Indie game developer, Chucklefish is gearing up to release their contender in the sandbox construction genre some time this year. Known as Starbound, this long-awaited project will have quite a bit to offer fans looking for a new experience in sandbox gaming. With a heavy emphasis on procedurally, or “randomly” generated content, Starbound will have Gamers exploring the vast reaches of space in search of new worlds, creatures, resources, and items. Here is what we know so far.
Story Background: Starbound begins with the player character fleeing by spacecraft as his or her home planet is being destroyed by enemy invaders. The character forges through space until he or she finds a habitable planet to explore. Chucklefish explains that Starbound will have story-driven content, so while the planet you first reach will be randomly generated from the ground up, there will be many opportunities to unlock the mysteries of this universe as you progress.
Visual Presentation: Similar in style to Re-Logic’s Terraria, Starbound drops the player into a two-dimensional side-scrolling world. The backgrounds are well detailed, animated, and, of course, random! The character sprites are crisp and seem to have much potential for customization. Starbound will offer the player a number of different base character races to choose from, as well as articles of clothing or gear to further customize the character’s appearance. The construction aspect of Starbound looks very promising, with a plethora of building materials, decorations, and devices the player can install in their strongholds. The usual conventions of the construction genre will be present, such as walls, tables, chairs, doors, and stairs. However, Starbound adds its own layer of personality to construction that the player can engage in. The building demo on the game’s official site depicts many players constructing a building simultaneously, adding things like posters, computer screens, workbenches, and even vending machines. The possibilities for customization already seem deep, but Chuckle fish has much more planned for us in that regard.
Gameplay: Starbound, being a side-scroller at heart, has many familiar conventions of movement. Platforming seems to be a strong element of gameplay, with player characters scaling hills, climbing structures, and swimming in bodies of water. Chucklefish has implemented its system of procedurally generated content here as well. Each planet the player visits will have different topography and environmental challenges to conquer. These planets will have different vegetation, creatures, and pre-existing structures which the player is encouraged to discover and examine for themselves. The player will be equipped with an “electronic logbook” with which they may catalog their many discoveries across the universe. Chucklefish hints that by examining new entities and materials, the player can further put to use the resources that they discover. Of course, the universe can be a dangerous place and the player needs to protect themselves from harm during their travels! For this reason, Starbound has a very robust weapon system. Using the framework of procedural generation, every weapon (specifically guns at this time) has its own unique attributes. Each generated weapon will have its own specific magazine size, rate of fire, projectile damage, and so on. Each weapon will even have a customized sprite based on its attributes and weapon type. This kind of system has seen much success in games like Gearbox’s Borderlands, and will keep players searching for rare and powerful weapons scattered throughout the cosmos. Finally, Starbound’s story-based content should provide the character with all manner of dungeons to crawl, enemies to fight, and environments to traverse.
A Fully Cooperative Experience: What fun would exploration be if you never found intelligent life? Fear not, Chucklefish has confirmed that Starbound will be a completely online cooperative experience. Gather your friends to help build a stronghold, explore dangerous new territory, or simply go for a swim. The developers understand that a large part of the allure of the sandbox experience is random interaction. When others from around the world can join in on a player’s expedition, those random posibilities expand infinitely. Perhaps you’ll find a strange new alien species or explore a new biome that no one has ever discovered. Whatever the case, wherever you are in the universe, your friends can watch your back. Of course, multiplayer is not everyone’s cup of tea. For you lone wolves out there, there is just as much for you to discover in Starbound as anyone else. The decision to bring others into your adventures is always at your own discretion.
Random, Random, Random! Starbound is sure to be a very unique and detailed game. Chucklefish has described their desire to create no two worlds alike in their universe. These differences between planets will be far from superficial. Most every parameter in the Starbound universe will be at the mercy of procedural generation. Things that have already been mentioned such as topography, vegetation, creatures, and atmosphere will of course differ planet to planet. However, parameters such as gravity, weather, planet size, and even difficulty level will also be randomized. This is very exciting, as each individual planet the player explores in the Starbound universe will have its own developed personality and conventions, just like planets in our own universe. The replay possibilities of this game seem almost endless, with a universe that is generated with such a deep list of variables. Players will have to explore far and wide to see all there is to see in Starbound, but even then there are new mysteries lurking on every planet, just waiting to be discovered.
Final Thoughts: Starbound has a ton of promise as a free-roaming explorer. The inclusion of fleshed out story elements give hope for a finer distillation of the sandbox gaming genre. Not only will gamers have a huge and random universe to explore, but the presence of a concrete story will compel players to delve deep into that world that Chucklefish has created for them. Sandboxes can get aimless at times, but the story behind Starbound will keep players driven towards goals as well as encouraging those random, on a whim experiences that we all know and love.
You can pre-order Starbound today for as low as $15 USD – Click Here