Lose Yourself in the Colorful World of z0ne: An Interview with the Dev behind this Addictive VR Game

Virtual Reality is now in full swing with the recent release of PlayStation VR so now all eyes are on the games. We’ve played some pretty amazing titles from the highly addictive SuperHyperCube to the unnervingly thrilling Farpoint but what’s next on the horizon? I recently got to sit down with James Andrew from Pixel Router who’s currently working on z0ne; a euphoric and vastly colorful shooter that looks great and plays great. It’s an upcoming title for VR that i got to spend some time with while we were at Sony Square in New York. In this interview, you’ll learn a bit more about z0ne and why i came away so impressed by it.

Carlos: What is the player’s objective in z0ne?

James: The main goal of z0ne is to see how far you can go before the song comes to an end.

Avoid the obstacles. Shoot the mines. Collect the gems they leave behind. The more gems you collect, the faster you go. Collisions will cost you, both in gems and in speed.

Carlos: During my demo, a big takeaway was the sense of speed as I was flying through the level and smashing obstacles in my path, was this a big part of the game’s design and is speed a crucial gameplay mechanic?

James: I take great pains to ensure, for every level of skill and interest, a thoroughly enjoyable time in my game.

Speed however is reserved as the privilege and reward of expert play.

z0ne levels are generated procedurally, by a special technique, so that every player will experience the same level-flow, but the intensity of each level will increase with the player’s growing skill, to challenge even the very best in the world.

Each z0ne Level is rolled out to the player in real time, as a series of Sequences, whose elements deploy more rapidly, as you fly faster and faster.  The better you get at gameplay, the more rapidly the world of z0ne will blossom all around you. But no matter how fast or slow you go, you will never miss a thing.  Each Sequence will automatically expand or contract, to match every player’s speed, and will not shift to the next Sequence, until the music changes. We all want z0ne to be accessible and endearing, even to the very newest of our friends.  This technique we call, “rolling out the red carpet.”

Carlos: Are there plans for multiplayer?

James: Yes, we have big plans for multiplayer, eventually. In particular, I want to see z0ne become a live event. I want to act as a dj, and generate never-before seen levels, on the fly, in a live performance environment. I’ll do this by hooking up keyboards and sliders, directly into a game server, so that I can control z0ne’s level generations, like a dj controls his music. Multiple players will race through the level, and their views will be projected onto huge screens.

Carlos: The game is really colorful and at times felt quite trippy, will all the levels share the same aesthetic?

James: z0ne will all always be as beautiful and happy as we can make it for you all. No barbed wire, no toxic barrels, no rusty gutters. My goal in designing z0ne is to provide a unique, brilliant, happy, vivid dream, something composed for the edification and pleasure of those to whom I intend a kindness, as unto my friends.  Last year, I met and befriended a wonderful artist, named Olga Poloukhine. She has been doing such an amazing job, working to realize my original vision for the game, and adding her own very special touches at every turn. We work so well together.

Carlos: Can you share some specs and what engine the game is running on?

James: z0ne is developed in Unity, for all platforms. The core game is designed to run in VR, on mobile. Then, for the Rift and upcoming PS4 editions, we go in and juice them up, according to the increased power of the devices. This means we add things like full screen image effects, (which give more bloom) and also a Borderlands-style cartoon-line effect. These things are currently too expensive for mobile.

Carlos: Are there any plans to release a non-VR version?

James: Yes, z0ne is fundamentally a VR title, but it also plays very well as a traditional twin-stick shooter. We plan to release screen-based editions as well.

Carlos: Is there a launch date for z0ne? And for what platforms?

James: No firm date, but not long now! We currently plan to release, first for Oculus Rift, later, for Gear VR, Google Daydream, and of course, Sony PSVR for PS4.

Carlos: In one word, how would you describe z0ne?

James: Carlos, to answer this very intelligent and emotionally charged question of yours, we had to invent a new scientific term. The one word which describes z0ne is, “wowyougottatrythis.”

Carlos: Where can our readers find you and the rest of the team for updates on z0ne?

James: Sign up to our mailing list at http://z0nethegame.com. Also, keep an eye on my YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/pixelroutervr

Carlos: Thank you for your time! We can’t wait to see more.

James: It’s been a pleasure Carlos.  Thanks for your support.

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