Analysis: Infiniminer



Infiniminer, by Zachtronics Industries
Minecraft, by Markus Persson

Any regular reader of this blog may have picked up by now that I am fascinated with procedural generation and low-resolution graphics.  Infiniminer, an excellent indie title i recently happened upon helps to personify both.  It also creates an amazing competition that is distinctly different from anything else I can recall playing.

A basic overview; in Infiniminer, you play one of 4 types of miners, the Miner, the Prospector, the Engineer or the Sapper. Each has their own skill set, which overlaps, but in basic, the Miner digs fast, the Prospector can detect valuable minerals, the Engineer can build things, and the Sapper can blow things up.  Two teams of Miners are then dumped on a plot of land and left to dig; the team to bring up the most valuables wins.

The play is very straight forward; dig down, find stuff, return to surface. You may also elect to borrow your opponents tunnels and buildings, or sabotage them, so guarding or building secured structures can be a priority. The game works quite well, owing to the fact that it’s all in 3D and no material is sacred — it can all be destroyed, one way or another. Infiniminer uses a technique I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of, working with 3D ‘sprites’. It’s world is made up of small cubes of a single material each, blended together to produce a random system of caves each match. And with players ripping the world up, it ends up looking pretty different each time.

Because the world is unimportant — there’s no memorizing or repetition — the game is in the forefront all the time. And that makes it a lot of fun. Particularly since the title is simple to learn and provides a rare competition where violence doesn’t pay off all that well.

The game’s interactive nature has actually produced some odd results; some servers run the game in sandbox mode where there’s no resources to be found and the goal is to just build stuff. It’s actually quite fun to do so, but like most shared environments on the web, you’re quite likely to run in to some idiots who only want to ruin it for everyone else — so don’t let them bother you if they appear. However, there’s something amazing about 16 people playing with virtual blocks; every time you look up, there’s whole new buildings and excavations — it can be quite a sight.

My hope is that people will take notice of the cube-system they’ve used for this world and refine it. There’s no reason we couldn’t use a more elaborate version of it to produce beautiful, interactive worlds where no terrain is sacred.

I’ve also included a link above to the Minecraft Alpha. It’s a Java based version of Infiniminer — it’s a little prettier in some respects, and doesn’t need to be downloaded. While Minecraft has no real game-play in it yet, it is an addictive time waster. Just be wary, as it is a little system heavy at times.


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