I've played a fair amount of Starbound, and almost every time I jump into the game to explore new worlds and build massive space-castles, I find something new, be it a flying pirate galleon or a musical instrument. There's enough in it for it to be considered a full game, yet Chucklefish still have plans. Future plans.
One of the biggest changes coming to Starbound is progression. Right now it's a big sandbox without much guidance, just some UFOs to kill to get to the next sector and some placeholder quests. This is temporary, and Chucklefish intends to implement a brand new progression system.
Progression will be based around the acquisition of wealth, specifically the little golden pixels found on corpses and in chests. "The current 10 tiers of gameplay will all play out on the same Starmap, with each tier introducing hazards that can only be overcome by progressing through the previous tier and completing a mission at the end of each tier," Chucklefish outlines. "To access a mission at the end of each tier you need to obtain a certain number of pixels."
An example of this system would be: "Play through tier 1 and gain enough pixels too.. > access the tier 1 mission > fight tier 1 boss > gain oxygen tank tech > now able to access tier 2 planets with non breathable atmosphere".
At the moment, collecting pixels is a bit of a chore involving a lot of killing and some exploration. There just aren't many options when it comes to getting rich. And when you die, you lose a significant chunk of your bank account. Eventually pixels will be tied to a greater number of activities, like a farmer growing crops and raising livestock can sell his vegetables and meats for pixels. Adventurers will be able to earn a living completeing quests for cash, too. You can even become a landlord, charging NPCs rent, or a bandit, pillaging villages and robbing NPCs of their worldly possessions for a chunk of change.
"There will be many different routes through the game, each just as deep and profitable as the last," Chucklefish explains. "Each will branch out and become more complex as the player advances through tiers, unlocks new technology and becomes more proficient in their chosen skills. Essentially we’re describing the gameplay equivalent of a tech/skill tree."
An end game is also in the works. Sector X is where you go when you've gotten through all of Starbound's challenges, and it's a giant PvP sector of space. Players can fight over the control of various worlds, banding together to fight foes in larger organisations, complete with their own space station.
As an alternative to beating up chums, there's director mode. Admins in director mode take control of the game world, and they're able to spawn items, NPCs and blocks, control characters and monsters and have them interact with players. Chucklefish describes the role as similar to a Dungeon Master in D&D. Mission maps and challenges can also be crafted, then shared with friends to play as many times as they want. Starbound's already full of emergent stories and countless anecdotes, so giving players the tools to craft their own stories seems like a logical step.
On the business side of things, Chucklefish is expanding, opening a new office and continuing to publish indie titles. They're publishing crazy rogue-platformer Risk of Rain. A second game is also going to be produced alongside Starbound. The project won't interfere with Starbound's development, though, as Chucklefish is putting together a brand new development team.
"At the moment we’re still in the stage where we’re kicking around ideas, one that keeps popping up is a top down, open world, multiplayer pirate game."