Too Long; Didn't Play: Mining Industry

Sponsored By: Steam Sale Wishlist Cleaning

Time Played: 102 Minutes

This Ore That Review

Best. Spreadsheet. Ever.

Taking Things For Granite Review

You know what I love about video games? Almost anything can be one. It’s the ultimate in egalitarian inclusivity. There are no standards at all. You want to make something where the player walks around a deserted house and listens to bad prog-rock? [It was Riot Grrl, not prog rock, and it was amazing! – Ed.] It’s a game! You want to make a choose-your-own-adventure book where the player doesn’t even actually choose anything? It’s Narrative Rich Interactive Storytelling (“game” for short)!

Do you want to make an elaborate spreadsheet with animated backgrounds that look like open-pit mines? Get that sucker on Steam, buddy – You might just have a new indie darling on your hands!

Take Mining Industry. There’s very little gameplay in Mining Industry. Boiled down, it’s a bunch of menus that you navigate to try and make numbers in a spreadsheet go up instead of down. Honestly, it’s not much more than a clicker game without the clicking.

You run a mining company, as you might have surmised from the title, if you are particularly clever. What you’re mining depends upon the scenario you’ve selected, or whatever you picked to mine in the free-play mode. It’s not actually important, because mining boils down to maintaining a handful of business categories, which is where the game gets interesting and deep. You see, it’s not just about digging. In fact, you don’t actually manage the digging at all. You just buy equipment and let the logistics sort themselves.

You do, however, have to worry about risk. The whole game is an exercise in risk management. Do you take equipment out of service to repair it, or do you push to meet the demands of your contract? The risk is big, because you only lose the use of the equipment for a week if you service it, but if it breaks you might be out for a whole month. At the same time you have contractual obligations to meet, and if you fail to meet those, it costs you both money and industry prestige. Prestige determines the quality of the contracts you have available to choose, so it’s not an easy decision, especially if you’ve used up your surplus product by selling it on the open market.

There are other risks too, such as worker safety. Equipment for safety isn’t cheap, and it costs a lot of money just to run it, but if your site has an accident you get bad publicity and fines and your site gets put out of commission until the mess can be cleaned up.

I’m not sure what bad publicity does to your company. It might affect how much time creditors are willing to give you to get your bank balance positive again, but I couldn’t find any direct repercussions from having a poor public image. Maybe that’s meant to be commentary on something.

The big risk/reward scenario is a random event where you get a text message asking to sell a few thousand tons of whatever you’re mining for cash. If you accept, you could get some money out of it, or someone could report you and you could get hit with a big fine. I generally click “no” on those, just because the texter’s responses are funny. Sometimes they swear at you using %&^ characters, as if your SMS service has a curse-word filter built into it.

Now, your enjoyment of the game will vary in direct proportion to your tolerance for games that look like Microsoft Excel. Everything is managed via menus and reported via graphs. The developers made a sop to being a video game by creating a clockwork campus that you can view using security cameras, so you can watch your diggers dig or your dump trucks drive, but nothing that happens in the reports is reflected on camera. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, you don’t get to actually see when things go wrong. On the other hand, it feels kind of morbid to want video of industrial accidents in your game. Who would buy a menu-driven sim game with an M rating?

Well, aside from people who play Crusader Kings, of course.

But if you like watching numbers go up and down based loosely on actions you made five minutes ago, you might give Mining Industry a look. At the very least, it provides an interesting glimpse into the operation of commodities markets.

Just keep digging, just keep digging, just keep digging, digging, digging.

I definitely plan to keep coming back to this one. There are quite a few scenarios to play through, with different minerals to mine and different business objectives to meet, and I’m still trying to complete the first one. The systems are complex enough that I haven’t run out of things to try, and I’m looking forward to figuring out the sweet-spot where I can increase capacity just fast enough to make money without overextending myself.

I’m having a ball with it right now. I can’t say it will hold my interest for thousands of hours, but it’s scratching a highly specific, very boring itch for me right now.

Is it the Dark Souls of business simulations?

I mentioned Crusader Kings a couple of paragraphs ago, and that’s an apt comparison. The game is all about navigating menus and dealing with events as they crop up. It pays to keep a close eye on everything, but there isn’t so much “everything” that I get overwhelmed, which puts it ahead of Crusader Kings for me in terms of accessibility.

None of this is to say the game is easy. I’m still working on the first scenario, which is to earn $500,000 in two years by mining gravel. You’d think that gravel would be cheap to make and sell. It’s just tiny rocks, and you can make them by smashing big rocks and big rocks are everywhere. I mean, you can find gravel just walking down the street. How hard can it be to mine it?

Apparently it’s really freaking hard, because I’ve gone bankrupt twice trying to sell enough to make a profit.

I am, however, still feeling driven to try again and again. In that respect it is the Dark Souls of its kind, because despite the difficulty I can see where it’s possible to improve, and I want to strive for that.

On balance, then, I’d say it rates eight out of nine souls. Quite challenging, but rewarding just the same.


I mentioned Crusader Kings a couple of paragraphs ago, and that’s an apt comparison.

Can I marry a horse in Mining Industry?

Didn't think so.

More importantly, can I declare my backhoe as the Anti-Pope?

In spite of the game's shortcomings, and there are a lot, I walked away from it strangely satisfied.

Maybe it helps that I picked it up in a Sim Bundle for mere pennies, but I appreciated what Mining Industry was going for even if the execution was flawed.

That's what I love so much about these budget games. They may be held together by shoestring & chewing gum, but they've got heart and they take risks that you rarely see in the more conventional game space.

Thanks for the write-up, Greg!