Organic Minecraft: Lords of Uberdark

By Alec Meer on July 18th, 2011 at 8:00 pm.

Should I be rude about the name? I probably shouldn't.

Oh. Oh, wow. Lords of Uberdark is to terraforming what Minecraft is to construction. You’d be ten types of idiot not to see the huge similarities between the two, but this one is focused on organically reshaping the world rather than stacking and demolishing. Freed from the angular, block-bound restrictions of Minecraft, it allows for an untold variety of land-shaping – creating environments that look natural, created, shaped and reshaped by centuries of exposure to the elements, rather than assiduously constructed on the spot. Better still, the interface looks pick’n'up and go, suggesting a paintbrush approach to designing worlds. And it’s all thanks to our old, long-lost love, the voxel.

Aaron Bishop’s game is in private alpha at the moment, and this video appears to be all there is of it on show so far. It’s more than enough, of course. Oh, technology. The wonders you give us.

You may be relieved to hear that Minecraft’s Notch is nothing but excited about this project. I suspect the cream of the Minecraft-inspired crop, as opposed to simply the quick’n'cynical clones, are a few years off yet, but Uberdark looks to me like a big fat hint to what the near-future might offer digital world-building.

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106 Comments »

  1. sonicblastoise says:

    i thought it was strange that the video was featured on tigsource, but the interview was totally not about the video, but about SoULFU. which is still awesome.

    this game though, looks so much cooler than minecraft. not to say that it’s a game yet, but the mechanic is more appealing to me because of its fluidity. sooo niiiice

    also, LAVA VINES!

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      lurkalisk says:

      Yeah, I’d have to say this looks potentially much better, at least in its world building aspect (and if his goals are achieved, in every way). If Minecraft had worked like this, I would love it so much more…

  2. Squeeby says:

    The real questions are: When will people start talking about building games without mentioning Minecraft, or mentioning the opinion of Notch regarding said games?

    • sonicblastoise says:

      when all 10698508 registered users, of which 2829150 (26.44%) who have bought the game die without any children

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      Kelron says:

      Probably when the games being discussed stop having obvious and significant similarities to Minecraft.

    • Squeeby says:

      You know guys, Minecraft wasn’t the first game to have building/destruction mechanics. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean everything under the sun should be compared to it.

    • bwion says:

      The fact that it’s popular does, however, make it a useful reference point, since if you mention Minecraft, most people will know what you’re talking about.

      I get it, I do. I love the game (though I haven’t played much in a while) and I’m kind of sick of hearing about it too. But the only way it’s going to be displaced as a popular comparison to every remotely similar game is going to be when the Next Big Thing comes along for us to get sick of.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      So, which previous games involved first-person 3D construction/destruction of terrain? Don’t say Infiniminer.

      I’m sure a few exist that I’m not aware of. How many got out of the experimental stage? How many achieved any level of popularity, such that even just hardcore PC gamers who have been around for a couple decades might be vaguely aware of it?

    • Koozer says:

      I reckon LEGO Creator counts as the same genre.

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      Kelron says:

      It’s the same reason open world games were being described as “GTA clones” for ages, even though there had been open world games previously and even when the games in question had little to do with GTA.

    • Gar says:

      According to the PC Gamer article on the same topic, the source video was discovered via Notch tweeting it:

      http://twitter.com/#!/notch/status/92983768306024449

      So, there’s that

    • Squeeby says:

      Why don’t say Infiniminer? Because you can’t accept that it came before Minecraft, and that Notch ripped it off completely?

      Also, why does it matter that Notch tweeted the video? The video was up before he decided to tweet it.

      Personally, my favourite Minecraft clone is Boulder Dash!

    • coldvvvave says:

      Angry intrernet men everywhere.

    • Kaira- says:

      Infiniminer and Blockland come to mind. I too am curious why we shouldn’t mention Infiniminer, is it because it undermines someone’s argument or what?

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      Notch didn’t rip off infiniminer, he clearly states on the about page that it was the primary inspiration for minecraft and that he wanted to do something of his own with the concept. Nothing shady about that.

    • Stupoider says:

      Infiniminer is primarly a team based point scoring game with little focus on the creativity side of things, right? I remember playing it and that was the general jist of things. Probably the only thing Minecraft and Infiniminer have in common is that they both use blocks. There weren’t many avenues for adventure in Infiniminer, anyway.

    • Vadermath says:

      Err, perhaps because Minecraft was simply better, and more popular? When someone makes an action movie, the press and the reviewers compare it to the most prominent titles of the genre, not some obscure flick from the ’60s.

    • Squeeby says:

      You’re all idiots.

    • Robert says:

      You compare it to minecraft because that is simply the most well-known. You compare(d) platformers to Mario, not because it was the best, or the most influential (that’s subjective), but the most well-known. Even computer nitwits know of Mario. That’s starting to be the same with Minecraft, the whole internet knows it.

      Denying it, or saying “xx was first, so stop the minecraft comparing” is snobbish and irrelevant. It offers a hook, it sets the mood. There was a surge of conspiracy novels couple of years ago. They compared it to Dan Brown. Was he the first? No. Was he the best? No. But comparing “The Return of the Templars” to “The Pendulum of Foucault” will puzzle a lot of people.

      Why do people ask Quentin Tarantino about shitty pulp movies? WHY DOES OPRAHS BOOKCLUB EXIST????(bad example, but there has to be fun in a post)

    • Dorako says:

      To the original topic comment, COMPARING it to Minecraft is fine. Most people know Minecraft, which is why it will give people a good idea about what it is. The game has heavy similarities to Minecraft. Calling it a ripoff: VERY unfair. Comparing it to a similar game, VERY fair. Also, Notch’s opinion is significant because noting that Notch is happy about it will lower the level of angry Minecraft fan-boys flaming and spamming the comments. To the flame war involving Minecraft and Infiniminer, Minecraft SHOULD be compared to Infiniminer, but it should NOT be called a ripoff. They are block-based games involving mining. There is the option to build in Infiniminer but it is not the focus. Minecraft is a game about survival that was strongly inspired by Infiniminer. To the article, this game looks very cool because it appears that it will try to differentiate itself from Minecraft (which it will be compared to due to similarities and that Minecraft is currently king of the genre, it is the same as comparing MMOs to WoW). Something like FortressCraft takes flak because A. It offers nothing more than graphics to differentiate itself from Minecraft, and B. Everything it has mentioned in terms of expansion are identical to Minecraft (unless the developer changed his/her mind since I last read, in which case I apologize).

    • aerozol says:

      Look at the linked video. That you can call everybody else an idiot, and then can’t see a link between that footage and MC… Amazing.

    • Squeeby says:

      I never said i can’t see a link between the two.

      Jog on.

  3. sana says:

    Celestial Impact was just as brilliant regarding terraforming and also involved spheric planetary worlds. And it preceded Minecraft by what I believe to be years.

    • treat says:

      A shame it didn’t last long. I had just got around to building some interesting CTF maps with underground caves and hidden weapon spawns when the online community died. Not like anyone played anything but the terraforming mode anyway.

    • JerreyRough says:

      And here is the short version I made.

      http://tinyurl.com/kickstartuberdark

    • Squeeby says:

      Thanks, i was having difficulty clicking on the larger link.

    • OddsAgainst says:

      And I thought they liked bigger things….

    • JerreyRough says:

      Its for posting in other places just to have a smaller URL. Like Twitter, or at least before it had the URL shortening thingy.

    • Ovno says:

      I always hate these tiny urls and the like.

      Why un this age of phising sites and general dodgyness would I ever click on a link that may or may not take me to where I want to go and in fact could just as easily bounce me past somewhere that will drive by download a virus onto my pc?

      I always much rather have a book of a url instead of a tiny thing that may screw me royally…

    • thegooseking says:

      So, I’ll just leave this here.

      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/long-url-please/

    • Ovno says:

      Now if only I used Firefox and not Chrome…

      But really, who cares if a link is long at least its honest and although I could install said addon or similar to fix the problem, my gf or parents couldn’t and its them who are the once who get viruses not tech savey pc gamers like myself ;p

      Then again, would they notice that whatever url was spelt wrong anyway, so it might be a moot point…

    • mwoody says:

      Well, if you can’t be bothered to find an extension for chrome, maybe you can fix it at the source: Tinyurl allows you to preview any link before you go to it.

  4. Mofoo says:

    Timer cursor FTW!

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      BathroomCitizen says:

      It sure gives an old school charm.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      This is how all the sand ends up in the hourglass.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      That’s not a cursor, silly, that’s the protagonist.

      It’s a third-person game about a brave little hourglass in a harsh, lonely world.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If only it were the Atari ST, it could have been a lonesome bee.

  5. BeamSplashX says:

    It looks so neat! I don’t think I’ve seen organic environments that are cel-shaded before.

    • Squeeby says:

      Backfacing polygons having a darker outline is not cel shading.

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      lurkalisk says:

      People seem to confuse cel-shading with… Absolutely everything. Little do people know, there are relatively very few games that are actually cel-shaded.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      Ah right, I watched the video again and realized my mistake. Most purportedly cel-shaded games look nothing like Jet Set Radio.

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      lurkalisk says:

      Well they do. That’s just the problem, whenever you hear about a new “cel-shaded” game, it’s most likely been mislabeled . If it’s cel-shaded, it will definitely have that JGR look.

      What a shame. Cel-shading looks cool and doesn’t eat too much in the way of resources.

    • Jibb Smart says:

      Cell shading’s more defined (from a developer’s point of view, at least) by using “typical” lighting values to look up a texture that defines the lighting style. For example, TF2 uses cell shading, and doesn’t have Jet Set Radio Future’s style at all.

      Your point still stands that this isn’t technically cell shading, but it’s not because it doesn’t look like JSR, and TF2′s lack of outlines probably makes it a “purer” example of cell shading.

    • Muzman says:

      I submit that “cel shading” without outlines isn’t cel shading either, since looking like a cartoon is where cel shading gets its name in the first place.

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      lurkalisk says:

      Jibb, Muzman, cel-shading is a rather specific type of rendering process, and it refers directly to the method by which a look is achieved, not the look itself. TF2, for example, just has rather smooth textures, it’s not actually rendered with cel-shading. You can get cel-shading to look different than you might find in JGR, but not by much (at least in a videogame).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cel-shading

    • Muzman says:

      Yeah. I guess I’m saying it shouldn’t (although ‘shading’ probably has some specific 3d meaning in this instance)
      Anyway, for all the misidentified games in the world most of the ones that attract the term seem to have made the wikipedia list.

    • Jibb Smart says:

      Lurkalisk, cell shading achieves that look by converting the normal lighting of each pixel to a value between 0 and 1, and looking up that position in a texture that determines the final lighting. JSR and “typical” examples of cell shading do that with a texture with a few discrete values, getting that hard-edged look. TF2 does the same, but with a small gradient between the light and dark values.

      http://www.valvesoftware.com/publications/2008/GDC2008_StylizationWithAPurpose_TF2.pdf

    • BeamSplashX says:

      Oh god dammit you guys.

      It’s good-looking! Like your mum. I can see where you get it from now.

    • Jibb Smart says:

      It took me a little while to figure out you weren’t insulting us (“your mum” threw me off) :) Aren’t you a charmer? And of course, you’re right (about the game!). The important thing is that this game looks great, and does so without striving for realism. I’d like to see more of that in games.

    • theallmightybob says:

      for the record TF2 uses phong shading, very diffrent then cell shading.

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      lurkalisk says:

      It really isn’t important. It’s just that cel-shading is a very specific thing (for example, it’s invariably spelled “cel”, with only one L), and so many people seem to think it’s just when something looks cartoony. It isn’t.

      But alas, the world spins on…

    • Jibb Smart says:

      @theallmightybob: You may be interested in Valve’s publication on how they did the lighting in TF2. I posted it a few posts up, but here it is again for your benefit:

      http://www.valvesoftware.com/publications/2008/GDC2008_StylizationWithAPurpose_TF2.pdf

      Phong shading and cel shading (fixed spelling, thanks lurkalisk) aren’t mutually exclusive. Phong shading is used for the specular effects, and cel shading is used for direct diffuse lighting. Search for “warping function” in the publication to see a representation of the texture from which the lighting is obtained. That’s cel shading, although for the typical cel shading “look” developers use a texture with a few distinct colours and no gradients.

      As a shader programmer I think of the technique, not the look, when I read the name of an effect. TF2 uses the technique to achieve a different look.

  6. jellydonut says:

    Its nonblockiness makes it instantly more appealing.

  7. db1331 says:

    Visually it looks a lot like Okami. That’s a good thing.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Okami was definitely the first thing that came to mind, even from the screenshot. Lovely.

  8. Pinkables says:

    Anyone else get that sinking feeling? I foresee many wasted hours.

  9. Hoaxfish says:

    but Uberdark looks to me like a big fat hint to what the near-future might offer digital world-building.

    How long til the whole thing wraps around and we reinvent Populous?

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      That would be From Dust.

    • IDtenT says:

      “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana

      Personally I just hope the FPS bandwagon dies before the end of the decade.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I confoos… FPS, where?

    • IDtenT says:

      Unrelated note on how I hope a resurgence of populace-like games overcome the current FPS norm. I.e. A new phases for the gaming industry (or the repeat of a historical one).

  10. megazver says:

    So, terrain design like in Love with a bit more flexibility and a whole lot less eye-bleeding? That’s cool.

    To be honest, I can’t wait for when some more indie Minecraft clones come out and a big AAA studio or two finally decides they want to dip their toes into the pool and make something with a bigger budget.

  11. Everyone says:

    Dear lord that is beautiful already. I wish I understood just half the math required for that kind of coding.

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    Scandalon says:

    I find it interesting that this kind of game/sandbox/world is becoming popular now. Watching the video reminds me of the various game engines that have been available to tinker with now for years (Torque, Myth, Cry, many open-source heightfield-based – yes I realize they couldn’t do tunnels and such like this) – I guess it was just waiting for someone to take an engine and strip down the extras and make the interface a tad easier…

    Also, if Eskil would provide a renderer similar to this one for “Love”, I think a lot more people could at least give it a try.

  13. noom says:

    There is only one thing to be done with this engine: 3D Liero remake. I’ve been dreaming about that happening for years

  14. tungstenHead says:

    Not long after I spent some serious time playing Minecraft I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone made a similar game with smooth terrain?” Not long after I thought this to myself, I thought, “Jetpack skiing.”

    Well, there’s the smooth terrain.

    • Will says:

      It’s people like you who put ideas such as a terraformable sandbox game which you then skii around powered to ludricous speed by a jetpack into my head as an “acheivable” game to develop. You also happen to be the people who notify me of my misuse of words I do not know the proper meaning of (such as teraform). It’s you people who also cause me to begin my “quick” “easy” game projects which almost always end due to my lack of patience, knowledge, or Unity3D’s limitations. Therefore I hate you, but still steal your idea (as if I would ever finish the game anyway).

  15. Jake says:

    Wow, Non-euclidean Minecraft. I can imagine making Gaudi inspired structures but I do like everything to be neatly squared away and organised. Some sort of combination of Minecraft’s building blocks and this games sculpting would be perfect.

    And while I’m at it, you would then be able to destroy things like in Battlefield and travel around it like in Just Cause. Hurry up games designers.

    • Wulf says:

      I just wish someone would take something like this and steampunk it up, sort of like what Terraria did, but then to the next level, and in 3D. The thing is is that the historical-medieval group is very tiny but also very loud. Something like Minecraft, but steampunk, perhaps with floating islands, sky ships, randomly generated Daggerfall-style dungeons and towns (it CAN be done!), and all sorts of things thrown in just for fun would be amazing! (To hell with cries of anachronism! >:|)

      I mean, consider using some kind of steamtech grappling hook to grab onto a travelling supply ship and flap madly around behind it, using that to get from floating island to floating island, all in a Daggerfall-style randomly generated world, with Minecraft-style tools. I feel I should be developing games or something.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I don’t see anything non-Euclidean here.

    • Fiatil says:

      Yeah, I mean there’s no Cthulhu or anything.

    • JFS says:

      Wulf, you’re spot on with that. FAR to few games with steampunk, sky pirates and floating islands around. Far to few. It’s a pity.

    • Jake says:

      You probably did see it but now you are too insane to remember.

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    Nero says:

    Aah, good old voxel. *hugs Delta Force*

  17. aircool says:

    Reminds me of ‘Magic Carpet’ for some reason…

    • llfoso says:

      Me too!

      Looks much more like Project Dust than Minecraft though…we’ll have to see how it develops.

  18. BoZo says:

    Voxels, fuck yeah.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Pedantically, that looks like our old friend the polygon is wrapping them for display, though.

      Which is fine. I believe(!) CryEngine 2 does the same thing for caves.

    • Frye2k11 says:

      Hey nothing pedantic about being right. Twice. (see above)

  19. Coins says:

    Oh great! A way to have caves that look like caves and not like shit. Now I want a modder to combine the two games for great justice.

  20. DarkFarmer says:

    Cool, I wonder if this was made with the Unity 3D marching cubes based add-on thats available in their asset store? Looks like similar technolgy with some development added on. Can’t wait to see where this goes!

  21. Bilbo says:

    Really impressive stuff

  22. Moonracer says:

    I’ve been waiting for something like this to be done. This looks like a very good start.

    Will be cool when fancy graphics versions of this kind of thing start popping up.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Voxels were before their time 15 years ago, combined with ray casting voxels are almost certainly our future.

  24. FakeAssName says:

    wow! give me a bigger screen resolution and a slightly better frame rate and you can count me as signed up.

  25. adammtlx says:

    http://procworld.blogspot.com

    Of some interest to the other voxel procedural world indie developer fetishers out there. The guy is super smart and has done some really cool stuff there. It’s pretty fascinating.

    • Donjonson says:

      I was just about to post this :) The stuff this guy is doing really looks incredible…. I hope something I can play with happens eventually! Minecraft style exploration in a procedural world made with this guys software would be AMAZING!
      RPS- if you haven’t posted about this get on it!

    • skinlo says:

      I can’t wait to see how this turns out, look amazing!

    • Urthman says:

      Shamus Young’s procedural terrain project isn’t as impressive, but he’s got an amazing amount of great-looking stuff done in just a few months, and his blog posts about his quick-n-dirty design and programming are fascinating:

      http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=12167

  26. Gonefornow says:

    Too bad engines/games like these will, most propably, invoke less success than minecraft, being impressive and all.
    Why?
    Blocks are easy to understand and handle.
    They clip over each other neathly in straight lines, columns, rows and other shapes. Just like Legos, anyone can play with them.
    These free forming abominations ventures in terrain molding make matters difficult.
    Ever tried making a sculpture out of clay or silly putty even? You ain’t gonna create anything great anytime soon because the standards and possibilities are a whole lotta higher.
    And you can’t even utilise your hands in this thing! Your only way of interacting is via this crude device called mouse.! MOUSE!
    I’m waiting for the kinect support.

    • edwardoka says:

      @Gonefornow – Sculpting can be very easy on a computer. Look at Z-Brush or Sculptris, for instance.
      I have all the artistic ability of a diseased llama, but I can still put together a model that isn’t completely mediocre in that.

    • Urthman says:

      There’s no reason an engine like this couldn’t feature building tools that would allow you to plonk down a bunch of cubes or rectangles or cylinders or pyramids or whatever. And then let you deform the basic shapes or add freehand detailing of the sort in this video.

    • Turbobutts says:

      You know that waving your arms like an idiot is about a hundreds times LESS accurate than using a mouse, right?

  27. Legionary says:

    This game will be a triumph.

  28. pipman3000 says:

    Is there a game where I can just break stuff all day? Something like Minecraft but you destroy things instead of making them.

  29. BobsLawnService says:

    I have a tendancy towards jaded cynicism but this looks amazing. In fact I think that it looks so good that I am going to use profanity for added effect. This looks fucking amazing.

  30. Detrian says:

    “I suspect the cream of the Minecraft-inspired crop, as opposed to simply the quick’n’cynical clones, are a few years off yet, but Uberdark looks to me like a big fat hint to what the near-future might offer digital world-building.”

    Can we knock minecraft off it’s pedestal now? I don’t see how anyone can make this statement when games like terraria already did adventuring better and projects like this seem to do the building better. Yes, minecraft is good, but that doesn’t mean that anything similar is shit compared to it.

  31. Davee says:

    Awesome. I love terraforming, and this is just – well – awesome! Can’t wait to see where this goes.

    And oh; Voxel tech isn’t toally forgotten, Alec! The CryEngine 2 and 3 both feature plenty of it (much of the spelunking in Crysis was based around it).

  32. GallonOfAlan says:

    Of course, there’s also Ken ‘Build Engine’ Silverman’s VoxLap engine from 10 years ago.

  33. Jono00 says:

    I can hear the spray sound from various VALVE games playing in my head whenever he converts stone into brick walls.

  34. studenteternal says:

    hrmm maybe it is just me but I get a weird “the void” vibe from this video.

  35. Turbobutts says:

    Now put a quest maker, NPCs, flora and faura in it and it might become the next RPG Maker. YOU COULD BASICALLY PLAYMAKE YOUR VERY OWN RPG TO YOUR LIKING! CANDY KINGDOM HERE I COME!! (Sorry for the all caps.)

  36. Nethlem says:

    Funny… just a few weeks ago i came up with pretty much the same idea.
    Using voxels for a minecraft style game so you could basicly have more and finer “blocks”.

    Too bad i don’t know shit about making a game because i have tons of other similiar awesome ideas :P