The Lost Story of Starbound
Back when Starbound was in early access, I played the game a lot.
As things were developing, bits and pieces of lore were shared through blog posts, in-game writing and race-specific dialogue, and even links to obscure corners of the official website.
Each race had their own unique lore, and myself and others loved to come up with backstories for their characters. There was something about the game that brought it out in me. There was no real story to the game in early access, instead the story of your character came from the lore.
- The Human starting scenario was downright apocalyptic, with Earth being destroyed by a cosmic monster. The surviving humans are paranoid and militaristic. (The destruction is left to the imagination. The old introduction invokes the film Alien.)
- Apex live under a collectivist society where dissent is suppressed, everything is covered up and history rewritten, you are being watched, and people can disappear without warning.
- Avians live under an oppressive state religion in which their god (of questionable existence) demands live sacrifice of Avians. By striking out on your own, the player becomes a heretic. (The old introduction describes lower-caste Avians being ordered to clip their wings, but this is possibly not meant to be literal.)
- Glitch are trapped in a medieval society due to their programming. Gaining self awareness (like the player) is by default an aberration.
- Hylotl are a race that were forced to abandon their homes and live in underwater cities. Culturally they're at odds with themselves, old-fashioned and hi-tech at the same time.
- Florans are an ironically carnivorous race of plant-people. They're barbarians who adapt other races' technology. Upstarts who are looked down on by everybody else.
Too on the nose with the real-world analogies? All the races were. But it's also pretty easy to relate to at least one of them. There was something about Starbound that lent itself to character creation. It had a foundation begging the player to build their own story on top of it.
One could imagine each character having a unique personal history, helped with a liberal use of headcanon and some mods. Your character wasn't there to fix the galaxy. They were striking out on their own, usually running from something. Our characters were outcasts and outlaws. The dregs of the galaxy that struggled and fought against an unfair universe to get somewhere in life. That was what the lore implied. Your Spaceship and Matter Manipulator was something your character had to fight for. People took the idea and ran with it.
(Even the idle pose the player could choose during character creation would impart a tiny bit of personality to each character.)
As the game neared completion, a "real" canonical plotline was finally added. Every character now had the exact same story - they all had come to Earth to join Starfleet ("the Protectorate"), when Earth was suddenly destroyed by a cosmic monster. Every races' story was now homogenized.
Your character was no longer an outcast, they were canonically part of some sort of space elite. Ship upgrades became mandatory progression, so that by the end of the game, you'd have no choice but to fly around in a space McMansion.
I never played the finished game through to the end. By the time the game had actually released with a 1.0 and everything, I just wasn't that interested anymore. I played the beta so much that I had gotten everything I could out of it. The canonical story the developers came up with in the end was nowhere near as interesting as the implied story of the beta, half-invented by the players themselves.