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Among Us ripped off a free-to-play game called Space Station 13

Among Us is an online Science-Fiction murder mystery game that released in 2018 but it seems heavily inspired by an old free-to-play game called Space Station 13.

In this game you play as a crew member on a spaceship — however — among you is a traitor whose sole mission is to sabotage the ship and murder everyone. You must figure out who it is before the game ends. No, this is not Among Us, this is Space Station 13.

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Space Station 13 is a free-to-play game that initially released almost 20 years ago on a free-to-play game engine known as BYOND. Despite not really making it into the mainstream, it is considered to be one of the best science fiction multiplayer games by a lot of people… and that’s because you can pretty much do anything in it.

Space Station 13 is generally played in rounds that are isolated from each other: unless you play a specific role-playing server, actions do not persist canonically between rounds.

(SS13) box art retro

Fan made Sega Master System retro game box-art for Space Station 13.

When the round begins players are given time to either create a customised character or begin playing with a randomly generated one and pick a job. There are a large variety of jobs each with own own level of difficulty; for instance you can be an engineer which means that it is your responsibility to make sure that the engines are firing and that the ship has energy. If can also just play as a janitor and have very little responsibility.

What you can do in Space Station 13 is almost limitless. Each job is pretty much its own game. If you play as a chef you can make anything, you just need the right produce. Run out off meat? Don’t worry, just knock out a crewmate and toss him in the meat grinder.

Medical staff can perform live saving surgeries and replace limbs with bionics, but if they are rogue, they can also leave you as a legless gimp or even transfer your brain to a monkey.

So, why is this game not more popular than Among Us?

Because you can do almost anything in the game the learning curve is very steep; that is if — to say — you really want to take on a serious job and play the game properly. But even if you pick something like janitor, it can be overwhelming because of all the other gameplay mechanics.

Among Us simplified, basic, easy

Among Us gets the fundamentals of SS13 (free-to-play) right, but its missing the meat.

The user interface doesn’t really help either. It’s old, clunky, and it can be a bother to set up if you want to stream it.

Should I play Space Station 13?

If you enjoy Among Us but are craving a much more engaging experience, then the answer is most definitely yes.

It is easily one of my favourite games of all time, and that’s because it’s not just a game, it’s an experience. Here’s a fun fact for you, Passenger (Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt) and The Cloverfield Paradox were both inspired by rounds of Space Station 13!

There’s about 40 different game modes to enhance the experience as well. Here’s a few:

  • Traitor

    Like the classic Among Us murder mystery mode, a number of random crew members, based on current server population, will defect from Nanotrasen and become traitors with varying objectives! They each get access to a bunch of cool and deadly gear.
  • Nuclear Emergency

    Generally known as nuke. A team of operatives, whose number is based on the server population, are spawned on a small shuttle with a nuclear bomb inside of it. Their objective is to get the bomb onto the station and activate it in a specific area, then defend it until the countdown reaches zero.
  • Changeling

    A horrible organism (yes, very much inspired The Thing) has escaped from some private research facility and is preying on the crew members! Prepare for acid-spitting, DNA-sucking creatures who can disguise themselves as any crew member they have stolen the DNA from! Trust no one!

Each server has their own custom game modes and you’ll be surprised what you find in them. Here are some of the crazier ones:

  • Conspiracy

    A dark conspiracy is at work on the station–and your own crew members are behind it. Each conspirator knows the names of other conspirators and their designated meeting place, and must work together towards a unique, mode-exclusive objective. Largely exclusive to the Goonstation Roleplay server.
  • Aliens

    Yes… that Aliens. In Aliens player players control aliens and attempt to turn the station into a hive while infecting or killing the crew. The crew would need to work together to slay the aliens and stop them from breeding. Aliens were split into four different job classes: Queen, engineer, soldier, and larvae with each having their own unique strengths and weaknesses. This was discontinued because the aliens would get themselves killed within seconds, while the crew would know exactly how to fight them.

Sadly, Aliens was removed from most game servers but someone used Space Station 13 to recreate an entire Aliens roleplaying game, and it is insane. You can also spawn them randomly into your own game server.

BYOND engine so outdated

Space Station 13 is amazing but despite being free-to-play, BYOND is letting people down with its clunky and aged GUI.

Space Station 13 really is that amazing, but understandibly it is not everybody’s cup of tea due to its extremely dated UI, graphics, game mechanics and — last but not least — it’s incredibly steep learning curve.

Wait… Space Station 14 is coming this fall?!

Other indie developers have tried, but failed, to make a modern reboot of the game. It would even prove challenging to a triple-A development team because, technically, Space Station 13 has been in development for about 20 years.

SPACE STATION 14 COMING FALL 2020?!

Wait.. what?! Space Station 14 is available on steam as Early Access?!

Space Station 13 was originally developed as an atmospherics simulator by Exadv1 in 2003 which is why it so complex. Eventually its closed source codebase was reportedly stolen and leaked 2006.

However, in a 2017 interview, the original developer claimed no theft actually took place, as he had voluntarily given the code to fellow programmers after ceasing work on the game due to personal circumstances.

SS14 screenshot

Space Station 14 (SS14) new UI looks much better without compromising its game mechanics.

In a nutshell, Among Us is a bare-bones version of SS13, and it is a great alternative to people who don’t want to feel overwhelmed with game mechanics. However, Space Station 14 (an improved and updated version of the original) is currently in development, but considering how many every other reboot has failed miserably, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

So, by all means, go ahead an buy yourself a copy of Among Us from Steam; it is all only AUD$7.50 and has very positive reviews. If you like it, then consider checking out Space Station 13 since it is free-to-play.

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