Voxels And Zombies, Together At Last

Ken Silverman was definitely on to something with that voxel stuff. The man was batty about them before they were big and now, everyone's getting in on the action. The latest is this upcoming Xbox Live Indie Games title called, simply, Block Zombies.

With Minigore on iPhone and Boxhead from Sean Cooper, designer on the original Syndicate, you're well-covered for isometric zombie shooters. But Block Zombies has a bizarre, Lego-like appeal — as you blast your undead, curve-challenged foes, they scatter into tiny cubes before disappearing into the ether. It looks extremely satisfying.

With it all being based on voxels, there's plenty of flexibility here for expanding on the run-and-gun gameplay. Barricade-building or fort construction has no limits, and would add immensely to the game's depth, if implemented. For now, we won't know the fullness of Block Zombies until next month, but you can get an idea from the clip below:

[NoStatic Software, via Indie Game Magazine]


    Hey Logan, as a developer you can probably help me here - are these really voxels being used here? You might just be passing on their use of the terminology from their press release, but I'm thinking it's being misused here - and probably has been for quite a while.

    My understanding is that a voxel is a way of determining which raw points of content appear in space. You have a regular grid, and then you say that each block is N units away on the Z axis from the previous one (and maybe on X and/or Y too?), and continue this way till you fill the whole grid. You work out the viewer's location and project the resultant pixels onto their screen. This is compared to polygons, where you have three points in space, points along the edge determined by a line drawing algorithm, and a texture applied to the flat space in between. Voxels are a cost-effective way to represent undulating terrain, but polygons are MUCH better at representing large flat expanses and moving characters - as seen in this game! Video cards provide heavy support for polygon operations, but voxels are mainly CPU bound.

    It seems to me that this game (and Minecraft, and 3D Dot Game Heroes, etc) just uses its own internal coordinate system for the individual objects, then generates polygons and applies transformations to them to move them in space.

    Anyway, I'm not trying to call you out on this. I may well be completely wrong, as I only have basic theoretical knowledge and no practical experience with game graphics. I was just wondering whether you had any input on whether these are indeed voxels, or whether it's simply just being used as a sophisticated sounding marketing term to mean "stylised blocky graphics".


      You're completely correct, Batguy. These are just stylised 3D graphics. Voxels are where you render a 2D image in a per-pixel basis where every pixel has an X-Y-Z axis to determine where it should appear on the 2D image.

      All the vehicles in Tiberian Sun are Voxels, for example.

    Uh, these aren't voxels, they're polygons. I guess the look of the game is "based on voxels" as far as design goes, but these are just normal polygons.

    If they were voxels then each cube would be at right angles to the other. In the video you can plainly see the characters at different angles and when they explode the individual cubes are at different angles. It may contain some sort of hybrid voxel system but the effect is not similar to traditional voxel type games.

    In Minecraft everything is at right angles except for certain polygon sprites like cows and zombies. The blocks are a voxel system but their surfaces are rendered as polygons. Minecraft is what you would get if you zoomed into a voxel system so that they appear larger.

    For a real voxel-based engine and a similar (but potentially much more interesting) game, check out Voxatron:


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