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Edge of Space is More than Just Terraria in Space

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Walking along the indie booths of PAX East today, I stumbled upon a game I had pre-judged to be a clone. Boy was I wrong.

Edge of Space is a game that on all outwards appearances looks like it was ripped straight from the Starbound playbook. It’s Terraria style gameplay in space with 32-bit graphics. That being said, to call it a clone is not only dishonest, but it’s a perception the developers at HandyMan Studios have been fighting against.

In what I can only describe as a convergent evolution of ideas, Edge of Space and Starbound have had similar development histories. In February 2012 Chucklefish announced Starbound, and only a few months later HandyMan Studio launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $35k when they asked for $25k.  Edge of Space landed on Steam on June 28, 2013 while Starbound released December 4, 2013. Despite similar premises and inceptions, Starbound is obviously the more popular game, and that’s actually kind of sad.

Earlier today I had the opportunity to chat with Jacob Crane, the lead designer and CEO of Handyman. You could tell immediately his passion for the game. He was dressed in a shark outfit, his face popping out through the shark’s mouth. The man was practically jumping at people and barely containing his energy as he tried to get PAX attendees to come in and demo the game.  I, of course, am never one to tell a man in a shark costume no, so I was pulled in for a chat. I was honest with him from the start, saying it felt like it was derivative of Chucklefish’s similar-premised game. That’s when he not only filled me in on the history, but explained how the developers are trying to differentiate the game.

“We want to be more fun, a little it more wild,” said Jacob, trying to explain some of the philosophical and cultural differences between the games. “We just had a small team. That’s the other thing that’s very different from Starbound. I mean they always had a really large team. It’s only me and [Paul Ash] are the core developers. We were JUST able to bring on another programmer to help. And then we have a tester, and we have our artists.”

edge of space

The combat is fun and exciting!

Of course, just differences in development doesn’t necessarily mean the games are different or that one is better than the other. Gameplay is the difference, and that is a point Jacob was very excited to talk about. “Where a lot of the differentiation happens is our crafting system,” he explained.  And he’s absolutely right. After playing the demo, I could see how different the games are. Crafting in Edge of Space isn’t necessarily a system of discovery and combination like we saw in Terraria, but instead it’s a system of progression.

“We have a much more direct progression system mixed in with indirect,” Jacob explained to me. Mining, killing enemies, etc. gives you exp. Early on, mining is probably the easiest way to get XP, and the rarer the materials you mine the more XP you get. After a while it becomes background noise and other forms of gameplay are encouraged through greater XP opportunities. That XP is then accumulated and converted into Science Points which you can spend to unlock new recipes.

That’s not to say Edge of Space isn’t at least a little derivative. I asked Jacob about the inspiration for the game, and there was no hesitation. “Terraria, absolutely Terraria,” he said. “I’ve been in the industry for a while and worked on other games. I don’t want to be a copy, but the game industry is about looking at other games, being inspired, then building on. We reached out and they ended up reaching back to us, and we ended up talking. I told them what the goals of Edge of Space were and where we were trying to go, and he felt there was enough different to not be a clone. He’s actually been really supportive and allowed us to have Terraria content in the game.” Apparently the first world boss in Edge of Space, Omegatron, is a direct reference to the Terraria boss, Skeletron.

Of course, gameplay isn’t necessarily the only way Edge of Space differentiates itself. As we quoted earlier, Edge of Space is a little more wild, a little more fun. The creatures in the game aren’t only simple abominations. There are rocket-powered laser sharks, plasma-fisted polar bears, and bear-octopus hybrids.  This absolutely a game that isn’t afraid to occasionally let its fun side show.

Another point of pride for Jacob is how often game patches are released. They update and patch the game every 2-4 weeks, and it’s rare they do anything longer than that. This allows them to adjust easier to user feedback and experiment with the changes while they try to smooth everything out.

Perhaps the hardest part of Edge of Space development is getting that hype and excitement for the game. HandyMan isn’t exactly an established brand, and that means a constant uphill attention for views and for trying to gain a following. That being said, if this game is at all interesting to you, Edge of Space is available through Early Access on Steam for $13. After having my preconceived notions debunked I sat down and played the game, and yeah. I will say it felt fun. I didn’t spend too much time on it, but the time I did spend was enjoyable. The progression system is simple enough to not be a hinder, but it also allows for more customization and for you to specialize more.  You can also find out more about Edge of Space at their website.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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