Little Inferno Devs Crank Up Human Resource Machine

Little Inferno showed what we do with consumer products at home – we burn them in a nice big fire for giggles so we can get more stuff – but where do products come from? Developers Tomorrow Corporation are now showing us a sliver of where the magic happens, revealing the Human Resource Machine [official site]. Their latest is a programming puzzle game, where you use simple syntax to program a hapless office worker to perform tasks. They do so enjoy being micromanaged, those wee drones.

Tidy up your tie and polish your shoes, as Human Resources Corporation is now out.

Programming is not my forte (I’m not sure what is – is being submerged in water a skill?) so I’ll turn you over to Tomorrow Corporation for an explanation:

“Your office is a simple computer. You have an inbox and an outbox (inputs and outputs), and a few slots on the floor to store stuff for later (memory). Your little office worker can hold exactly one box in his or her hands at a time (like an accumulator). Boxes (data) display letters or numbers.

“In each level, your boss gives you a task, like “Take everything from the INBOX, and put it in the OUTBOX!” Automate it by programming your little office worker with simple drag n’ drop commands. You start the game with just 2 commands, and gradually earn more as you’re promoted. The entire language contains only 11 total commands – but they’re enough to simulate almost any computer algorithm in the world!

“You might describe this machine as Harvard Architecture with a single accumulator.”

Oh, shoot! That’s just what I would’ve said! It was on the tip of my tongue. Anyway, you do programming to complete tasks, in short, and can get fancy trying to write small, fast code too if you’d like. If the art style looks familiar to you, that’s probably because Tomorrow Corporation co-founder Kyle Gabler was previously one half of World of Goo developers 2D Boy.

I clearly know nowt about this, but I can tell you that Human Resource Machine is out now for Windows and Mac. It’s about £7 on Steam, GOG, and through the devs – which gives them more money and you both a Steam key and a DRM-free version. We all play our part in the machine. Mine ends after this trailer. I wonder what’s next.

21 Comments

  1. anHorse says:

    “is being submerged in water a skill?”

    Shit, alice is a witch

  2. GewaltSam says:

    I am still very mad at those guys for never releasing the profanity pack for World of Goo. They promised it for preordering it and never came through. I tried to contact them about it, without any success. Nobody seemed to mind at the time, or ever after. I never felt so betrayed by a small indie developer. Just sayin’.

    • Tacroy says:

      Don’t you see, the profanity pack was inside you all along

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I believe the actual problem with the Profanity Pack was because releasing it would necessitate bumping up the ESRB rating. It wouldn’t matter if every preorder customer was over 18 or not, just having it produced by the original developers would affect the rating. A third party mod would be different, but anything produced by the developers (even if, for example, it’s something produced and then completely disabled like the Hot Coffee mod) has to be considered.

      That might not be the reason but I’m pretty sure it’s a reason.

      • GewaltSam says:

        Yeah, that could be true; but iirc the goal was then to do more like a “funny” kind of profanity, where the goo balls don’t use real swear words, but more some kind of, let’s say, Yosemite Sam swearing. It would be more depressing than funny if they would use really strong language anyway, i guess.

        And even if it were true, something that I could get my head around easily: some kind of apology or even just an explanation would have been nice. Especially since they weren’t very big at the time and I am sure they profited a lot from those early sales. As it stands, they promised me something, never came around doing it and never talked about it either.

        I know that I’m a bit resentful in this case. But if it was Ubisoft with some kind of preorder bonus for a new AC that they wouldn’t have delivered, all hell would break loose. And while I don’t trust those big companies for a few years now, I’m very disappointed that a small and generally very likable indie developer would do that without even commenting. You get my point?

  3. labarna says:

    I don’t see mention of Linux on any of the sites selling the game. Was Linux support promised?

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Oh heck, sorry, I was thinking of… I don’t know what I was thinking of. Fixed!

      • labarna says:

        I’m actually surprised it’s not out on Linux, both World of Goo and Little Inferno are.

        • gabdub says:

          LINUX pleeeasee!
          I bought this program today from Steam because I saw the “Steam Play” text and since “Little inferno” works great in Linux I didn’t check the whole page, shame on me :(
          Please support the users that support you.
          Gabriel

  4. Kinrany says:

    Finished all levels except extras in three hours, sadly there’s no plot besides something something robots.

    • Nixitur says:

      I played it yesterday for more than 6 hours and I’m still not done. Mind you, just coming up with a solution that works is rather simple, especially if you know a bit about programming. Really, the meat and potatoes of the game probably lies in trying to fulfill the size and speed challenges which get extremely difficult rather quickly.
      For those who haven’t played the game: Those are optional objectives for every puzzle. The size challenge asks you to solve the puzzle with as few commands as possible while the speed challenge asks you to program your drone so that they take as little time as possible.

      I wonder, how optional are those challenges, really? The combos from Little Inferno seem to be completely optional at first, but that’s basically where the game and all the story is hidden. Maybe if you complete all challenges, you learn a bit more about the world? Can anyone confirm?

  5. Sunjammer says:

    I like this in concept (*loved* TIS-100, which made me get into 6502 assembly for real) but the drag and drop style interface just feels really clumsy and slow to me.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Yeah the interface is a bit on the slow side, and having to *hand draw* comments and labels is a royal pain in the arse…

      It does, however, let you copy and paste your code. If you copy it in-game and paste it to an external editor, it looks more like proper code and you can edit it in a proper editor, then paste it back in when you want to try to run it. In text, it looks like this:

      a:
      b:
      INBOX
      COPYTO 4
      JUMPN d
      c:
      OUTBOX
      BUMPDN 4
      JUMPN b
      JUMP c
      d:
      e:
      f:
      OUTBOX
      BUMPUP 4
      JUMPN f
      JUMPZ e
      JUMP a

      Between that, and using scribbled images instead of bothering to label things anymore, I’ve been quite enjoying this! Am only allowing myself to progress once I finish both optimisation challenges – currently am around level 20.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Serrit says:

    is not my forte (I’m not sure what is

    By my observation, adding humorous insights and amusing tangents to otherwise staid news items. Which I’m very grateful for!

    Game sounds interesting too, ripe for setting up a Searle Chinese room.

  7. ChrisGWaine says:

    What was interesting about TIS-100 was the exotic machine architecture, particularly the way you had to get round the limitations of the nodes by making concurrent use of them. While this is reminiscent of TIS-100, in that you’re putting together assembler-esque implementations of algorithms to transform the test input into valid output, it doesn’t have the same appeal. It’s just going through basic tasks, the only challenge being in implementing them with a very simple instruction set, so I think people who really enjoyed TIS-100 are quite likely to breeze through and find this quite dull.

    And because it involves things like trying to mentally keep track of what will be in the accumulator or the spaghetti of the branching, I wouldn’t recommend it as a learning experience for someone looking to get into programming either.

    There probably is an audience who would enjoy it though.

    • Nixitur says:

      Well, machines with a single accumulator aren’t really a thing, I think, but keeping track of branching is absolutely what you gotta do when creating assembler code.
      Also, the challenge of the game mostly lies in the optimization challenges, I find. Coming up with a solution that works is mostly pretty simple, but coming up with one that does it quickly is difficult and definitely a skill that is useful in actual programming.

      • Sunjammer says:

        Single accumulator is not uncommon. 6502 architecture is single-accumulator, for instance. Tracking branching in ASM depends on your compiler but boils down to populating memory and running a subroutine, so it’s not much different from calling a function in more modern programming.

        A big part of what made TIS-100 really fascinating as a puzzle was the parallelism and inherent instruction limit in each module, IMO. It elevated the challenge from basic ASM into understanding parallelism in a way that is actually very modern. Resource Machine for me just boiled down to a bunch of instructions in a list, and that’s just not very interesting.

        I suppose that’s really the sum of the differences between TIS-100 and HRM, where HRM is far more interested in memory management with copyto/from whereas TIS-100 is more concerned with data flow. The latter is, I think, the more interesting problem.

  8. Muzman says:

    It’s really sunk in to me that Little Inferno is one of the finest pieces of satire around.
    People fawn over grand jokes like Cow Clicker and so on, with it’s mechanics-as-satire core and ‘lol aren’t humans so compulsive and ‘casual games’ so crap’. And it is vital for that sort of cultural self awareness about games, sure. But boy, Inferno really says awful things about game mechanics and society at large with a big grin on its face and is terrifyingly compulsive at times too.