Starbound, Early Access, and the Major Winter Update

With the arrival date of Starbounds much anticipated winter update upon us, it looks like it is finally going to be a real game. Instead of an unfinished pipe dream.

A little over a year ago, my friend told me about a game called Starbound where you could travel the galaxy and encounter all sorts of strange and exciting things, all while in a Terraria-like setting. I was sold. I love games where I can craft and explore at my own pace, and all that while getting to travel space? Sounds like a dream come true! And for a few hours it was, but then the developer went silent.

What is Starbound?

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It’s a great idea that fell short on its initial entry into the early access scene. When it started to become a commercial success around the genesis of early access, the developers promised the moon and the sky and the players wanted more than the developers could deliver. Eventually things just kind of fizzled out and interest started to wane for the unfinished game that was Starbound.

So Starbound is a bad game?

No, in fact I think Starbound is a great game, it just isn’t finished. It has the framework to be absolutely amazing, but the content just isn’t there. Therein lies the problem with early access.

Early access is bad then?

Not inherently. Early access games are supposed to give gamers a chance to play the game while it’s being developed, and allow developers to receive feedback from actual consumers instead of a focus group. It can also be a godsend for an independent developer who has a great idea for a game but can’t get funding to create the game how they envision it. When early access becomes a problem is when these core principles are mitigated by an outside force, which is what happened to Starbound.

What happened?

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What would eventually become the standard woes of early access. Chucklefish, the developer behind Starbound, stopped putting out stable updates regularly and the culture surrounding the game started to die off. The subreddit became less active, the hype around the game dissipated, and my group of friends lost what little interest we had left in the game.

The fault isn’t solely with the developers, as early access gamers seemed to forget that what they were buying into wasn’t a completed product with expanded content on the way, it was an unfinished and buggy game that was still pending completion.

What can we learn from this going forward?

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Treat early access games like they’re supposed to be treated:

Like unfinished games. If you don’t want to play a game that isn’t done, then don’t buy it; however, if the concept of the game sounds up your alley and it looks interesting, then support the developer and offer them insight into how they can better improve their product.

Developers also need to stay grounded and not get caught up in the hype if their game gets launched into the hype stratosphere. Don’t promise the moon unless you’re going to deliver.

What’s in Starbound’s update?

Basically everything that they promised a year ago. We are finally going to see Starbound fleshed out a bit. I don’t think the developer has stated that the game is out of beta yet, but this update will bring us much closer to a final release than I ever thought we’d get. You can check out the trailer for Starbound’s giant update below.

Be sure and check back for a full overview of the content that the update brings and a look at how Starbound is shaping up.

UpdateStarbound is having a 25% off sale in celebration of the new update releasing today on Steam.

Update 2: The patch is out! Download it now and enjoy!

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