Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I admit it, I turned into a tiny pathetic babyman when one of m’esteemed colleagues suggested I should look at Factorio, a survival-management game about keeping yourself alive on a hostile world by setting up elaborate production lines. B-b-b-but look at all those conveyor belts! Those incomprehensible mazes of construction! Only rocket scientists, brain surgeons and people who know how toilets work could possibly be able to make sense of this thing.
It was maybe half an hour before I understood everything.
Factorio knows exactly what it’s doing, which isn’t something I can say of every game, particularly ones as involved as this. Sure, a game having a fixed internal logic is one thing, but knowing how to gently coax the player into understand complex systems to the extent that, past a certain point, they truly begin to think like it does is another.
And that’s Factorio’s masterstroke. Where, at first glance, those screenshots were nightmare fuel, now I am able to follow every belt and every circuit, know what it’s all hooked up to, appraise if it’s efficient and where it’s weak points are. I see Factorio’s matrix, and though this might appear a superficially crude affair, its degree of slickness in conveying how to understand its elaborate automation is extremely rare.