So in very late 2013 we used to play a lot of Minecraft, the tekkit modpack in particular – this modpack included a ton of smaller mods within it, but the jist of it is that you gained access to factory machinery, electricity, pipes, pumps, conveyor belts, build things from blueprints, and a ton of other things which are less relevant to this blog post. Going on a personal mission to build a self sustaining mining/farming operation in tekkit was genuinely one of the greatest video game experiences i’ve had – planning out individual areas, before linking them into a carefully designed production line, to be broken down or sorted for later use (or stockpiling because you can).
For those unfamiliar, a vague example of something you could do would be like… an automatic mining operation produces gold and silver -> send it to the pulverizer to turn it into powder -> powders go into a machine to mix them into a powder blend -> blend goes into a smelter to make electrum ingots -> ingots go to another machine to turn them into ???
However of course in the above example, how do you seperate the gold and silver from everything else being mined, how do you select for those two powders to go into the mixing machine together, what happens if the smelter is full, etc etc.
This stuff has been around for years now, why then are there still hardly any games in this subgenre? One could argue that the subgenre has always been a part of games like city builders or other games with digitial economies but they don’t quite function in the same way, (eg. Commercial business in cities skylines require Industrial goods, which require staff from residential) and they certainly don’t have the magic I experienced back in 2013.
Zachtronics have gone a kind of offshoot with most of their recent games; spacechem and infinifactory – these games provide a single element of what I believe to be the factory genre, that being the complex engineering part, zachtronics takes it to the extreme making it a goddamn nightmare to even produce a single product in most cases, and while it’s very satisfying to admire your assembly once it’s finally done, most of the levels in these games are just that – levels, single compartmented achievements.
I haven’t really found much else that is similar and fully released, perhaps this genre is too niche? A few searches on google have suggested OTTD, but that’s about it.
There are two on the way.
Big Pharma is one of the games i’ve had my eye on for maybe a year or so now? It looks to be similar to what i’m looking for, though i’m yet to go out and buy it because I want to wait for the full release. The jist of it however is to design and make a drugs factory – a mix of business sim and logistics puzzle, probably with some quirky machinery involved.
Factorio is the other one, which I only very recently found out about (It’s still in Alpha). Unlike Big Pharma, it sticks with the mining theme i’m more used to, and drops the business simulation stuff for what appears to be some form of base defence mechanic. I haven’t actually played this one yet either, but i’ll be keeping an eye on it to see how it turns out, because it definitely seems to have the massive factory thing that i’m looking for.
It’ll be interesting to see if these two games do well upon release, Many people never played tekkit as it was kind of an oxymoron – a very grown up and complicated mod in a game primarily played by children and those that watch pewdiepie videos. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to me if it suddenly kicks off it’s own genre and set of clones in a way that minecraft introduced the open world crafting/survival bullshit phase that indie games are finally starting to phase out of.
Long story short: It’s strangely satisfying spending 2 hours designing something that will do a 3 minute task over and over again. I want to play more games like these.