Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Starbound Diaries Part 1 - Dig for Victory

I recently delved into Starbound, an early-access game that mixes the dig-n-craft stylings of Minecraft and Terraria with planet-hopping exploration. Despite my normal reticence to indulge in games that focus on chopping down trees and building giant stone phalluses, I've found myself utterly hooked, partly because the procedurally generated worlds are so compelling, and partly because I'm a sucker for anything that has the word "spaceships" anywhere near it. Here, then, is the first entry in the Captain's Log (I assume that if you're alone on a spaceship, you're automatically the captain, or at the very least the bosun).

First things first - making a character to guide through this hostile universe. There are currently six playable races, all very imaginative and distinctive (except for humans, but their presence is pretty much mandatory). I was tempted by the notion of playing as a giant flower or a feudalist robot, but eventually plumped for an Apex, a race of monkey-men with awesome beards. I gave my wee spaceprimate a balding head and grey jacket with a fine purple stripe, so all that was left was to name him. After spending ten minutes poring through the IMDB pages of the Planet of the Apes films to find an obscure character to name him after, I decided that Cornelius was the coolest name anyway, and called him that. To hell with obscurantism.

Cornelius spawned on his little spaceship, having apparently escaped some kind of technocratic uprising on his homeworld. The ship itself is out of fuel, orbiting an unknown planet, and is basically a space-canoe. I took my matter manipulator (a big magnet-looking device for mining and tree chopping and... erm... matter manipulation) from my locker, stepped onto the teleporter pad, and beamed onto the planet below.

Within two minutes Cornelius fell into an acid pool and died.

Upon reconstitution, Cornelius and I  are somewhat more cautious and tentatively explore the surroundings. The procedural generation has spawned me a world that is both reassuringly natural and ever-so-slightly alien - trees with candyfloss-pink foliage stand tall over plains covered in blue grass (though, tragically, not bluegrass). There are bubbling acid pits, dank caves with long purple vines stretching into the unknown depths, and some alien creatures that look like a cross between a cow and a penis, and don't seem to like me at all.

I get the basics down. I make a crafting table, and a campfire. I take vines and wood and craft them lovingly into a hunter's longbow. I make bandages. Then I begin what will surely be my great masterwork, my pièce de résistance, my Sistine Chapel. I dig a great big fucking hole.

This is not my hole. My hole was nowhere near this grand.
This hole will not just be any hole. I have GRAND PLANS for this hole. This hole will be my base, my lair, the nerve centre of my future galaxy-spanning empire. I will line this hole with brick and wood, and one day re-line it in steel and glass. It is going to be the best hole. I dig it to a respectable starter size, and log out, contented.

When I log back in two days later, I make a grim discovery. There has been an update patch, improving the game and adding in many new features, as is the way with early-access games. This update has also wiped all characters. Cornelius is no more. He no longer exists. And that hole he had such plans for? Turns out he was digging his own grave the whole time.

Stay tuned for part two, in which Cornelius is reincarnated in a blaze of glory, and accidentally murders a bird-lady.

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