sphereFACE is a retro-styled 3D vector shooter wrapped around the inside of a sphere.
An unashamedly abstract shooter that ranges from slow, strategic sniping to frantic rock-dodging action, with roguelike elements of exploration, progression, discovery and permadeath.
The game was primarily inspired by the arcade classic Asteroids. The basic concepts carry over: when a bullet hits a rock, it splits roughly in half. When you fly off the edge of the screen, you come back in from the other edge.
We wanted to take this to its logical conclusion, so rather than a rectilinear playing field, the entire playing space is a series of spheres; this differs from Asteroids in one fundamental way – all trajectories in spherical space eventually intersect. That means that unless any objects have a perfectly matched velocity, they will eventually, sooner or later, collide somewhere in the sphere.
And that includes your ship. Spheres start relatively calm and placid – usually there are only one or two large asteroids in an undisturbed space, moving relatively slowly and easy to avoid. But as soon as you start chipping away, depending on the level of care and precision you exert, the sphere quickly begins to fill with shards of flying debris. You will find these flying increasingly fast, as your bullets and explosions contribute more momentum to each chaotic collision.
360 degree awareness is vital in sphereFACE, which is why the camera is unlocked from the ship by default – looking around with the mouse or controller is essential to avoid surprises from fast-moving rock shards coming from unexpected directions.
Asteroids break apart “realistically” along fracture lines, forming shards and boulders when hit. The result of an impact on an asteroid depends on your choice of weapon, the angle and speed. However, you have to plan your demolition carefully to avoid flying debris – just one collision can kill.
Arcade style shooters aren’t usually very big on storyline, but sphereFACE does have a tale to tell – a dark and twisted one. As you play through the game, it’s possible to collect shipsLOGS dropped by red ships you destroy along the route; you can read these in your inventory, find out their history, and learn some hints about your own true nature.
Those attentive enough may pick up hints in advance of what awaits you as you approach the deeper levels of sphereSPACE, and what your final destination may be.
sphereFACE features a single-save system with permadeath, in the style of roguelike games. You’re allowed only one savegame slot, and when you die, your savegame is deleted. Find out more why we think this is a good system (and how you can circumvent it) in our related blog post: Roguelike Save Systems.
Like other roguelikes, sphereFACE’s overall space is laid out procedurally, and is different every time you start a new game. There is also a chance to find your last life’s equipment in a special glowing purple boneSPHERE – implemented as a homage to the “bones files” of Nethack.
The sharp vector graphics are an obvious homage to Asteroids itself as well as Vectrex classics. Rather than using textured lit polygons as is the norm in modern 3D graphics, almost all of the game engine renders in crisp glowing lines and smooth shapes with clean edges.
Like all VoxelStorm games, the engine for sphereFACE was written from scratch in C++17, using OpenGL for rendering. The engine is designed to be fully backwards-compatible, and to scale particle effects dynamically by monitoring game performance in real-time, so we can guarantee a continuous 60fps framerate at all times – even on much older computers.
Graceful fallbacks ensure that the game will run smoothly even on OpenGL 2.1 cards – the game has been successfully tested as running at a perfect 60fps on a system built in 2004.
At the same time, the same performance monitoring allows the game to scale up effects dynamically to fill available resources – if you have the latest gaming GPU, sphereFACE can make use of that to give you the nicest antialiasing effects, beautiful particles and the highest resolution your hardware can support.
We designed sphereFACE from the beginning with virtual reality in mind – there is no fixed HUD, and no elements stuck to the screen. The menus are just as three-dimensional and spacial as the game world, and can be navigated entirely by head movement, or controllers, joysticks, mouselook – whatever you prefer.
However, we made sure never to sacrifice desktop playability at any stage – the result is a game experience that is very much the same in a virtual reality headset as it is on a two-dimensional sceen, and the same controls and techniques can be used in either mode.
It’s possible to customise the colours of everything in the game – simply tweak the human-readable sphereFACE.theme file to your heart’s content. Share your creation with other players on Steam Workshop, forums, or anywhere else you like.
The game features an elaborate soundtrack of 14 original tracks by five highly talented professional musicians. As is the norm with VoxelStorm releases, music was commissioned specifically for the game, and the soundtrack forms a standalone release in its own right – it can be streamed or downloaded online at music.voxelstorm.com, and as with AdvertCity, we even produced a limited edition run of physical CDs.