Wednesday, June 8, 2016


So, as a general rule, the type of games I like to play are not the ones my friends do. Because of that, today I'd like to share one game that I rather enjoy with those friends, precisely because I know that they would never play. Maybe they'll enjoy the writing, at least. If you find yourself ever interested in playing, it's sold on Steam for a round $20. (Exactly $20. They're weird in more ways than one) and it's one of the few games I've seen with a demo. It does have a multiplayer option, as well.

Factorio is a game about making a factory, or more precisely turning ever-increasing amounts of raw goods into finished products, all for a nebulous goal. This is not really a game that you can "win" in the classic sense, and even the goals and background are kind of senseless. It is most assuredly a sandbox game, one which I'd put in the "zen garden" genre of games. There is no goal, aside from managing and creating something, and in the process gaining peace. While it may be strange that my sense of peace is a massive, polluting mess of machines that exist only to create more machines may be strange, it is still peaceful.

The bright orange stuff to the top is mineable copper. This world has abundant surface deposits, lucky you!
This is you. You start on an alien planet, crash-landed with few supplies. The emergency supplies are pretty standard for the sci-fi genre. You come with a pistol, a few magazines, some random parts you were able to scrounge from the wreckage, along with an automated mining drill and furnace. And a super-suit that gives you super strength and has nano-bots capable of constructing nearly anything that doesn't involve heat or liquids.

Yep. Standard. How will you ever survive with just the bare essentials? Much less make the rocket to serve as a flare for people to rescue you?

Not only are you able to easily carry the wood from this entire tree, but you go through it in 3 seconds.
Your first step is to gather fuel. Easiest option is to chop the entire forest down. 50 trees later and we're good to start drilling. There are 5 main raw resources you can collect from the environment. Iron is used to make anything structural, and is the bulk of what we need early to make what we want. Copper is used for anything electrical, and is mostly used later when circuit production begins in earnest. Stone is essential but only used in a few recipes and is relatively scarce. Oil is very useful, but complex enough that we can't even mine it yet. Then there's coal, which we'll use as our main energy source, supplemented by oil if needed.

Each tree gives 4 wood. We're carrying 50 trees while running at full speed. Don't take this game seriously
Now we get to the actual factory portion. Our burner drill (as in, it burns it's own fuel to power the drill) will work automatically as long as it has fuel, an available resource, and empty space to put the ore it mines. In front we'll drop the furnace, which takes fuel, along with some material to produce a more refined product. In this case, our drill produces iron ore, which will be turned into iron plates. We only have the one mine, if we want more mines, we'll need to gather stone as well.

A quick bit of stone gathering and waiting, and we've produced 2 more mines. One to get us more stone, and the other to produce copper ore, which is promptly made into copper plates. Our steady, though slow, supply of copper, stone, and iron will allow us to start the next step: electric power. Electricity is used for the vast majority of machines in order to run (How surprising!) It's only in the strict beginning of the game that you use fuel directly. Aside from furnaces for which the electric version is far away.

The pump has a wheel on the side to get things started, if you wondered
With our initial supplies, we've created the first real new thing: a steam engine. Water is pumped up, fed into a boiler, then into the steam engine in order to create electricity. Super suits and space travel, and the most efficient form of electricity generation is still boiling water. Now that we have electricity, we can start our research to go down the tech tree and expand our budding factory.

To give a sense of how good your nano-bots are, it took 9 seconds to make and get it operational
Our new drill is all around better than the previous. More efficient, faster, though a little larger. It's fast enough that we can almost run two furnaces off of one drill. Look closely and next to the mine you can see 2 arm-contraptions. They're called inserters, and work off electricity to move things from one square to another. They're programmable to interact with the nearby objects if necessary. In this case it will take items from the box that the furnace needs, making sure not to overfill or give it the wrong item.

The research material the lab requires a copper plate and an iron gear, to create a red beaker. I have no idea how this works
Most objects of any complexity are made from multiple intermediate objects. In this case, we want to build our lab to begin research. The lab requires 10 electronic circuits, each requiring a metal plate and 3 copper wires, with each copper plate being made into 2 wires. An iron gear takes 2 iron plates, while the transport belt requires an iron gear and an iron plate. Luckily our nano-bots can take care of everything, once we've collected our iron from the furnaces.

I have a mod to increase research time and materials by a factor of 3, it doesn't normally take this much

Finally, with our lab done we begin our research. Our first item is for basic automated factories. Each factory we make can produce items continuously without our input, which is useful consider the number of items we'll need. Making 4 belts ourselves to create the lab is fine, but making hundreds of belts we'll want for our entire factory would take far too long and be far too tedious.

I should note that the intro bit here is abnormal for the rest of the game. Most of the time later is spent building the factory instead of bootstrapping the beginnings. They even recommend for anyone that does videos to skip the first 15-20 minutes precisely because it's so tedious. The good part about it is the introduction it gives to basic mechanics. Hopefully the silliness of the entire concept helps make it more interesting for a reader.

Let me know what you think too, if you ever get this far down.

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