As I pressed the gleaming red button that launches the Kickstarter Katchup onto the internet, the sound of screaming klaxons and crunching gears echoed around my apartment. It was past midnight and the Publish-o-tron 5000's precise machinery had triggered an automated warning, informing everybody in a four mile radius that one project in particular deserved to see the light of day. For those who may have missed it, here is Centration, a game in which multiple players must attempt to maintain a space station while catastrophes occur. Heavily inspired by Space Station 13, a game on which the project lead has worked, it's a first-person survival game that hopes to combine comedy, chaos and cruelty.
You'll understand why Centration is an exciting prospect if you've ever sat around a table shouting orders during a game of Space Alert, only to sit ashen-faced when your crewmember inexplicably spends the latter stages of the game painstakingly making his way to the irradiated engine room and then bumping into a wall while his organs burst like eggs in a microwave. Expect decompression, crazed medical staff and sabotage.
You're a crew member on board one of the state-of-the-art space stations in the Keplar-16 solar system, on a mission of vital importance to UniTech. You have duties to carry out, whether you're and engineer or a medical technician, you'll go about doing what you need to do to make sure the space station stays in working order. We call this the maintenance period. It's also nicknamed the calm before the storm.
Sooner or later, someone inevitably breaks something. Someone might have a mission to kill you, or one of your crew. They might be tasked with sabotaging the station, stealing some chemical or data, or they might just be doing it because they want to.
The station's security will naturally try to keep order, protect the crew, while the engineers will keep the station functioning mechanically. The medics will heal and the officers will lead. We call this the active period; nicknamed the storm.
Almost anything can happen on a space station and most of those things eventually involve people suffocating, burning, exploding or being sucked into space. The goal is to take this one setting and present many different play experiences within it.
Centration is played your way, and what happens during a round will differ massively from one to the next. A quiet shift where you don't even realise something's gone wrong until it's all done and over with. A crazy shift culminating in the death of the entire crew. A really long shift where everything goes wrong, and you and your crew try your hardest to keep on top of everything and it just seems never ending... then comes the conclusion period. The end of your little story. Have you survived this long? Will you survive to the end? There's a shuttle on its way to rescue you. There are escape pods, space suits, and there's also death.
The round or 'shift' ends when everyone is dead, the shift ends (time-limit), everyone has left the station permanently (shuttle or escape pods), or the antagonist has successfully fulfilled all of his/her duties.
That sounds to me like the 'betrayal' aspect that is oft-used in games of the board being applied in a digital multiplayer environment. Excellent.
As well as having an interesting pitch, Angry Engineers are operating a decent campaign so far, exceedingly honest about the learning curve that they are now navigating. Meanwhile, something is stirring in the depths of Space Station 13.