Some Assembly Required: Will Starbase’s focus on minutiae be too much of a good thing?

    
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Recently, Massively Overthinking explored chores in sandboxes and MMOs that can feel like jobs. I may not have answered that then, but boy am I getting a chance to here! Welcome to the revival of Some Assembly Required, our column dedicated to player-generated content! And the first thing we are going to explore is a newly announced game that looks to take pgc to the extreme: Starbase. Sci-fi! Sandbox! Voxels! Build and create (and destroy) to your heart’s content! What’s not to get excited about? Oh, that.

That happens to be the degree of realism and detail planned in the game. You know the idiom “the devil is in the details”? Well, this game is serious about its details! Serious as in, when you focus on the nuts and bolts of space travel, you’re focusing on real nuts and bolts. In Starbase, players will build their ships by placing each individual bolt. While I can’t say for certain since it isn’t possible to log in yet and test things out, after reading up on this upcoming MMO, I think I may have found a sandbox that is too dedicated to minutiae even for me. Either that, or I need to go study up on electrical engineering, aeronautics, and rocket science before I play!

Build it from the bolt up

Why would a sandbox that gives me massive freedom to build what I want be perhaps a bit too much for me? Because according to Starbase’s early access page on Steam, it appears that in order to create I’ll need a multitude of advanced real-life skills I do not currently possess, nor have the time to gain. Well, that isn’t quite right: I can create, just probably not successfully! Let me explain.

One of the key points of this game is that you can “build and design your spaceship, stations and devices down to the tiniest detail.” That sounds pretty cool until you realize that by tiny, it means right down to each individual bolt! Wait, do I have to place and rivet each one in? That’s what it sounds like. The page also emphasizes that “even the smallest ships have thousands of parts”! Wow, that’s a lot of parts. Now, I love building and designing, but I am not sure I have the skills to construct a spaceship or even a building from the first bolt on up. Maybe there will be systems in place to help guide and direct that, or perhaps the noted automation will give me a hand. Maybe. Or maybe I’d have to personally rivet each individual piece of my creation together. I am not sure I’d ever have enough time to manage that.

But that’s not even the part that concerns me the most. What really worries me is the part about having me route control systems and power throughout my ship. If this is more in-depth than pointing out to go from here to there, I will be out of my depth. How intricate this routing and wiring will be has me doubting my ability to make a functioning spacecraft. So yes, while designing is something I love to do, I don’t necessarily have a whole lot of faith in my ability to properly wire a spaceship. The idea of putting my virtual life in my untrained shipbuilding hands does definitely give me pause. Because bad things can — and will — happen.

Lack of skills will cost you

I am already well prepared for the fact that I may not be able to design the ultimate ship. Maybe I can, however, cobble something together that resembles a ship and manages to take off. That may not be a good thing! At that point, my problems have only just begun. You see, poorly made spaceships can indeed fall apart in Starbase. They are expected to. Here’s a fun line to give you an idea of what you’re in for: “Poorly designed superstructures combined with overpowered steering thrusters can snap the spaceships in half if cutting corners too much in a space race.” Or how about this one?

“Minor collisions may break a few outer plates from your spaceship, while fast-speed crashes can rip the ship apart. Thruster propellant pipe leaks may cause spaceships to stall, but the corrosive, leaking propellant might also melt the superstructure of the ship and cause a catastrophic failure.”

If you don’t assemble your ship well, you can seriously fall to pieces in the middle of space! Is there an intergalactic AAA? I just might need it. I’m telling you, when it comes to me this game needs to be subtitled An Accident Just Waiting to Happen.

Better believe I’ll still play

When it comes down to it, I play games for fun. If I need advanced degrees in numerous fields, that might be a bit more than I can manage. And carefully riveting each bolt into a massive space ship might be too much realism for me. I’d never have the time to complete a project let alone run around the universe exploring it. For someone who loves building intricate models, however, and has always dreamed of being able to use them, Starbase sounds like a dream come true.

All that said, I will definitely give this game a go. It has many elements I am excited for in my MMOs: It’s “focused on building and designing spaceships and stations, exploration, resource gathering, crafting, trading, and combat.” Just chop off the combat and it has all the things I adore (except maybe shinies). I may not be good at building things with this detail, but I do have some friends who fit the bill of electrical engineers and rocket scientists, so maybe I have a chance to secure a decent ship after all. Bartering may be the best bet in my case.

And of course, there is a little sentence that alludes to private servers you can play with your friends or by yourself. Don’t want combat or PvP? Make your own. “Alternatively the game features a sandbox mode where players can explore the game alone or with selected friends in their own universe.” That may nix my whole trade empire idea, but it let’s the explorer in me go hog wild. And then I’d only have to worry about me blowing my stuff up, not anyone else.

When can I start?

When will the game be available to check out? Well, it does have its Steam page up and running, but That’s all. There is no way to get the game yet. I thought it was releasing on early access May 30th, but that didn’t appear to be the case. The year 2019 is the only info we have. When there is more, we’ll be sure to let you know. And I’ll be sure to show you my monstrosity of a ship. Will you be willing to get inside and go for a ride?

MMO designers construct thrilling worlds, but MMO players also build some amazing content within them! Some Assembly Required highlights player-generated content, from events to housing to quest-creation systems. There’s creativity galore out there, and MJ Guthrie will travel the MMOverse to find and share it.
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Raimo Kangasniemi

To be honest, I think the most severe issue facing the game at this point are the player characters – they need to make the robots heavily individualized from the beginning. (Humans wouldn’t hurt, knowing players’ preference to pretty human characters, but seem to be out of the question.)

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

It’s interesting, but as far as building is concerned I think I’m edging toward Dual Universe — it has more of a Landmark building vibe that should allow for less blocky constructs through the use of microvoxels and voxel reactors.
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jay

Thank MJ, I had to google minutiae, learned a new word today! :)

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Damon Anderson

I have another focus for gaming, but it sounds interesting.

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PanagiotisLial1

I am curious on it too but I think I am more set for Dual Universe. I actually bought a pledge for DU a couple days ago

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cursedseishi

I was definitely curious at first, but there is a community-created FAQ from a bunch of developer discussions on their Discord and glimpsing through that actually turned me off of the game.

For all the exacting and detailed minutiae they want to focus on? They sure are picking and choosing. And the one they are skipping out on that, for me at least, kind of breaks it is there will be drag in outer space. And, as a whole, it feels like they are doing it so they can control exactly what all you can do with a ship. No accelerating yourself in a direction and allowing momentum to carry you which means inexpensive ships are directly limited to a tinier area than more expensive ones. It also means no cool turn abouts or tricks one could do if momentum was preserved. And it also means you can’t create makeshift armaments and hurtle them. How could would it have been in such a simulated environment to grab several asteroids, attach boosters to them and then accelerate them at a rival group or some friends?

About the only thing that does still seem promising is that there will be a ‘sandbox’ mode for the game. But aside from a mention? It’s a lot of… nada to me. And for it being an ‘MMO’, that they are even likening some of their server connectivity mechanics to Peer-2-Peer doesn’t help to give me much hope on connections–or the abuse of such.

laelgon
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laelgon

Well private servers and the ability to play solo have turned this game around from a “No chance” to “Give it to me now!”

I saw some developer response on the steam community page, that gave me the impression you can build things bolt by bolt if you want, but that there are bigger building blocks available if you aren’t as interested in the minutiae. That seems like a good idea to me, if that is indeed the case. Let people who want to build a perfect 1:1 Star Destroyer replica with functioning toilets do that, and let idiots like me slap together a blocky piece of crap and start jetting around.