Introversion Software, the makers of Prison Architect, have been making a video series about all the prototypes they've created and scrapped over the past several years. This month's prototype is 'Minecraft Factory' or 'Voxel Factory', an attempt in 2017 to make a Factorio-like game out of Minecraft-style blocks.
You can watch a video where they demonstrate the prototype and why they binned the idea - and then you can buy and play it, if you like, with all the money going to charity.
"I think, sometimes, that we make life hard for ourselves," says designer Chris Delay near the start of the video. "I've got this desire to make games that are unique and original and don't play like anything else. There's never been a time in our company when we've gone, 'let's just make Factorio, or let's make Command & Conquer but better, or let's just make roguelike. We often have games on hand that are great but too similar to something else and so we delete them.
"So this time, I decided to give myself a pass. I decided I needed to exorcise the Factorio demon in me. I decided I was going to give myself a pass to make some sort of Factorio-style game straight-up. Not in space, not with programmable robots, not at nanoscale, just Factorio."
The thinking was that if he worked on the prototype for a month, it would naturally diverge from its inspiration and become an Introversion game. "I'm trying to find ways to make myself have fun making games again," says Delay. "Because I used to absolutely love it, and I've found it really hard to find that again."
Delay and Introversion co-founder Mark Morris go on to demonstrate a game that plays a lot like Factorio with 3D blocks, in which players mine resources, builds conveyor belts and furnaces, and form production chains to construct more complex items and tools.
It looks fun, honestly. "It's not a failure. It's a lovely game and I really enjoy playing it," says Delay, after half an hour. The problem is partly that it's too close to Factorio, a game that Delay says he loves, and he grew bored making it.
Towards the end of the video, Delay demonstrates some planned tower defence elements by dropping hundreds of ant-like enemies onto the map, who goop themselves around your machinery to stop it working. The way they move across the landscape and pathfind around your defences is simple, but it looks amazing.
This is the fifth entry in Introversion's Fail Masterclass, and three of the four previous games were somewhat Factorio-like - as per Delay's descriptions above. They were space colony sim Order Of Magnitude, programmable bot colony sim Spacebots, and electronics puzzle game Megaprocessor, and petri dish sim Nanotech. You can buy all of these games - and any future prototypes in the series - for a $5 minimum donation at the Introversion site, with all the money going to the charity War Child.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also note that the video begins with the revelation that Delay plays bass in a heavy metal band called Powderhead. Huh.