Minecraft's voxel-based, procedurally generated world has inspired a lot of indie endeavours and outright clones, but upcoming PC game StarMade takes the experience to that oft-traveled final frontier: space. You build and pilot spacecrafts, fight pirates, mine asteroids and—if you're feeling friendly (or unfriendly)--hop into multiplayer to team up with and against like-minded folks.
Lets get to the meat of the thing: building stuff. StarMade skips Kerbal Space Program's focus on physics and instead adopts Minecraft's block-centric approach to crafting. Ships are centered around a core—think of it as a sort of cockpit. Various "computer" blocks are strapped onto the body of the ship, and will link to the core to give the player control of the various systems. Individual bits of equipment are then slapped on and linked to their respective computers—these include cannons, lasers for salvaging resources, radar jammers, repair beams, missile arrays, and presumably whatever else the developers dream up.
The system is rather simple, but leaves room for plenty of imaginative designs—from miniscule space-skiffs like the GrumpWagon up there to massive warbarges that allow multiple players working in tandem to man the guns and equipment. You can even dock smaller vessels to larger ones and operate them independently—all but required on larger vessels, which can get trapped in a planet's gravitational pull.
You'll do this all by floating about in space, slapping the blocks that are in your inventory around your ship's core and onto your hull until something like a spacecraft takes form. It'll feel rather familiar to those who have spent time in Minecraft's Create mode, though resources here are limited. You buy new parts from shops using credits you earn selling resources mined from asteroids and planets floating about the procedurally generated universe, or goods you've liberated from roving bands of NPC pirates (and players).
The game still feels a little rough around the edges, but already offers a phenomenal amount of things to do, including creating AI-controlled ships, building space manufactories, and exploring multiplayer servers replete with player-factions to join up with, bases to defend, and wars to wage. The alpha version is currently available as a free download from the official StarMade site. If you like what you see and want to pitch in the game is currently available for a mere $6, which will get you the full version—whenever it shows up.
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