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Slave Zero X has just received a brand new update a couple of months after its release, this update adds a new mode called "SovKhan 300%", and if that sounds daunting, that's probably because it's meant to be! The SovKhan 300% mode is unlocked after you beat the Crimson Citadel, another tough challenge included in the game and essentially involves you facing an ultra-hard version of the final boss battle. The update is rolling out for free starting today!

The game has also now been translated into various languages for Asian countries, including Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean.

An Interview with the Developers of Slave Zero X:

Back when Slave Zero X launched in February, we got the chance to ask the developers of the game (Poppy Works) as well as the game's publisher (Ziggurat Interactive) some questions about them bringing the IP back from the dead. What was traditionally a third-person shooter had been reborn as a 2.5D side-scrolling beat 'em up, and we were intrigued! So let's dive into the interview and see how the game came about!


The interview has the following participants, so you can keep up with who is answering and what their role is in Slave Zero X's development:

SDHQ - That's us!
Kaylee Maya - Lead Programmer at Poppy Works
Cass Pierce-Carpendale - CEO and CTO of Poppy Works
Cole Law - Marketing Coordinator at Ziggurat Interactive

SDHQ: What made you decide to pick up the Slave Zero IP and make Slave Zero X?

Cole Law: While looking through the catalog at Ziggurat Interactive and researching the history and gameplay experiences of these IPs, Slave Zero came to the forefront. Not only is the setting very cool in this futuristic dystopia, but going through historical documentation and learning how the original Slave Zero would be a completely different game than what hit the market. The original Slave Zero conceptually aligned with what the team was working on. It became this evolving living idea of the current team being inspired by not only the original Slave Zero but also similar inspirations to the original team at Accolade.

SDHQ: Are there any plans to offer in-game graphics settings to allow for optimization, such as changing the resolution or lighting quality?

Kaylee Maya: Throughout development, we always kept the Steam Deck close at hand. While we do have options to reduce the detail of level geometry and lighting quality, neither of them is needed to run the game at the recommended performance level on the platform.

Cass Pierce-Carpendale: We all were early advocates of the Steam Deck. We essentially built the Steam version with the intent to get a rock-solid 60FPS on Steam Deck at all times with the look we wanted, and that’s what we’ve ended up with.

SDHQ: How did handhelds such as the Steam Deck factor in during the development of Slave Zero X? Were there any specific changes you made to accommodate them?

Cole Law: When developing for multiple platforms, there are always considerations. Especially moving from a large monitor to a handheld. Legibility of not just text but movement is critical.

SDHQ: Do you have plans to further optimize for the Steam Deck post-launch?

Kaylee Maya: We do not believe any additional optimizations for the platform are needed. However, if any issues arose or areas of low performance were to surface, we have developed a robust testing and development environment to make further optimizations. If it needs it, we got it, but as Cass said, it's a rock-solid 60FPS right now.

SDHQ: Will there be any difficulty options when the game launches?

Kaylee Maya: The game has dynamic difficulty. The better you play (meaning, the higher your style rating), the more difficult the game will get! At high style ratings, enemies will take longer to attack, and the game's pace will slow to accommodate your playstyle. Be careful, though, the game is still challenging, even at the lowest style ranking!

SDHQ: I see the game was made with Game Maker, what made you decide to use a primarily 2D engine to make a 3D game? Did you run into any challenges?

Cass Pierce-Carpendale: The game was initially built as a prototype in GameMaker, due to that being the tool our lead designer, Tristan Chapman, was comfortable with. Interestingly, it was our knowledge with building engines in C/C++ that made this a reasonable way to go. GameMaker exposes quite a lot of OpenGL-style functionality, so we could do more or less what we wanted, all while staying in an engine our designer was comfortable with.


SDHQ: Do you have plans for a game after Slave Zero X? Would Steam Deck still be a consideration for that game too?

Cole Law: We hope that there will be more Slave Zero X in the future! With Slave Zero, Slave Zero X, and Slave Zero X: Episode Enyo, a free Quake mod the team made, there’s already so much to experience in this world. But it feels like we are just scratching the surface. 

The Steam Deck is my favorite way to play games these days and is a fantastic place to play. Its system requirements/needs will absolutely be taken into consideration so games can run well and on the go for players.

Cass Pierce-Carpendale: We have some really clear ideas for what Poppy Works wants to do next and are super excited to execute them. We’ve received a ton of feedback from our audience on what they’d like, and we’re frothing at the mouth to deliver. I love my Steam Deck, and it’s my preferred way to play Slave Zero X. I can’t imagine a future where our games don’t target the Steam Deck. Working with Ziggurat was a pleasure, and we are looking forward to working with them more in the future.

SDHQ: What made you decide to change from the 3D third-person shooter of the original Slave Zero to the 2.5D side-scrolling beat 'em up of Slave Zero X?

Cass Pierce-Carpendale: Tristan, Slave Zero X’s game designer, had a strong idea of what he wanted to create. Slave Zero’s world fit into the vision we were already establishing internally. When we explored more of the documents about the original development of Slave Zero provided by Ziggurat, our art director, Francine [Bridge], really discovered how deep the world the OG devs of Slave Zero had wanted to make. It fits so well with our art style, storytelling, and game design. We wanted to make a 2.5D side-scroller to start and got lucky to have a really cool world of Slave Zero to place it in. In the next one, we are going to do full 3D mech smashing, though!

SDHQ: What about your endless procedural challenge mode, the 'Crimson Citadel'? Other than a scoring system, will there be more aspects to ensure replayability?

Kaylee Maya: Crimson Citadel is a tough game mode, which we expect even the best players to take many hours to complete. Planning out how to spend your money and your techniques for refighting bosses in new contexts will require learned planning across multiple attempts. Once completed, there are leaderboards where players can compete on speed, points, and combos. For those who are strong enough to climb to the top of the citadel, there may be a secret challenge waiting for them in a future update suited to players who can make it there.


We hope you enjoyed the interview with the Slave Zero X developers and found the answers insightful as regards the game's development. We did bang on a bit about performance on the Steam Deck, but that was because we did indeed have some performance issues with the game, as highlighted in our review we published back at the game's launch, we were surprised at this, given the basic nature of the game's graphics and premise.

Despite their assurances that Slave Zero X is a "rock-solid 60" on the Steam Deck, that isn't the case, and frame drops do occur periodically, with the game dropping to 57-58 FPS in busy areas and occasional stutters. Despite this, however, the game remains fully playable on the Steam Deck and is an enjoyable experience for those interested in a beat 'em up.

We're glad to see that the developers did test the game on the Steam Deck and keep it as a consideration during development, which is evident given how on the cusp Slave Zero X is to being perfect on the Deck. It's also good to hear that the Steam Deck will continue to be a consideration for them into the future with their next title, whatever that may be.

You can purchase Slave Zero X over on Steam for $24.99, the game holds "Very Positive" user reviews at 82%, and is rated "Verified" on Steam Deck according to Valve's compatibility testing.

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Oliver Stogden
Oliver began playing video games at an early age, starting with the SNES console and Commodore Amiga computer. Nowadays, his interest is in the future of portable technology, such as handheld gaming systems, portable power stations/banks, and portable monitors. And seeing just how far we can push these devices.
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