Voxatron's out! For the next 2 weeks you can grab the Alpha version exclusively from humblebundle.com. All future updates are available free of charge, and you can pay whatever you like for it. Also in Humble Bundle tradition you can choose how to split your payment between two kick-ass organisations: Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The game consists of a voxel and map editor, along with an arcade mode and a sample world ("Adventure Mode") which shows some of the things you can do with the current editor. In fact, all of the adventure mode was made with the editor (except for the dragon boss, which is a bundle of quick hacks). I've spent most of the development effort so far making sure the editor is powerful and easy to use. After a few hours, there are already some nice custom maps springing up in the BBS, and I can't wait to see what kind of whack things will come out of it.
Where to Now?
I certainly hope you enjoy the Alpha if you decide to grab a copy, but honestly -- this is only the beginning! My general notion of Voxatron is that it should be a playground in which you can experience a variety of styles of gameplay leveraging the voxel-based format. Part of this will happen in the editor -- as I add more features, people can make and share weirder and more interesting things. And part of it will be building out the main game world.
What's the Fork?
In general, I don't think it's a good idea to keep a project in a constantly presentable/releasable state. For technical reasons, it encourages short term hacks and a reluctance to take things apart and design them cleanly. And especially from a creative position, once something is observed by other people it often seems to freeze into an unmoveable state, in the expectations of players and the mind of the designer. It's better to keep everything as fluid as possible, allowing interesting possibilities to reveal themselves and position themselves as provisional assumptions that more interesting things can emerge from.
So, where was I? The Fork! Yes -- so, given the scope of Voxatron it quickly became clear that to make it happen, I'd need to release it early. For such a user-driven game, it also makes sense to let the tools co-evolve the users. But to resolve this with the need to keep a healthy development process, I'll roughly split the development into two streams:
- The editor and engine: These will be updated regularly (at least once a month). For the next couple of weeks, I'll be working mainly just on any technical problems people are having. At the moment there are issues with drifting controls and multi-monitor setups. After that I think the most requested and pressing feature is a monster designer, and the ability to re-skin the player & pickups.
- The game world: This will remain mostly hidden until nearer completion. I'll be working with some very talented designers to build out the main game, and hopefully we can outdo whatever people are making in the editor.
In both cases, all updates will be available for free to registered users (and accessible through the Humble Bundle games page).
So How Does this Game Work?
I'll post some technical notes on Voxatron here at some stage, but in brief:
Voxatron is based on a virtual 128x128x64 display. It's a buffer of 3d video memory that is rendered out to the screen at the end of each frame, much as an old-school 2d display is. You can POKE bytes into the virtual memory, and they come out as voxels. I don't compromise on this -- even the menus are drawn into the voxel display. Hopefully one day I can get hold of a real physical 128x128x64 display and play Voxatron on it with almost no modification.
The renderer is written in software (C + SDL). Each frame, scan through the virtual video memory back to front and look for voxels that have empty neighbours. If they are exposed, I transform the corners of a cube intro screen space and scan-render the polygon. Shadows are done with a traditional shadow-map but sampled with a filter to get the soft shadows.
Fix the Controls!
ok, I realise that it's weird to make a game that looks and sounds like a homage to Robotron without dual-stick control. I'm not going to be a dick about it -- there's a lot of demand for this and I'll add a dual stick option soon. But! There's a reason for it -- there is so much jumping in the game, and it is so central to the gameplay that jumping really needs to feel natural. I don't personally miss having a separate directional control for shooting, and any variation of dual-stick+jump that I tried felt extremely clumsy. Even in levels that are very robotron-esque (the first arena), it's vital to be able to hop over rubble, bullets, and especially into crowds of monsters to swipe a pickup. I think it's worse for the game to feel like "Robotron.. in 3D! With awkward jumping!"
But as I say, although I feel the style of control is integral to the identity of the game, I'm not going to force you to use my ivory tower view of the controls. For now, you can try ASDW+mouse (even more odd), or the numpad for shooting if you have one.
Voxatron doesn't Work!
It seems a good number of players are getting burnt by a sticky key problem (player drifts in one direction), and a couple of multi-monitor and linux dependency issues. I'll do my best to resolve them quickly amongst the sleep deprived chaos that I'm experiencing right now. If you have a problem, and especially if you found a temporary work around to it, please feel free to make a quick post about it on the BBS or in the comments.
Played through what's out thus far. Extremely impressed. I've been following Voxatron since it was announced, and I love this. I hope the end-result for adventure mode is great. This is just amazing, thus far. Very retro and good. I'd love customizable controls, though. That should probably be one of the first things to patch in, right?
Also, I doubt your main world will outweigh what the community creates. I foresee great things with the already-very-good editor -- The entire Legend of Zelda map is inevitable, and nothing will ever beat nostalgia.
For the controls:  Idea: If people have controllers that have L3/R3 input (Pushing in the analog), might be a good idea to bind Jump to those.  I have a similar setup for a game I play often, and having the Evade button for that game on L3 feels very natural, and I don't have any issues with that.  Should work in Voxatron too.
Just did my first Adventure play through. SO frickin fun. Can't wait to design some stuff myself. Control-wise I found the WASD+NumPad to be the best option for me. Normally I'm a WASD+Mouse person, but the mouse felt funky (not a problem for this kind of shooter).
But if you're worried about the controls, just let them be 100% configurable. That solves any problem the default controls may have.
The BBS list is pretty kick ass as well, although I'd love to see that more robust later (primarily a "favorites/save" feature to let you keep a list of maps you really like in an easily accessible list). Leaderboards and map ratings would be awesome, but having to host that kind of DB may not be economically feasible for an indie game. Just a thought though.
Oh man, I was just wondering about when I'd get to play Voxatron before I read the Humble-news! Raaad!
I dig the game! It's fun and feels complete, even at this early stage. Top-notch aesthetics and atmosphere.
Can't wait to see all the crazy stuff you're going to add! As others have mentioned, I'm certain there will be a very productive community for the game, there's already some cool stuff up ('Voxacastle' is especially great!).
I would have to say that the WASD + Numpad feels most natural and comfortable. For another control option though, I suggest having WASD + IJKL for a duel-stick feel. Also, I do love the game, but I feel as though the Adventure mode feels more like small challenges disconnected rather than an actual adventure.
Hello. Got the news for this game in my inbox earlier today before I went out to class. I've played it maybe for 3 hours so far and I encountered something that bothered me. Most of the time when I move backwards or sideways I can't jump while firing. This is detrimental with how much jumping you have to do.
Also one time when I was playing the Arcade mode the game crashed on me when enemies swarmed me.
Now for some suggestions. Since this game is going to probably have a bunch of buildables for levels, why not add expansions? You could also make this into a racer, a fighter, puzzle (that one I encountered REALLY made me hate those blue tiny cube things). or hell even an RPG or some kind of Rouguelike would be sweet. Along with the ability to customize your main character...and perhaps an ability to swap weapons, unless that would make things too easy.
I would love to see this game be multiplayer, a co-op mode would be awesome. It would be nice if there was a server set up sort of deal like Minecraft and Terraria, where you host a server and then people can connect to it.
I can confirm wonkiness with dual-display linux - I have an admittedly weird combination of 1024x1280 (portrait) next to 1920x1200.  Whether fullscreen or windowed, my in-game resolution options are 2944x1280, 1472x640, 800x600, 800x480.    For now, is there place I can manually configure a resolution?
@dorino "Triggers for Jump and dual stick for movement/shooting would definitely work well."
Yeah, I don't see what the issue would be with that, at least for people who own gamepads. I got a free OnLive system recently, and the best part of that I now own a pretty decent PC gamepad. :D
Camera comments: I feel like there might be some tweaking needed for camera. I don't know that full controls are needed... maybe make it a more overhead view? The angle it is at now often obscures background objects, which just ain't good at all. You could also make things semi-transparent like some hack-n-slash games are doing these days. That is, make the player, mobs, power-ups, projectiles and such have an outline that is visible through the environment. It's hard to explain; perhaps someone can link a video of what I'm describing?
Anyway, I just played through the Adventure tonight in pretty much one sitting, and it was great! Issues with lack of dual-stick aiming notwithstanding, the controls work great. It all feels really tight, which you very much need for a 3D platformer. I felt like I wasn't jumping much at first, but as I played I started to get used to having a jump and started to make better use of it.
What did surprise me was that the most fun I had was in some of the rooms with only a few enemies, that were more based on precision platforming and the Build weapon. There were a few lava levels like this, and the limited ammo on the Build weapon makes it feel almost like a puzzle platformer, something like Portal or the like. So I'm hoping to see a ton of levels like that, either from you or the community.
I bought this game for $10 (~$6 went directly to you) having never seen nor heard of it before solely off a few seconds of  footage that showed beautiful art style, retro feel, fun mechanics, the Humble Bundle name, and Notch's recommendation, and I don't regret it at all. Great game all around. The fact that this is an alpha is exciting. And, hell, I haven't even looked at the editor tools you have, yet.
I'm so happy that controller support is already implemented. I was just wondering if the menus will also have controller support. It's not really a big deal; it's just a small hassle having to switch from controller to keyboard every time I pause.
Just purchased this game through the Humble Bundle and I have to say that I'm impressed!
One suggestion though is that since you're implementing the WASD+mouse controls scheme, you would need to display the mouse cursor (or some sort of fixed moving crosshair or such) so that it'll be easier for the player to know where he's shooting. I know the game works better with a gamepad that has dual analog sticks, but not everyone has the money to blow cash on a Logitech/PS3/Xbox 360 controller.
Awesome game! However, I have something to ask you.
Can you increase the game's voxel resolution just a tad more? I feel that the characters are slightly large compared to the viewable area, This makes it feels a bit claustrophobic and prevents you from seeing more of the voxel goodness. I get the style you're going for and I think you can still achieve that by increasing the viewable map size a little more. You could also try making the resolution rectangular and have it clip at the bottom 2 sides, instead of showing it all like in the current version.
Okay, firstly great to see it released as I've been following for some time.
What I find frustrating is going into windowed mode, the window hangs outside my screen because of the default window pane.
Because I have dual monitors (or not), when in windowed mode, the mouse appears on the second screen and drops focus on the game. Maybe a work around would be to implement "focus" and if this happens, it pauses the game?
Secondly, no key changing. Why not!?
The system for aiming needs improvement, you end up running around the screen trying to get it to aim the direction you want. This clearly needs some refinement.
Aside from that, great game and always been a fan of Voxels, now this game shows them off nicely.
Thanks and keep it coming. If we can supply feedback, just let us know what you need testing.
Voxatron is a new classic in my eyes, I feel it has more replayability then smash tv and more friendly on the eyes then Robotron. Great work, great program!
I hope an autoupdate will be released soon for this game, and/or even a search engine for user generated content.
FPS are lacking for a simple program, but it makes up with a solid feel and look.
I know the controls have been a continuing point of griping for people, but I want to add my own two cents.
Personally I think that the basics of the control scheme are there. Using WASD to move around feels perfectly fine, but having all the controls on the right hand is quite difficult for me to adjust to. I keep feeling like I should be using the mouse to aim my shots. However, that is VERY strange feeling, and doesn't feel nearly as accurate as necessary. I would suggest for those wanting to use WASD and the mouse to create a faux dual shooter feeling, making space jump, WASD movement, and adding an aiming reticle for mouse fire aiming would be the best option. Without the reticle it just feels quite strange to aim with the mouse and very difficult to tell it's actual location.
For those with a controller, a dual stick shooter setup would work very well if jump is placed on a trigger. For those used to controllers it wouldn't feel odd at all, and the jump would still be used as often as you want for the game. I'd also suggest a schematic to use the triggers to fire, like in an FPS, with A (or X or w/e key is on the bottom) as jump. This would be similar to the standard controls as they are now, but suitable for a controller and fairly similar to controls most console users would be used to already. It wouldn't be a dual stick setup, but it would be comfortable to play using the trigger and joystick to move/aim/fire like the basic controls, and you'd still have your thumb free to use A to jump.
Other than the controls, the game is damn fun, good looking, and I'm loving the destruction you can create. Each time you play a level it'll break down in a new way. Very very cool game, great work! =)
Bought, installed, played and finished it. This morning :) (And loved it, of course)
The best control scheme, for me, is wasd+numpad. If we had a cursor on the screen the mouse should work better.. however, it might stray too much from the intended gameplay design, as a cursor makes it way easier!
I hate to pile onto the controls more, but I tried my Dual Shock Logitch pad. When I used the stick to move I could not move to the left, and when I used the stick I could really only move forward and back.
Love the game so far. Delicious voxelness. It seems everyone is adding there two bits so:
Add an Easy, Med, Hard: on easy getting hit only takes a 1/3 heart, med a 1/2, and hard a full, super hard can't get hit.
On the level editor allow the camera angle to be set for each scene/room/lvl. That way a full map can be made w/o camera worry and then just set the best camera for each scene/room/lvl.
I like the transparent/outline of each voxel in front of your character idea in case you get stuck behind something and can't see where you are stuck!!
Keep up the amazing work. I can't wait to see the future of this game.
I think wasd movement, space to jump and arrow keys to shoot would be best (not numpad, laptops don't have them, it's more cumbersome and the diagonals are not needed as up and right can be used for a diagaonal etc.).
Also I too think the camera angle is too shallow, I resorted to pressing escape to line up my jumps as I kept falling into the lava.
I think the best thing to do with the controls is make them fully customizable with a few different presets. I play on a Mac and find it annoying as heck when devs arbitrarily perma-set the controls to match Logitech controllers: I use an XBox 360 controller on mine. BTW, this is really amazing work thus far. I play for a bit then rage quit... but I keep coming back for more. This is shaping up to be great! BTW. I like the idea of wasd for movement and ijkl for firing!
I got the alpha via the Humble Indie Bundle, and just tried it now by playing the Arcade for 10 minutes. It's already completely amazing. My one qualm is that the mouse is used to aim, but nothing indicates where the mouse cursor is on the screen. Is there a setting I overlooked? If not, please implement this!
"I would love to see this game be multiplayer, a co-op mode would be awesome. It would be nice if there was a server set up sort of deal like Minecraft and Terraria, where you host a server and then people can connect to it."
P#1807 Posted at 2011-10-31 23:51
I love that idea, I would love to see a co-op or multiplayer so I can play with friends :D!
I found wasd + ijkl + spacebar to be the most comfortable option... I've already seen some quite interesting suggestions in the comments, multiplayer and a leaderboard + favourite user levels list would be great.
One of the most interesting games i played for a while
Cool keep up the good work, I also really need dual stick control i've tried to add it with xpadder but it doesn't respond as I would like to. I really feel clumsy with the current controls. I really love the game, the editor is really easy to understand and fun.
Can you make it for joystick so you have an option of controls like in the version prior to current version because I liked how you could shoot one way and continue to shoot that way no matter how you moved
I followed Notch who tweeted about this game I'd until now not heard of (As most of the voxel games I've seen are either old pre-90s games done as Voxel titles, Or the thousands of *Craft-likes out there.) This game brought me back to the days of chip music and when Dragons were Ducks and swords and crosses were interchangeable. :>  Can't wait to see what comes out of this, And was happy to see my suggestion of a cursor for mousemode was implemented and cleverly I might add! (Voxel crosshair X3)
I can't wait to see how this pans out, Although I was rather surprised how few of my friends had heard of this game. Where can folks like me send suggestions? If you accept them, That is. X3 There's just a billion things I can see this engine doing, Some obvious some perhaps not so. :>
As to the 'double stick' issues mentioned, Jumping shouldn't be a problem as most pc pads seem to follow the 'xbox' or 'ps2/3' design so the shoulder buttons usually make for easily-reachable jumps, As do the 'proper' joysticks with a button on the top. (think the old Virtua-On setup.)
At any rate, Keep up the ossim work! The corporate game market's got kinda stale and it's you indie guys breathing new life into things!
Here's a sampler of something being worked on. Having almost as much fun with the editor as with the game itself (Voxel worksttions! :D)