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Spacebase DF-9 includes a very real threat of chest-bursting parasites

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JP LeBreton isn't sure what happened to the door.

The base is littered with bodies, but the cause of their demise is obvious. Corned in a side room is a monstrous, centipede-like parasite, now curled up and lifeless. Nearby, the broken door in question.

The trouble started with an infected immigrant, who brought the parasite on board with him. While he and his bunkmates slept, the creature burst out of his body and began slaughtering indiscriminately. It broke the base's only airlock, trapping two miners out in space. By the time LeBreton, the game's project lead, realized what was happening, it was too late.

"I, as the developer of this game, genuinely don't know how to salvage this situation," LeBreton told Polygon.

Spacebase DF-9 is Double Fine's Dwarf Fortress-like title, available now for Steam Early Access. The game tasks players with maintaining a base and keeping its citizens happy. A big part of that goal also means watching everyone's health.

"When somebody new immigrates into your base, they have a small chance to already be carrying a parasite," LeBreton said. "It's just a risk that you have. When a parasite busts out, it's this alien monster that just wants to go around killing and eating everybody."

"If your entire crew dies, you're basically sunk."

If players want to avoid a reenactment of the movie Alien, they'll have to watch for warning signs. Each citizen has a Twitter-like feed of inane happenings from their day. If a citizen starts to talk about not feeling well, or reports a higher than normal heart rate, it could be an early warning sign of infection.

But chest-bursting parasites aren't the only condition players will need to watch for. Citizens can die of hunger or become depressed, which affects their work output.

"Everybody has morale," LeBreton said. "Some people are very sad, and when people are sad they perform more poorly at their jobs. Sometimes that will cause accidents, like fires and stuff like that."

Citizens who die can be replaced by new immigrants that cruise by at random. While this will help players replenish lost numbers, it's possible to lose an entire base-worth of occupants.

"If your entire crew dies, you're basically sunk," LeBreton said. "In some cases, you have a small window to wait for new immigrants to show up. It's possible that they'll come in, find a dead base and move in like a hermit crab."

In the case of our demo, the bodies eventually disappeared and a new group of immigrants helped us rebuild. Sad citizens began to perk up again as the memory of those that passed faded.

As for the broken door, LeBreton can venture a few guesses. Maybe it was a citizen who, in his final moments, fired off a hopeful shot and missed as the monster bore down on him. Perhaps it was the parasite itself, which can break through doors with ease.

The possibilities are all a little terrifying.