Zach Barth

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Zach Barth
Nationality American
Alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Occupation Video game designer
Employer Zachtronics
Notable work Infiniminer, SpaceChem, Infinifactory

Zachary "Zach" Barth is an indie video game designer who creates games under the company Zachtronics, which he co-founded. Barth is known for Infiniminer, which created the genre of procedurally generated block-based world deformation and building mechanics later used by games such as Minecraft, as well as creating engineering-based puzzle games.[1]

Biography[edit]

In interviews with indie games websites, Barth said that he started creating games early in his life, but only learned the required skills at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where he joined the game development club.[2][3]

Barth studied computer systems engineering and computer science at RPI. He was one of three students leading the interdisciplinary team of the CapAbility Games Research Project, a collaboration of RPI with the Center for Disability Services in Albany, New York. In 2008, the team produced Capable Shopper, a shopping simulation game for players with various degrees of disability.[4][5]

For SpaceChem, his first commercial production, he took in a number of collaborators.[2]

His earlier, non-commercial, games included twenty that were published on his old website and "five good ones" which he transferred over to the new site. Four of these use Flash to make them cross-platform, in spite of Flash's "terrible" development environment. The other one is based on .NET for greater programming convenience. SpaceChem also used .NET, as Barth considers C# to be "the best language ever invented". For marketing reasons, Barth decided against XNA with its capability to cross-publish to Xbox 360, and switched to OpenGL, which allowed him to target the three operating systems required for inclusion in the Humble Indie Bundle.[2]

Before SpaceChem was released, Zachtronics was known for creating the game genre set by Infiniminer, the block-building precursor game of Minecraft by Mojang.[6] The gameplay mechanics and visuals that Barth conceptualized have subsequently become popular in many games.

In 2015, Barth joined Valve Corporation to work on SteamVR.[7] He worked there for 10 months before departing.[8]

Infiniminer[edit]

Infiniminer screenshot

Infiniminer is an open source multi-player block-based sandbox building and digging game, in which the player is a miner searching for minerals by carving tunnels through procedurally generated maps and building structures. According to the author Barth, it was based on the earlier games Infinifrag, Team Fortress, and Motherload by XGen Studios.[1][9]

Barth wrote Infiniminer in his spare time, with the help of a friend, and released it in steps of incremental updates during April–May 2009. It quickly garnered a following on message boards around the Internet.[citation needed]

Infiniminer was originally intended to be played as a team-based competitive game, where the goal is to locate and excavate precious metals, and bring the findings to the surface to earn points for the player's team.[10] However, as the game gained popularity, players gravitated towards the emergent gameplay functionality of building in-world objects, instead of the stated design goal of competition.

Zachtronics discontinued development of the game less than a month after its first release as the result of its source code leak. As Barth had not obfuscated the C# .NET source code of the game, it was decompiled and extracted from the binaries. Hackers modified the code to make mods, but also started making clients that would target vulnerabilities in the game as well as build incompatible game forks that fragmented its user base. Barth, who was making the game for free, then lost interest and dropped the project, as development of the game had become too difficult.[2] The source code of Infiniminer is now available under the MIT License.[11] Building Infiniminer requires Visual Studio 2008 and XNA Game Studio 3.0.[12]

Infiniminer is the game that Minecraft was initially inspired by (and subsequently FortressCraft, CraftWorld and Ace of Spades). The visuals and mechanics of procedural generation and terrain deformation of Minecraft were drawn from Infiniminer.[13] According to Minecraft author Markus Persson, after he discovered Infiniminer, he "decided it was the game he wanted to do".[14]

SpaceChem[edit]

Zachtronics Industries is also known for its puzzle game SpaceChem in which the player creates chemical pathways similar in style to visual programming.

SpaceChem has garnered praise with the gaming community and is currently one of three games on the recommendation page of Team Fortress creator Robin Walker (the others being Hotline Miami and FTL: Faster Than Light), with him declaring it as "Pretty much the greatest game ever made".[15][16]

As of March 8, 2011, Barth stated the possibility of making expansion packs to SpaceChem and adding a free update and editor which would allow users to create their own levels which could then be shared to other users, with the best ones being picked out by Zachtronics to be published and these were released on April 29 as the Shareholders' Update.[17] Barth hinted at the prospect of a sequel and also stated that it would be fantastic to have SpaceChem on a future Humble Bundle.[2] The game was included in the Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle charitable sale in early October 2011.[18] The following year, on September 30, 2012, SpaceChem was the featured game on IndieGameStand, a site which features indie games with a pay-what-you-want model with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Barth chose the Against Malaria Foundation as the charity to which 10% of the proceeds were donated.[19]

Other games[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Smith, Quintin (January 20, 2011). "My Chemical Romance: Zach Barth Interview". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Rose, Michael (March 8, 2011). "Podcast 17 Zach Barth on SpaceChem and Infiniminer". Indie Games Podcast. 
  3. ^ "Zach Barth finds a fine formula with SpaceChem", Featured Indie Dev, Indie pub games .
  4. ^ "Gaining Independence For People With Disabilities Through Video Games", ScienceDaily, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 15 May 2008, retrieved 2011-08-24 .
  5. ^ Original news release, RPI .
  6. ^ "Reliquary Game Reviews: Infiniminer". Reliquary Game Reviews. 2009-05-29. 
  7. ^ http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/265599/Valve_collaborates_on_new_Unity_SteamVR_support_and_tools.php
  8. ^ http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/285393/Zachtronics_Shenzhen_IO_is_a_game_for_people_who_code_games.php
  9. ^ Motherload, XGen studios .
  10. ^ Murff, James. "Freeware Friday: Infiniminer". Big Download. Retrieved May 15, 2009. 
  11. ^ Zachtronics Industries. "Infiniminer Google Code Project Page". Google. 
  12. ^ https://github.com/krispykrem/Infiniminer/tree/master
  13. ^ Persson, Markus. "Credits due". The Word of Notch. Retrieved May 26, 2009. 
  14. ^ Persson, Markus. "The Origins of Minecraft". The Word of Notch. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  15. ^ Robin Walker (March 4, 2011). "Robin Walker's Steam recommendation page". Valve Corporation. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  16. ^ Team Fortress Development Team (April 28, 2011). "Mounts and Blades and Hats and Fires and Hats and Swords". Valve Corporation. 
  17. ^ SpaceChem Team (April 29, 2011). "Shareholders' Report". Zachtronics Industries. 
  18. ^ Zacny, Rob (2011-10-05). "SpaceChem joins the Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  19. ^ Phillips, Tom (2012-10-03). "Pay-what-you-want indie games site launches, spotlights SpaceChem". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  20. ^ O'Conner, Alice (September 13, 2016). "SpaceChem & TIS-100 Creator Announces SHENZEN I/O". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved September 13, 2016. 

External links[edit]