I wound up downloading the "no item drop on survival mode" mod, and it's made the game a lot easier . . . maybe even too easy. Dying still takes a significant chunk of my currency, but that can be mitigated by spending it all between adventures. Since I've not yet found anything worth saving up a ton of money for (though the vehicles are looking pretty cool) it doesn't feel like all that much of a penalty.
On the other hand, I recently fell into the molten core of a planet while loaded with valuable minerals after an hour-long spelunking trip, so maybe there's something to be said for taking it easy. If only there were some way to make dying feel like a more convenient alternative to returning to the surface to teleport. I guess I'll just have to roleplay it out.
Speaking of which, I'm really getting drawn into Starbound's world. My colony is still very small, but I love having a place that I built and I love seeing it being used by NPCs. I probably won't expand my starting colony any, as it is a small rustic village centered around a farm and it would not be keeping with the aesthetic to upgrade it into a massive sci-fi settlement. Instead, I'm going to poke around for a bit until I find enough high-tier blocks to build some futuristic walls and then I'm going to start a new colony on some exotic alien world.
Or, at least, I would if I weren't coming up hard against my 20 hour deadline. I sort of feel like I should hedge my bets and not get too invested in this system with long-term payoffs (it took me about 5 hours to break even from my first colonist's rent). Instead, I should focus on short-term goals like exploring the tier-3 planets and upgrading my tech. There's also a couple of story missions I could go after and my spaceship could stand to be customized.
I really like it when a game gives me a lot to do, especially if that to-do list is a genuine set of options and not just grinding the same activity over and over again (though grinding is not anywhere near the bottom of my list of video game turn-offs), and Starbound is the most generous game I've played in awhile. I think I'm going to miss it when it's gone.