Ambitious, and over-ambitious, MMOs are a PC staple. Every year someone else says they're going to revolutionize the scene, and Starbase is the latest with big promises: build spaceships and stations from the bolts up, form companies and battle other players, and explore a universe where everything created can also be destroyed.
It's reminiscent of airship MMO Worlds Adrift, which uses Improbable's much-hyped SpatialOS tech, except that Starbase uses its own engine. With "instrumental" help from public research funding agency Business Finland, developer Frozenbyte (best-known for the notably dissimilar Trine games) says it built its own "voxel/vertex hybrid" engine to handle complex, shared simulations.
"Poorly designed superstructures combined with overpowered steering thrusters can snap the spaceships in half," reads the Steam page, which offers a few examples of how Starbase's physics simulation will challenge space engineers and pilots.
"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."
Once we've figured out how to make ships that don't immediately implode, the Starbase pitch is similar to EVE Online's: there's mining, trading, factions to join, PvP combat. "A small group of players can eventually form large factions that challenge the powers that be," says Frozenbyte.
EVE's slow skill training is replaced by crafty building in this case, and for those who just want to experiment with space station and ship designs, there'll be creative mode that can be enjoyed with friends.
The shared universe is clearly the focus, however. Starbase will release in Early Access on Steam, and the plan is to keep it there for one to two years. In the beginning, players will be confined to the orbit of one planet, but as they build better bases and more fuel-efficient ships, the galaxy will begin to open up to them. Development will be guided by what players do.
"Starbase has been built with endless possibilities in mind with tools such as in-game programming, so we ourselves don’t yet know all the awesome things that can be created," reads the Steam page. "We hope to see lots of wild ideas, creative solutions, and crazy inventions from players, so we can shape our development goals in order to support those to the fullest.”
Starbase has no Early Access release date yet, but it's coming this year for an unknown price.