The Poor Man's Voxel Engine

This is not a tutorial. It's a story. A Voxel Odyssey. The story starts with 19 year old me in a dorm room next to the Ohio State stadium. I don't have the repo from this stage of development (SVN at the time), but I remember the process clearly. Photo by Kristen Sutton XNA 4 comes out in September 2010. I immediately dive in. This turns out to be a poor life decision.

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Last Saturday we had the Short North gallery hop. Hundreds of people came through our gallery to see art. The guys helped me set up the Oculus and a projector on the wall. Sometimes I had to go out and pull people in, but most of the time, there was a line. My favorite customer by far was this kid: He jumped right in and played like a pro.

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I finished last week's map. It has some spinny things. Then I made this week's map. Who knew purple and green could look so... not terrible? Anyway, this puts me ahead of schedule. There are three levels remaining. My goal is to for the game to be playable from start to finish by the end of February. It's ambitious, but I'm confident I can do it! Today I took a break from level design to do some hardcore coding for the first time in a while.

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This week was crazy productive. I finished last week's level, finished another level, which looks like this: ...which also included some story-related writing and scripting, and actually started working on NEXT week's level, which looks like this: I seem to be on a purple streak lately. Actually, purple may rise unintentionally to be the most prominent color in the game. Also, this last level is apparently a subconscious ode to Monument Valley.

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This week's level is not quite done yet, but I have an excuse! Power was out at the incubator for two days, and the internet didn't come up fully until just yesterday. Still, the level should be done some time this weekend and is already looking pretty good. I finalized the promotional graphics and published the game to Steam in "coming soon" mode. I'm incredibly grateful to Sam Gebhardt for contributing his Hollywood artistic talent!


This past weekend I participated in the CivicHacks "Game Jam for Good". The goal was to raise awareness of the global water crisis and ultimately promote PackH2O, a Columbus-based startup that designs water backpacks for developing water-stressed regions. The jam lasted 48 hours. My entry is called "Achilles". Achilles is a multiplayer text-based simulation. You the player must manage a village in a third-world country experiencing a water crisis.

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Records continue to be broken. This week's map was actually done on Wednesday! Although most of Lemma is a strange hybrid of natural and alien-looking architecture, my design calls for a few "industrial / man-made" themed maps. For story reasons, and also because I just want to parkour through a skyscraper. So on Monday I asked Twitter this question: Would people be upset if I do a few levels in the visual style of Mirror's Edge?

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I moved my office into an incubator / art gallery this week. The move is mostly for my own sanity. Turns out, working alone in your apartment for 9 months isn't the most fun in the world. It's a Herculean effort just to stay motivated. I also lost all semblance of a disciplined sleep schedule. Productivity has been great since the move, and I'm back on a normal sleep schedule.

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For the first time in the history of Lemma, I'm actually keeping up with my self-assigned pace of one new level per week. These past two weeks I made two more frost levels. The plan calls for one more frost level, then it's on to the other two biomes. Both of these levels have interesting quirks and unique features. They're probably too tough right now, but I'm scheduling plenty of time to playtest and sand down the sharp edges.

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Big update this week! My voxel renderer now has the capability to overlay everything with any texture I want. I'm using it on a new set of interconnected winter levels. This way I don't have to manually come up with a frosty version of each texture. Without giving away too much, this week I built a new system that has implications for both puzzle solving and movement mechanics.