Ever played Minecraft? If the answer is yes, have you ever had to explain to a curious friend what it is that you ”have to do” in the game? Sure you have. You and I know the answer, but to put it to words is another matter completely. You probably tried with something along the lines of ”You don’t have to do anything, but you can build all sorts of cool stuff, only first you have to gather the makings, which requires the building of other stuff, it’s all very complicated”. Then when your friend asks what you can do with the cool stuff you’ve built, you’re trapped. But what if you had an answer to that question? What if it was ”I can fly my spaceship in zero gravity with all six degrees of freedom and semi-realistic Newtonian physics”?
In Corneroids, a game currently in free alpha release, that is the answer. Not unlike Minecraft not so long ago, Corneroids is being developed by a single man, Mikko Pulkki, who entered it to the summer 2012 Assembly Game Development competition. He came in third, but that wasn’t the end of Corneroids (despite rumours of it having been practically vaporvare). Since then, he has released several patches and is currently working on multiplayer.
The game is set in an endless, procedurally generated block-based asteroid field. The player is spawned on a small asteroid of merely two to four thousand tonnes, with an endless supply of basic mining drills and cobalt-powered laser peashooters. Everything else is mined from the asteroids and combined with a crafting table, also in unlimited supply, into more powerful tools and weapons, armor suits and plating, thruster engines, power sources, control consoles and cannons. All the makings of a functional and armed spaceship.
Building a spaceship isn’t as simple as drilling some bits of asteroid and rearranging them in the shape of a ship. The ship needs power, which is supplied by cobalt power units, which are made from cobalt batteries, which are made from cobalt bars that have to be refined from lots and lots of cobaltite. It also needs thrusters fueled by hydrogen extracted from water molten from icy rock, and any self-respecting captain builds their ship out of metal, not brown, dull and brittle stone. Gathering all these materials is awfully time consuming with a simple iron drill, and dangerous armed only with a weak semiautomatic pistol against ambushes of purple space jellyfish and missile-launching cucumbers. Luckily your equipment can be upgraded, but for the really good stuff, you have to find a bigger asteroid. A fully pimped out set of tools, armament and personal armor takes a small spaceship’s worth of materials, which feels like even more when you’re itching to build a huge one.
But the real challenge of building your ship isn’t gathering the materials and crafting the components, but putting them together into something that flies straight, turns without veering off course and still looks like the Enterprise. This is even more difficult than it sounds when you take into account the fact that all of these components have a weight that affects the center of gravity of the ship and has inertia. Placing thrusters strategically relative to the center of gravity is key to building a ship that can actually be controlled. As if that weren’t enough, power has to be transferred from the power units to the thrusters (and cannons, if any) via cables. Naturally, power units are some of the heaviest and bulkiest components of your ship. At least the controls can be hooked up to the console without additional wiring. The lack of gravity may seem like a godsend, but it also necessitates controls not only to go forward and turn left or right, but to actively push the ship backward to stop. The physics aren’t ruthlessly realistic, however, as a ship plowing through empty space will slowly come to a halt due to very low, but definitely noticeable friction, and as of yet, collisions don’t cause damage to ships or asteroids.
So, you’ve built the spaceship of your dreams, balanced it’s center of gravity perfectly, arranged it’s thrusters so that it can turn on a dime and armed it like a WWII flying fortress (with lasers!), what now? Well first of all, anyone who’s played Minecraft knows that this is a purely hypothetical question. There’s always room for improvement, and when you think you’re finally finished, you already know what you want to build next. Built the Deathstar? Build a TIE fighter. Now the Deathstar looks too small so you have to build it again in scale. Not a Star Wars fan? Try a battle barge. And even though you can build ships, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a fortress-monastery to dock your armada to.
Besides, the game is just in alpha release. If you get bored with it for a while, lay it off for a couple of weeks and a new version may be available to download. The upcoming multiplayer patch is especially exciting. Not only will this mean battles between completely custom and destroyable spaceships, but tightly knit co-operation between crews to simply pilot the ship and shoot at the same time. A single console only has eight slots, just enough to move the ship forwards and backwards and control its yaw, pitch and roll. Additionally, a regular console can only shoot with the cannons. The aptly named gun console can also turn them to face any way you want.
And did I mention it’s free? At least for now. The player community is so young you can be at the very frontier of development. If you want to get involved, the wiki is in desperate need of contributors: the game is still taking shape and several mods are already available, so there’s tons to document. With the subreddit all but dead, the only source of up to date information on the game is the 4chan general thread. Even if you just want to play the game, you’re doing the developer a favor if you post any feedback you may have to the feedback email address on its site. This game has a great future ahead of it, and you can be a part of it.
The game’s website: http://www.corneroids.com/
The corneroids wiki: http://corneroids.wikia.com