I purchased Starbound back in December 2013, knowing it was Early-access and a so-called “beta“. However, looking at the product, the name “beta” does not fit its state. Even the head developer confirmed that this is only a tech-demo. I could live with that back then, because “thick and fast” updates were announced. In fact, there were several meaningful updates in December, but then only a few in January and February, and after some cosmetic patches in spring, stable or unstable patches weren’t released anymore. It’s 5th of December, one year and one day after the release of the pre-Alpha; Starbound had four updates in 2013, all of them between January and April.
It’s kind of frustrating that even if you are aware of the fact that you are in a beta, this beta isn’t a beta at all. I’ve never seen a developer in the suggestion forum. The multiplayer-scene suffers under the bad performance of Starbound; servers with more than five players tend to be unplayable. The lack of updates destroyed MP and its community. Even some of the big modders - like the inventor of the beloved “Avali”-race mod - left because they were annoyed by CFs policy. There was also a time when only one thread existed for ALL bugs to report! I count this behavior as highly incompetent and unprofessional. Even an “indie” has to keep some quality standards.
Now to the so called “Nightly Builds”. Don’t get brainwashed by the fan boys on the CF forums who claim that CF produces updates, saying “you only have to download the Nightlies”. Not only are the NBs broken (developer admitted that), they are mere developer builds to show the players at least that some kind of development is happening; the NBs were introduced because there were rumors that CF didn’t work on the game at all. Also, even if they have a support forum for it, they officially don’t want that bugs in the NBs get reported. To make the thing even more contradictory, those who claim that these NBs are a “beta” have never tested any beta at all; sometimes, you can’t even advance in the NBs without admin commands, and your saves/characters can be corrupted if you are unlucky.
But even if you follow the NBs, you will see that they have cancelled or added features of the old stable, changing some aspects of the game in a different direction. That underlines the fact that the current “stable” isn’t a beta, because normally, a beta has most of its features integrated. Starbound instead seems to be rebuild from the scratch. Why? I don’t know the answer. However, the developers don’t hear what the community says or at least stick to their own plans – you can investigate several thesis papers by Tiy from December and January – but obviously don’t have any priorities when developing.
So, even if you take in account that this is an alpha and early access, all things they promise to you won’t happen; don’t think that you can give them help as a modder, as a bugtester or as an artist. I didn’t encounter any developer since spring on the forums, except if they posted a dev diary. CF always cries how bad and demanding the community is, but they are not interested in the community either; if you want to get some news, you don’t have to visit the forums, but look at reddit or twitter. At the beginning, they said that they wanted to introduce popular mods in their updates; but in one year, they only introduced two. It would’ve been a good idea to add at least some mods in the long phase without an update, but even here CF fails.
To make things worse, there were some really bad comments and even accusations made by the developers in open public. I’ve never seen something like that where developers accuse their customers, when they criticize the development; critics can be idiots sometimes, but there IS the problem of absent updates, and as such, the developers are responsible for their own failure, not others.
Starbound started as a promising game with a bunch of potential. Unfortunately, CF destroyed it. They claim that an “unstable” (!) patch will come in the next weeks. Not sure when they will push the stable. They are also talking about a mysterious 1.0 version that will come later. I don’t think we’ll see it before December 2015.
If you are a person full of passion who wants to give a hand, wants to be part of something big and likes to enrich a community – don’t try Starbound. Don’t do it. If you are a multiplayer-person, don’t even think about it. And if you are a lonesome, but experienced gamer who wants a cool, complex game… you should wait until 2016 until thinking about a possible purchase of Starbound 1.0.
I have to say that I really want to love this game. I really would like to see Starbound succeeding. However, Chucklefish makes it impossible for me. I'm not the only one. There were times when this game was played by 80.000 people a week, or at least 20.000 to 30.000. Now, there are only 1.000-2.000. Still, everyone is convinced that the whole fan base will return after a new stable update. I doubt that.
(A short addition: I don’t start Starbound via Steam, that’s the motive why I have fewer hours shown than I actually played. The launcher is bugged, by the way, and can double the hours you played, leading to false statistics.)