10.9.14

Factorio

v. 0.9.8

Those tiny details

One of my late spring rss feeds provided me with a trailer for Factorio. My very first thought was "hey, it looks like the Bitmap Brothers games, neat!" and when a train smashed some spacecockroaches, I was sold. Just for the fun of it I decided to invest into this alpha stage product, just like I did with Minecraft, thinking "maybe I'll get some fun out of this".

Of course I didn't get to try this 10€ game in ages, as I had so much to do and so many other things unfinished. But then, one beautiful evening I made the mistake of installing version 0.9.8. I'm going to warn you at this point already: after a few silly hours this game could be labeled addictiveish. Just like aforementioned Minecraft, if you're into sandboxes.

Initial confusion

To begin with I was totally lost with everything, but I absolutely refused to ask google after the first few minutes. Following the traditional route of miserable trial and a ridiculous error I got something understandable done. Most of my questions were answered while checking the key mappings.


The earliest adventures consisted of running around the map, searching for a place to start building something and collecting a starter pack of wood and rocks. Quickly enough I had a few wood-fired drills digging coal, copper and iron for me, a bunch of meters of transporter belts and some wood-fired robot arms throwing stuff from the belt into boxes. Yes, all of these were wood-fired - later on I switched into using coal, whenever I could afford it.


Progress and insane production chains

I guess it's traditional: the first phase is slow and pretty much full of manual labour, as I only had few resources and I had to build everything myself. Just like I had few items I could build with my raw materials, I naturally needed to research a bit to get more toys available. Slowly I had progressed into the steampunk age and had a steam power plant with a couple of furnaces heating water for it and I could start using electric devices and worry a lot less about my drills running constantly out of fuel. Pretty quickly I got the idea of automating things a bit. Meaning: I built two rows of ovens along the ore transporting belt and set robotic arms to refill the furnaces and others to take the procuts on the outer ring of conveyor belts.

After my lab rats had been scratching their eggheads for a while I could build some assembly machines, that ate the raw materials and built some first-level intermediate products. And when I had a couple of those in a nice (very messy-looking) chain, my end product transporters had things as complicated as more conveyor belts, circuit boards and electric robot arms. My main point was that not all of the low-tier products were consumed, so that I'd have some gear wheels and such for other assembly plants. It was lots of fun and pondering on the best setup was intriguing and neverending.

Genially the game does build your end product automatically, even if you don't happen to have the intermediates in your pockets, such as a circuit board, as long as you have enough of the base materials for everything. It just takes ages and you can only build one item at a time, which is why automating everything is the thing. In other words, it's much quicker to pick up a couple of intermediate items from a box to build a solar panel than wait for all six preceding steps done first. The factories build your necessary items and you then build the rarer things yourself (or use an individual assembler for those tasks), whenever needed.



Developmental discussion centers


At this point of the tech-tree my lab only ate red and green bottles (Science Pack) - and copious amounts of time. Building those bottles all the time was damn annoying, because I had to be doing that literally all the time (and they required pocketfuls of intermediates), so I refactored my assembly line in such a way that two assembly machines built both types, dropped them on a new belt, from where they were picked into the lab itself. The overflow of bottles were then picked up into a box so that my bottle factories didn't need to stop. Not horribly surprisingly my production was boosted insanely, as the science progressed automatically and I didn't have to stop every two minutes to build bottles (often picking up intermediates on the way) and carry them to the lab. Of course I wanted to double my research efficiency, so I had to double my bottle production as well. And as I was on the path of improving productivity, I updated the simple level 1 assemblers to level 2 (building speed went from 0,5 to 0,75). This will never end!




The wonders of automation



Of course this was the whole idea, I was just so pleased that I had come up with it myself. While writing this I had barely upgraded my stone furnaces into steel furnaces, with the goal of switching to electric ones as soon as possible. Even now the power required by my mines, robots and tiny factories consumed everything produced by my three steam power plants and they made an amusing amount of smog already. I had researched the solar panels already, but as they weren't going to help much over the night, I would need something more awesome. Yes, I want to start splitting atoms.



For the weird pleasures of all the statisctics-o-philes and other geeks you can get some neat graphs drawn of your production and electricity stats. I found it very fascinating. Those can show you when the production of thing x has died/dropped because of an unpowered furnace or something, but it can take ages to notice something like that. I do recognize the need for optimization here (I only have three fuel-powered furnaces without automated refueling at the moment), it's just that my current configuration just doesn't allow me to set those ovens up automatically. Maybe after yet another round of refactoring...



Fossil fuels

I found the oil refining damn weird to begin with, until it dawned to me that as the refinery spits out all three types of products, you either had to consume or store everything to keep the refinery running. Just using the petroleum gas to get solid fuel wasn't working for more than about ten seconds at a time. So I had to set one refinery to process two oil wellfuls of raw oil and behind that I built three chemical factories to turn all the products (petroleum gas, light and heavy oil) into solid fuel for my hungry furnaces.

Of course after I had that setup built, my scientists had unlocked the secrets of plastics production, and I had to build a couple more pumps, refinery and lines for plastics production (input: petr.gas and oil, output: plastic). I guess I have to research and then produce things like sulphuric acid and explosives.

At some point I got the awesome idea to start one assembler to build me a bunch of oiljacks (I found a field of 15 oil wells). The original idea of one or two oil wells providing for a single refinery etc did't really work out. So I built a mighty oil field, intermediate storage tanks and a long transport pipe that was then connected to the new crude oil network providing for my duo of refineries. Result: about twenty oil wells, of which only about four were mostly depleted.




Thoughts

I guess it's pretty much clear as day: Factorio is a fascinating and interesting game. This first game / world was started safely in a peaceful mode so I haven't got any monsters attacking me and I've been able to build stuff in peace. The fact that tweaking the difficulty setting will bring more fun and extra panic, I don't doubt it for a second. There'll be more mumbling about this later. Or not.

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