Sublevel Zero, Radlevel 9001

Record high levels of pew pew pew.

As genres go, 6 Degrees Of Freedom Descent-em-ups haven’t quite had the same crowdfunding-fueled resurgence as other 90s classics. They’re fast paced shooters, offering free movement in a 3D space usually by means of spaceship or other zero-gravity craft exploring a complex. Sublevel Zero [official site] is no exception, with the added spice of procedurally generated levels, permadeath and VR support. Originally an entry into the Ludum Dare game jam under the Beneath The Surface theme, it’s now being funded by publisher Mastertronic into a commercial release. Trailer, more details and thoughts on the Ludum Dare version below.

You can grab a downloadable or web version of the Ludum Dare prototype here. It’s immediately accessible, the smooth movement making navigation of the claustrophobic spaces and combat within them fun. It’s quite challenging, happy to throw enemy ships at you thick and fast. This means new weapons pop up quickly, giving you new options for each encounter. It’s understandably simplistic given the jam-velopment, but clearly shows the procedural generation is a solid base to build upon.

The final version looks basically similar to play, with significant graphical improvements. The major upgrades will come from new systems – crafting, for example, will allow you to mix and match pick ups into new combinations – and refinement of those already in place, suring up the randomisation process and creating more interesting enemies to fight. I don’t have a Rift handy to test, but Sublevel Zero (and the genre as a whole) seem perfectly suited to it and its ilk.

Release is scheduled for some time this summer, via Steam.


Top comments

  1. lyje says:

    Dev here! Our approach is close to what you're talking about there - the way Binding of Isaac does things is a strong influence (although we don't have the same one-room-at-a-time system).
  1. Catweasel says:

    I hope the procedural generation is interesting enough to make up for no static level design. In my experience procedurally generated fps levels just don’t have the substance that a hand made experience has.

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      Ben Barrett says:

      Agreed. I think the sweet spot will end up being a combination. Levels with procedural generation built around specific moments – sort’ve like how Isaac has pre-built rooms that are then randomised. I don’t know if that’s technically possible in a more graphically/dimensionally complex game, but I think it will be before procgen matches custom built design.

      • lyje says:

        Dev here! Our approach is close to what you’re talking about there – the way Binding of Isaac does things is a strong influence (although we don’t have the same one-room-at-a-time system).

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Definitely see your point. The old Descents had a lot of strengths, but level design was one of the major ones. (Occasional completely incomprehensible bits notwithstanding)
      Still, I don’t think you can compare procedural vs. hand-crafted levels and come out with a clear winner. They have different goals, they aren’t just different techniques. The currently available batch of procedurally generated fps don’t really interest me much, I’ll admit, but there’s one possibility that’s coming increasingly closer to reality which really excites me: traps. Once we get random fps levels that can throw genuinely unexpected ambushes, monster closets etc. at us, I will be a very happy man indeed.

      Anyway, looking forward to this, and hopefully by summer I’ll be able to run it, too. More games taking cues from Descent is something I definitely want to support. In the meantime, think I’ll give the oldies another run through. Anyone here played the fanmade map set, The Enemy Within? A real blast, that one.

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    Serrit says:

    +1 for “6 Degrees Of Freedom” instead of “6-axis” :-)

    • Shadowcat says:

      I guess it’s your point, but what would “6-axis” even mean?