Human Resource Machine

Human Resource Machine

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main_gi Oct 9, 2015 @ 4:35pm
A Rough List Of Programming/Optimization Puzzlers
Like any Zachtronics game forum, there's a mandatory thread that contains a bunch of games in the same genre. So!

Micro-Timing Optimization Puzzle Games (building solution requires rearranging multiple inputs - a game that has only one of a kind of input has no timing element):

Great Permutator [$7] - A very difficult (3% A+ rate) puzzler where you change, add to, and remove blocks from any number of inputs to any number of outputs by using conveyors and action blocks, which do more complicated things. You'll easily get a lot of time out of it. Contains 65 levels - 50 main and 3 small level sets of 5 (as well as another 15 from IGS which makes it 80) and a custom level creator and editor. The demo contains the first 15 levels only.

SpaceChem [$10] - A pseudo-chemistry game where you bond, unbond, and split atoms and make molecules from them. The demo contains the first 3 planets, which is approximately 12 levels. The full game contains 61 levels along with extra user-created levels.

Infinifactory [$25] - Take environmental blocks and weld/unweld them to make different block collections. The premise starts like a 3D SpaceChem, but quickly diverts from this getting to later blocks and being able to push blocks with others. Contains 51 levels - 25 main and 26 extra - and a custom level creator and editor. No demo.

TIS-100 [$7] - The most programming-ish of them all, a pseudo-assembly game of working with integers. Much of the game is purposely clumsy due to the style of the game - if you are already intimidated by programming you might want to skip this because it doesn't do much to improve on the aspects of programming that may be annoying or inconvenient. Contains 50 levels and a custom level creator/editor, but you'll need to know LUA to use it. No demo.

Boxes[www.kongregate.com] [free] - Another game of working with integers, this time with movement as conditionals. If you've played them, it can be compared as Jahooma's LogicBox's fourth chapter, and then add Infinifactory's sensing/pushing mechanics. Contains 20 levels as well as around 10 challenge levels, and no editor.

Tile Factory[www.kongregate.com] [free] - This is a conveyor-based game where you move tiles around. The specialty of the game is in the modifiers on them: paint buckets, stencils, sensors. I don't know how many levels there are in it. Not the most user-friendly game ever.

Zero-Timing Optimization Puzzle Games (these games forgo timing to provide an experience a bit less trial and error)

Human Resource Machine [$10] - A super obscure game. Besides mouse controls, unfortunately not much different from TIS-100 stated above. Also one of the easiest games on this list - it's less recommended if you're a programmer already. Contains 37 levels, no editor or demo.

Manufactoria[www.kongregate.com] [free] - You may know this game. You have a tape with colors on it, and then you change that tape in some way. The game is not so secretly about turing machines - but it's still challenging, if you get past the game's frame skip problem. Contains 31 levels and an editor.

Jahooma's LogicBox - FLASH[www.kongregate.com] [free] - Easily the most applicable to this category since there's no conveyors. You have one input, which is a sequence of symbols. Then you have boxes that will change this sequence - you'll progress through the game having made an ever-expansive library of boxes you can use in future levels. (Each level is its own tool!) Contains 19 levels. But...

Jahooma's LogicBox - HTML5[logicbox.jahooma.com] [$10, to $15 on Recursion release] - ...the developer, a few years later, has made a sequel with new levels and improved mechanics like instant feedback and step-by-step log. The site contains 10 free levels and then 60 more (70 in total) if you buy the game. Additionally, the Recursion pack is coming out who-knows-when, prompting a price increase.

Prelogate [$4] - A logic-gate-based puzzle game. Though optimization work is treated somewhat sloppily with solutions and would really benefit from functions you didn't have to rebuild, it's still worth the price. Contains 64 levels, no editor or demo.

Programming Games! (these don't have optimization parts besides self challenges or speedruns, so less replay value and put in this section instead)

Hack 'n' Slash [$13.37] - A good concept - editing properties of things in realtime - unfortunately ruined by awkward execution - lots of backtracking and a difficulty spike when untaught LUA is brought into the game. Rather short if you don't get caught up by some of this stuff mentioned.

Glitchspace [$12] - Despite being an Early Access game, this is the Hack'n'Slash mechanic done kind of differently. Though it's still rather short, you won't get stuck on a badly explained mechanic.

Untrusted[alexnisnevich.github.io] [free] - Here's a less accessible game - JavaScript is highly recommended, but not necessarily needed to play it. You change "working" code in levels - maps - made with ASCII so you can get to the exit. Contains 21 levels.

Code Combat[codecombat.com] [$10/month] - Unlike Untrusted above, this is meant to be a code tutorial. It's the only game here that requires a subscription model. From what I've played this only shows you premade functions, unfortunately, so you aren't starting with string or int manipulation. Apparently the game says it contains all the "core levels" for free, but there seem to be a lot more I can't access because I'm blocked at the PvP section which I guess I'm made to play that for eternity.

Code Hunt[www.codehunt.com] [free] - Here's a site by Microsoft that's a lot more bare-bones than many of the things you'll see here. You do get the basics of programming, but the progression is rather slow - you'll be really looking for patterns rather than trying to make the solution itself. (For example, you're probably not going to recognize the function 4/x as a pattern unless you try to brute force it).

KOHCTPYKTOP - Engineer of the People[www.zachtronics.com] [free] - This is a game about electrical engineering. It's somewhat inaccessible and hit-or-miss if you are not involved with it. Contains 19 levels.

The Codex of Alchemical Engineering[www.zachtronics.com] [free] - This is the same kind of premise as SpaceChem but more complex. The commands you get are to every individual machine, like rotate, extend, retract, drop, pick up, and it's a game that is much more involved with timing. Apparently contains 15 levels, and 15 more in its level set sequel[www.kongregate.com].

Elevator Saga[play.elevatorsaga.com] [free] - This is a sandbox-type game, I suppose. You control the code of an elevator (or multiple, haven't got that far yet) and you have every function available from the beginning. The task is to get people to their destination fast enough.

Lightbot[www.kongregate.com] [free] - NOTE: This is one of a series of games! While not an optimization puzzler, it's a non-timing based puzzle game that's about as known as Manufactoria. You turn on lights on floors.

F.P.S.[www.kongregate.com] [free] - You may find this similar to Lightbot, because you are moving a character on a 2D grid. The difference is that you're coloring in an image!

God is a Cube[kingkadelfek.itch.io] [free] - This is a game that once again fits in the top-down category. Differences include building, on-grid conditionals when compared to other games. 50 levels.

RoboZZle[ http] [free] - This fits in the same category as Lightbot and F.P.S. - a 2D non-timing game. This game's draw is it has an editor and levels directly uploaded, so it's community driven. Goal is to collect all stars in a level.

Else Heart.Break() [$24.99] - A top-down dialogue-narrative driven game. No puzzles here though as far as I know. Haven't played it so get someone else's opinion on it.

The Magic Circle [$20] - Here's a game like Hack 'n' Slash that focuses a bit more on the narrative. It may be hit-or-miss due to the high price tag and how little in hours you get out of the game compared to many of the games on this list - you play as a character in a world with developers and characters with some animosity.

Ceebot[www.ceebot.com] [$75] - No, I'm not kidding with the price. This is a game where you program simple things in a 3D environment. The game was apparently intended for an education environment which would explain the price. There are also 4 other games like this that this company made: Ceebot Teen, Ceebot A, Ceebot 3, Ceebot 4, and UPDATE: Colobot[colobot.info] which is open-source!

Big Pharma [$25] - This game is out of the usual. It's a game that seems to be a management/tycoon game, but with medicine (inputs) to modify various properties. There apparently aren't handmade 'puzzles' in the game - the game is randomized to some degree and you have 'competitors'.

Cube Composer[david-peter.de] [free] - This is a function game. You don't build functions (that's LB's goal), but you do use various functions to modify stacks of blocks and change their color and format (lists of lists).

Turing game[snuke.main.jp] [free] - Yes that's the name. This is about as literal of a turing machine game you can get. Contains over 180 levels because, custom level creators and such.

Hacked app [free] - Yes, it's actually called "Hacked App". This is an Android-only programming puzzler that borrows a lot more elements from modern programming than other games in this. As I know there is some kind of UI to make getting commands easier.

LogicBots [$20] - Don't get this confused with Jahooma's LogicBox - the premises are very different. We're now transitioning over to a more logic-gate section where it's not quite traditional programming - this is a logic-gate kind of game where you make functions with said logic gates.

Pocket Robots Test Chamber[echa.itch.io] [free] - This is a logic-gate based game where you help a robot on a 2D screen to the goal. Your inputs actually go on and off with time, where you are located, etc. There is also a web version here.[echa.ru]

Gates of Logic[www.kongregate.com] [free] - Here's a platformer logic gate kind of game. It's not very expansive but it's a neat idea - you collect logic gates to place in slots.

Logical Element[www.kongregate.com] [free] - This is a logic gate game where you turn on inputs with logic gates in between to turn on all the outputs. Don't brute force it - it's too easy that way!

Digital Logic Design[e504b5feb2438f1aba61c35ddd55d4967770f74d.googledrive.com] [free] - This is perhaps the least relevant one from this section and borders on side-aspect. Imagine a clicker or idle game, and now imagine your upgrades come from solving puzzles. You use a roughly documented language that has all the problems of actually programming, but it could have some value. (You could also easily combine this and optimization-puzzler ideas.)

LightBox[www.kongregate.com] [free] What a name! This is a lot like Prelogate with Mirror, Splitter, but has its own thing going on. It's not as great in interface but it's free!

Side-Aspect Programming Games (these games tend to not have these elements as the main attraction - maybe you've seen this as a 'logic' portion of the game, with its own fanbase if the main base is big enough)

Minecraft - As I'm sure many of you know from several thousand videos online, this game is pretty much the pinnacle of this description. It's used as a 3D sandbox game of no particular subject, but many build efficient or small contraptions in this context.

Terraria - Mostly a strategy platformer-shooter kind of game that, well, has logic aspects with switches!

Factorio - This is a top-down real time strategy sandbox game that, while a bit more relevant, isn't the main aspect of programming games like this, but still a game of automation.

Feel free to contribute to the list!
Last edited by main_gi; Nov 9, 2015 @ 9:09am
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Showing 1-15 of 76 comments
mogwaee Oct 12, 2015 @ 4:25pm 
Thanks for taking the time to make this great list! I think Big Pharma would also fit the bill. I enjoyed it very much.
Last edited by mogwaee; Oct 12, 2015 @ 4:25pm
main_gi Oct 12, 2015 @ 11:01pm 
What should I write for it? I haven't played the game - how would you describe it?
mogwaee Oct 13, 2015 @ 10:40am 
Big Pharma is mainly a management game where you manage and purchase ingredients used to produce medicine. You have access to various machines which can increase or offset undesired effects from those ingredients in order to manufacture your cures. You spend a lot of time organizing your multiple inputs in order to get the right output which is why I thought this game would be great for this list.
Last edited by mogwaee; Oct 13, 2015 @ 10:40am
main_gi Oct 14, 2015 @ 10:22am 
Okay, a management game - I've played many of those (which are like tycoon games, I guess). The thing about those is that I haven't found one with 'puzzle' elements - just 'optimization' elements - and other games tend to rely too much on upgrades making any optimizations you previously made moot. I'll still put it on.
duckhunter Oct 15, 2015 @ 7:36am 
I don't know much about it, but Else Heart.break) is described as a "hacking, programming" adventure game where you can program various items in the game to create your own solutions to the puzzles. http://elseheartbreak.com/

*edited to try and correct my mistake in the name of the game.
Last edited by duckhunter; Oct 15, 2015 @ 7:24pm
Jin Oct 15, 2015 @ 9:00am 
Tile factory would fit in the timing section.
http://www.kongregate.com/games/duerig/tile-factory
main_gi Oct 15, 2015 @ 4:48pm 
Originally posted by duckhunter:
I don't know much about it, but Else Break.Heart() is described as a "hacking, programming" adventure game where you can program various items in the game to create your own solutions to the puzzles. http://elseheartbreak.com/
You completely butchered the name there, but right. I should also put The Magic Circle into the list even though it's more of a narrative game.

Originally posted by Jin:
Tile factory would fit in the timing section.
http://www.kongregate.com/games/duerig/tile-factory
Yup! But the graphics style is... appalling to say the least. The amount of clicks you have to make to select things is... not wonderful. But hey! At least the amount of optimization puzzlers is 11!
Last edited by main_gi; Oct 15, 2015 @ 4:57pm
Sapho Oct 15, 2015 @ 6:04pm 
Thanks for the list, man. :steamhappy:
mreed2 Oct 15, 2015 @ 7:19pm 
Originally posted by mogwaee:
Big Pharma is mainly a management game where you manage and purchase ingredients used to produce medicine. You have access to various machines which can increase or offset undesired effects from those ingredients in order to manufacture your cures. You spend a lot of time organizing your multiple inputs in order to get the right output which is why I thought this game would be great for this list.

I bought this game (thanks for the mention) -- as it currently stands, I don't think it qualifies as a programming game. Yes, you setup production lines with conveyer belts, but there are no conditional logic operators in the game, meaning that everything is pretty much linear: Good comes in, is processed by machine A, B, and C, processed good goes out. All three machines are used exatctly once, in the order given, and can't be re-used in another assembly line.

There are certain situations where splitting a converyer line makes sense, but that's because you have a slow machine (that takes 2 or more cycles to complete its operation) and you want to put another instance of the same machine running in parallel to compensate.

There is talk on the Big Pharma forums of adding in some sort of conditional logic -- if that was done it would make loops feasible (process goods through machine A until condition Y was met,, then feed into the next machine) and it would belong on this list, but based on my understanding of the game this would require a signficant amount of rebalancing work, as sell prices are set with the assumption that you'll have one machine per operation that needs to be performed.

On the other hand, it will certainly appeal to those who likes programming games, and Big Pharma could use the love (when I saw it, I ignored it, figuring it for yet another "Tycoon" type of game, which isn't corret /at all/). Perhaps a new section for "Pathfinding games" (games where the objetive is to make objects move in the best paths within the constraints of a large system) -- RCT 1 (if anyone remembers back that far) would fall into that category as well.
mewmewcat Oct 16, 2015 @ 1:19am 
great list.
dunbaratu Oct 16, 2015 @ 4:26am 
Else Heart.Break() definitely has a puzzle nature to it, but less specifically structured than most of the other ones on the list. The puzzles are more about finding a way to circumvent the security systems in town to advance the story. Instead of "make this set of inputs do exactly this precise thing", it's more like "There's a security scanner that won't let you through the main entrance, but you need to get in to the building to get the plot item. Can you hack your way in?" It starts off feeling like a sort of dull vanilla Dating Sim, but the challenges you have to perform to impress the girl involve learning how to hack the game's scripting language to circumvent blockages. Thnk of it like the Matrix. You've learned that you can alter the programming of the world itself, and have to examine the scritps behind existing systems, learn how they work, and then work out how to "There is no spoon" your way around the world. (For example, remapping where a door leads to so when you step through it, you end up on the other side of town, or making a key that tries every possible key id in a brute force loop until it hits the number that unlocks the door.)
main_gi Oct 16, 2015 @ 1:03pm 
Originally posted by dunbaratu:
Else Heart.Break() definitely has a puzzle nature to it, but less specifically structured than most of the other ones on the list. The puzzles are more about finding a way to circumvent the security systems in town to advance the story. Instead of "make this set of inputs do exactly this precise thing", it's more like "There's a security scanner that won't let you through the main entrance, but you need to get in to the building to get the plot item. Can you hack your way in?" It starts off feeling like a sort of dull vanilla Dating Sim, but the challenges you have to perform to impress the girl involve learning how to hack the game's scripting language to circumvent blockages. Thnk of it like the Matrix. You've learned that you can alter the programming of the world itself, and have to examine the scritps behind existing systems, learn how they work, and then work out how to "There is no spoon" your way around the world. (For example, remapping where a door leads to so when you step through it, you end up on the other side of town, or making a key that tries every possible key id in a brute force loop until it hits the number that unlocks the door.)
How much is it like Hack'n'Slash premise, if you've played it? I just want a reference point.
Sloth92NL Oct 16, 2015 @ 4:00pm 
Great list, thank you very much!

Also, maybe you could add CodeCombat to the list?
deuteranopia Oct 16, 2015 @ 10:26pm 
lovely :)
dunbaratu Oct 17, 2015 @ 12:14am 
Originally posted by main_gi:
Originally posted by dunbaratu:
Else Heart.Break() definitely has a puzzle nature to it, but less specifically structured than most of the other ones on the list. [ etc ]
How much is it like Hack'n'Slash premise, if you've played it? I just want a reference point.
I can't give a comparison because I know nothing about Hack'n'Slash. All I know is that Heart.Break is the only game I've seen try to do hacking in which the hacking really *felt* like hacking because you were using the same language the game itself uses to provide much of its functionality. (There's two layers to the game, the underlying Unity development on C# - THAT you don't have access to in-character, but also there's the in-game scripting language Sprak(), which is used in-game to define how some of the higher level behaviors of objects work. For example, it defines where doors lead to, or how to detect if you have the right key for a door, or who is and isn't allowed through a security scanner, what room a person is located in, etc.)
Last edited by dunbaratu; Oct 17, 2015 @ 12:14am
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