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Wastes Of Space: a Space Engineers Diary - Part Three: Space Dungeoneers

Chronicles of ridicule

Last time on Wastes of Space: After having been dumped on the alien backwater known as Horace’s World with barely any kit and even less of a plan, Alice, Matt and Nate finally managed to meet up, thanks to their robot friend ODD (and his Vengabus). In one place at last, they laid the foundations of their colony, and began the backbreaking work of taming the final frontier. Also, Matt learned to fly, and they built a car called the Eiffel 69.


Nate: Sitting down with my space coffee before beginning the day’s space work, I take a brief look at my space mail, only to find I have received this sobering message from Brent at Royal Planetary Services HQ (click to enlarge):

Brent is such a reasonable fellow

One thousand kilograms of gold? That’s a lot. And getting it into orbit? With defences? In the next week? Oof. We’re going to have to really step up our mining game. I grab my drill to go down into the Hole, but I pause as the radio channel erupts into whoops of joy. It seems our Survey Officer is finally here, which is a stroke of luck.


Alice B: Today we are at last joined by Survey Officer Ligz, who has recovered from her moon mumps enough to be unceremoniously fired at the surface of Horace’s World by our employers. This is a great boon, because finally we have someone to go out and look for tastier minerals on the planet. And there’s no tastier mineral than gold. Ligz needs to get out there and find some lurking underground as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Eiffel is ill-equipped for surveying thanks to its rather top-heavy, roll-happy design, so we need to build Ligz a more robust set of wheels.

Apart from that, we’re in pretty good shape! I trust Ligz will be impressed by the state of our Treehouse base.


Alice L: Survey Officer Ligz finally reporting for duty. Crikey, moon mumps are bad, wouldn’t wish them on anyone. Fever for days. Bedridden. Nasty stuff. But the worst of the hallucinations are mostly out of the way, so I’ve been sent out with this team of incredibly... capable space engineers, on the hunt for gold.

I don’t have the heart to tell the Commander, but the base is a shithole. It’s like a bunch of medieval yokels robbed a scrapyard, and not so much as a lick of purple paint on anything. I’ll have to see to that.

In the meantime, since I’m a bit late to the party, I’m going to have to get to grips with flying, drilling and driving. Science can handle the flying, but he seems weirdly detached and aloof, and I’m really not in much of a hurry to go into the warren of horrible tunnels Security has dug in order to learn the Way of the Drill. So I guess driving it is… and while the Eiffel 69 is a fine vehicle to learn with, I’m feeling at a loss without a ride of my own.

The Eiffel 69 strikes the earth on its maiden voyage, like an enthusiastic metal armadillo


Matt: I can fly now. Proper flight: the flight of the gods, not just the short, pathetic jet hops the others consider worthy of the name. Nobody else can fly. They cannot comprehend me, and I will not lower myself to a point where I can comprehend them. They are ants to me.

The ant who happens to be my boss tells me I’m not allowed to fly back to the wreckage of the vengabus in an attempt to retrieve my lost iron. She tells me there is loads of iron in the ground right here, that I know this, and that it makes much more sense to just mine some more. And so I do. Sulkily.


Nate: I don’t like Science’s attitude. Ever since the flying business, he’s been speaking in a weirdly portentous tone and referring to ‘the gods’ a lot. Definite baddy vibes. That I could handle, but now he’s being insubordinate to Commander Bee, and that just won’t do at all. I ask the Commander if I should subject Science to four seconds of The Drill as punishment for his misdemeanour, but apparently that would be “fatal”, and “a bit much”. I can only admire our leader’s restraint. Still, we can’t just have no punishments here on Horace’s World - after all, what is civilization without a needlessly crushing penal system to enforce the will of its betters?

Perhaps I should build… a prison?


Alice B: Survey has tested the Eiffel 69, and we’ve found that it mines way quicker than either Science or Sec can manage by hand, despite them both being weirdly competitive about their drillwork. Unfortunately, unloading the Eiffel by hand is time-consuming!

To speed things up, ODD has built a sort of socket on the main structure of the base, and instructs me to put its counterpart on the back of the Eiffel. This way, we can reverse the Eiffel into the base and unload the hopper automatically!

I call Sec to observe, since he was so keen on the original mining process, but he seems to have disappeared deep into the Hole, and is curiously silent on the matter. I make a note to check on this later.


Alice L: There’s a lot going on, and I’m still not sure what my purpose is amongst it all. Science is flying around like some kind of space wizard. Sec is doing some weird stuff underground, making holes every five minutes and laughing when someone gets stuck in one. And the Commander is too busy keeping everything in order for us to spend much quality time together.

ODD has been ever so kind, mind. I know he’s a robot and everything, but he’s a good guy and I feel like he’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a friend out here. Everyone else is so caught up in their own business.

ODD lays the foundations for the brand new survey vehicle

Even better, ODD has started building me a new survey vehicle! It’s fancy. It can detect materials from far away, and he’s even let me choose a colour scheme! Needless to say, it’s a bright pinky/purple, to complement my space suit perfectly. And I’ve named it Waffle, to remind me of my cat back home on Earth. I hope my cat sitter is looking after him alright. The best bit about this vehicle, however, is the solar panel array! Renewable energy. It’s a lean green survey machine! Only... it’s pink.

ODD’s just trying to finalise Waffle, when he hits a snag. All of the steel has gone. Every last gram. Where’s it gone? Science Officer Matt must know...


Matt: The steel’s disappearance seems like a mystery that only Science can solve, and so I get to work. Rather bathetically, however, it turns out that anyone could have solved this mystery, just by venturing down one of the many enormous holes that have semi-mysteriously appeared around our base.

What is he building down there???

Security Officer Crowley has turned the earth beneath us into a prison. At the heart of his sordid web of tunnels, he’s built what can only be described as a dungeon out of tons and tons - every drop, in fact - of our steel. And when I challenge him on it, he threatens to imprison me, even though his monstrous edifice lacks a door, and I can fly. We came to space to be free, and now he wants to lock me in a horrible underground box.


Alice L: The dungeon is really weird, I hate it.


Nate: Now come on. I’m suddenly getting a lot of flak over the Dungeon, but I don’t see what the fuss is about. I’m the Security Officer, dammit! How can I maintain order out here - on the Commander’s behalf, of course - without threats to back it up? And what better threat is there than a Dungeon? Yes, it’s taken quite a lot of steel to build, but I’ve collected loads of ore while drilling out its foundations, so the Dungeon is already giving back to the community. When the next person steps out of line and ends up in the slammer, everyone will be glad I built it.


Alice B: The sight of Sec scuttling around in his subterranean Morlock lair is indeed a disquieting one, so I order him to stop, both for the sake of the steel reserves, and everyone’s sanity. Also because there are lots of holes everywhere now, and he is turning the base into a big swiss cheese.

He is a bit sulky, but I distract him with the Eiffel 69, which is now bigger and better than ever. ODD and I have made even more improvements to it, adding a ramp to the station for ease of docking, and it’s temptation enough: Security Officer Crowley is very excited to try industrial drilling, and drives off hooting happily.

Unfortunately, he almost immediately manages to drill a hole straight downwards, as he is wont to do, and gets the Eiffel stuck, vertically, in it.

Security's totally fucked it


Matt: One of the ants, the one who wanted to lock me up, is now being worse than useless. The 69 is, and I do hate to say this, upside-down. Crowley suggests we just drill it out. We all shout at him.

Rather than answer the drilling problem with “more drilling”, the robot ODD begins constructing a piston. He then attaches this to an armature attached to the 69, and instructs Crowley, who for some reason we have allowed to remain entrusted with the controls, to extend it. The piston extends, shunting the vehicle a few degrees towards an upright position. This completes roughly 5% of the pistoning required. ODD vanishes to work on Survey’s car with her, leaving me and my Commander to figure out the rest of the process ourselves.

It is agony. Tears are shed. Blood is spilt. After half an hour, though, the 69 is finally back on its proverbial feet. I high-five Commander Bee, momentarily forgetting she is beneath me.

The Eiffel on the way to being unfucked again, thanks to the power of pistons


Nate: I do feel a bit sheepish about the whole business with the Eiffel. But then ODD suddenly changes colour, mildly freaking out Survey Officer Ligz, and I cheer myself up by imprisoning him for a short while. ODD accepts his sentence with admirable compliance, and Ligz is surely grateful for the imposition of justice, no matter what she says.

ODD accepting his incarceration, as Survey Officer Ligz looks on bemused


Alice L: Commander Bee and Science did an absolute great job on getting the Eiffel out: I’m glad I was a bystander watching as history was made. Not sure what Sec was trying to achieve with his latest bout of dungeoning, but after he lets ODD out, my Waffle rover is made ready, and I head out.

Immediately, I come across some materials that could be of use later - Silicon, Nickel and Magnesium - and I make sure I mark their coordinates down. No luck finding gold just yet, though. I do, however, follow an unknown signal and come across a pod of some description. It doesn’t look like much use to me, so I break it to bits and get some goodies to store back at base.

On my return journey I find it much harder to traverse the rocky landscape, and really struggle to follow my route back. Turns out one side of the solar array is smoking pretty badly - I must have snagged it on something - so I’m in a bit of a rush to get back to everyone.

Waffle and I are only a few metres away from base, when I topple over and get myself stuck in a crater. Not this again.


Alice B: Now that the Eiffel is functional again, I give Sec the opportunity to redeem himself and do some mining. He takes this responsibility seriously and adds what he calls roll bars to the Eiffel, but are in fact just big steel sticks poking out in all directions. The Eiffel now resembles a metal porcupine that’s suffering from hair loss, but at least he can’t get it stuck again. Redemption achieved!

ODD is confident enough in Sec to add two more drills to the front of the Eiffel. The added weight makes it even harder to reverse into the base, however, and so Officer Crowley’s first futile attempts to get it up the ramp are painfully reminiscent of a teenager negotiating their first sexual encounter. We discuss what to do, but swiftly abandon the project at a cry from the returning Officer Ligz.

The Waffle, only a few hundred metres from base, is upside down in a fissure, and smoking unhappily.

ruh roh


Matt: My ears perk up when Ligz mentions she has an electricity problem. Electricity, I think. I know about electricity! I think. I’m supposed to, anyway, which is partly why I’m the first to arrive at the scene. The other reason is that Ligz is very close to running out of oxygen, and I - with the godlike power of flight - am the only one capable of heroically delivering her a spare tank before she asphyxiates. Nobody else notices, or if they do, they don’t praise me for it. I am perplexed as to why, until I arrive at the scene.

Then I see what she’s done, and rather wish I hadn’t bothered bringing the oxygen. Sigh. It’s piston time again.

Read on here for Wastes of Space part 4, in which the Alices come down with a fresh outbreak of moon mumps, and Science and Sec pair up for a spinoff buddy cop adventure.

Once again, the Wastes of Space would like to thank Brent/ODD (aka Sam Pinney, or @ginbrogueshats on twitter) for being not only our gamesmaster in Space Engineers, but the only competent member of our crew. He’s a superb robot and a perfect gentleman.

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