Steam Greenlight Spotlight: Planet Explorers

ClayMeow - March 10, 2013 08:34PM in Gaming

Planet Explorers is a voxel-based, open-world adventure RPG. If you're not familiar with the term "voxel", it's essentially a three-dimensional pixel. Just as pixels are represented as squares, voxels are represented as cubes. In the world of gaming, most people cite Minecraft as an example of a voxel-based game. Technically that's not true, as it actually uses texturized polygon cubes. This common misconception is due to Minecraft's blocky aesthetics, which is common in voxel-based games - again, because voxels are essentially cubes. So why then does Planet Explorers not look blocky? Well just as the square nature of pixels is indiscernible in a high resolution image, the same can be true with voxels. With processing power increasing practically every month, it's only natural that developers will start to take advantage of that. As developer Pathea Games says, "The voxel algorithms we're using take more power to calculate than the box form voxels, that's the reason there aren't too many of this type around, yet."

So is Planet Explorers simply a prettier Minecraft? Answering that question is a bit more complicated than it may seem. I have debated long and hard how to describe the game. If three-ways produced babies, this would be the offspring of Minecraft, Scribblenauts, and Spore. Developed with the Unity 3D engine and using a new OpenCL system, Planet Explorers allows you to change the terrain in much of the same way as Minecraft, but also allows you to create practically anything you can imagine in its robust creation editor reminiscent of Spore's editors. Pathea says you can build weapons, vehicles, and objects, but as of the current alpha version, only weapons (swords and guns) and vehicles were available - though I guess you could technically make other objects like furniture in the vehicle editor and just not give it wheels? I didn't try, but regardless, the video below shows the creation of a race track, so building objects other than weapons and vehicles will certainly be supported at release.

If you took the time to watch the video above, you'd see that the creation editor is Spore's editor times ten. Even if you have no 3D modeling experience, Planet Explorers' creation editor is very easy to understand and use. Best of all, sharing creations is easy, as saving creates an ISO file that can easily be sent to a friend or imported into your own game. But don't get the wrong idea; Planet Explorers offers a lot more than just building. There are three single-player modes and several multi-player modes planned. In single-player, you have Story Mode, Adventure Mode, and Build Mode. Pathea describes Story Mode as "the action-adventure-RPG-somewhat-4X segment, offering NPCs, missions, town building, farming, diplomacy, and of course, a storyline that you can follow or ignore." Adventure Mode gives you a procedurally generated map with random missions and eventually the ability to setup certain conditions (such as tower defense).

While this game would still be great with just single-player, multi-player will be supported in both co-op and versus modes via LAN or online! Many of the multi-player features are still up in the air, but both co-op and versus should come with multiple selections. The first co-op mode will be build mode since it's the easiest for Pathea to implement, but an adventure mode and tower defense mode are planned as well. Versus will feature 4v4 battles with modes such as base defense, capture the flag, and "something similar to DOTA."

As much as I've tried to describe the game as best as possible, nothing beats trying it for yourself. As I alluded to earlier, there is an alpha demo (version 0.52) that's completely free to download and play. It contains all the single player modes (though obviously not all the features or polish of a final version) as well as the aforementioned creation editors, including the ability to save your ISOs. There is a caveat though - the download is 1.5GB. But if your Internet is not capped, it's so worth trying out. If Pathea releases an update, you'll unfortunately have to download all the files again, but a launcher will be released with version 0.6, so you can always wait until then if that bothers you. Please keep in mind that due its advanced OpenCL, you need a GPU that supports DX10.1 or higher. The game also runs significantly better with more RAM and thus 64-bit systems.

Whether you check out the alpha demo or not, I hope you agree that Planet Explorers is certainly deserving of a Steam release. It's refreshing to see a voxel game that doesn't look like it was made in the 80s. If you really want to support it, it seems like a Kickstarter campaign is coming soon.

Previous Spotlight: Stardew Valley. Favorite the OCC Steam Greenlight Spotlight Collection. And don't forget to visit the forum thread.