Avorion: Not Minecraft in Space despite looking like Minecraft in Space

Can you walk around inside stations?

Do the NPC factions have AI? Will they fight each other?

No FPS walking around. I have seen AI fight each. One attacked another and blew up all their stations in a sector and now that sector is no longer under their domain. I don’t know how involved that aspect of the game is, though. Like I don’t know if that was something the AI planned or if it was more of a random event.

Kevin’s writeup forced me to buy this game. Thanks @KevinC.

I managed a couple of evening sessions this week.

First session: Create a galaxy, do the tutorial, fumble around with the UI working out how to do things. Go back to the ship-building interface and realise there’s so much more in there than the tutorial told me. Panic due to decision paralysis. Eventually come out with a blocky, right-angled industrial-looking monstrosity that does successfully fly, accelerate / decelerate and turn, and mines asteroids faster than the initial drone thing (and only occasionally runs out of juice halfway through a long journey across the sector); SUCCESS. Now I just have to talk myself into Minecraft levels of grinding in order to earn enough materials / cash to build all the things I might want build in future. Sigh.

Then the first Avorion revelation happens. I’m messing around with the crew of my ship, assigning people to jobs and looking round the local stations seeing who I can hire. I can hire a Captain? He can fly the ship by himself? Yes he can! I hire the captain, bail out from my ship, and suddenly I can interact with it as an external entity and issue it orders. Like, mining. Off the ship flies munching on asteroids and I just sit there admiring the scenery and watching my mineral stash get bigger. Also the AI is better at mining than I am. This is awesome, but it’s time for bed.

Second session: A reminder message tells me that the crew of the ship that’s busy mining away for me expect to get paid on a regular basis. But that’s OK. I can go to the local Resource station and sell some of my constantly increasing stash of iron, and there’s money in the bank to pay the minions.

Time to build a new ship. This one is going to be made out of Titanium (ooh!), thanks to my minions in the mining ship. It’s still a blocky industrial-looking piece of shit, but I’ve learnt some lessons and made some improvements. Being made of Titanium it’s lighter and less prone to fly like a brick or steer like a cow, and I’ve internalised the need for more power generation so the juice doesn’t run out while boosting across the sector. Plus I’ve added more amour and bought an extra gun turret from the equipment station (I got two for free as part of my startup package) and suddenly the big red warning icon at the top of my screen - telling me I’m helpless and pathetic and weaker than anything else in the region - has gone away!

Time to go exploring, right? I’m big and rough and tough now, and I know how to hyperspace in a hurry. Now, my local sector has three hyperspace gates going somewhere, but for now I decide to jump around the local area on the galactic map. At first I jump randomly into a couple of empty sectors and discover that they are in fact empty, and boring. Then I slow down enough to pay attention to the symbols on the galactic map. There are loads of gently flashing green dots indicating the presence of… something. But I also see a bunch of exclamation mark symbols, and when I click on one, it turns out to relate to some distress messages I’ve been receiving and ignoring. Hey, this sounds like a nice introductory mission, right? A chance to learn the combat mechanics.

So I jump into the sector with the exclamation mark. “Haha” say the pirates, “we fooled you with our fake distress message!” So I’m clicking on a target, working out the range, wondering what tactics I should know. As a result of these distractions it takes me a while to notice that I’m being mobbed by an overkill of pirates, there’s fire coming in from all directions, and I’m failing to actually hit anything. Run away! And I do manage to open the range on them, but they’re still hitting me with these torpedoey things that seem to have multiples of the range of my pathetic turrets. Kaboom, no more ship, and I’m back in a drone in my home system.

Now the game started me with a “Reconstruction token” which I’m able to turn in at a Repair Yard in return for a complete rebuild of the ship that just exploded. So that’s nice. And new Reconstruction Tokens are on sale for very reasonable prices, which is just as well considering how hostile the galaxy seems to be. I do some more exploring in my new ship and discover various asteroid belts (very handy, as my mining ship seems to have run out of asteroids in the home sector), trading posts and other ships going about their business. Then, I tentatively decide to look in on another one of those distress messages. Some of them are bound to be genuine, you’d expect a variety of missions right?

Nope. Overkill of pirates. But this time I’m much quicker to run for it, and immediately hit the galactic map and choose some random jump co-ordinates. It takes some time for my jump drive thingy to charge up, and I’m taking torpedo hits all the time, but I manage to jump out with an unexploded ship and congratulate myself. Then I jump back to my home system, fly straight over to the repair yard to get patched up, and discover how bad the damage is when I’m heading into the docking port and the BRAKES DON’T WORK. Still, HMS Deadmeat survives the little bump and I go to bed thinking that overall it’s an evening well spent.

Haha, love the writeups, Mark! Your experience with distress signals has been pretty similar to mine. I pretty much look at them as pirate broadcast beacons at this point, although there have been exceptions!

You may already know this but it wasn’t immediately obvious to me, there is a titanium integrity field generator block. It strengthens all the other blocks around them (radius depends on the size of the block). It might not be enough to survive a full-scale pirate ambush but they go a long ways in making a ship more sturdy so if you haven’t already incorporated some in your design I’d highly recommend them!

I have been on the fence about this one for months. How good is the fleet combat? Is everything decided before the battle? Are fleet controls good (I really hated them in Starpoint Gemini Warlords, but found them great in Void Destroyer 2).
How interesting is ship design? It is only using stronger components/materials, or is it more about finding designs that counter the enemy fleet?

Thanks. I read the tooltip, but as it contained no details on the size of the effect, I felt like I couldn’t tell whether they’d be worthwhile or not. So I ignored them. I’ll try them out on the next upgrade.

I’m still not that experienced with the game yet so bear that in mind. The game allows you to have fleets of ships commanded by AI captains but thus far it feels more focused on you and your ship than detailed fleet combat. You can order AI captains to escort ships and patrol sectors and that sort of thing. You can also enter a “strategy mode” by hitting F9 and allows you to order ships around in a tactical view similar to a RTS. As far as I’m aware it doesn’t go further than that, so don’t expect anything like formations or advanced fleet tactics or anything. Thus far, I have three ships under AI control with a few more to be constructed soon, but I have them doing economic tasks like mining resources, salvage work, and that sort of thing. I just recently founded my first space station as well, so I’ll be building a few ships to defend the area and my mining ships. I’m starting to look at brawling with a nearby faction, though, so will be looking into creating a few escort ships for myself as well here before too long.

I like the ship design quite a lot. It’s really powerful both from a visual perspective (designing cool ships, although I have no talent in this area) but also the functional aspects of it. I find they strike a good balance between realism and keeping it fun. For instance, the placement of Thrusters (separate from engines) on your ship matters a lot. If you want to have good pitch and yaw maneuverability, there are physics involved so you want those thrusters placed away from the center of mass so you can get a larger effect. A thruster placed on the front of your ship will give you a lot more pitch control that one right in the center of mass, although the latter would still provide boosts to your ability to strafe up/down. However, they’re not overly focused on realism. You can cover these thrusters with armor and hull to make a cool looking ship without interfering with their function. It’s so people can create nice looking ships like this without ugly thrusters sticking out everywhere:


Continuing with ship design, materials do follow quality tiers from lowly Iron all the way up through Avorion but it’s more nuanced than “higher tier resource is better than lower tier resource”. For instance, Iron is generally the worst material but even it has some perks. For one thing, Inertial Dampeners are incredibly important especially with larger ships and can only be constructed via Iron. So even if you have the biggest baddest ship around, you are still wanting some of this resource. Another aspect is that size of your ship is very important in this game, where bigger tends to mean more power. The cost per volume of Iron and Titanium is substantially lower than some of the higher tier materials. A large heavy cruiser built with Titanium is going to be a lot more powerful than a small corvette built with Avorion.

So it’s not just a matter of progressing to the next tier of resource, they’re good at different things. Ogonite is extremely durable but it’s incredibly heavy and very expensive. You’d never want to build a ship out of it because it’d be an expensive brick that could barely maneuver. But you might want some Ogonite armor plates to protect critical and fragile internal systems like power generators, hyperspace cores, etc. Ogonite also can’t be used to make those type of components either, it’s pretty much there for hull and armor. Xanion on the other hand is kind of the reverse of that. It’s very good for tech components but it can’t be formed into armor. It’s also a lot heavier and more expensive than something like Trinium so it’s not an upgrade from that resource, despite being a higher tier. You will want and need both.

Materials aside, you also designing what role you want your ship to be. Does it have a large cargo bay? If so, that’s going to be very heavy and you’re going to need a lot more engines, thrusters, and inertial dampeners to maintain decent maneuverability. Is your ship going to be a bruiser or more of a fast raider? The former might be a larger ship using more iron and titanium while the latter might be built from more expensive but but incredibly trinium. With the steep increase in cost you’ll have to work with a smaller ship on a given budget and that generally means less HP and guns. How about carrier capabilities? You’ll need to add docks, hangars, and potentially even fabrication facilities if you want to be able to replace lost fighters on the fly. That is mass / resources that could otherwise be spent on more armor or more computer cores which increases how many guns your ship can equip, though. Lots of things to balance and think about when you’re designing a ship!

I had less play time over the last couple of days, and my next session was derailed by ship-shaming. When my wife, kibbitzing from the couch, told me how shit my current ship looked, I ended up spending an extended period in the ship builder interface rather than actually flying anywhere or doing anything.

The ship builder is core to the game, and it’s pretty powerful. Ship design really matters, and involves real trade-offs. But as a piece of UI design, it can be really hard to work with, especially once aesthetics start entering the equation. My first concession to aesthetic design was an attempt to build a ship module with rounded edges and corners, which I ended up giving up on. The second was an attempt to build a pointy armoured nose for my ship, which I did complete, after about half an hour of fiddling. It gets easier over time, but it doesn’t yet feel easy.

Finally I got to do a bit of flying around in the brand new HMS Vincible. I tried out a few missions found in station bulletin boards, which tended to be the usual fare of “fly thing A to place B for a smallish reward”. Although when I picked up the “We’ve lost a few freighters recently, so we need someone to pretend to be one of our freighters and see what happens” mission I was too chicken to fly the designated route.

On the other hand, I did get my first taste of combat that wasn’t just a case of running away and / or exploding. Pirates jumped into an mostly empty asteroid mining sector I’d been exploring. I summoned up my courage (and plotted some escape co-ordinates…) and set an intercept course. Combat didn’t seem too tactical - mostly just a question of manoeuvering to keep my nose pointing at the target and holding down the fire button. But the armoured nose cone did prove its worth when I got a bit overexcited and rammed straight into pirate #2.

We need some pics of your ship(s)