Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mine Things

Somebody spammed several of the threads with a link to a browser game called Mine Things. Mine Things is running a standard word-of-mouth advertising campaign, where players get a link with a reference number, and new players signing up using that reference and spending money on that game give advantages to the referrer. I don't mind people placing that sort of links in threads talking about browser games (e.g. this one), if they add a bit of intelligent comment of why they would recommend that game. But with just the link spammed over several threads, I just deleted the spam. Nevertheless I did have a look at Mine Things, and found the game interesting enough to sign up, so now I got my own referrer link to Mine Things. :)

So what do you do in Mine Things? Well, surprisingly, you mine things. At an EXTREMELY slow rate. Different browser games work of different time scales, which is good because players have different amounts of time available. Mine Things is the most extreme time-lite browser game I've come across yet. You basically need to log on every 20+ hours to recharge your batteries. Playing this for 5 minutes twice a day, e.g. in the morning before going to work and in the evening, is totally sufficient to keep Mine Things running at near optimum efficiency. It would be actually quite hard to play this for more than half an hour at a time without running out of things to do and having to wait again. You have been warned, that pace is obviously not suited for everybody.

Mining runs automatically, no action required from the player. You start out with one starter mine, which is manned by a mining robot who mines at a speed of 30 buckets per hour. As far as I read you find something every 185 buckets, thus at the start you'll only find something every 6 hours. That tends to come as a shock to new player, especially since in the tutorial you find things every 30 seconds.

Mines can be set to either mine things or gold. At the start, and if you don't want to spend any real money, it is recommended to mine gold, which will give you a steady income. The gold can be used to buy equipment for your robot, which will increase his buckets per hour, and thus make him find gold or things faster. Once you have a bit of gold and equipment, you can switch to mining things.

What are things? Things can be pretty much everything. Many of them have no use of their own, but can be combined into "melds". You can't wear the "dress shoes" and "sneakers" you'll mine as some of the common finds of your starter mine, but you can combine those two into a meld. And the number of different melds you have thus created is your "level" in Mine Things. The more melds you have, the more professions open up to you, giving you access to other parts of the game. Thus leveling up requires you to find or buy a lot of things. Things can also be useful, like equipment for your mining robots, or vehicles to travel between cities, or weapons, or various other things. By the way, the number of melds also increases your battery timer by 1 hour each.

Now each mine produces up to 50 different things, in 5 levels of rarity. And there are 18 different types of mines, with different sorts of mines being available in different cities. But you can make melds only in one city, your home, and while you can move to a new home, that move disassembles all your melds. Thus you need to gather items from different cities, which means transporting things from one city to the next. This is where Mine Things becomes interesting to me: At the heart of it Mine Things is a game about trading. Different professions can either transport things on land or on sea, or they can try to rob such transports on land or sea, or they can chase such pirates and highwaymen. Items tend to be cheap in the cities where they are mined, and more expensive in cities where such a mine isn't available. 7 years ago I wrote a post about a game I wished there was, which would have trade and dangerous journeys to transport goods. Of course I would have wanted that to be MMORPG in 3D. But from all the games I have seen (except SciFi space games), Mine Things comes closest to that design I wrote about.

Now Mine Things certainly isn't a perfect game, if such a thing even exists, and it has its flaws. I think many players of the "gimme now!" fast action attention deficit disorder generation will find Mine Things far too slow for their liking. And like in EVE there is a way to buy something in-game with cash (in this case mines), and sell that on for the in-game currency. I did that to accelerate the otherwise extremely slow start, but of course the ability to buy in-game currency legally kind of defeats the purpose of a game about trade and economy. The alternative is taking a loan or gift from a more advanced player. The cash shop is also used to buy increased inventory space, or to buy extended batteries that will keep your mines producing in case you are on holiday and can't log on for an extended period of time. Compared to other browser games I've played recently, the cash shop stuff is rather unobtrusive, and reasonably priced.

Well, if you are interested in Mine Things (Tobold's reference link), I'm playing on the Bromo server (Different servers have different maps!). You can send me an e-mail if you decide to play and want to know my character name.

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