Amid the hype surrounding Early Access titles like DayZ you might be forgiven for not knowing what Starbound is.
It’s a sandbox title being made by London-based Chucklefish and is another in a list of successes on Valve’s Early Access platform. It has sold over 1m copies.
It was initially funded through its donations on Chucklefish’s website. The team was after $50,000; $1m was donated.
“People have started to put their money where their mouths are and supporting titles that big publishers don’t have much faith in,” says artist Adam Riches. “Gamers decide what they want to play and make them happen.”
Crowdfunding was essential to Starbound’s development. Prior to that, the team was working from isolated locations and needed second jobs to sustain themselves.
“We are in the same room for the first time, we have an office,” says art director George Wyman. “Our efficiency is up, we are more able to make the game and people don’t have to have second jobs anymore. The game is no longer in danger of suddenly running our of money. Starbound is here and it’s going to happen.”
But being funded is just the start – the game actually needs to be made. And Chucklefish has been keeping its fans informed every step of the way.
“It’s important that we update the community often,” says Carroll. “We try to keep as up to date as possible on what we are doing and the progress that we are making.”
One way that Chucklefish has been keeping fans in the loop is by releasing regular builds of the game. An in-development version of Starbound is uploaded every single night for players to enjoy.
“People who can’t wait for the big updates can play what we have been working on during the day,” explains Riches. “It’s uploaded automatically. It tends to be pretty buggy as it’s the build we are working on, but they’re getting updates every single day. An important part of Early Access is keeping in touch with the community.
“They want to see all the changes you have made. They might not be ready but they can get in and play with them straight away.”
Carroll adds: “No matter if the game is broken or not, it is up there at the end of the day. People can keep track of our progress.”
Starbound is a sound proposition, and it is clearly something that people want. But this genre of open-world construction games has become very popular, with the likes of Minecraft stealing headlines. It seems that the genre is reaching a saturation point, but Riches insists that Starbound is different enough to set it apart.
“Starbound has randomly generated planets which is a step up,” he says. “People want to keep playing the game and they want to play something new. Having random generation helps with that.“
Wyman concludes; “I’m not sure if we’re the first ones to try sci-fi in the genre, but that’s a selling point. And the game is just getting better and better as we develop it.“