I just had an epiphany. Yes I did.
Let me explain.
All games I play I start on the hardest possible settings. I dislike easy mode because bad habits and the real intent of the developers never shines through. (The devs need to make games easy for some people because they're either time-poor or effort-poor and well, their money and wishes are just as important right?)
And this does that. In SE, easy mode doesn't teach you anything. It's a "Lego meet Asteroids" style and some even called it for a "Minecraft" clone as a result. Add building block. Add another block, and another ad infinitum until you have spaceship. For me, it got boring quickly. It's called "creative mode"- just... build.
And then there's survivor mode - on hard. Whoa!! I struggled for the first few hours. With little in the way of documentation and no real clue as to what to do, it took me over an hour to work out how to build a single block from the remains of a craft crashed into an asteroid.
First there's survival. Have I got enough uranium for power? Should I turn on the gravity generator? How can I save energy until I can salvage enough to.... live?
I need to mine. I NEED fuel. I can mine using my included hand drill but it's... messy. Slow. Trite.
So to mine I need a mining ship. To build a mining ship I need components. To make components I need an assembler. To use the assembler I need steel. I need glass. I need energy.
And all I have is a drill. I have a grinder. I have a welder. And in my scenario, I have a ship I can salvage.
Piece by piece with a grinder, all the while careful of my energy limit, my inventory. I need a refinery. The refinery is needed if salvage doesn't give me everything I need so I'll need raw material to convert to ingots, including uranium ore which I convert to processed uranium to fuel the reactor so I can do ALL these things.
Do you see where this is going?
To build my mining ship I need a mining drill. To build the drill I need motors, steel etc. Some of these can be salvaged. Some have to be made. Every component needs to located, transported, linked and welded. EVERY component. You need a plan. A rough sketch on what you intend to build helps alot. It gives you purpose because time is of the essence. if you're not watching and run out of fuel you're.... dead. No energy means no refining of uranium ore to refuel.
It's a grind. And a weld. Yep. Grind and weld. Hour after hour floating in your pressure suit. Maybe you can leave the grav gen on and walk around, expending more of that precious reactor fuel. Who knows. The decisions you make determine what you build and how fast it's going to take.
The flying is... space like. There's 3 dimensions. There's gravity. There's velocity. There's death. There's no attitude indicators, sky markers, "horizon" indicators, compasses or such.
Fly too far, lose your bearings and home.... disappears.
There are no fixed paths or objectives (apart from survive). It's a sandbox. And a multiplayer sandbox at that. Go public, lose it all or go "friends only" and do the hard yards with mates to build the biggest dang skyship ever made. There's missiles, guns, turrets, fire and light. Death. There's explosions, broken platforms, busted ships.
Or there's serenity and wonder as you quietly go about your mining ship construction.
The game caters for everybody from MP gung-ho blast'em players to SP anal-retentives with spreadsheets, CAD and a master plan.
At alpha, a lot of the options are not as intuitive as I'd like. The UI is a bit invasive and some work could be done here. The universe is.... grey. I'm sure some awesome nebulae would fit in great here and add appeal to the wonder of space.
There are glitches, it's alpha as I write, but I've experienced no crashes. It's going to be good thing this Space Engineers and the devs seem happy to include...whatever people damn well please.
7 hours went by in a single session. I'm only half through building my mining ship. I have no objective but to succeed.
My epiphany? What is success in SE?
It's when I finish this ship, I'll mine, refine, transport and assemble another. It'll be bigger. It'll do more. The welding torch will blind my eyes as I drift in and out of the superstructure boundaries, my suit energy draining away.
THIS can only get better...