Wot I Think: 3079

By Nathan Grayson on April 25th, 2012 at 11:30 am.

Am I the only one who sees a scary laughing pumpkin when I squint at the red explosion thing?
If it looks like Minecraft and builds (kind of) like Minecraft and – though I haven’t chewed it (yet) – presumably tastes a bit like Minecraft. So is it Minecraft? If we’re talking about “alleged lovechild of Minecraft and Fallout” RPG shooter 3079, then the answer’s a resounding “hardly.” Originally catapulted into the public eye via Indie Royale’s Alpha Bundle, the unabashedly lo-fi indie curiosity recently shed its beta tag and, in its place, donned a slightly heftier price tag. So, is 3079 worth your 2012 time and money? Depends on what you want out of a game purchase, really. Here’s wot I think.

Here it is: Don’t call 3079 a Minecraft clone. Oh, sure, its world is a procedurally generated mass of blocky peaks and valleys, and yeah, it’s entirely possible to shape said blocks into all manner of flying buttresses and flightless birds. Hell, creator “phr00t” is, like Notch, a largely one-man show. But there are other things, too – things that have attracted the (largely erroneous) label of “Fallout meets Minecraft.” Mines and the crafting thereof represent an option, but that’s merely the foundational crust on an overloaded game design pizza composed of shooting, looting, questing, stealthing, ship-piloting, exploring, jetpacking, grapple-hooking, backstabbing, front-stabbing, and business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back-stabbing.

Problem is, none of it fits together particularly well.

The setup for 3079 is – much like the rest of the game – a fairly basic one. You play as an intergalactic spaceman type who’s been sent to a mysterious planet in order to figure out why its two factions won’t stop beating the cube-shaped stuffing out of each other. So I began by descending into the planet’s atmosphere, all the while marveling at floating spheroid boulders that added to the purple sky’s otherworldly look. “Alright, then,” I thought. “I could get used to this.”

I could not, as it turned out, get used to it. Red, semi-translucent sky demons – impervious to my puny mortal weapons – swatted me into freefall, which quickly proved rather non-conducive to living. Shortly after, I was reborn on the planet’s surface, surrounded by unfamiliar structures and naked as a jetpack-less baby. For such a lo-fi game, it was quite the running start. I was punted face-first into a mysterious, hostile world. What would I find?

Fetch quests, as it turned out. Lots and lots of fetch quests. Impressively, pretty much everything in 3079 – cities, storekeepers, quest-givers, map layouts, buildings, etc – is randomly generated. Problem is, this requires a one-size-fits-all approach to each quest type, and in a wide-open world, that leaves very little room for depth. So my allies, the Humoids – who best resemble Voldemort from Harry Potter after eating too many Skittles, becoming morbidly obese, and also becoming part-Skittle for some reason – told me to go to a nearby location and mash a leader of the opposing faction, the Neanders, until it cried “Uncle! Not that it really matters so much, seeing as you just killed me.”

So I did that, and then… nothing. My main objective was a nearly directionless “Do quests to unlock a level five Demon Smiter,” but a practically useless map failed to point me in the direction of any of 3079’s nearly identical quest-givers. Instead, I had to wander unsettlingly deserted, disorientingly similar buildings until I finally emerged from the directionless wastes and sighted a Humoid with a star on its torso. That, amazingly, is the only trait that separates quest-givers from normal NPCs of all shapes, sizes, and terrifying snake faces.

So, ultimately, I spent at least as much time corralling NPCs who rank up there with customer service representatives on the “ready, willing, and able to do their jobs” spectrum as I did actually shooting Neanders, smiting demons, and delivering nondescript squares apparently coveted by the land’s wealthiest denizens. Which is not to say that the light at the end of that particular tunnel proved much brighter. The basics of shooting, at least, managed competence, even if it felt like I was pegging papier-mache baddies with bullets made of cotton and a lover’s gentle caress. Melee, on the other hand, was a nightmare, with slow, inconsistent strikes often failing to connect unless Lady Luck finally saw fit to throw me a bone wrapped in lottery tickets. If I used melee at all, it tended to be paired with stealth cloaking, but only as an initial blow.

So, for the first few hours, I just did incredibly similar quests over and over and over again en route to spending the latter half of my time duking it out with demons – which proved slightly more interesting due to sheer scale of resulting showdowns. Many battles – especially when the aforementioned red menace was involved – involved tens of combatants on both sides, but (sometimes literally) braindead AI and generally straightforward shoot-and-strafe tactics mowed down intrigue long before it could ever really take root.

3079, however, attempts to offer sheer volume where its rather limited individual mechanics grow stale or even sprout the odd tuft of mold. Problem is, while the components are plucked from admirable inspirations (everything from Diablo and Borderlands to Deus Ex, Fallout, and of course, Minecraft), they come together in such a way as to actually be less than the sum of their parts. Building, for instance, is generally useless and far too basic to be intrinsically compelling, and loot – while imbued with all the statistical variety random generation allows – lacks tremendously demonstrable differences. Sure, some weapons hit harder or slightly faster than others, but most weapons of one type (snipers, pistols, rifles, etc) feel roughly the same. There was, then, no single mechanic that exerted a tractor-beam-like, “just five more minutes” pull. 3079 never hooked me. The number of options here – from freeform exploration to mining to building to questing – is nearly staggering, but none of it stays particularly entertaining for long.

To add an extra layer of alleged “depth” to the proceedings, each action you can perform is tied to an Elder-Scrolls-style evolve-through-use stat system. Once again, though, 3079’s variation on the theme appears to miss the point of what made this mechanic work in other games. The energy meter – which basically serves as a slowly recharging replacement for ammo – is an especially egregious example of this. In short, weapons on par with my level (read: the only ones that could do meaningful damage to the baddies I was battling) caused my energy meter to sputter, wheeze, and bid the world a tearful goodbye after only a few shots. Then I’d have to hide until it sprang back to life – much like the phoenix of legend, only slow, tedious, and nothing like the phoenix of legend at all.

I was able, however, to level up my energy stat by draining my meter and then continuing to fire my weapon – each misfire lapping up a few precious drops of my health but gaining morsels of experience. Yeah, it didn’t really make much sense, but – when paired with an health and energy insta-regen station – it proved an undeniably effective means of grinding skill points. And also, you know, the other thing: boring. It was, in effect, a completely unnecessary step between me and fun. Some might call it “old-school,” and if that’s your thing, cool. Me, though, I’d at least prefer a system in which it’s optimal to get better at fighting while, you know, fighting.

All the while, little frustrations buzzed around my sanity, slowly but surely taking their toll. The biggest offender was easily 3079’s uneven difficulty curve, which often transformed the game into a frustrating war of attrition instead of a rewarding battle of wits. Ships, for instance, cruise around overhead, but – unlike their corner embracing, wall-smooching creators – they ran me down like sharks in a blood frenzy. It took until I was well into the double digits level-wise before a ship’s nearly inescapable volley of blaster fire didn’t signal light-speed death and faster-than-light-speed frustration. And, more than a few times, the game then spawned me right into the path of another. Two cheap deaths within seconds of each other. Wonderful. Oh, and did I mention that 3079 robs you of a random item on death? Because there’s nothing quite like having to hunt down another main-story-required Demon Smiter after cruel fate intervenes and plays an especially mean number on its rhyme-and-reason-free murder flute.

With time and sheer, unbreakable will, however, 3079 did eventually mold my entire graveyard’s worth of charred, broken remains into a capable combatant. Ultimately, though, I didn’t feel like I learned all that much. Whereas, say, Minecraft forces you to study and experiment to make it through the early goings, 3079 – admittedly, in an entirely different fashion – basically bulldozes you until you grow an adamantium spine or quit in an enraged huff. Stats, loot, and upgraded armor win the day more often than not, with the same basic strategies remaining more or less effective throughout due to a general dearth of enemy types.

Multiplayer, at the very least, greatly lessens the frustration with good old-fashioned strength in numbers. Moreover – though I only ended up adventuring with a few other players – multiplayer servers can, in theory, handle as many players as you can throw at them. Granted, the current game isn’t really balanced for that, but it’s an ambitious option, if nothing else. Even then, though, the incredibly basic MMO-style quests and generally unspectacular combat severely limit any sort of lasting appeal. Honestly, my friends and I had the most fun simply exploring as far out as we could, pushing the procedural world to generate stronger and stronger enemies and the occasional interesting piece of terrain.

3079, then, is a tough game to truly recommend or damn. It is, more than anything else, a giant procedural playground with all the strengths and drawbacks that implies. And while frustrating or out-and-out perplexing design choices run rampant, I can’t rightly write off the potential in things like constructing a sky fortress (however simple it might be) mid-battle or stumbling onto a gigantic Humoid vs Neander vs Demon clash in the middle of nowhere – hilariously braindead AI or not. Moreover, while the world’s currently simple and bereft of truly interesting sights, can you imagine something like this with more varied terrain, characters with vaguely existent personalities, and more involved city structures? That’s a place I’d be thrilled to explore.

More complex encounters and quest types, especially, could turn this one into something truly special – even if it still ends up miles from perfect. And on that front, there is some hope, as 3079’s current Big Bad (which I won’t spoil) puts up a pseudo-multi-stage fight, and a recent patch added quests that involve taking over entire enemy forts any way you see fit – grappling hook, stealth, blowing up walls, whatever. If 3079 continues to mold its everything-and-a-kitchen-sink-made-out-of-blocks design approach around quests that actually warrant it, its vision of a truly open, entirely procedural RPG world might not be so far out of reach.

For now, though, 3079 is a wobbling tower of ideas with only a couple dabs of glue holding it together. It is, on some level, an impressive production – especially coming from just one person – but at the moment, it’s more promise than fully realized genre fusion. Much like its ever-expanding, potentially never-ending landmass, however, I very much look forward to seeing where it goes.

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40 Comments »

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  1. methodology says:

    it seems like a great platform for someone to build a real game in. It was definitely fun to play around with for a while but yeah like you said there’s really nothing in the game that will creeper in and keep you playing.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    I played the beta when it came out with nameless indie bundle number three billion and two. I found it extremely hard, even taking its suggestion of descending fast to avoid being killed and losing all my kit. One weapon I had to fail to fire at the ground repeatedly until my batteries were trained enough to fire it. It’s possible it’s balanced enough now to give it another go, though.

    • paulsoaresjr says:

      Yeah, that was a pain in the rear. You no longer drop your items to the ground upon death so everything stays in the same spot as well, but you will lose one randomly selected item.

      There’s also a new map, a radar, and night vision goggles to help you get around.

      I’m not sure how much longevity it has single-player mode but it’s quite a bit of fun in multiplayer. I play now and again with my son and we’re constantly chuckling about this or that. :)

  3. Mattressi says:

    I enjoyed it when I played it a while back, but I agree with what you’ve said. I think it has a lot of potential, but still needs work and polishing. From what the developer’s said, the game is “out of Beta”, but not finished. Apparently the “out of beta” means that it’s no longer buggy and has many features, but doesn’t mean that there isn’t more work to be done on it. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to go about it (I’d have thought it’d be better to put everything you want in it, then fix all of the bugs, instead of putting some stuff in, fixing the bugs they have, putting more stuff in and fixing more bugs), but I’m no games developer and I’m certainly not going to complain about how he develops his.

    I look forward to seeing what comes of this. I’m hoping, as you’ve said, that more detailed/varied/interesting environments are created and that all of the many features are fleshed out a little more. Though, perhaps that’s a lot to ask, given how many features there are.

  4. frightlever says:

    It cost me, um, pence in a bundle that included Towns, which while FAR from perfect (far from half-finished) made it all worthwhile.

    • Torgen says:

      Speaking of Towns, the next update is due in 1-2 weeks, and promises to be the first iteration of the hero system, among many other things. Can’t wait!

    • gulag says:

      Funny. Reading this I was thinking exactly the same thing; “Towns was in that bundle too, and it was miles better”.

      I think it is extremely informative that you can stack up 3079 beside Minecraft as a checklist of features and discover that simply having a lot of boxes checked does not a good game make. The progression in Minecraft makes sense, and while it contains elements of grind, there are many ways to automate, or negate, that which bores you and simply carry on doing what you find interesting. 3079 doesn’t have that balance or branching gameplay options yet. But it could.

      I hope it’s creator finds the inspiration to carry on and improve the game, despite the rough assessment above (which incidently I agree with 100%).

      • BurningPet says:

        Hey Hey now, i am glad to say that towns patch is 1-2 days away :) we are mainly doing final stability testing and having few people test the most important factor before we can release – the fun factor.

        About 3079 – i cant really be objective about it but i like it. although, i do agree the out of beta title is a bit early.

    • Torgen says:

      And yes, I also bought that bundle, but only for Towns. I haven’t even installed the other games yet.

  5. apocraphyn says:

    I can see the smiling red pumpkin. And the orange one, for that matter. The horror.

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    Harlander says:

    I remember getting the first game in this sequence, 3059, on a CD that had a bunch of shareware and freeware games, back in the days before I had internet.

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    Martel says:

    I got this in the bundle myself, which I was getting mostly for Towns. I thought it was interesting, but nowhere near complete, so I’m a little surprised it was released already. From reading this it sounds like there is more work to do, which hopefully happens. It’s definitely interesting and I like the concepts

  8. malkav11 says:

    That sounds exactly like learn by doing systems in other games. It’s why I’ve never liked them.

  9. MadTinkerer says:

    So it’s basically exactly like early Minecraft Alpha then. When I played, I never managed to figure out where any quest-givers were and gave up in frustration after I blundered into an opposing faction base and died trying to ask the enemy if they have a starting quest for me. (There were quite a few buildings that were completely empty except for seemingly completely random loot I could pick up, but no one willing to talk.) But this was several versions ago.

    Just from the screenshots I can tell they’ve added/implemented a bunch that wasn’t there when I played, so I think I’ll give it another chance in a couple versions.

  10. DeanLearner says:

    Has anyone here seen the kids program Captain Mack? At the start of each episode he checks his power levels and I am pretty sure they’re exactly the same as those used for this games HUD!

    Coincidence, I think not. More to follow.

  11. tangoliber says:

    Never heard of 3079 before, but immediately bought it after reading this article. I don’t care if it has problems… I love procedural generation, and this sort of thing is exactly what I’ve been wanting…

    • DeanLearner says:

      In that case you’ll love the fantastic top down 2d shooter I’m making at the moment, featuring over A BILLION levels and over 7 (SEVEN) directions of movement and aim.

      Seriously though, I am making a 2d procedurally generated game.

      • HothMonster says:

        “7 (SEVEN) directions of movement and aim.”

        Is it Zoolander the game? Your character can’t make left turns?

        • DeanLearner says:

          It actually says OVER 7 directions, which I am using as a marketing ploy to make potential customers think it could be between 8 and 1 million directions! It’s 8 directions.

      • tangoliber says:

        I would definitely check it out!
        Anyway, I’ve been playing 3079 and enjoying it immensely. Of course, this game seems specifically tailored to my most niche interest, and its easier for me to appreciate this sort of game than it is for many others.
        Something I like is how when a quest tells you to infiltrate an enemy fort and upload a virus to their computers, it doesn’t give you a quest marker to a specific enemy fort. Instead, you can do it at any enemy fort you find (that has a computer in it), which is great.
        Another important thing is that, at least in the first few hours of play, the loot is interesting. A good procedurally generated world goes to waste if there isn’t interesting loot… a problem that I personally have with Minecraft. I love how I started off with a very slow base movement, but once I started collecting grappling hooks and gear and upgrade components that increased my player movement or jump height, I suddenly found myself moving around like it was Quake or Tribes.

        One thing that interests me is this… I’ve played several roguelikes-type games similar to this…. only they were in 2D. The truth is that this game doesn’t appear to lack anything that those games would have. (It would be interesting to compare the feature set with 3059, which I have not played.) It appears to me to be every bit as fleshed out as those games…. and yet it is in 3D!
        This article refers to the buildings as deserted and similar…which is true… but if the game had been a 2D roguelike-like, would we say they are deserted and similar? Does it make sense to demand more in that area simply because a transition was made from 2D to 3D? Is there something inherently wrong with making a game like this in 3D?
        Similarily, this article talks about shooting and melee mechanics, but in a, say, a turn-based 2D roguelike, mechanics like that are less visible… less “actual”…and more of an exchange of data. By bringing them into motion…in real-time…from a first person view…does it somehow detract because they aren’t up to par with what more focused games with bigger teams would provide?

        Finally, one last thought, for the people who don’t like this kind of visual style. Do you like the visuals in Derek Smart games? Because that is what it usually looks like when small development teams or single programmers with small budgets try to create realistic visuals for ambitious open worlds. What if Derek Smart made his games in blocks? They would probably turn out much better.
        Personally, I’m not a big fan of the visuals of blocks…I’d like to see more procedural generation with Doom-type environments…like the Oblige random level generator (which is brilliant) for Doom turned into a full roguelike. But, I don’t you could accomplish mining or terraforming in that kind of environment…which is the advantage of visuals like this.

  12. BoZo says:

    Such a game should be made in the Red Faction: Guerilla engine.

  13. Kamen Rider says:

    Just play X-Ops if you want a pure lo-fi shooter. It’s free, and amazing. And Japanese!

  14. HothMonster says:

    But does it support directX11?

  15. Maldomel says:

    I should go back to 3079. I bought it with that bundle, but the whole thing make me felt like I was having a bad trip on drugs. I still enjoyed it, although I understand the sheer weirdness of the game can be repulsive at first.

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    mrwonko says:

    The skill system might not really work, but I think the basic premise of progression through failure is really clever.

  17. mckertis says:

    I always thought 3079 was a name of a rather traditional sci-fi roguelike.

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      JiminyJickers says:

      This is the second sequel to the original rogelike game. I think the original roguelike was called 3059 or something similar. The first sequel 3069 had a 3d engine and I lost interest then.

      I would be quite keen for a good sci fi roguelike though.

  18. SkittleDiddler says:

    3079 is quite fugly, even for a retro game.

    I hope the whole retro craze dies a loud and painful death very soon.

    • Eclipse says:

      retro what? this game is not retro styled at all, it just looks like minecraft, that’s not retro styled too, it’s just bad programmer art in both games

  19. Eclipse says:

    it really looks bad doesn’t it?

  20. arccos says:

    Awww! Bummer so many people don’t seem to like it. I really enjoyed the faction-style combat and the ability to ask people to tag along. I had my own small army quite a few times that would quickly get wiped out as I ran from some terrible threat.

    Die for me, my minions! I’ll avenge you, someday! Maybe!

  21. Yglorba says:

    This game is part of a series; the first one, 3059, is free (and two-dimensional.) The page for it is here. Some of the basic mechanics are similar, but 3059 is much easier to navigate around… anyway, people who are unsure if they’d like this game could perhaps try that first.

  22. The Innocent says:

    This basically parallels my experience with 3079. I was willing to give it a fair chance, but after two hours I was utterly bored.

  23. Zankmam says:

    You can befriend the Neanders and wage war against the other dudes btw.

    How, however, I don’t know. xD

  24. minecraftforfreeonline says:

    This is not Minecraft Game as I know, what will we call this game?
    Minecraft For Free Online