Stirring Up Trouble: Starbound Style
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Starbound is making me wonder if I'm a bad person. I've always considered myself a chaotic good kind of girl, but since I decided to get in on some Early Access action (with what's best described as Terraria in space), I'm beginning to wonder.

It started when I chose a Floran as my first character. Admittedly, I went with it because it appeared to be the prettiest race. Plus, I figured growing food would be easier than hunting down monsters to get it, and a race of sentient plants has got to have some kind of green thumb. Yet, there was something else that made this particular species even more intriguing. Word of God, in this case Chucklefish, says that the Florans are hyper aggressive, and are even cannibalistic. Not to mention they have a disregard for non-Floran life.

I was okay with that. I even toyed with calling my avatar Audrey II. Besides, Starbound's in-game codex suggested I was a "special" Floran. I was questioning the beliefs, wanted to learn, and perhaps even abandon my warlike ways.

Except I didn't. After the four hour mark, I returned to my starter planet with enough materials to make stronger weapons and armor, and set off to do some serious exploration. I came across two Glitch castles (that's Starbound's robotic race). The first Glitch that Lilac, my character, encountered was hostile. So, I thought nothing of using force to overpower him (or her) and raid the home for furniture and other valuable items. However, the second Glitch was a peaceful merchant, simply living a day to day life in his home. He didn't attack me, yet I decided to be selfish and greedy, and attack him too. I was just starting out, it seemed like he might have resources, so I went for it.

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This is was my first moral dilemma. My Floran had attacked an innocent Glitch merchant for pixels, Starbound's currency, furniture, and whatever else she could stuff in her pockets. It was all due to my own greed. I wasn't really thinking too deeply at this point, and instead I tried to rationalize it. Florans are supposed to be aggressive, especially towards other races, and if any race would be an enemy to them, it would have to be a Glitch. I mean, if a plant-based race has trouble recognizing the validity of other organic life forms, imagine the prejudice they would have towards an inorganic one.

It wasn't until I really made a settlement on my new-found home planet of Alpha Leonis 96 III that I started to realize the detrimental impact I could have on the galaxy. Shortly after landing on this planet, I took over an abandoned outpost that was staffed by robots. I built up a bit of a mansion around it, and determined it would be my home base. Upon a full exploration of the planet, after 5 hours of gameplay, I discovered a huge Avian village. They were peaceful, so I decided it would be a good place to call home.

I also decided that I couldn't just spend all of my time there.

Starbound is a game that encourages and rewards exploration of the universe. It's the only way to find new blueprints for crafting, special items, new races, new villages, and more. You have to get out there and see the worlds.

But this is a double edged sword. Travel requires fuel, which means stripping the land of every planet you visit for coal and wood to power the space ship. I didn't want to devastate Alpha Leonis 96 III. It's my home, and home to a large Avian village that accepted me and my kleptomaniac ways (the villager's kitchen counters were so pretty, and I really did need some potted plants to brighten up my rooms). I was already, occasionally, permanently borrowing some items from their homes, and had occupied what was once a Human outpost. I didn't want to tarnish the rest of my home.

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So, I've gone elsewhere. In the over 11 hours I've now spent with Starbound, I've razed Human penal colonies, upended campsites, taken all furniture from an underground human base, and claimed several Glitch castles as my own. I tear down entire forests to collect wood for fuel, and have tunneled through the ground in search of coal and other valuable ores. After each excursion, I return home, decorate my growing mansion with the spoils, and store them away for future endeavors (I especially appreciate the tents from the campsites, as they're invaluable for brief layovers on other planets). And now, it's left me feeling guilty. It's as though my Floran is a one plant-woman blight on the entire universe. She's a parasite, going from planet to planet. It's more about taking everything I can from each sight now, in the hopes of expanding my knowledge and getting more crafting materials and fuel, rather than a genuine desire to explore. It makes me wonder if Chucklefish considered such a thing happening when developing Starbound. Were they idealistic, and thinking people would take the Star Trek approach to galactic exploration? Or did they know we would be more like the Quarian Migrant Fleet of Mass Effect, with our characters being feared as nomads who strip every planet they land on, taking anything of value, ravaging the local animal population, and leaving our junk behind?

I must admit, my moral conflicts have left me craving something more in Starbound. Though it would be an unlikely addition, I'd like to see NPCs react differently to players avatars depending on our actions as players. Give us consequences for our actions. Take my Floran's case: based on her actions thus far, Glitches and Human Criminals would be hostile to her. On the other hand, Avians would be kind, since she's lived peacefully among them.

Perhaps that would be too complicated. Besides, I'm sure I can't be the only one questioning my behavior in Starbound thus far. As you also go through the beta and explore the galaxy, think about what you're doing, how you're interacting with the planets you visit and the people you meet, and maybe even challenge yourself to make as little impact on each world you visit.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada
@JMariye

Contributing Writer
Date: 12/09/2013

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