Scientific facilities in video games have become increasingly focused on nefarious purposes, whether it be building an army of killer robots or testing ethically questionable theories for science. Indie developer 9heads is preparing to take players on a tour of another scientific facility.
It’s a desert laboratory bereft of any living creature, but filled with crystals and one playable android. That’s the setting that the Brazilian studio will introduce players to in their debut title, Vitrum.
“Vitrum is a 3D, first-person puzzle/platform game,” said lead programmer Aymar Pescador Jr. “Its job is to set challenging situations, which you struggle to solve, because this kind of puzzle is very rewarding once you’ve solved it. One of the key features in Vitrum is the 3D gravity inversion system. It’s our biggest innovation and creates a whole new lot of puzzle possibilities.” Pescador credits 2D games like VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, and Limbo for the gravity-inversion mechanic, while noting that Portal was a large inspiration for bringing that mechanic into a 3D format.
Players take control of a lone android looking to explore the desert facility. The idea is to escape the laboratory using various powers that defy the laws of physics. The android on its own is powerless, but the lab is filled with crystals that the android can absorb for an extra lift. Unfortunately, other crystals can prove to be a hindrance.
“Some of the powers available are the ability to invert the gravity, to jump really high, to materialize crystal platforms, and a few others that we prefer to keep secret for now,” said Pescador. “And some of the obstacles are crystals that kill you if you touch them — radioactive crystals and crystals that invert the gravity automatically when the android is close enough. The player can equip two powers at once, and we built puzzles that requires combinations of powers, so, we have a lot of possible power combinations to explore.”
Vitrum will offer a heavy variety of puzzles, many of which will provide opportunities for exploration. “Exploration is the main key to solve all the puzzles,” said artist Daniel Ernesto. “If the player wants to find all the collectible crystals in order to unlock the stages that we call ‘insane,’ the player will need to search each room, and sometimes even go back to earlier stages. Some stages offer two or more ways to reach the end, some can be smooth, others can be a lot more difficult, so exploring is something that the player will be doing during the entire game.”
“The idea is to make a good variety of puzzles, in which the player needs to use logic, agility, accuracy and some exploration,” added game and level designer Henrique Elias. “We don’t want to make the same puzzle over and over again, only changing the difficulty, we are focused on making each stage a new experience for the player.”
Pescador says that Vitrum will feature 50 stages, with each set of ten stages getting progressively harder. “There are 10 introductory stages (to let the player get used to all the powers); 10 easy (to let the player have shear fun with the powers); 10 challenging (these stages demand some skills); 10 hard ones (to make the player feel like he owns the game when he finishes each one); and 10 insane (possible, for androids).”
The 9heads crew hopes to have Vitrum ready before the end of 2012. It’s set to come out on PC, but the team says that they will look to create versions for Mac and Linux.
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