Notes on “Hardspace:Shipbreaker” Release

Just before 2021 ended I bought the game Hardspace:Shipbreaker in an incomplete early-access state. I had a lot of fun despite its flaws. In May, the game exited early-access to become an official release, followed quickly by a 1.1 release. This post documents a few observations from an enthusiastic player.

The best news: many annoying bugs were fixed! A few examples:

  • Temperature Control Units no longer invisibly attach ship exterior to interior.
  • Waste Disposal Units are no longer glued to adjacent plates.
  • Armor Plates could be separated for barge recycling separately from the adjacent hull plate, which goes to the processor.

Sadly, not all of my annoyance points were fixed. The worst one is “same button for picking up a part and pushing it away”. That is still the case, and I still occasionally blast some parts off into space when I intended to grab them, which meant I have to waste time chasing them down.

The most charming new feature are variations on ship interiors. The 0.7 release had variations on exterior livery that corresponded to fictional companies that owned and used these ships, but the interior had been generically identical. Now there are a few cosmetic variations, and I was most amused by the green carpet in old passenger liners. It gave me a real fun 70s vibe in a futuristic spaceship.

The most useful new feature is the ability to save partial ship salvage progress. Version 0.7 lacked this feature and it meant once we started a ship, we were committed to keeping the game running until we were done. (Either by playing through multiple shifts in one sitting or leaving the computer on and running the game until we could return.) Saving ship progress allows us to save and quit the game and return to our partially complete ship later. This feature noticeably lengthens game load and save times, but I think it is a worthwhile tradeoff.

In version 0.7, the single-player campaign plotline only went to an Act II cliffhanger. It now has an Act III conclusion, but that did not make the plot more appealing to me. The antagonist went too far and entered the realm of annoying caricature. Note I did not say “unrealistic” because there definitely exist people who climb into positions of power in order to abuse others. I’ve had to deal with that in real workplaces and didn’t enjoy having that in my fictional workplace. I was also disappointed with the storybook depiction of unionization, real life union-busting is far more brutal. Though I don’t particularly need to experience that in my entertainment, either. But aside from imposing some pauses in the shipbreaking action, the single player plotline does not impact the core game loop of taking ships apart. Lastly: the “little old space truck” side quest now ties into the conclusion, because getting it fixed up is your ticket out of that hellhole.

Based on earlier information, the development team should now be focused on releasing this title for game consoles. I’ve been playing it using a game controller on my PC and found it made an acceptable tradeoff with its own upsides and downsides relative to keyboard-and-mouse. I hope it will do well on consoles, I want to see more puzzle-solving teardown games on the market.

But the reason I started playing this game at all was because I had been learning about Unity game engine’s new Data Oriented Technology Stack (DOTS) and wanted to see an application of it in action. As much as I enjoyed the game, I hadn’t forgotten the educational side of my project.

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