Voxels, Strategy & Crafting: Castle Story

Castles in the sky

Games containing blocks for building with have been around since at least the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, a process which historians inform me probably resembled a shoddy session of Tetris LARPing. Nowadays, Minecraft is all the rage but it’s not the only bright young thing on the block scene. Yesterday, John brought news of Cube World, a spiffy looking cuboid RPG, and today I would like to draw your attention to Castle Story, which looks a bit Minecraft at first, though with voxels for added smoothness, and then turns out to be an RTS of sorts. Fervent anticipation is upon me! Video below.

It’s a long video so I’ll forgive you if you didn’t watch the whole thing. But do go back and watch the end if you didn’t get that far because it’s always good to see a bit of destruction to go with all the construction.

I used to have a Lego castle when I was a youngster and this reminds me of it so much that I’m having a nostalgia rush, which is like a sugar rush except in sepia tones and with more corduroy dungarees that my mother inexplicably dressed me in when I was a tiny person.

No idea on how close it is to being done yet, or whether we’ll have to wait for it to be done to play it, but it’s a terrific prospect. There’s a brief mention of defending against creatures and other players, and that along with the promise of a world full of threat and mystery tells us that the game will be more than just the construction kit the video makes it out to be. The website doesn’t contain much yet but it does have lovable images of armed Bricktrons ready to fight for their lives.

Castle Story is the first new game that I shall be observing by means of a spyglass each morning throughout 2012. Now, let’s all pile enormous amounts of hype and expectation on the two fellows making it so that they feel as if they have failed at everything ever if their game doesn’t become bigger than Minecraft by February 2nd. Go go go!


  1. pakoito says:

    The great engine is there, now they have to make a game. Depending on what kind of game they make I’d like it or not.

    • SiHy_ says:

      Looks like they’ll have to do some optimisation on the explosion/destruction side of things, there was quite a bit of lag there. Other than that it looks promising.
      Looks like 2012 will be the year of the voxel.

    • germain says:

      It’s actually pretty terrifying how much emails we’re getting. We were totally not expecting this to blow up this fast.

      Yes! we now have a lot of work to do.

      • egg-zoo-bear-ant will e 91 says:

        Hi! I can dig this. I’m thinking in unity you could easily make it so you could walk round in first person view aswell, with a tap of tab or something toggling, and the RTS view could be explained as hovering in a jetpack? I know I’d love to explore this world on foot, make ma bad self a throne room & sit in it. Fighting on the front line with your minions could be a stretch goal. Also, mods?

  2. salejemaster says:

    my money, take all of it

  3. LimEJET says:

    Here’s hoping they don’t settle for PvE, but add in some kind of multiplayer mode as well.

    • TheFinnishGamer says:

      He said in the video that the goal is to build your own castle and defend it against creatures or other players. And that means that the game just became 10x more awesome

  4. Bodminzer says:

    This is reminding me of a UT2004 mod whose name escapes me, which had rounds of building forts then defending them. Looking lovely guys!

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      Adam Smith says:

      I think that mod was rather imaginatively called Fort Constructor.

      edit: It was/is!

    • westyfield says:

      Also Sourceforts, which is basically the same thing but in HL2 Deathmatch. I spent many a happy afternoon building grenade cannons on that, and the menu music is burned into my brain.

  5. roguewombat says:

    Needs more kill and collect quests!

  6. Sensai says:

    I think that these guys and Toady, of Dwarf Fortress fame, should team up.

    • kikito says:

      No, their interface is too good for Dwarf Fortress.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Dwarf Fortress is far beyond anything out there that even when heavily simplified (control little dudes to build arbitary 3D structures from cubes and defend them from sieges) you can still end up with an amazing game. It’s scary.

      But I think what I’d most like (but don’t expect) to see taken from DF and added to this is fluid simulation.

  7. Cooper says:

    Clearly needs a right-click to deselect the block building mode… Here’s hoping that UI is the most unfinished part of it.

    Bar that, it looks properly lovely. Quite what they’re planning on doing with it in regards to a game, I have no idea. But a lot comes to mind.

    Echoes on Dungeon Keeper 2’s never-realised above-ground sequel?

    • MistaJah says:

      RTS games don’t utilise mouse gestures enough.

    • Cooper says:

      Darwinia tried.

      It was patched out.

    • Xerian says:

      Damnit. You just made me realise how much I miss bullfrog and their many epicly awesome games…
      Gods, what I wouldnt do for that sequel…

  8. MadMatty says:

    Looks pretty cool actually! might be interested- wonder how the combat will work out

  9. Kent says:

    Oh, no! It’s the blend of Minecraft, Cargo and Magic Carpet!

    No, but seriously. It looks awesomely great.

  10. davidek says:

    Looks interesting. But… can something please tell me what the difference between old school voxels รก la Tiberian Sun, Magic Carpet and Commance Maximum Overkill and the new fancy 3d voxels are? They certainly don’t look remotely similarly. These seem just like 3d rendered square blocks. What voxely about them? ;-)

    • MadMatty says:

      its the same, only minecraft/these blocks are a lot bigger, and which eventually goes thru the polygon engine to be converted to polygons.

      The old engines never used polygons tho, they just showed you the big square pixels.

      Also in this game, a lot of the squareness is covered by some smooth rolling grass routine ontop.

      Try watching a vid of Voxatron, maybe thatll clear things a bit

      I guess the main thing with the new Voxels, is that theyre not using it to make better graphics these days, but rather its a way for them to facilitate world destruction and terraforming.

      Current day Voxels-for-graphics look a lot like the old Commanche series only much more hi-fi. you can still see the little square pixels tho.

    • zaphod42 says:

      “These seem just like 3d rendered square blocks. What voxely about them?”
      Exactly that. Maybe the marketing of games like Tiberian Sun confused you, so lets start over:
      A Voxel is a 3D pixel. Not just the color of a position on a 2D sprite, but the color and position on a 3D object. An MRI, for instance, is made of voxels, because it is a three-dimensional image that is comprised of a series of small 3d pixels. You can move the image in 3D and see where every part of it is.

      Normal 3D models are made of polygons, we define the outer “shell” of the person, for instance, but everything is hollow. If you no-clipped in crysis and flew around, you’d see many buildings that are completely hollow, benches are hollow, people are hollow, concrete barriers are hollow, everything is merely the outside edge. Since physics normally keeps you from going inside a person, you don’t realize, but the game doesn’t render the whole person. You couldn’t cut that person in half and see his insides. It is a simplified version that works good enough.

      But then each object is fixed as itself. It can have animations, but thats it. Thats why a box in half-life goes from being a normal box, to suddenly being little planks of wood. They don’t have the box materials to break, its just a polygon. So you whack the polygon a few times, and they swap it for the broken planks.

      In the real world, everything is atomic. Everything is made from tiny bits which combine, which is why everything can be subdivided. In order to get that to work in a videogame, you have to actually describe the size, color, and position of EVERY one of those atoms. It is a TON of data to keep track of and work with in real-time.

      We simply can’t run simulations of the real world yet. We can’t render a human being that is made from trillions and trillions of tiny particles.
      If you want to be able to break things up realistically and see the things inside them, pull the little bits out and move them around, then you have to describe each of those bits. But we can’t have trillions of bits. So what do you do?
      You lower the resolution of the voxels. Instead of being atom sized, you make them, say, apple sized.
      Then each person is made of only a few voxels, and the computer can render it okay. You’re allowed to break those apple sized blocks apart, move them around, do whatever you want with them. But, now that everything is made out of apple sized blocks, it is going to look blocky.

      Thats why minecraft looks so bad, on the one hand, EVERYTHING in the whole world is destructible. All the walls, the hills, the ground, the trees, all can be broken and moved and put together. You simply CAN NOT do that in say, half-life, in a polygon engine. But, since Minecraft has to handle all those TONS of blocks that make up EVERYTHING, the blocks themselves have to be fairly large. (or there would be too many to handle). Big blocks = low resolution = “pixelated” image (actually, not pixelated but “voxelated” :) )

      I’m not sure what all Tiberian Sun did with voxels, I’ve played it some but never noticed anything I would consider voxels. I think they were just trying to look for a marketing buzzword. They use voxels on some level I’m sure, but it is an extremely primitive level, Most of Tiberian Sun itself is a 2D game using sprites to give the illusion of 3D perspective. The voxels are just used for terrain deformation or handling which tank is on top of the other or something. They still render with high resolution sprites. The tanks are not made up of tons of voxels, and you couldn’t break a tank apart into little pieces.

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      Adam Smith says:

      Elucidation! Ta muchly. I understand the principle but seemingly fail to spot or understand specific implementations.

    • Theodoric says:

      Having modded Tiberian Sun at one point in time (when the Tiberium Sun forum still existed), I can say it did have voxels for some units, like attack buggies, rocket bikes, the NOD tank and even the cannon of the otherwise sprite-based Titan walker. They were very primitive though, which honestly made the modding that much simpler. Heck, all unit stats were in simple .ini files. I remember switching to Red Alert 2 modding and being angry because I had to edit game registry files as well, if I wanted to add a unit.

      To emphasise the primitiveness: it was incredibly low res. The average unit had less than 80 voxels. Red Alert 2, which used the same tech, used much bigger sprites and a lot more detailed (and bigger) voxel models.

    • Rhin says:

      @All the “It’s the same thing” replies. It’s not really the same. A Voxel is fundamentally a 3D pixel. It applies to both Minecraft and Tiberian Sun. But there’s kind of two broad applications of Voxels:

      1) 3D-grid -of-data, but still rendered as triangles.

      The minecraft-approach, where the world is voxel data, in the sense that you need a “3D-grid of what-material-is-here” for that kind of world-simulation, as opposed to the origami sheets you see in 99% of other games. Block-genre games (Minecraft et al) , unlike Tiberian Sun, don’t use “voxel rendering” — they convert the voxel representation of the world into to a list of triangles, which the GPU is good at rendering.

      2) Drawing pixels on the screen directly based on what voxels are there. No triangle origami used.

      There are tricks to render Voxels effectively. However, modern graphics cards are built around rendering as many millions of *triangles* as quickly as possible, so typically these voxel rendering techniques don’t run on the GPU. Tiberian Sun doesn’t require a GPU, for example. This is probably why voxel rendering died off once GPUs became mainstream. Voxel rendering simply couldn’t scale the same way Triangle rendering could. With the newest generation of GPUs, they have become programmable, so true voxel ray-tracing may make a comeback (see Carmack’s thoughts on sparse voxel octree tracing in id tech 6)

  11. zaphod42 says:

    “Today I would like to draw your attention to Castle Story, which looks a bit Minecraft at first, though with voxels for added smoothness”
    This doesn’t really make sense. For all intents and purposes, Minecraft DOES use voxels. And using voxels would not in any way provide smoothness, voxels make things blocky. Maybe you meant that they’re using a higher resolution of voxels? Actually, it appears to me that they AREN’T just using voxels, for exactly the reason you specified: increased smoothness. It looks like in order to make the game more than just pure voxels, they’ve subdivided some of the voxels into partial-voxels to allow for corners and smoother terrain. This doesn’t count as just voxels because not every element is reducible to a common element. (the voxel)

    Edit: Yeah, what am I thinking, look at the trees. Those trees are NOT voxelated, its obvious. Else, they’d look like minecraft trees.

    So you’re actually exactly BACKWARDS, RPS :P
    The game is voxelated, but also uses non-voxels for smoothness.

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      Adam Smith says:

      Oh no! I’m terribly confused about voxels and shall sign up for a class or two immediately. I just knows I likes ’em, I guess. Wikipedia did just whisper this in my ear though – “Minecraft is a game built around a voxel art editor, where the player builds voxel art in a monster infested voxel world.”

      If there is ever a Minecraft movie, the seed of a tagline lies in the phrase “monster infested voxel world”.

    • westyfield says:

      “In a voxel world beyond your imagination…”

  12. Bluebreaker says:

    Me wants.

  13. Skusey says:

    That looks like it might be very very good.

  14. mmalove says:

    Looked pretty interesting, obviously rough around the edges but like that Towns game, could become a promising game. One thing that I feel I’d really like to see in games like this is a bit more independent AI: something I love about dwarf fortress is that the dwarves act on their own motivations: if you task them to build something they will “eventually”, but they don’t indefinitely just stand idle when you haven’t tasked them: they might haul resources to stock piles, go grab a drink, wander up to the garden to admire some statues, or head to the meeting hall to make a friend. There’s this sense of constant bustle that’s missing in most RTSs, that makes the whole castle/fortress/boat/treehouse feel more alive.

  15. koo slayer says:

    next, i already have like 3 different games like this

  16. Zarunil says:

    Oh my! Site bookmarked, will be keeping an eye on this one. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, RPS.

    Looks awesome! Take my dirty money. Take all of it ($10)!

  17. Bhazor says:

    Finally! One step closer to the Minecraft/Dwarf Fortress crossover I’ve been waiting for since Minecraft first appeared.

  18. bikkebakke says:

    now give me dwarf fortress in 3d

  19. Wang Tang says:

    I couldn’t get into Minecraft, but this here looks lovely.

  20. richardeflanagan says:

    Congrats to Francois & Germain, they’re super great dudes and their game looks great. I studied with them, and they’re top notch guys with killer talent.

    Can’t wait to see how Castle Story shapes up guys!

  21. hjd_uk says:

    Nice, I have a similar game in the pipes myself, but as its a part-time hobby i doubt it will be out, or even running anytime soon, any-hoo…

    Im getting a nice vibe of B&W from this as well, it definitly doesnt have enough !!Fun!! in it to be a proper DwarfFortress game, i mean there’s no Carp, Booze or Bronze Collossi … yet :) And theres definite lack of MAGMA.

    I hope that huge explosion, from that tiny barrel, that took-out about an hours worth of work is just for show and it might be a *little* easier to defend against enemies.

    And this is nothing like Minecraft at all except the simple art style and cubes.

  22. CaspianRoach says:

    Achievement unlocked: Have not mentioned Minecraft in a video about a voxel game.

  23. Vandalbarg says:

    Remember King Arthur’s Gold? (The Soldat guy’s version, not the SNES one) Well this looks like a 3d version.

    Looks brilliant.

  24. michaeln says:

    I loved the video; perhaps this will be the game that hooks me on this whole voxel-building thing!

  25. badtiki says:

    I can’t wait for Castle Story! The first video was awesome! The second video is even better, if you havn’t seen it, check it out here: link to stylequirk.com