Starbound Interview: On Development, Modding, and Future Plans


I recently had the opportunity to interview Chucklefish's Community Manager Molly Caroll to talk about the studio's debut title, Starbound, an extraterrestrial sandbox adventure game of exploration and all manner of other nifty things. Among many other things, I spoke to her about the studio's plans to bring the game to Steam, and what they have in store for modders. 

In addition to the PC, Mac and Linux, the game is also slated for release on the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. 

Starbound was revealed much sooner than you guys intended. How has this affected the development of the game? 

It’s had positive and negative effects! On the positive side, we’ve had time to build a large community of really amazingly dedicated fans. On the negative, because we’ve been very publicly in development for quite awhile now, there’s been a lot of pressure on us to hurry it up.

Starbound has been in development for well over a year. How much were you inspired by a game like Terraria, and what are you doing to differentiate it, especially not that a sequel—Terraria 2—has been announced?

The whole block-based genre is pretty inspirational. The amount of people who have built careers out of building incredible structures in games like Minecraft, or just filming themselves playing them, is amazing.

So yeah, we’ve definitely been inspired by that, and all the creative freedom those games allow people. But Starbound’s also got a lot of adventure game elements– for instance, you can examine all the objects in the gameworld to see a description. The full release will have a central quest line and shorter missions. We’re aiming to create a universe that’s really rich with lore, on top of just making a good sandbox game.

The genre is still very new, so I think there’s plenty of room for us to differentiate ourselves!


How do you plan on supporting Starbound after release?

We aim to keep updating for a long time! The plan is to get a smaller team to continue making updates after the original team has moved onto a new project.

Are there any plans to allow players to mod Starbound? If so, what are they?

Yes! We’re pretty big on moddability, so loads of aspects of Starbound are configured with JSON and LUA scripts. It’s really easy for anyone to get in there and configure new objects, weapons, foods, NPCs, etc.

What are your plans to bring Starbound to Steam?

We’re approved for Steam! We aim to get the beta up on Early Access as soon as it’s ready.

starbound screenshot

How detailed and in-depth are you making the creation and crafting systems, which are obviously going to be a big part of your game? Minecraft has such a wide appeal because at a surface level, it's pretty easy to grasp.

We’ve done a lot to try and keep our various UI elements as simple and easy to understand as possible. You’ll start out with a set of recipes and unlock more as your equipment advances, or by finding blueprints while you’re out exploring.

Hovering over objects in the crafting window will show you what materials you need to make them, and you can search for recipes or filter them by category. Pretty clean and simple!

Was there ever a fear that the game might look too complex?

It’s always been a consideration when planning or implementing features. It’s a big game and making sure all of the elements work well together can be a challenge, but we try to keep things as simple and cohesive as we can.

You've put a lot of your efforts into funding the game's development independently, through crowdfunding and programs like the Humble Bundle. What's that been like?

It’s been a pretty good experience for us. We considered conventional funding and also considered Kickstarter, but in the end we’re glad we did our own thing. Humble Bundle have been great to work with, and of course we’ve received loads of support from fans.

starbound screenshot

In your opinion, what are the benefits of going indie over being supported by a publisher?

There’s the creative freedom, of course, and the freedom to take our time to do things right. Everyone involved with Chucklefish is in this because they enjoy games and want to make a really good one.

Starbound is getting a release on the PS4 and PS Vita. What do you think of Sony's efforts to court the indie development crowd?

They seem to be really actively searching for and snatching up good indie titles, and I think that’s awesome. It’s really encouraging.

What do you think of Steam OS and Steam Machines? Have you any plans to support Valve's upcoming gaming platform?

Right now we’re just focusing on getting the game out for PC/Mac/Linux (and further ahead PS4/Vita), but we’re definitely up for considering other platforms in the future.

Would you be interested in formatting the game for the Steam Controller?

We want to add controller support in the future, so the Steam Controller is certainly a possibility.