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Space Engineers Fishes For Community Ships

Are you content?

Space Engineers. I haven't been back since I accidentally broke Craig's space shark and sent a gigantic Han Solo hurtling into the distant reaches of space but there are now exploration-based plans afoot.

The plans talk a lot about ships and stations in the game. Marek Rosa of developers Keen Software House said in a blog post earlier in December, "The exploration feature will add a practically infinite number of ships and stations to the game world, so there will always be something new to discover, explore, acquire and conquer."

A practically infinite number of ships and stations is a big ask. As part of the blog post, Rosa was asking the community how the developers should handle it. Three options were presented. One was procedural generation (according to Rosa: "this would require a lot of additional work and the result will never be as good as what creative humans can create"). The other options were hiring designers or – as you've probably guessed – using creations from the community.

According to Rosa's blog post, the Steam Subscriber Agreement meant the developers could just incorporate the workshop creations into the game without asking but they didn't want to do that and risk annoying everyone, hence the poll.

With regard to the SSA point, I was curious so I re-read it and I think he's talking about section 6.B which states "In some cases, Workshop Contributions may be considered for incorporation by Valve or a third-party developer into a game or into a Subscription Marketplace," although I must say my interpretation of that clause is very different to Rosa's. I wouldn't have thought it would allow the developer carte blanche to take workshop creations and make them part of the core game without permission. There's also a provision in section 6.A which does grant the right for the workshop contributions to be used, reproduced, modified and so on but it applies to the operation and promotion of Steam and grants those rights to "Valve and its affiliates", not third-party developers.

This is a tunnel. Look. I am suffering from alt-text fatigue, to be honest with you. The entire act of crafting alt-text feels like a terrifying competition with xkcd where you can never win, only achieve adequacy. I mean I could start adding in a few maths jokes of my own here and there but they might seem jarring and weirdly out of place. They don't even go over well on twitter. Here's one. Why is it impossible to work out how much pastry you need to cover a circular pie? Because PIE ARE SQUARED! Did you laugh? Please say you laughed :(

Aaaaanyway. The poll swung massively in favour of the community inclusion which is no great surprise as the survey's wording is heavily biased against the other two options, making them sound unreasonable or undesirable. There was also no option in the poll to reject the idea of using community contributions as a major source of content in a game for which you are charging money or to suggest Keen use the community bits but try to figure out a way to reward the community for said work beyond a name in the game credits.

Some players reacted enthusiastically, but the issue was mentioned in the comments in various forms. The upshot of the discussion seems to be that Keen will still source the ships from the community but not treat the workshop as a content bank to be mined out as and when they fancy. Submissions are instead solicited via the official forum, presumably so that only people who wanted their creations used in that manner would offer them up. Further rounds of submissions are expected, and a recent video outlined a number of rules, suggestions and encouragements to further guide the community in terms of their contributions.

The submissions process is a lot better than the initial proposal seemed to suggest but it's a system which still makes me feel uneasy. The free-of-charge contributions of the community are becoming a significant part of the base game which is earning the developers money. This isn't a nice extra to reward the community, this is a sizeable contribution to a feature of the game which is saving the developers time and cash.

I'm interested to know how you feel about developers using community creations in this way – what say you?

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Space Engineers

Xbox One, PC

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About the Author

Philippa Warr

Former Staff Writer

Pip wrote for Rock Paper Shotgun between 2014-2017, covering everything from MOBAs, hero brawlers and indie curios. She also had a keen interest in the artistry of video game creation, and was very partial to keeping us informed of the latest developments in British TV show Casualty.