main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Video Game: Space Engineers
"A space engineer is a professional practitioner who uses scientific knowledge, mathematics, physics, astronomy, propulsion technology, materials science, structural analysis, manufacturing and ingenuity to solve practical problems in space."

Space Engineers is a survival-crafting sandbox IN SPACE! developed by KEEN Software House, which puts players in the role of one of the titular space engineers working in an asteroid field, building all manner of spacecraft and machinery as they mine the local resources. Unlike games such as Kerbal Space Program, you don't have to worry about entering and exiting planetary atmosphere, which gives players significantly more freedom to design ships and recreate their favorites from across fiction.

Currently in alpha stage, the game is available for Early Access on Steam, and an Xbox One port has been announced.

Space Engineers provides examples of:

  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Rockets and bullets will cut off after a certain distance.
  • Artificial Gravity: Provided by Gravity Generators on Large Ships and Stations. There are two types: the regular one that makes a cube/cuboid field and a spherical one that has itself as the centre of gravity.
  • Asteroid Miners: The players themselves, since the majority of resources are acquired by mining nearby asteroids and refining the raw materials.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Asteroids are plentiful and not far apart, easily reachable with just the jetpack on the space suit.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The largest and/or flashiest of spaceships tend to be this, even without atmosphere or other considerations getting in the way. Either the ship is too fragile, making it easily wrecked - too heavy and bulky, effectively turning it into a Mighty Glacier that requires massive engines to move properly - or simply so huge and complex that it creates a mountain of lag.
  • Base on Wheels : A Large Ship on wheels can very easily be this.
  • BFG: Rocket Launchers can be mounted on Large Ships, and they're easily the biggest weapons in the game.
  • The Battlestar: Large Ships, particularly the bigger ones, are commonly fitted with hangar bays for carrying Small Ships.
  • Beautiful Void:
    • Quite literally. The effective game world encompasses a cluster of asteroids with absolutely nothing around them. You can see the rest of the asteroid field, but that's just an unreachable skybox. There are no enemies, you can travel infinitely, and the only additions to the world are the ones you create yourself.
    • The 'Empty World' map even removes the asteroid cluster, leaving your engineer utterly alone in the vacuum.
    • It's gradually getting de-voidified with updates. Currently there's an option in Survival mode to add neutral, unmanned ships flying about just begging to be hijacked and looted.
  • Big Bulky Bomb: Full-size Space Mines are the same scale as other Large Ship pieces. Naturally, they produce the biggest and most destructive explosion in the game.
  • Booby Trap: Several of the unmanned Cargo Ships are rigged with these, built from Space Mines and small engines hidden inside the ship's hull. If someone tries to hijack the ship and force it to stop, the reverse-thrusters will detonate the bombs simultaneously and destroy the cargo and vital systems - if not the entire ship.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Ships designed for function over fashion tend to be very simple - in the most extreme cases, the hull can be little more than a skeletal frame holding the necessary pieces together.
    • As of the Survival update; the Rescue Ship. Players are given one when they start a game on the 'Asteroids' map-type, when they join a new multiplayer server, or if they die without having a Medical Room to respawn at. It's not much to look at, but it's decked out with everything a player needs - A Medical Room, Refinery and Assembler are all onboard and ready to use, and keeping it running is a simple matter of finding a uranium deposit somewhere.
    • The Jet Pack on your spacesuit. The maximum speed of those little thrusters is higher than any ship's, with greater acceleration to boot.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Players will run out of ammo, or course, but so will turrets and ship weapons, both of which need to be either manually reloaded or hooked up a conveyor system.
    • Played straight in Creative mode, where you have unlimited resources anyway.
  • Building Is Welding: All construction is performed with welding torches. Even when computer chips and panes of glass are involved.
  • Camera Perspective Switch: You can switch between first- and third-person perspective at will. If you're in a cockpit during first-person, you'll be treated to a pilot's-eye view as you fly around.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The resources that can be mined from asteroids are represented by colored patches on the surrounding rock.
    • Iron varies between pale red and bright orange.
    • Uranium is glossy black.
    • Silver and Platinum are Shaped Like Themselves, and can sometimes be confused with each-other.
    • Magnesium is grey with blue patches.
    • Silicon is a shiny off-white color.
    • Gold is fairly self-evident.
  • Combining Spaceship: The Merge Blocks can be used to connect two or more ships; the ships can form a larger "super ship" or make a booster for one of the ships. Be careful on the arrangement of components or the ships and/or stations become semi-permanently merged when they and you are forced to deconstruct or destroy components to detach them from each other.
  • Construction Is Awesome / Design It Yourself Equipment: The prime selling point of Space Engineers is the ability to design your own spaceships and space stations from scratch. And then destroy them with detailed damage physics. In Survival mode, blocks aren't instantly placed: You spawn a simple skeleton-frame, and then use a welding tool to add on its component parts and gradually piece it together. Even the simplest ship designs take some time to build.
  • Cool Car : Through the application of wheels and Artificial Mass blocks, ships of any size can be built into ground-based vehicles that can drive around while within a gravity field.
  • Cool Starship: There's no real limit to how large or complex your ships can be, which allows for some pretty fantastic designs. Except of course, how much RAM you have and how much your computer can handle. Larger ships (300+ meter range) can start causing framerate drops. Some mega ships in the Steam Community Workshop such as a full scale Titanic replica may cause a straight crash to desktop.
  • Death from Above: Meteor showers have been introduced as the game's first environmental hazard, with individual meteors capable of dealing significant damage to structures. The frequency and danger of showers changes based on the world's Environment settings:
    • Safe = No meteor showers.
    • Normal = Intermittent showers.
    • Cataclysmic = Meteor showers are a constant danger.
    • Apocalyptic = Showers happen within mere minutes of each-other... and the meteors are on fire.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: Aside from the totally-static asteroids and stations, anything that lacks sufficient engines and gyroscopes (or the power to keep them working) can be sent into an aimless drift with enough force. The aftermath of a spaceship's destruction tends to leave plenty of ruined hull fragments quietly spinning away into the void.
  • Enormous Engine: The Titan Engine mod. Standing at twenty blocks long and five blocks wide and tall, it easily dwarfs players and most structures, and the exhaust flame is substantial enough to obliterate Small Ships almost instantly.
  • Explosions in Space: Subverted. We've got missiles and mines, all of which go off with a satisfying bang, but the fireworks rarely last more than a second, and structures (beyond the aforementioned mines) generally only shatter into debris.
  • Everything Fades: If there are too many loose objects, the game starts deleting them in a first-in-first-out method. How many is "too many" can be adjusted during worldgen. This limit doesn't apply to stations or ships, though.
    • Corpses will disappear when the player in question respawns.
  • The Faceless: The player-character engineers have tinted black visors that completely hide their faces.
  • Game Mod: KEEN has recently enabled mod compatibility to the Steam Workshop portal, triggering an influx of modders who were simply waiting for right moment to share their projects. The majority of modded content so far is cosmetic in nature, though there are several items that serve practical purposes.
  • Gatling Good: The Gatling Gun on Small Ships, and the Gatling Turret on everything else. Their high rate of fire and fast projectiles make them perfect for fending off meteorites and shooting down Small Ships, but low damage makes them largely ineffective against structures and heavy armor.
  • Gravity Screw:
    • The orientation of any gravity field is determined by the orientation of the Gravity Generator itself - Whatever surface you build it on becomes the 'floor', so it's possible to build a generator upside down and walk across the roof of your ship.
    • When two differently-orientated gravity fields overlap. At best, you can expect to have to walk at a weird, slanted angle. At worst, items and players will be suspended in a mid-air 'freefall'.
  • Improvised Weapon: Gravity cannons. Essentially a coilgun using gravity generators as the magnet stages. Since gravity fields can be shaped, you can build this into anything without screwing up the other gravity fields. The only problem is the game's maximum speed on anything is 111.5 m/s or 145.5 m/s for gravity acceleration (Subject to change). But even a small projectile using artificial mass can do some serious damage. The thing is, prior to the activation of the official in game weapons, such as the Gatling Gun and Rocket Launcher or the turrets, these were the first sort of damaging weapons, short of ramming, that players devised, firing rocks with devastating effect. They still can tear through over 20 layers of heavy armor or can be used to launch torpedoes.
  • Inertial Dampening: Present as a game mechanic, though it has little to do with G-forces; Ships of all kinds require engines on every facing (forward, back, top, bottom and sides) alongside gyroscopes in order to turn, slow down and keep the ship from drifting uncontrollably from the slightest tap on the hull. The dampeners will fire thrusters to keep the ship's movement vector aligned with the user's directional controls. Inertial dampening can be toggled, allowing a sort of 'autopilot' function by letting you cruise along at current speed while saving on power. This is especially important on Survival mode, where fuel is naturally limited. However, with the inertia dampening system active, the ship will stop far faster than what is normally possible when the player isn't firing any thrusters. You can still turn and use the engines while inertia dampening is off, which - among other things - allows Small Ships to perform the Viper Flip.
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Strongly averted. The visor is completely opaque.
  • Jet Pack: The engineers have tiny thrusters built into their suits, allowing for flight.
  • Laser Sight: Present on spaceship weapons to help you aim, because - depending on where you install your weapons - the projectiles don't always line up with your crosshair. Turrets have a much more pronounced laser sight with a visible length that turns from green to red whenever the turret locks on to something.
  • The Little Detecto: The Ore Detector does Exactly What It Says on the Tin - It detects nearby valuable ores in an asteroid. It'll also helpfully label what kind of ore it is.
  • Mega-Maw Maneuver: It's entirely possible with a big enough ship, though you'll likely just damage yourself in the process if you aren't careful.
  • Mobile Factory: Any Large Ship equipped with Refineries and Assemblers.
  • Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness: Word of God states that the developers want the game to be as realistic as possible, so 'soft' technology like Deflector Shields and Frickin' Laser Beams are unlikely to make an appearance. We still get Artificial Gravity, though.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Small Ships generally fight like this, since their weapons don't track targets and they can move pretty fast.
  • One-Way Visor: Much like with Real Life space suits, the visor doesn't show the face of the wearer, but presumably allows the space engineer to see out of it.
  • Ramming Always Works: Until the weapons were implemented, the only real way to damage other spaceships was to ram into them at top speed. Of course, this generally left both ships equally mangled unless some serious hull-reinforcement was installed.
  • Reality Ensues: Plenty of it (see Ramming Always Works above) but the first example many first-time Survival players find is that mining an asteroid is a very fiddly job when you have to chase those resource nuggets through the inertia-less void on a regular basis. A gravity generator makes things a lot easier.
  • Recoil Boost: Small Ship Gatling guns and the handheld assault rifle will the send the user flying backwards with sustained fire.
  • Salvage Pirates:
    • Scuttling abandoned or derelict structures is a good way to get ready-made crafting materials; though some players, armed with weapons, are perfectly happy to gun down fellow engineers before proceeding to loot their ships.
    • Invoked with the Cargo Ships — Unmanned ships of varying sizes spawned randomly that are laden with components and materials, which currently only exist for players to hijack and loot; provided they can circumvent the Booby Trap most of them have.
  • Selective Gravity: While players and pickups are affected by gravity, actual blocks are not, even when the block in question has no logical means of keeping itself aloft. The only blocks affected by gravity fields are the Artificial Mass block.
  • Sentry Gun: Available in three flavors: Gatling and Missile turrets to protect the exterior hull, and a much smaller Interior turret to fend off players. They can be individually programmed by their owner to fire upon meteors, missiles, derelict junk and other players.
    • Point Defenseless: Soundly averted. While they are easily distracted by Decoy Blocks, turrets are aggressive and very accurate.
  • Solar Sail: The Solar Panel is commonly used to invoke this. Since it generates a decent level of energy (while facing the sun, obviously), it's somewhat common to find Small Ships and some lightweight Large Ships using masses of solar panels to power their engines while conserving valuable uranium.
  • Space Fighter: The Small Ship class, which is largely considered the workhorse of Space Engineers.
  • Space Is Noisy: Quite a few things are fully audible in the void, especially explosions and weapons fire. To their credit, the developers plan on adding a sound mode that averts this.
  • Space Marine: An assault rifle is among the hand-tools available to players, so man-to-man firefights are possible.
  • Space Mines: Of the explode-by-hard-contact variant, available in small and large sizes.
  • Space Station: Either in open space or attached to an asteroid. Unlike ships, Station blocks are rigged to a universal grid system, making them totally static and immovable unless you decide to convert one into a Large Ship.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Missile launchers are the most predominant, available in two sizes. Small Ships get a regular one-missile-at-a-time launcher, while Large Ships get a hefty missile pod capable of firing full-auto. Also, Space Mines.
  • This Is a Drill: Available as a hand-tool for players and as a system for Small and Large Ships. Though the hand-drill, despite being referred to as such, is clearly a jackhammer.
  • Too Fast to Stop: Inertia dampeners require propulsion on every side of your ship in order to brake properly. If you're going at full-speed, you'd better hope your opposing thrusters are strong and/or numerous enough to slow you down before you hit something. Or turn your ship around and use your main thrusters to slow down.
  • Unobtainium: Uranium, which is used as the primary fuel source in the game, has some shades of this. While it's fairly easy to find, it's the only non-renewable resource in the entire game: Once the last uranium deposit is used up, it's gone forever. The Solar Panels were specifically introduced to give players an alternative power source for this eventuality. Since one update uranium is effectively renewable, as NPC ships will always carry at least one unit in their reactor that can be stolen, often have more than one reactor, and sometimes even carry significant amounts of refined uranium ingots in their cargo bays.
  • Used Future: "Shadowflux's Used Equipment Sales and Service" redesigns several existing devices and blocks in this style. It's proven popular enough to warrant two expansion packs, as well as a version that cleans up the grime.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: Engines of all sizes and types cause damage to anything in the path of their thrust, literally burning holes through the obstructing materials.
    • This feature is exploited in the Cargo Ships update. The ships in question are rigged with high-yield explosives that are detonated by hidden thrusters if the ship is ever forced to slow down, making hijacking attempts rather tricky. An option to turn Exhaust Damage off on a world-by-world basis was soon added, which makes internal engines on ships safe again, and disarms the booby traps in most of the cargo vessels.
    • The Steam-Workshop-modded Titan Engine block is perhaps the most triumphant example. Its exhaust path at full power is over forty block-lengths long, and strong enough to obliterate most Small Ships instantly.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Rescue Ship starts in inexplicably poor condition - the exterior hull is always heavily dented, and several blocks are incomplete. However, as listed above in Boring, but Practical, the Rescue Ship is a surprisingly useful vessel.

SpaceChemUsefulNotes/SteamSpace Pirates and Zombies

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy