Pragmatica


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Rating: 4.7/5 (20 votes)
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Pragmatica

JamesAs soon as assembly robots appeared America's car factories in the early '80s, there was a lot of concern that they would replace the human workforce. But the pro-robot camp argued that workers doing the menial stuff can step up to higher-skill jobs. It's the way of technology: once the first donkey was domesticated, some guy was let go from being cart-puller. But he might find a new line of employment as some kind of donkey mechanic. In other words, if you want to have a job, learn how to work with robots. Time to fire up indie developer Hive Games' programming-centric logic puzzle game Pragmatica.

PragmaticaPragmatica is "the world's largest distributed autologistics manufacturer" and makes its money by selling robots to clients, then instructing the robots to the needs of said customers. Your job, as its employee, is to program those robots. This means giving the machines a sequence of instructions to help them through a maze and to an exit. Each level has its own specific challenge: deliver a crate, save a robot from destruction, or blow up everything with bombs, etc. This has to be done with the limited set of instructions you are allowed, and the challenge comes from using sets of instructions to control groups of robots simultaneously.

Programming isn't as easy as slapping a bunch of commands on a grid and hitting the "go" button. In each level, you're given a few slots that can contain condition commands or action commands, each separated on their own rows and columns. Conditions allow you to tell the machines which events should trigger the action directly to its right. For example, you can pair the condition "if you see a hazard" with the action "turn left". Then, every time the robot comes up against a hazard, it will turn left. Commands are paired up in sets that are carried out in order of top to bottom. Sometimes you'll even get multiple condition/action slots per line, allowing you to set up crazy things like "if you are carrying a box" and "if you see a switch" then "set the box down" and "reverse your course".

Program the right sequence and you finish the job. Get it wrong and there are robot explosions. Fortunately, the gloomy Pragmatica environment also seems devoid of any angry managers or emails from frustrated clients. If you mess it up, you can just try again. The whole set-up feels somewhat like Manufactoria or a Zachtronics Industries game (The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, SpaceChem), albeit a hair less complex and much more user-friendly.

PragmaticaAnalysis: Pragmatica has twenty challenges to complete, excluding the tutorial levels. These are spread amongst four different customers, each with their own demands. One company is all about underhanded business and junk food, so they tend to want crates delivered or destroyed in creative ways. Another requires you to keep an inspection robot alive — mainly to foil the inspector in thinking everything is kosher.

The presentation does a lot to keep you playing. It feels like Pragmatica is a company that hires a skyscraper in the Beneath A Steel Sky universe — that spot between steam- and cyber-punk. Ultimately it's only wrapping for a puzzle game, but small touches gives the game a sense of absurd seriousness, echoed by the emails
(instructions for each level) sent by customers and other employees.

The puzzles are challenging, but there's a rather thin spread of them. The learning curve flexes upward sharply after the tutorial ends, and soon enough beating a level becomes a studious mental exercise. Don't feel bad if you eventually reach for a piece of paper. The very nature of Pragmatica's rules makes it open to becoming very intricate and complicated, despite its rather short length. But don't despair: if you have the time and the inclination, Pragmatica includes a full level editor, allowing you to dive in and create your own complex jobs. Making puzzles is about as complicated as solving them, but this goes a good ways to extending the game's lifespan.

Pragmatic is very captivating and polished, despite a few minor interface hiccups. The programming sequences are not tough individually. It's the number of them, coupled with the number of groups you have to run, that brews a hearty challenging broth. In a way Pragmatica scales beautifully, if a bit mercilessly, but with more than half of the levels unlocked at the start, you are never really stuck. It's a fiendish puzzle game that you won't be able to get way from!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

20 Comments

Anonymous April 3, 2011 6:27 PM

I've played this game for some time now, and I have a very strong suspicion that it's actually not completable.

There is a level shown in the trailer (Assasins!) with a solution that does not work in this version.

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fattywads Author Profile Page April 3, 2011 8:57 PM

This game has a lot of potential, but has really frustrating elements that ruin that potential. The instruction vague for levels are extemely vague (one level mentions bombs, but doesn't show you what a bomb is or how to use it.) The tutorials leave out several key game concepts, and the interface is very clumsy. More frustrating than it is worth.

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VDOgamez Author Profile Page April 3, 2011 9:10 PM

I absolutely can not figure out how to use bombs...

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tchupvskja April 4, 2011 11:35 AM

Ugh, this is an awesome game, but some of the levels are way too hard.

As VDOgamez says, the bombs are a particular irritation. Are they supposed to remain as they are after a robot has hit them?

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I'm also not understanding the bombs but will post back once I work it out. Great game so far apart from that :)

The interface can be much improved after completing the training rooms - under options, you can then enable a shortcut bar for all the symbols.

Game on

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tchupvskja April 5, 2011 9:20 AM

HiVE's let in a bad bug with this particular version of the game that ensures that some levels cannot be completed.

The "Assassins!" level in youtube neatly shows that each bomb can explode only once, and then vanishes, while the game doesn't remove the bombs once they blow up.

This deserves a negative rating.

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Thank you for the article!

Yes, v1.0 unfortunately doesn't deal with bombs correctly (the end of a long chain of tiny but apparently crucial last-minute changes...) - they should indeed explode on contact, for obvious reasons!

This is now fixed as of v1.1, and the use of the BOMB action to lay bombs is now clarified in the task description. Also, the advanced GUI options are enabled by default (for Training too).

Sorry for the error, we offer a fixed version and a new map-pack as way of apology. Thank you all for pointing it out! :)

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Thanks for your the new version :)

Can you confirm "Coverup" in "Industrial Hot Drinks" is possible? (I can see how to do it if 3 was facing West initially)...

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We don't actually have the solution on file for Coverup since we didn't build it, but it does look like it's not possible, so we've modified it and updated the download again (plus a few other tweaks to the game itself).

There are also two more map-packs with this version - we've put up a Map-Packs page on the website which includes the new content, as well as an updated standalone download for the Industrial Hot Drinks contract, so you don't need to download the whole package again to update your maps.

Thanks again for your vigilance... and patience! They're all fixed now.

(probably)

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Thanks for including a bunch of extra user files in the latest version. Very unnecessary.

Second I'd like to say that (Re: Outraged) you forgot to mention one of the objectives. And I haven't played all the map-packs yet.

Third I'd like to say a big thank you for letting us players to do the testing when it's really your job.

I'm very disappointed, the game shows great promise but failed because of a programming team that does not understand the importance of testing.

In the future, you should ask some good testers/puzzle designers before making another official release. Ask Syntax, or me, we'd probably glad to help.

PS. I'd also thank the writer for a great review of this game, even though I don't agree with him ;-)

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To carry on from Tim's message - I think this game shows excellent potential. With a game like this though, solvability is a must or you'll lose players straight away.

I'm definitely happy to help, and have actually tried to contact you personally but there's a server error when filling in your contact form.

I'd be more than happy to vet user game-packs (as would Tim no doubt) if you're looking to take this concept further. "Grid-based puzzlers are what we do (tm)" :)

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Installing 1.11 over the top of my 1.1 now created 3 users, duplicate level sets, and partially completed progress on the one's I had completed, and full completion on others I didn't. All 3 users had various levels of each, but none had my player file intact to the point at which it was.

Deleting the whole thing, and just installing 1.11 still has that issue and looking at the files, 1.11 comes with 3 players with various progress including user1 which would overwrite any progress so far in previous versions.

I'd recommend to pull the game for now, let us help testing and come back with a proper installer/proper release/solvable levelsets.

Would be a shame to see so much effort so far go to waste

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Regarding the user files, the extraneous files were removed almost immediately after the first upload (and Outraged fixed), but it seems the webhost didn't propagate the new copy immediately - the download now seems to be fine but we've reported the error to the host. This may have also been the cause of the contact form error, although we've been receiving mail normally and it seems to be fine, so, not sure...

Actually, all maps in a set ARE re-tested every time one is modified - however, the bugs in Coverup and Assassins were due not to level structure but to a (supposedly) minor tweak to robot movement-priority in the basic engine AFTER the maps were tested and sealed. The ambiguity in Outraged was similarly missed because it was part of the text description rather than the map itself - all are now fixed and we've changed our rules on test-what-when for the future. :)

Yes, we will indeed pull the download if we have any more server errors. Hopefully not. Thanks again for playing!

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I won't flood this thread with any more advice as it seems it's fallen onto deaf ears (and that's ashame) but I have to react to this:

"the bugs in Coverup and Assassins were due not to level structure but to a (supposedly) minor tweak to robot movement-priority in the basic engine"

Incorrect. Movement priority is not an issue in any level since the single instruction is always constant (rotation is twice the speed of a turn hence singular).

However:

* Assassins was only solvable by a bug-fix involving bombs surviving impact.

* Coverup was only fixed when the level structure was changed.

That pretty much blows your statement out the water. To say "Actually [...] they ARE re-tested" is just condescending.

That's me done

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Actually, grid priority is a concern on every level, since the pattern of movement of one robot needs to scale to up to four robots independently of their creation/runtime ordering - for various reasons this is a lot more complicated than it looks. It was a small change to this system which led to robots not interacting with bombs correctly, and also robot/bomb interaction in Coverup making the level unsolvable. In both cases, the maps themselves had already been compiled, tested and sealed beforehand and were (mistakenly) assumed to therefore be bug-free, a testing process we are, for obvious reasons, no longer using!

Your advice has not fallen on deaf ears - the issues you reported have each been fixed, and the processes which led to them have been changed. The other issues were due to a server error, which is now stable. We appreciate you taking the time to report these bugs, and we've fixed them literally as fast as we can. Unlike you, puzzles, grid-based, and user-content games are not our usual field, so we're grateful for your insight.

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Well, I agree it's fast, but I'd rather use the term "damage control".

I must say I'm not sure what to think. I can understand that Murphy's Law applied here, but I'm also reminded of a proverb about someone who "blames his tools"...

And I'm sure that they learn from this episode and make a better game next time. They've done that before and they will do that again.

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Anonymous April 9, 2011 12:23 PM

Why are you guys so harsh? This is a great game. Okay, maybe it had a few bugs, but they were rapidly fixed. Also, don't forget the game is free! Shouldn't we be more thankful?

HiVE, keep up the good work!

Regards,
==Melo==

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RedFlamingo June 19, 2011 6:08 AM

I like this game A LOT, it looks great and the general concept of the game is original and very fun if you're into programming yourself =P

The tutorial however is lacking information, as said earlier: the learning curve after the tutorials is very high.

I for instance don't know what the light does. Does it help you with something or can it be used for something?

And I have also spent a total of like 2 hours now on 'Re: Outraged', and I definitely feel like it isn't solvable without Group 2 either having 4 lines of code instead of 3 or Group 2 having multiple conditions instead of just one. If someone has solved it, please let me know!

Overall great game, 9/10 definitely.

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Why is this tagged for Mac and Windows? I only see a .exe file.

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