This review contains stories of player experience as well as a review to the game itself. - BYOND RPG
As a forewarning, this review is huge. As it is an RP game, I felt it
necessary to review player interaction dynamics as opposed to just
gameplay aspects, and that takes a fair bit of explaining. If you can't
be bothered reading long-winded rants, now is your chance to escape.
Space Station 13. When the game first came out, I paid it little heed.
It sounded way too much like an action game, and as I was running on a
56k modem, that would put me at a huge disadvantage. Many months later,
I was bored and since my connection had since been upgraded, I decided
it was time to give it a go.
So I invited a friend to join me in this epic space oddyssey which
seemed to be so popular that players were bursting out the game's seams.
Well... hilarity ensued. After battling with the awkward popups with
confusing options, searching for a way to start the game (fortunately,
watching other people move helped us), and then finally joining midway
through an extended round, she and I were finally in... wearing nothing
except our underwear and holding our ID cards in our hands like some
kind of weapons to fend against our complete ignorance of what was going
Now, the average new player's "intelligence" (aka ability to play the
game without looking like a noob) level depends heavily on the
intuitive..ness of the game's interface and controls. A help menu or
mini tutorial also increase their ability to play competently. However,
how many of you would buy a brand new game, and read the manual cover to
cover before you plunge in? Yeah that's what I thought. On top of that,
the "manual" for SS13 is freaking ENORMOUS and wayyy too detailed to be
of any help to a new player hoping to actually play in the same day they
decided to open the game. And since there are no tooltips or anything
else to explain gameplay, new players are more or less on their own.
So what happened? Well, when faced with a confusing and complex HUD,
completely alien controls, and a verb panel the size of Oklahoma, we did
what any newbie players would do... ignored them. "Oh hey, we're
practically naked!" I said, "Let's try and get some clothes!" So, (the
controls for moving were still mapped to the arrow keys) we approached
the nearest closet which someone had left open for us, and tried to
figure out how to put clothes on. Ok remember how I mentioned hillarity?
Well imagine you put two monkeys in the room (as I was doing at that
point, since neither of us knew how to behave much like rational humans
in that world) and they are shown clothing. What would you expect?
*Kira hits the brown shoes with Kira's ID card 0>0-0-0!*
*Kira hits the brown shoes with Kira's ID card 0>0-0-0*
*Kira hits the brown shoes with Kira's ID card 0>0-0-0*
*Kira hits the brown shoes with Kira's ID card 0>0-0-0*
Yep.. our experience with SS13 was going REAL well for us there. It took
me about 20 mins to figure out how to switch hands so I could
appropriate the correct clothing and then another 15 mins to figure out
how to apply it without hitting myself in the face with the shirt. (Yes,
Anyway, skip ahead a few WEEKS. My friend quit the game about 5 minutes
in because I was laughing so hard at her beating the shoes with her ID
card. I however, had soldiered on, and through a painfully slow learning
process had more or less delved into all of the secrets the game had to
offer. Now, I'm a fast learner. I pick up games fairly quickly and it
doesn't take me long to become competent. The fact that it took over a
week for ME to learn how to play SS13 as a veteran player is not only
worrying, it's one of the reasons the game is dead in the water. While
it's true that the finer points of games SHOULD take a long time to
master, it wasn't the finer points that I was missing out on, it was
important information that you could not ROLE PLAY without.
For example, what kind of engineer doesn't know how to build things? A
new one, that's who. New players can be ANY position on the ship from a
lowly research assistant to the all-important CAPTAIN, and yet there are
essential skills which they don't get taught. There's no info telling
them how to do it either, for some reason it's considered a secret and
only players who are "in the know" can actually do more than hitting the
proverbial tiled floor with the proverbial metal plating. And of course,
let's not mention DISMANTLING said walls. Can you imagine what would
happen if someone went and just built walls wherever they wanted and
nobody knew how to get rid of them? Yeah well it's happened and it
happens a lot.
- And so it begins...-
So finally, we get to the beginning of my review. As an RP game, Space
Station 13 is fundamentally flawed because the positions in the game
that players can occupy do NOT correlate with the experience the players
have, and on top of that, there's nothing that tells them how to learn
those skills! Can you imagine crewing a space station with a doctor
who'd never held a syringe before in his life, and couldn't even put his
own coat on without help? That would never happen in reality, and that's
the first of the two big reasons why RP goes down the drain before the
game has even begun.
The game doesn't cater to newbie players. It's an expert game designed
to be played by experts who know all the secrets, can perform all the
tasks, and probably have 2/3 of them macroed anyway (see tazer fights).
Furthermore, any new players have to deal with jaded oldbies who are
bored out of their skulls or just simply interested in wreaking some
havoc to vent some anger on the defenseless majority. Insert clubbings,
being welded into emergency closets and shoved out airlocks, death by
toxins, death by bombing (very popular), or sudden tazering, stripping
and imprisonment. A smart expert player will often carry 1 or 2 backup,
completely non-RP plans in case something happens.
For example, I would often shove a welder and a screwdriver/wrench into
my pockets ("No, I'm not happy to see you, that's just my tool...
What?"), in case some noob knocked me out and locked me in a room as
happens all too often with the players of SS13. With these two tools, so
long as I wasn't handcuffed I could break down the walls and escape to
collect the items necessary to beat them at their own game. Of course,
that plan would only be useful in maybe 1/8 times something bad happened
and of course in terms of RP, it makes no sense for anyone except maybe
an engineer or technician to have his pockets stuffed with tools.
So are you beginning to see the trend here? The new players, all
bright-eyed, bushy tailed and completely oblivious to the seedy reality
of the game are subjected to the old players who very closely resemble
war veterans, going nuts at the slightest suspicious activity (shoot
first, ask questions later tends to be the unspoken rule), screaming
blue murder when something goes wrong, and keeping their weapons even
closer than their tools. Really, SS13 resembles some kind of maafia
convention where everyone walks around pretending to be normal but
secretly suspecting everyone else and planning their escape route... and
that's not even in traitor mode!
Of course, the old players have very good reason to act like that, which
is the second big reason RP doesn't work. See, oldbies can be split up
into two groups: the people who are still willing to try and make RP
happen, and the people who just want to blow things up or play with the
many secrets that the game has that do absolutely nothing productive and
yet are so much fun to mess with (we call these people griefers). For
example, did you know that you can clone people using the monkeys in the
DNA lab? Yep. You can even raise the dead with that same machine. Of
course, where are you going to get a dead person with only a limited
number of people on the station? Hmmm... hey look here comes someone...
I bet I could knock him out before he alerts the guards. Then just give
me 5 minutes and I'll have a clone of him ready and nobody will ever
Yeah, it gets messy. And of course, the more people learn, the more they
want to test it. Let's admit it... it's damn cool to blow someone up by
triggering the laser tripwire hidden in the men's bathroom linked to the
explosive that's in the backpack you just gave to your colleague to wear
as he goes to perform repairs on a leaky plasma tank in the engineering
sector. And believe it or not, with careful planning, people can do
stuff like that. Or heck, you may just feel like exploring the far
reaches of space in a closet. Yes, a closet, and not one welded shut on
So in any game of SS13, the player breakdown will be roughly as follows:
Between 1/2 and 1/8 will be oldbies who want to RP properly. Between 1/2
and 1/4 will be oldbies who want to blow stuff up or do stupid stuff
just because they can, and the rest will be newer players who may not
know what they are doing at all or be midway, and thus unintentionally
detract from RP when they (as the doctor) start asking the security
officer how the med bay cryogenic storage works. Given that mixup, how
can ANY match be RP related? In short - it can't. That's why SS13 is
getting all these bad reviews, because it's just not possible to have a
proper RP if even one person is in there to mess it up. After all, newb
questions can be forgiven, but when the prison officer tazers the
captain and steals his badge whilst shoving said captain out of the
airlock, the RP has long gone.
The only reason the game is still counted as fun is the thrill you get
when you best someone who's actually good at the game. Consider this: I
was once locked into a gas room by the traitor in one round with toxins
slowly being injected into said room. Sure of his victory, he turned and
ran off, leaving my to my slow, toxin-filled death. What he didn't know
is that as the atmospheric technician (or more accurately, because I was
afraid of that happening), I had a spare gas mask and oxy tank in my
backpack. After donning those, I fell to the ground as if I was dead,
which he came back to check on and, satisfied, he left. Now truly, he
had all the power. Had he paid attention he would have noticed that I
was simply lying down, but he was too sure that he'd done his job and
continued on to try and bomb the ship. Well I escaped, disarmed his bomb
on the station, then told everyone what he did. He ended up killing
himself with another homemade bomb, but that didn't matter. I was the
hero of that round!
Or even the time I was chased by a super-powered robot, complete with a
shield, body armor and a freaking sword. I hid in a closet to await the
shuttle, but he found me. Boy did he ever find me. That day was the day
I, one of the only 3 survivors of his rampage and still quite new to the
game, introduced his head to my oxygen tank I'd had ready as a backup
plan. Sirus 1, Robot Assassin 0. The remaining survivors escaped on the
shuttle, and I got to keep his sword and cool gear. Rock on.
When stuff like that happens, you get this rush like nothing else. You
feel amazing, godlike even. I once won a tazer fight against two people
at once. I'll always remember that as a good day, no matter what else
happened on the station at the time.
However, none of that was truly RP. I can't say that in any of those
rounds EVERYONE acted in character. Many times even a veretan will log
on to the game, and die from a completely stupid method such as some
cloaked moron bashing your skull in as you attempt to stroll through the
corridoors minding your own business.
Lastly, the game rounds themselves aren't very condusive to RP. (Note,
blob mode etc are new and I haven't played them yet, so I won't review
them) Let's start with the worst: Monkey. In case you don't know, monkey
mode involves about 1/3 of the players becoming infected with a deadly
virus that turns you into a monkey and turns anyone you bite into a
monkey too. Sounds like a decent premise until you actually try it.
Big flaw #1: The monkeys appear STRAIGHT AWAY. EVERYONE in the ship, no
matter what position, actually has to take about 2-3 mins putting on
their uniform and collecting all their equipment BEFORE they start
playing properly. Now what happens when a bunch of unarmed people are
plonked together in one room, and suddenly one of them becomes a monkey?
Of course, monkey wins, 9 out of 10 times. It's also completely removing
any chance for RP because the monkeys spawn before anyone can even get
their characters established. It's like "This is the captain spe- AAH
GOD IT'S A MONKEY! *laser firing noises followed by monkey screeching
and the sudden feeling you no longer have a captain aboard the SS13*"
Big flaw #2: Those monkeys are damn smart. You try being a new player
and suddenly getting an oldbie who knows every trick in the book chasing
you down in monkey form! Now while you may be able to attack with an
oxygen tank, Mr Monkey there can tazer you, gas you out, THROW THINGS at
you, bomb you, break down or build up walls to get at you and a massive
host of other things to make the fight completely one-sided. Newer
players don't stand a chance and quickly join the rapidly growing monkey
Big flaw #3: Monkeys kick ass. I'm sorry but did the game designer not
think about the possibility that making a monkey bite IMMEDIATELY
transform a person into a monkey would make things a bit one-sided? It
takes one bite. ONE. Whereas as a human you may have to bludgeon a
monkey 3-4 tims before they stop being a threat, and even then it needs
another 3-4 before you can be sure they won't get up again. Not fair.
Humans don't even get any time to prepare, while the monkeys' weapons
come inbuilt. This means that within about 5 mins, the games are usually
over as the monkeys have about 15 people on their team and there's maybe
2-3 humans hiding who will soon be flushed out and converted. In the
very least, they could make it so monkeys couldn't wear freaking oxygen
masks etc. I mean, it's just ridiculous when you see a monkey waltz into
0 oxygen areas perfectly fine because SOMEHOW he knew how to apply a
freaking mask and oxygen tank to his body and therefore be able to cross
areas of no oxygen just fine. Not only that, they can use tools, so your
heavy airlocks protecting you from nasty bites will be more or less gone
in a matter of moments. And guns? THEY CAN USE GUNS?! ALL HAIL MONKEY
HITLER, THE SUPERIOR RACE HATH COME!
Final flaw: The shuttle takes 10 MINUTES to arrive. If the games end for
humans within just 5 minutes, there's no way the humans can actually win
a game unless they kill all of the monkeys IMMEDIATELY. And if that's
the case, then why do we need a shuttle? The game is therefore obviously
over and thus makes the calling of the emergency shuttle moot. Speaking
of moot, where'd the RP go? There's no time for it while there's a
screaming monkey trying to force it's own patented hair-growth formula
down your throat. With it's teeth.
The other modes are LESS screwy, but still have flaws. Traitor for
example, works pretty well unless someone decides "Hey I feel like
griefing" and starts killing people even though they aren't supposed to,
even worse if one of those people IS the traitor. Also a problem is if
the traitor is smart and picks a cloaking device then they need
neutralise only one person on the entire ship because the rest won't be
able to see them or fight back. (Only the security officer gets thermals
for some reason)
Furthermore, traitors usually cheat and do stuff like flying off to
Command Central to hijack the shuttle from there as opposed to playing
properly and actually calling it from within base. And in a proper RP
environment, it's pretty hard to find good reasons to accuse someone of
being a traitor given that nobody is supposed to know about that.
Meteor is just an average mode. It gets annoying pretty fast because the
meteors don't stop and are even capable of smashing the computer that
calls the shuttle so then everyone is stuck on SS13 and has to either
die or fly to CC directly, which isn't how the game is supposed to work.
Oh and nothing beats getting your face smashed in by a meteor as you're
trying to repair the damage.
Extended would work with roleplaying if the game introduced random
problems that needed attention. As is, nobody has anything to do and
that leads to griefing faster than you can say "heated plasma".
Finally, nuclear mode would work really well if players stayed cool.
Usually one side or the other jumps the gun and soon it's just the same
as if there were griefers, only these griefers have like freaking super
powers because they get awesome suits and teleporters and cloaking
devices and optical sensors etc
Also, a smart player will hide the nuclear disk long before the
syndicate goons arrive and believe me, a well hidden disk can take hours
to locate. Thus, one can win simply by bending the rules a bit and that
takes away from the fun of the game.
All in all, Space Station 13 has its moments, but is mostly a spiral of
annoyance or boredom, interspersed with some unsavory happenings (some
of which I didn't even cover here but are pretty disgusting) and a lot
of disappointment. If you're looking for a game to get hooked on that's
easy to pick up and fun to play, I suggest Last Robot Standing. At least
then you won't get random players logging in and blowing up your game.
Well that's my review of SS13. I've tried to cover less of what other
people have said and more of the player issues so that you can see both
why the game is fun, and why it fails so miserably at being an RP. Also,
if you're a new player, you can expect at the very least 3-4 days of
being a total newbie and dying just about every way imaginable, and then
at least another week of not knowing a lot of really useful stuff that
can help you before becoming a proper player.
Whether you want that or not, you at least know enough now to make that
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