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Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Meeple Station - Steam Early Access


It's been a couple of months now since we last looked at Meeple Station, the new space station base builder from Vox Games and mod.io (the newly formed publisher from the team behind moddb and indiedb).

When we last looked at the game it had just become available to purchase as an alpha via their own website.  Well, now the time has come and the Steam Early Access release is (at the time of writing) imminent.  On the day that it released into the alpha there was an update with some changes to the core of the game and this release bring another.

The game sees you take control of a race called Meeple and take on the task of building a suitable space station.  Depending on the 'backwater quadrant' you select to start in, you will have various raw materials available, which you can then refine into new materials, or trade with passing ships (but be wary of the pirates roaming space).  You can read our previous article which gives a general overview of the game here.

Two Meeple enjoying the pleasure of private quarters
Since the last article the biggest change that happened, on the day that article went out, was the implementation of a personality system for the Meeple.  This changes the way in which Meeple arrive on the station and how you allocate the jobs.  The initial build phase has also changed with you having a starting cash budget, rather than a predetermined amount of resources.

Due to the way that Meeple now arrive, you need to ensure that you have some beds available.  Where you used to hire specific Meeple to fill roles, now they will arrive as long as you have available beds and a sufficient reputation.  You also now need to manually set jobs by using the Meeple Menu (default M).  This will display various information about your crew.  For each Meeple it displays a variety of traits about how they interact with others and their work ethic.  This allows you to match each crew member to their ideal job, but it also means that you can switch them between your vacant tasks as required - no more hoping for a janitor to be on the next trade ship!

The Meeple Menu displaying crew, traits and activity log
Due to the change in the start of the game, you will also now start only with whatever money you have left from your initial funding.  Your first point of action should be to build up an inventory of resources from the ores surrounding you, based on the area of the map you select to start in.  These will allow you to refine into advanced materials, trade with passing ships.

You will also need to concentrate a bit more on the needs of your Meeple.  due to the new traits system, you will have social tensions and disagreements.  You may have antisocial crew who would much prefer a bed in private quarters, but they will also expect a certain level of prestige in that room.

There is now a hierarchy system which will allow you to assign various specialists, such as a captain, chief engineer, chief of security etc.  Each level of this will unlock when you rank up your station.  These will also grant various unlocks, for example to be able to assign tasks you need a captain, a Head of Staff will unlock the scientist which allows you to carry out research, and Chief Engineer increases the efficiency of your miners and engineers.

The other big change coming with the Steam release is full modding support.  This will allow players to mod any of the assets in the game such as the look of the station hull or adding completely new pieces of furniture to the game.

I always enjoy seeing what the mod community is able to bring and am looking forward to see what people have been working.  To allow players on both the Itch.io and Steam versions of the game to enjoy mods, you can download them from here.
Large officer quarters and smaller private rooms made using the new mods
for internal walls, forcefield doors and a new table in the officers room

There are already a couple of mods available, including internal walls which make station design a lot easier and nicer to look at IMO.  Once you download the mod it is then a case of dragging it into a folder in your AppData and when you load the game it will open them.  The devs have also made a super useful mod manager in the main menu which allows you to browse and download the mods a lot easier for end users.

Over the month or so that the game has been available via their own store, there have still been a few updates, despite the holiday season.  These have included many bug fixes, the base work for the modding system and some localisations.  As I mentioned before it's been a pleasure to watch this game grow and develop over the last 5 months or so and the game keeps getting stronger.  For a game just about to start it's Early Access journey it feels very solid.  The gameplay is fun and enjoyable, the artwork is great with animations all being spot on.

There are places that the game could improve, for example every time an airlock opens I get notifications of oxygen loss despite a bulkhead door, or further UI/QoL improvements, although the current UI is a massive improvement on where it was 6 months ago.  There are still features to be added such as a campaign and the multiplayer co-op aspect which I am looking forward to seeing how that is implemented.

Even at this point I would have no hesitations in recommending the game and certainly think it's worth a look.  As noted, this article more touches on the changes in the recent build but I urge you to read the article I posted previously and linked earlier in the article.

Meeple Station will be available on Steam Early Access from 17th January, owners of the pre-purchase Itch version will also receive a Steam key.



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