operative attitude as well, so you can do space-mucking about with your space-friends online or in local multiplayer.

Here’s the space-blurb:

“[Astroneer] places players in a 25th century gold rush where they explore the frontiers of outer space, risking their lives and resources in harsh environments for the chance of striking it rich. Resources extracted from planets, asteroids, and moons can be traded with friends or crafted into new tools, vehicles, and modules. Environments are procedurally generated in a uniquely rendered voxel engine, featuring a textureless aesthetic that allows players to deform and shape the terrain as though it were made of Play-Doh.”

Obvs all the usual Early Access space-caveats apply and will apply for a whole bunch of time. After all, the devs at System Era explain that they are aiming to keep the game in Early Access for a year or two while they work towards a full release. For the moment it looks like the version to be released on 16 December will be about the main five pillars of the game and how they form the resource-based gameplay loop – so, “discovery”, “traversal”, “excavation”, “transportation” and “transformation”. Devspeak for bimbling and pottering, essentially.

It’ll be available on the tiny, obscure game platform, Steam, as well as in game preview format on Xbone and Windows 10. I think that’s basically the same as Steam Early Access but you have to remember your Windows login details and for me that’s quite the palaver.

I also now have this stuck in my head:

14 Comments

  1. Shadow says:

    This could succeed where NMS failed, but it’s too early to tell.

    As usual, I’m wary of the simultaneous console release, but at least I can say this has potential.

  2. Kollega says:

    This game doesn’t look like an insta-buy for me… but it is interesting and cool, and it’s plausible I’ll be picking it up when I have time/money/desire to. The conceit of exploring and mining on freely-deformable planets is interesting enough.

    You know what I’d buy in a heartbeat, though? A voxel-based destructo-shooter with a strong singleplayer and co-op capability; basically, something that would marry the design sensibilities of Minecraft and Red Faction: Guerrilla, and execute well on that premise. I mean, imagine a game where you can either assault procedurally-generated bases, or build a base of your own and hold the line, alone or with friends, using physics and fully destructible terrain/structures to your advantage. Why isn’t there a game that does that well yet?

    • KillahMate says:

      You mean like Ace of Spades? link to aceofspades.com

      • Kollega says:

        Yeah, like Ace of Spades, except PvE instead of PvP, and not run into the ground by the dev/publisher. And probably a bit more complicated/hi-fi, like Astroneer seems to be compared to Minecraft.

        Actually, that’s sort of my point. The lackluster Ace of Spades, and the even-worse-looking Guncraft, seem to be the only two examples of “Minecraft plus shooting”, but the idea itself is so simple, concice, and box-ticking that I don’t get why isn’t it a burgeoning subgenre on its own.

        • KillahMate says:

          I’m guessing it’s hard to balance the gameplay to make it in any way tense and/or quick (what shooters generally aim for) when each player can at any moment go away to dig a mile-long tunnel beneath the entire map, completely abandoning interaction with everyone else for half the duration of the match.

          • Kollega says:

            That’s a fair point when we’re talking about PvP, but I’m talking about PvE, where that’s much less of a concern. And I honestly want PvE with destructo-physics/deformable terrain, not PvP. It’s a hell of a lot more fun when it’s just you, and possibly a few friends, that are facing off against a force much more powerful but much less capable of stalling or griefing.

          • syndrome says:

            The catch is in the delicacy of the tension mechanics. The whole thing should mechanically run like flood gates. Open, close, open, close. While close, the game should be PvE, and while open, well, the hell unleashes. PvE downtime is for co-op and economy/fortification building and operation planning, while PvP should feel like team (or faction) deathmatch a’la Planetside.

            Running in parallel, there should also be a “nullsec” mechanic in a sense that anyone can leave the safety of their team, and end up in “no man’s land” for various reasons. This also opens up the possibility for actual reconnaissance before the “flood gate” opens.

            I think it would be very cool if everything revolved around the supply chains, so that a team has to perform well not only in combat but logistically as well, to be able to persist longer in sieges, prolonged field exposure, and where rare/expensive equipment is needed to dig and maintain more lucrative sites, while also having strategic objectives such as mines/processors/farms (food heals, yeah? so an expedition force has to eat, you get this food on a train, train gets bombed, the bridge collapses, the entire operation hangs on a thread etc…).

            All in all, I can see how such a game could be built, conceptually and technologically, but I’m expecting only disappointments in this regard, unless I build it myself, which won’t be anytime soon, because who would give some raving lunatic from Serbia 20K euros for two years of proper development.

      • Raptorgeddon says:

        Eurgh, what happened to that game?

        I remember seeing it as this kind of low-poly WW1 game that was actually quite atmospheric, and now it’s, well,

        that.

  3. Unsheep says:

    As a multiplayer game I can see the appeal, however as a single-player game I think it would be rather boring.

  4. tastygun says:

    My son and I can’t wait to play. Counting the days!

  5. FordTruck says:

    Just going to throw this out there – the game visually looks fantastic, but god damn these games suffer from being atrociously BORING quick. The lack of interest with alien life on planets kills it for me, there is only so much terraforming and repeating the same building with different materials i can take.

    • syndrome says:

      Well, too many games emphasize the aspect of repetition, in order to forcefully extend their playtime or to provide different combinatorics in their prime time by letting you invest your personal time in building a proper momentum.

      This is what is boring.
      Once you comprehend your time is lost, and/or deliberately wasted by developers on mundane and uncreative tasks, this is the point of no return to most players.

      Even if a developer makes an appealing prime time, full of interesting decisions, people still knowingly invest their time to get there, especially in multiplayer games. And this is for granted.

      “Not only you are paying for this game, but we’re going to take your time as well.”

      So you can now kinda understand the motivation behind free-to-play business, where one parameter directly transcribes to the other.

      To contrast this, there is a different line of thinking, though also extreme: instant gratification. And there are many examples.

      “You’ve already paid fully, now go bash everyone with a golden dildo — INSTANT ACTION.”

      The only game (I can think of right now, at least), that is somewhere in between (which to me is the Golden Path), is Minecraft.

      Think about it.

      Minecraft takes your time only when you’re ready to lose it. And then you always rationalize this lost time because you fixate onto spontaneous overarching rewards that you’ve picked up emotionally, thus you’re the author of the perceived values of this reward system. That way, the rewards always feel like a perfect fit for your own sensibility, and there is no task that feels like a chore, as you’re seemingly and truly free. (And because you’re so free to do what you want, you want nothing in particular, so you might gratuitously build a castle with ramparts! On a river! With a moat! And drawbridge! And portcullis! Can it be a chore when you never think “why am I doing this over and over again”?)

      This is groundbreaking, because it’s one of the few games that provide deferred gratification (and content to support it; this is where Elite: Dangerous fails for example, where its deferred gratification feels like a drag by design), and without any external compulsion whatsoever (minus that first night in the open). But rarely anyone realizes just how important 2010 was in terms of gaming psychology.

      • ManApeGoneWrong says:

        Thing is, “good game” and “boring game” is entirely subjective to the player.

        I, personally, find Minecraft boring as hell. I run a 6 instance portal-linked world server at home for the kids and their friends to play on, modded to hell and back, and it’s still boring as hell to me.

        And having played Infiniminer first, I’m of the opinion that the only ground-breaking thing Minecraft did was to sell so well for an Indie title.