The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: Infinifactory

Infinifactory 2
My Departed Nan, still with us physically but having raised two fingers and enviably fled the country, worked by day in a factory packing sandwiches, her evenings and weekends as a barmaid. She struggled to make ends meet (even though she lived in Slough and should have been paid for the obvious inconvenience) and I like to think she hoped for greater things from her kin in years oncoming, the life she sacrificed to hard labour might enhance the attempts of her four children and whatever brood they would later obnoxiously discard onto the Earth like so much other litter. She was successful in my case, I suppose, through slight but meaningful enhancements.

My rented house is roughly the same size as hers, but I have the benefit of it not having been built in Slough. I have managed to maintain the family tradition of nocturnal bar-work, and I also recently began a job in a factory-of-sorts. The prestigious position takes place during whatever spare time I have. Where my nan would apply chopped egg and butter to bread, I design production lines, efficiency increasing with each iteration. I do this for a charming set of galactic warmongers intending to encroach further on territory in the skies and in return I’m permitted to remain un-departed.

Infinifactory is the spiritual successor to Spacechem, a game synonymous with the idea puzzle-design-as-creative-expression. You slap down paths to transport chemical elements around and try to change them into something useful. Rather than provide an inevitable single answer to a problem, Spacechem suggested a result, rolled out a set of tools, then had an expectation that you’d figure out your own way to get a working answer with elegance or by bashing at the fucking thing until maybe something falls out through sheer luck.

Infinifactory 1Where Spacechem was wholly impenetrable, confusing and intimidating, it appealed to me (because the preceding three adjectives also describe my ideal sexual partners, hurr) due to this idea of creative puzzle solving. The interface was clunky and the tools were poorly labeled, so it wasn’t to be.

Infinifactory, however, even in it’s pre-full-release state is immediately accessible. It utilises the same kind of 3D movement and block-laying verbs as Minecraft, something basically handed out to kids like rubella vaccinations. You begin by placing conveyor belt pathways which transport blocks from one side of a room to another. Later you’ll need to weld pieces of the same kind of block together, then different kinds of block, then multiple versions of the same creation sent to two different parts of the map, so on. A level begins as immediately daunting, but through continued trial and error they’re solvable with your growing suite of tools.

Efficiency is key. It’s fine that you’re able to quickly knock together something that can get the job done, but Infinifactory cleverly judges you on two metrics and then compares your scores with your Steam Friends List. How big was the conveyor you made? How many cycles of production did the initial item-spawners have to go through before you completed your task? Your friends list says Dingus Assface managed to make his machines both smaller and quicker than yours, better clear your schedule.

Infinifactory 3Often it’s impossible to complete the level both quickly and utilising the least amount of space, so maybe you’ll design two machines, a tiny intricate masterpiece of form over function, and a lumbering mammoth which cares little for its size as long as the job gets done.

I’ve moved on from chasing these limited ideas of the ideal machine. I’m creating art now. I’ve decided to see how obnoxiously terrible I can make my work and still get the job done. I’m making machines that purposefully break at first before eventually working themselves out, along with solutions that have weird unnecessary bits welded to them that just get lathed off at the end. It’s pretty fun to see something that probably shouldn’t work suddenly become just good enough.

Infinifactory’s available on Your Steams! It’s a lot of fun! Try to make sure you’ve got a decent handful of friends playing too and keep in reasonably constant contact with them, gloating over your minor victories, seething with hatred over their complete overhauls.