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A proposal: puzzles games focused on assembling or programming – or both – should be called Zachlikes. Following the atom-assembling SpecChem, production line ’em up Infinifactory, and the computer-programming TIS-100, Zach Barth and his Zachtronics have announced a new Zachlike. SHENZHEN I/O [official site] will combine assembling and programming to build circuits from components and then write code for them. It’s due to hit Steam Early Access in October and, for now, you can check it out in this wee announcement trailer:
Every week we ask you to rank a series or just reminisce about PC games in a not-very-scientific survey. Look for the survey link in our Twitter and Facebook feeds each week, and the results every Friday. Previously, we ranked the Mass Effect and Call of Duty series.
You guys really love hard games, or at least, you love whichever game you remember as the hardest. In my latest survey, I asked respondents to rank the hardest game they've played on a scale of 1-10. Over 40% scored their most challenging experience a 10, and 70% scored it an 8 or higher.
You also love a lot of different hard games, and have different ideas about what makes a game 'hard.' Among 2,660 respondents, the top game cited as the hardest they've ever played was only mentioned 385 times—around 14% of the total. (Actually, one person wrote in SEGA Bass Fishing 1,006 times, but I've cut that from the results, along with several variations of "your mom.")
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Unsurprisingly, Dark Souls got the most mentions, with 14% saying it was the hardest game they've ever played. It was followed by Dark Souls 2, which took in about 5% of the results. From there, though, the results are immediately diverse, with shooters, platformers, puzzle games, strategy games, and MOBAs all bunched together. When I cut out jokes, console games, games with specific caveats, and those that received only one or two mentions, I was still left with over 70 games. (Here's my curated list of the top 77.)
The top 10, naturally, are the most popular hard games—and games that are arguably best known for being hard—so the results actually get more interesting the deeper into the list I go. At number 11, for instance, you'll find I Wanna Be The Boshy, a fan game based on number six, I Wanna Be The Guy, an intentionally difficult tribute to early platformers.
Further down (and I'm skipping around a bit), we find StarCraft II, STALKER, Insurgency, Alien Isolation, Kerbal Space Program, the Touhou series, VVVVVV, Volgarr the Viking, SpaceChem, Dustforce, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, and, of course, Bad Rats, a notoriously awful game which has accrued a positive rating on Steam, because ironic Steam reviews are all the rage.
VVVVVV, Volgarr the Viking, Dustforce, and SpaceChem all come recommended (I don't think I ever made it past Vogarr's first stage, though). I did expect to see a few more puzzle games. One game no one mentioned, I presume because it's newer and a bit more niche, is TIS-100. It's made by the creators of SpaceChem and Infinifactory, and might be one of the most challenging puzzle games I've played (though it's presumably easier for experienced programmers, and anyone who paid more attention in school than I did). Print out the manual if you can.
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All of the games I mentioned up there can easily be described as 'hard,' if for different reasons. Against skilled opponents, CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, and StarCraft 2 are very hard, and they're complex. Dwarf Fortress and Kerbal Space Program require a lot of learning. Super Hexagon, and the bullet-hell games and platformers, require precision control.
But plenty of games which aren't known for being hard can be very hard. The Witcher 2, for instance, came in at 19, in part due to its permadeath mode and first boss. Those damn RC missions from GTA: San Andreas also came up. Civilization V on Diety difficulty, too.
In the survey, I asked which difficulty setting (based on four generic settings) the takers were most likely to choose when starting a new game. The distribution is about as I expected: almost no one takes the easy route, the most people (39.8%) leave it on the normal difficulty, and slightly fewer choose the hard (28.7%) or the hardest modes (26%).
When asked to tell us the worst thing they've done to express frustration with a game, plenty said that they don't react physically—they curse, uninstall the game, go outside, or do other healthy-sounding things. "[I] stopped playing for few months to get over my anger and hopefully renew my interest," said King_Matt. A calm and wise king is Matt. We can all learn from the great King_Matt.
And apparently, a lot of us need to. The word "broke" came up 222 times and "smash" was included in over 100 responses. Banana peels came up an awful lot, too. Here are a few examples:
I chucked my keyboard at my brick wall. It dragged the desktop with it. It corrupted my hard drive, broke my keyboard and most functions on the case didn't work properly. - Abernath
Thrown a banana peel out the window. But I picked it up later. - Kenu
I once got so frustrated while just trying to get fuel up to my ship [in Kerbal Space Program] that was trying to get to Mun that I decided to fly all my rockets into Kerbol (the sun). I spent about 5 hours just designing the booster/fuel ships to help get my whole fleet there and give them the last push into its blinding embrace. Once every single one was burned to ash, and all the crew with it, I deleted the save and went to bed. It was only after I woke up that I realized what I had done. To say the least, I cried. - Nerd__Guy
Threw my lamp out the window. It was a damn good lamp too. - Anonymous
Literally ripped out a chunk of hair in frustration once. - Nate Dogg
I actually broke my grandfather's trackball mouse while playing when I was a kid on his PC. I had to buy him a new mouse from Walmart. - Brain
Threw more money at it. This is a recurring theme with me in multiplayer games. - Ryan Daniels
In my grandest fit of frustration, I suppressed my volatile feelings with the warm, cheesy comfort of Hot Pockets. A lot of them. It turns out one man can eat a lot of Hot Pockets. They come out a lot faster than they go in. - Chudbunkis
Threw a banana peel at the screen. - As7iX
Broke a finger. - Dodie
I predicted that Dark Souls would be the most popular game in the survey, so I added an extra question. I asked everyone, regardless of which game they put down as the hardest, to agree or disagree with the statement "Dark Souls isn't even that hard, ugh." I think we can all agree that I chose an extremely unscientific way to phrase the question, but we definitely can't all agree on whether or not Dark Souls is hard.
SpaceChem and Infinifactory creator Zach Barth has released his latest thing-making puzzle game, which sits somewhere between fiddling with chemistry and building automated factories. TIS-100 [official site] is an assembly programming puzzler, having you literally learn and write code to fix up corrupted code in the mysterious eponymous ’80s computer. Yes, you do need to learn and write the TIS-100’s assembly code. Computers are puzzles!
After a seven-week stretch in Steam Early Access, TIS-100 properly launched yesterday.
After having folks design molecules in SpaceChem and automated plants in Infinifactory, Zachtronics are back with another puzzle game of complex systems. What comes after atoms and factories, the whole dang universe? The multiverse? Nah, you write assembly code.
Today Zachtronics both announced and (sort of) released TIS-100 [official site], a game about rewriting corrupted code to fix a fictional ’80s computer. It’s on on Steam Early Access now for 4.49. My prediction: their next game after this will be to literally program SpaceChem.
The world’s most accurate ranking of the 25 best puzzle games ever to reach a computer. Plucking the peak of PC puzzling, we break down what makes them so special, and put them in the correct order. Read on for more time travel, rearranged tiles, hidden objects and hexed cells than you could ever want.
Zachary Barth's Infiniminer was Minecraft before Minecraft was Minecraft, kickstarting the whole cubey, block-digging genre that has made other people lots of money over the years. He's been sticking to 2D art for more recent games such as SpaceChem and Ironclad Tactics, but now he's borrowing the 'Infini' prefix and returning to 3D for the very-difficult-to-type Infinifactory. Infinifactory. I'm pretty sure I spelled it right that time. Infinifactory (sob) is "like SpaceChem...but in 3D", in the words of Zachtronic Industries.
Coming to Steam Early Access later this year, Infinifactory will let you "build factories that assemble products for your alien overlords", the challenge being "not to die in the process". I.e. the same challenge I face making a cup of a tea. You'll design and run factories from a first-person perspective, complete a story campaign featuring over 30 puzzles (and also audio logs, interestingly), and compare your solutions with those of your chums, presuming they are also playing Infinifactory. A sandbox mode is included too, along with Steam Workshop support.
If you're a fan of Spacechem—like we are—you'll want to keep an eye on Infinifactory, two eyes when you can spare them. Here's our review of the game that will now be known as "Infinifactory...but in 2D".
Zachtronics has linked the SpaceChem molecule to the Infiniminer molecule to create and announce their new game: Infinifactory. It’s “Like SpaceChem… In 3D!” says the site, which sounds like a very good thing when you consider that SpaceChem broke the brains and captured the hearts of just about everyone at RPS who played it.
There’s only a little information about this new game, but it’s about designing and running factories and optimising them via histograms just as before, but now you’ll be doing it in “exotic alien locales” with a “next-generation block engine”. Alright. It’s due in Early Access later this year.
Now, let’s be clear. When I say “Hey, Sokobond has been out since September but now it’s on Steam,” I don’t mean to imply that you should refuse to buy games not on Steam, and I don’t want to encourage people who do. But a game being on Steam always draws more attention, and launching on Steam can reintroduce it to a larger audience. A Sokoban-y puzzler shifting and bonding atoms to form chemical compounds is a quiet and unassuming sort of game, after all. But a good one.
Hey, Sokobond has been out since September but now it’s on Steam.