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The Lighthouse Customer: Spacebase DF-9

Settling In Scary Sector

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, space station simulation in Spacebase DF-9.

It's been a rough week for my little space station. We were boarded by a squad of Kill Bots who, as you might expect, tried to kill all non-bots. A massive fire in the life support chamber nearly knocked out the oxygen supply. Now, an alien parasite has appeared, and even though my security chief easily killed it, I'm left to wonder how the bug even got aboard. Perhaps it burrowed in through that hole in the hull? The one my security chief was just sucked out of to his death? That's probably how.

In Spacebase DF-9, the early-access space station simulation from Double Fine Productions, your first task is to select which portion of the galaxy you'd like your spacemen to die horribly in. A spot near a Warpgate sounds ideal, because you'll have more visitors, but visitors are often hostile. A spot with a lot of asteroids means you can do a lot of mining, but also means frequent meteor strikes. There are benefits to living in an area with a high frequency of derelict spaceships, but there is also a downside, as anyone who has seen a few sci-fi movies can tell you.

I know it sounds bad, but it's just a name. Like Cape Fear.

After a few hundred thousand years of travel, my pod arrives in my chosen sector and my three astronauts set to work building their new home. I'm not much of a designer, so I just build a giant room and throw some oxygen machines in the corner, figuring I'll just line the walls with whatever else I need. I soon learn, however, that each room needs to be dedicated to a single purpose: beds can only go in residence rooms, oxygen recyclers can only go in life support rooms, and so forth. Even worse, my room is so large I've used almost all the materials on hand to build it. Right off the bat, my little astronauts have exhausted their supplies.

Well, we're screwed. Might as well get some Flappy Bird in.

I quickly realize I've created a major problem for myself. I've been mining a nearby asteroid for building materials, but I need a refiner to convert the asteroid hunks into matter to build with. I don't have enough matter to build the refiner itself, which means I'll need to cannibalize something I've already built and use the resulting material for the refiner. However, the only thing I have on hand to deconstruct, apart from the walls and the floors, are my two oxygen recyclers. And so, a desperate plan is hatched: destroy my oxygen recyclers, use the material from those to build my refinery, then convert my space-rocks into matter and rebuild my oxygen recyclers... before my workers completely run out of air. With the clock ticking, I put the plan in motion. And it works!

She died how she lived: following orders given by an incompetent manager.

Okay, it almost works. I get the refiner constructed, convert some asteroids, cordon off a tiny new room, and get the oxygen machines rebuilt. Unfortunately, before my workers can take a deep lungful of recirculated air, they all asphyxiate. Luckily, a passing spaceship discharges a handful of passengers to take up residence in my horrible spacebase of death. Welcome!

The new arrivals don't seem too concerned as they enter the station, remove their space suits, and stroll right by the blue-faced corpses of my crew floating in the airlock. I guess when you've been in space for a while, you get pretty used to opening airlocks and finding bobbing corpses wearing expressions of agony and horror. Soon I've got six citizens, and my base begins expanding.

Just when I get the place nice and filled with oxygen.

And exploding. Small asteroids smash into my base, setting my refinery on fire, as my astronauts attempt to stamp out the flames (while others, less concerned, continue their calisthenics). I instruct my builder to install a fire extinguisher, and we all wait while he first slowly welds it onto the wall, then quickly yanks it off the wall and uses it.

Soon, I've got a couple more things built. A bedroom with one bed for everyone to share. A small room for scientific research, in hopes that I'll someday have enough residents that I can assign one to science duty. A food replicator, so my residents can eat (I'm thoughtful like that). Then we receive a notification: a derelict ship has appeared nearby. A dark shape is suddenly sitting there, quiet and mysterious, in the space next to us.

A spaceship with no lights on? What's the worst that could happen?

I dispatch my security team to investigate, right after I create a security team, which I do by telling one guy to stop mining asteroids and start being a one-man security team. Naturally, the moment my brand new security officer enters the airlock, a hostile alien raider opens fire and kills him. I quickly assign a new security chief and she heads over, where she lives up to the memory of my original chief by also dying instantly from lasers. I think the derelict is going to have to wait.

That's the second Luna I've gotten killed. Sorry, Lunas.

My crew, now down to just five, are all miserable, and I wonder if it's because there's only one bed on board so only one of them can sleep at a time. I instruct my builder to construct a room with enough beds for everyone. Rather than building the entire row of beds, he builds one and then promptly goes to sleep in it.

Desperate to restock my ship with fresh, less miserable crewmembers, I invite the occupants of a passing ship to board. They turn out to be raiders, and moments later they're stalking through my base, gunning down my defenseless crew. Soon, the only one left alive is my builder, who is still sleeping on the one bed he built, while a row of unbuilt ghost beds stretch out beside him. They represent his to-do list, which I now strongly suspect will never get done.

While you slept, you were promoted to security chief. Also, pallbearer.

He's dead moments later, his corpse landing neatly on the same single bed he'd built. My entire crew is dead, but two more are already on their way from a passing ship, and the fresh arrivals manage to fight their way aboard, kill the raiders, and begin the huge task of repairing the damaged base. They're dead minutes later after another meteor strike takes out life support.

After that, no more ships pass by. No one hails my base. Nothing else happens in my little neck of the universe. My base becomes just another derelict, empty, darkened, filled only with ghosts. Ghosts and their beds.

I've killed my share of Sims, but this was especially grim.

As the saying goes, if at first you kill all your astronauts with fire, lasers, and asphyxiation, try try again! This time, I build smarter and more conservatively, I only investigate derelict ships with an actual security team, and everything goes much more smoothly until a massive freighter shows up and forcefully docks with me. Long story short, I am once again left staring at a lovingly constructed base filled with dead bodies and no new visitors on the horizon.

Don't invade me! I just got my beds built! My beds!

So... third time's the charm? Seems that way. Clearly my biggest challenge has been avoiding mass space-murder, so I put a lot of effort into a strong security detail, and put all my scientific research into weapons and armor. Another hostile ship docked with me: I killed the crew and just added their ship to my architecture. And, as of right now, my current base has over fifty occupants and enough oxygen to support almost twice that many. It has two restaurants, a massive garden, a back-up life support system, and a research wing. And plenty of beds.

I've got beds as far as the eye can see. And they're all made.

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