After one too many creative level design I'm starting to wonder. Is there something special about voxels that allows quick creation without (many) restrictions ?
You practically don't need to draw. No need to texture. People talking about textured voxels are insane. You don't texture pixels. You just arrange them (or voxels) into a sort of a mosaic.
Voxatron uses very low resolution, which certainly helps. You can't spend hours editing a small(ish) sprite. Increase voxel resolution and levels will take longer to create; artistic skills will get more important. At the moment you can get away with a nice idea, some patience, and a sense of aesthetics. You can make fairly intricate objects quickly, then mass-produce them like in the times of tile-based graphics - only with more flexibility.
And this is just the beginning. Assuming Lexaloffle delivers, creativity will boom. Moving platforms, animated objects, custom enemies. Want to make an eurasian badger (meles meles) ? Go ahead !
Minecraft doesn't have voxels. If it's textured, it's not a proper voxel :P. I wouldn't be surprised to find Voxatron is the first real 100% voxel game. Delta Force, Commanche, Command&Conquer, even 3D Dot Game Heroes used hybrid approaches. Low res voxel text messages and interfaces look so crude they're adorable.
But I get what you mean. Blocks, and discrete pieces of material are easier to work with in general. Old games used to have lots of user generated content (or at least lots of levels) because they could be generated quickly. DooM maps were a lot simpler to make than Quake maps, etc.
b0rsuk: I agree with what you said about Minecraft. To be fair though, the items in Minecraft are voxel based. The blocks the world are made of aren't though, I completely agree with you there. The technology is pretty much the same, but voxel is short for "volumetric pixel" and a texture is something that is made out of pixels, not the other way around.
The only other "real" voxel game I can think of right now would be Voxelstein 3D.
Voxelstein 3D is a good example of traditional voxels-as-squares rather than voxels-as-cubes. Ace of Spades comes to mind, too. Of note, the Crytek engine used a voxel system to generate terrain... Similar to Minecraft.
Minecraft is a gray area. It's technically designed in voxels. The terrain is designed with voxels, and the world is initially made of voxels. What the player explores, though, isn't. Once you take that first person perspective, and the cubes rotate, and you jump half a block, you're no longer in a voxel environment. Just like how you can't move half a pixel in a 2D game, you can't move half a voxel in a voxel game. Ace of Spades, Voxelstein, and now Voxatron adhere to that rule. Minecraft doesn't.
I say it's interesting because it uses some kind of octtree magic. The world (except character models, weapons etc I think) is made of textured cubes. They're extremely lightweight. Not strict cubes, because individual vertexes can be moved so you can have slopes, for example. The unusual thing is that you can have very intricate geometry until you start running into performance issues. Most of the screenshots don't show that, somehow people are content with banal, small quake 1 style deathmatch maps. But check out these castle screenshots. Draw distance is awesome, too.
There are a couple of projects using the engine. There was one or two commercial games too, but I'm not sure what happened to it.
Voxels are pixels in 3d. How they're rendered is another detail altogether -- A lot of older engines and, indeed, Ace of Spades and Voxelstein both, represent voxels as squares that grow/shrink depending on the voxel's relative position to the camera. They're still voxels.
it is a really comfortable melding of old school pixel graphics and 3d space. I think its a solid engine that i would happily pay $50 or whatever to be able to make games in. In terms of the future its alot brighter with the possibilities of this format. And hopefully people who are used to high-res 3d graphics will begin to appreciate retro games through the cuteness of the voxatron universe.