Just a short disclaimer, with stillplay Games’ response to my questions, there is nothing really I can add to it.
I think this is best read raw and uncut — with zero ‘funny’ remarks from my side. Enjoy!
Just one thing before we move on to Kristoffer’s response, I’ll just go over the team behind Mechanic Miner.
- As game director, we have Finn Nielsen.
- Doing the maths and coding, we have Daniel Carlsson.
- Making things say stuff, we have Josef Aarskov.
- Managing how pretty the game is, we have Tore Poulsen.
- Network engineering… eh… we have Alexander Taylor (sorry, but I don’t really know what “Network Engineering” entails, but I’m guessing math and programming).
- Lastly, as CM or community manager, we have Kristoffer Rasmussen.
Now, without ado nor funny remarks, the article.
From watching a few videos about Mechanic Miner, I’m getting a Minecraft and Terraria- vibe off of them. Is Mechanic Miner inspired by the likes of those games?
Yes and no. Let me try to explain this through a “quick” resume of Mechanic Miners history. Mechanic Miner was an idea born in the mind of our game director Finn Nielsen almost 7 years ago.
(Finn Nielsen is a veteran within the game development industry and has among other things worked as a technical director on the original “Hitman” and have most recently worked on the indie hit “Limbo”).
The original idea behind Mechanic Miner was to create a game where everything was centered around building steam-powered machines (and getting them to work). Together with our Art Director Tore Poulsen, Finn and Tore created a prototype of Mechanic Miner focusing on the visual style and atmosphere inspired by the old pixel-style games combined with the styles, the machines and the science from the steam-engine era. If anything, this would be the “true” inspiration of Mechanic Miner.
Fast-forwarding a few years, Mechanic Miner started being a rather serious project and more people was hired. Now we’re a total of 6 people with a combined broad interest in different game genres, and of course among these different games we find inspiration.
Since Mechanic Miner shares a lot of similarities with games like “Minecraft”, “Terraria”, “Starbound”, “Space Engineers” (and so on) we often turn to these games for gameplay/mechanical inspiration and solutions (since these games already overcame many of the same challenges we meet in our development progress as well). E.g. during the development of Survival Mode in Mechanic Miner, we had to decide how to procedurally generate the game world and found a lot of inspiration in the way “Terraria” semi-randomly generated a world with specific content spread in a world with a specific size.
In the end, the inspiration behind Mechanic Miner derives from hundreds of different games from many different genres, and during almost any part of the development, we often bring other games into the discussion. This could be anything from “Path of Exile” to “Factoria”. The other day we even brought “Overwatch” into the discussion – a game that you wouldn’t normally compare with a game like Mechanic Miner.
It is not only in games we find inspiration, but also from books, movies and history. E.g. the log-ish past tense narration you’ll find in Mechanic Miners’ Story Mode was inspired by The Time Travelers lectures to his weekly dinner guests in the H.G.Wells Science fiction classic: “The Time Machine” from 1895. And The Dweller (a giant worm boss in Mechanic Miner) was inspired by the graboids in the cult-movie “Tremors”. And the Aeolipile Engine (an in-game machine), which is an invention made by the Roman mathematician and engineer Heron of Alexandria around 50 A.D. The Rail-gun (an in-game machine) was inspired by Winans Steam Gun (a centrifugal gun from the American Civil war). We also love doing references like the main characters name – John Smith – is a reference to Matthew Smith a somewhat renown game programmer that made Manic Miner in 1983. I mean, even this tweet is a reference to the “Hello John” scene from “Jurassic Park”.
A Unique New Game
If yes, what makes your game stand out?
Talking about similarities, obviously Mechanic Miner looks a lot like games like Minecraft and Terraria at first glance, maybe especially Terraria as they share the 2D sidescroller look. And Mechanic Miner surely shares a lot of similarities but differs in many ways – especially in the constructing part:
In Mechanic Miner the player can construct any kind of machine by their own design and test them in a environment with physics – like true physics (not like “Minecraft” and “Terraria”). Constructing is really the main mantra of Mechanic Miner. E.g. In Terraria you must find stronger armor and weapons to defeat the next boss, and in “Minecraft” you’ll need a full set of diamond armor and a bow to go kill the dragon in The End. But in Mechanic Miner, you’ll need to construct your own contraption to defeat the Roach Boss or survive the Aether Storm (A storm that turns all monsters aggressive). No matter what challenge you may encounter, there’s never only one solution, it’s up to each player to use their creativity and wit to design and build their own unique contraptions to conquer whatever lies ahead.
In the end I would say that Mechanic Miner is both recognizable and unique at the same time as it shares a lot of similarity with other games like “Minecraft” and “Terraria”, but also offers a particularly remarkable visual style, with a unique gameplay focused on building and constructing in an RPG-like setting with physics. I believe that this combination makes Mechanic Miner a one-of-a-kind experience.
Overwatch and Minecraft
Let’s get a bit personal: what game genres and specific games do you and your team hold dear? (Could be both old and new games).
As I mentioned before, our combined interest and preferences in game genres is broad – this means everything from “CS:GO” to “Factoria”, from “PUBG” to “Path of Exile”, from “Overwatch” to “Skyrim”, from “Warframe” to “Eve”, and so on… It’s hard to say which genres we enjoy the most as most of us enjoys a broad variety of games and genres. One thing we all have in common is the enormous interest in games, which really can’t be confined to a few genres, but one game that we – of course – all have invested a lot of time in, is Minecraft.
What has been the best moments when working on Mechanic Miner — are there some that stand out?
There have been so many great moments during the development of Mechanic Miner, and many of those moments have had something to do with our community. We have a great community including over 800 alpha testers, actively discussing and sharing creations on our Discord Community. Seeing how they respond to the different content we’re continuously adding or seeing how they’re working together through Discord trying to reproduce or create some crazy contraptions from their own imagination or even from real life engineering blueprints, is just an absolute pleasure. We love our community and they have been a big part of the creation of Mechanic Miner – everything surrounding them, is just the ‘best’.
Also, around half a year ago we started getting YouTubers doing “Lets Play” of Mechanic Miner. Seeing how these YouTube videos allowed us to actually hear and see the players reactions to the game. Like the screenshot I’ve attached here: it’s from one of our first YouTubers – Gaming Faster Than Light (also called Josh) – who just, as this screenshot was taken, managed to build an Airpump-system. Just look at the pure joy in his face expression! Knowing that we created that joy, is just an amazing feeling!
If we ever feel demotivated, we’ll just go to YouTube and look at the many hours of footage of people playing Mechanic Miner or people expressing their excitement in the comment sections. On a side note: There are over 1.5 million views on Mechanic Miner content on YouTube, so we’re not the only ones who enjoy watching.
As a game developer, what has been some of the toughest creative decisions that you and your team had to make concerning Mechanic Miner?
Actually, we haven’t really had any tough decisions during the development of Mechanic Miner. Even though we’ve removed a lot of features and abandoned a lot of stuff that we wanted to implement in the game, it’s always been for the best. Maybe we’re just too optimistically minded, but every time we want to add a new feature that requires us to remove old features, or abandon planned features, we only focus on how freaking cool the new features are going to be.
Although there was one feature which seemed very hard to remove. In the earlier days of Mechanic Miner, you were able to mine/drill directly into the ground – removing pixel for pixel and creating your own tunnels and paths underground. We had to eventually remove this feature because of problems with small and almost invisible pixels left behind blocking the player and vehicles.
Removing this feature seemed like a set back at the time, but now we’re happy that we did as it paved the road for a new dungeon-crawl-like experience where the player must explore and find their way through procedurally generated mines and caves – a feature that wouldn’t have been added without removing the “pixel by pixel” digging.
A Multiplayer Experience?
Are there features that you’re still planning to implement to the game that fans can be excited about?
We’re working on so many things right now, and there’s so much more planned and even more that we want to add in the future. New machines, new blocks, new weapons, new monsters, new bosses, new acts and so on. Talking about major features in the game we’re still missing two important ones; Multiplayer and Mod-support.
In a game like this, multiplayer is a no-brainer and we’re really excited about adding this to Mechanic Miner. Our community is already actively sharing their creations over the Steam Workshop and discussing the game on our Discord, so I’m sure they’re going to have a blast when multiplayer is ready and they can actually play together. I can’t reveal to you when the multiplayer will be up and running, but I can assure you that we’re working extremely hard on getting it ready asap – we even have one dedicated programmer (Alexander Taylor) for only this task.
Another big thing is mod-support. We really want our community to be a big part of creating Mechanic Miner, and mod-support is one way of doing it. Talking about inspiration, we’ve been looking for inspiration about this in “Minecraft”, “Terraria” and “Rimworld” – games that have great mod-support and a very active community surrounding it. Mod-support in Mechanic Miner is something our community is constantly requesting, I mean sometimes we even see them on our Discord discussing and trying to re-program the game (which isn’t really possible, but they don’t care). Mod-support is something we’re not currently working on, but we want to add it shortly after Mechanic Miner goes into Early Access later this year.