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Hardspace: Shipbreaker has made shift timers optional


Superb spaceship slicing sim Hardspace: Shipbreaker has added a new difficulty option to career mode, with shift timers disabled.

The existing career mode cuts you off and forces you back to base every 15 minutes, making things too stressful and intrusive for some. You can now take all the time you want with a wreck instead. They've also made the puzzling decision to give you an infinite oxygen supply for this mode. This is all additive, so players who like the thrill of yanking out a nuclear reactor and blasting it to safety in the dying ten seconds of a shift can still blow themselves up on company time.

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In principle, I think the shift timers are a good thing. As I mentioned before, they tempt you to rush things, and thus make mistakes. But 15 minutes is too tight, and I'd prefer a sliding scale for their duration. Perhaps you could even move that in-game, and have your player character choose how long a shift will be before starting each one (and consequently how much you'd be charged for tools, room and board). And without a shift timer OR the need to periodically top up on oxygen, it's entirely possible that I will lose entire days to this game before I even notice.

But hey, people like different things. The shift timers were the first thing I expected conversations about. They're actually much less invasive and stressful than they sound, but even so, they are divisive, and I suspect the ability to play without them will tempt many fence-sitters to dive in.

Developers Blackbird Interactive acknowledged their mixed reception in a news post, saying: "For our players that have requested the option to play in a more 'chill & zen-like' manner, we have just implemented a new 'Open Shift' difficulty option for our Campaign mode where you can work WITHOUT a shift timer and unlimited oxygen".

Personally, I'm hoping there'll be a more granular approach to the difficulty and structure of the game. Players seeking a pure relaxation experience could already mess around in the open play mode, which gives you access to all the tools (something I found out by accident when showboating on stream and inadvertently cutting through a pressurised hull with my souped up splitsaw, an upgrade I had yet to see in career mode), with no timer or money concerns, plus invincibility. Shipbreaker isn't a complicated game, but it's got several systems that would benefit from being made optional, or configurable at least.

Whinge moan fuss. The new Open Shift mode has its own leaderboard, which perhaps explains why this has been added as a distinct mode, rather than a more complicated custom setup. I confess that I didn't even realise there were leaderboards until reading that, and I doubt I'll ever bother with them. But there's nothing stopping me from just playing it like I was before, and it's surely a good sign that the devs are willing to make a major change to the design based on feedback.

The update also makes it possible to change the controls by editing a text file. Yes, configurable controls should be a given, but it's only been in early access for a few weeks. In future it will be possible to tweak your controls in-game. A few items have been altered, making thrusters more fragile (and thus hazardous to tug through a narrow exit, like one of those buzzing wire games), and armour easier to slice into chunks without trashing its value. There are the usual bug fixes slung in, although I really must note how remarkably stable it's been in my experience. I've seen one trivial physics bug in about 15 hours of play, which is quite incredible for a game in which I've watched a reactor explode up close, turning everything in the area into spinning shards of metal.

Mostly though, I hope players lay off them for a while. I need more ships, and yeah okay, making a game is complicated and you have lots of things to do to get things working and much of the laborious design stuff is barely noticed by players, and it's not as simple as "just add more ships lol" but MORE PLEASE.

You can play Hardspace: Shipbreaker now via Steam Early Access for £22/€25/$25. The full release is an estimated year off, but Blackbird stress that early access will last "for as long as needed".

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