Doublefine has been very busy lately: From bringing kickstarter to the public eye not once but twice and working on Broken Age, Massive Chalice and the Amnesia fortnight game jam. This is where today’s game came from:Spacebase DF-9. And while the game is far from being completed, there is a lot to look forward to.
(The following spotlight is based on Alpha 2 of Spacebase DF-9. Screenshots and comments here may not reflect the final version of the game or later versions of the Alpha. Doublefine has said that they are committed to releasing a new Alpha build once per month and there is currently no official release date.)
Spacebase DF-9 is meant to be a science fiction take on the complex game Dwarf Fortress. Dwarf Fortress for those not familiar is a take on the city builder genre with the main difference is that your citizens are not nameless people but unique individuals vital to growing your settlement.
Your responsibilities are to decide where and how your settlement grows and assign people to specific tasks, after which you’ll sit back and watch things grow, or blow up in your face.
Spacebase DF-9 begins with you deciding where to set up in the entire known universe. There are four variables currently that affect the randomly generated game space: The amount of harvestable resources, rate of new colonists appearing, the rate of raiders attacking and finally the rate of derelict vessels or random events happening.
Afterwards, you’ll be taken to an empty sector of space with three colonists, their escape pod and eight minutes of breathable air remaining. Your first job is to build the two rooms essential for creating a livable habitat — life support and an airlock for entering and leaving your base.
Every colonist comes with a name, back-story, personality and their skill rating in the currently available jobs. The more someone does a job, the better they’ll get at it, which rewards players who keep their staff alive.
Rooms are sketched out by the player along with assigning their functionality which determines what objects can be placed there. Then anyone who is assigned to be a builder will begin construction as long as you have matter remaining.
Matter is the game’s sole resource and can be mined from asteroids or broken down from unneeded rooms. Every few minutes, you’ll receive an alert about a ship entering your sector of space. This could mean new people arriving, an attack, or a vessel drifting in space.
Your main limiter in terms of colonist growth is the amount of oxygen remaining and how many people can your base support. If too many people are in the base at one time without enough support, your base may run out of air and people will start to die.
Colonists have needs which the game currently tracks health, hunger, air, morale and sleep. And as with any growing settlement, you’ll need to be carefully expanding your base outward as more people arrive and more jobs will need to be done.
Off the bat Spacebase DF-9 is not about making things easy. Try to build too much early on and you may not be able to get air flowing before your 8 minutes of air are up.
While Spacebase DF-9 is off to a good start, the game is far from being done. The UI and gameplay at the moment are rough. With a lack of useful hotkeys and functionality can lead to frustration while trying to design the perfect base.
Base power at the moment is not yet in the game, leaving you with a function-less reactor room.
In terms of gameplay, simply put the game at this moment doesn’t have a lot there. You’ll be able to build every useful room and object currently in the game within about 30 minutes of play. I also ran into a number of gameplay related bugs such as characters being pushed out of rooms, not investigating wrecks, using objects and so on.
But that’s alright as Spacebase DF-9 is very much still in Alpha and they have plenty of time to continue adding to the game.
Perhaps the one thing currently that SpaceBase DF-9 has over Dwarf Fortress is a more accessible UI and art style. As we’ve talked about in previous posts and podcasts, while Dwarf Fortress is a deep game, it’s also very inaccessible to new people. If Doublefine can continue adding to the game to the point where we have an accessible take on the complexity of Dwarf Fortress, then I feel that Spacebase DF-9 will be a winner.
And lastly, from their roadmap page, Spacebase DF-9 certainly has a lot coming in the future, current future that is, not sci-fi future.