Factorio updates with heavy artillery and optimizations

Factorio

The horrifically compelling sci-fi construction sandbox Factorio received another major update over the holidays, bringing much-needed performance improvements to the game along with adding a whole new subset of heavyweight military technologies. This update also marks the start of the final stretch of development, with Wube Software announcing that the price of the game will be increasing to $30 later this month.

For players already neck deep into Factorio, the optimizations will probably be the most important change in version 0.16. All those thousands of conveyor belts eventually took their toll on your CPU, and the new system claims to increase performance by as much as 800%. Conveyor belts should also behave properly no matter how far away you are from them, fixing some compression-related issues under the hood.

As nice as having the game running smoothly is, the most exciting addition is artillery. Huge cannons (both in stationary and train-wagon forms), huge shells, and huge firepower. Artillery can either be assigned to engage automatically as if it were a regular (if significantly heavier) turret emplacement, although the Targeting Remote allows you to call out targets up to three times the normal visual range of the gun, allowing you to pop alien nests without risking your neck in a direct assault.

There are also some nice cosmetic tweaks, with an improved world generator backed up with higher resolution terrain sprites. Cliffs can now be found in the world, providing natural barriers that you can build around, or just blast through with a new tier of demolition explosives. A new kind of conveyor filter – splitters – should help optimize factory designs greatly, with you just being able to tell the machine which components should be routed in which direction once you’ve completed the appropriate research.

According to their development roadmap, the next major update to the game (Version 0.17) will be a major one, overhauling both the early-game experience via redesigned tutorials, revising the campaign gameplay as a whole, and reworking the entire graphical back-end.

You can pick up Factorio for £15/$20 on Steam and Humble now, although the price will be increasing to $30 (and presumably £25) on April 16th, and will stay at that price for the foreseeable future, due to the studio’s no discounts policy.

58 Comments

  1. BaaBaa says:

    This is one of those games that I’d probably enjoy a lot more if I weren’t a programmer. While I did find the urge to refactor my designs compelling, it was also too much like my daily work.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I agree, though I think my weird problem is that I enjoy programming too much. I like solving those types of problem, but I want to do it with code, not an awkward and slow interface. It’s like trying to write and edit an entire novel on a phone with one finger. And at the end you don’t even have the novel.

      So when I play Factorio, I eventually find myself looking longingly at Visual C++ and thinking about more interesting projects.

      But I’ve appreciated Factorio a bit more after you could download other people’s blueprint books, outsourcing the more tedious design work.

    • cheborra says:

      Agreed!
      Also, Factorio is the closest thing I’ve seen to Reactive Programming in a game, or any other activity outside programming itself

    • kalzekdor says:

      I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve co-opted the project management software I use for my development work (link to atlassian.com) to manage work orders on for the Factorio server me and my friends play on. Such a hypothetical Factorio issue tracker may or may not have custom workflows written by me that govern committee based approval of job requests.

      There is definitely something wrong with me. I’m not sure I have a problem with this.

  2. Idodo says:

    Just chiming in for people that haven’t played Factorio yet: This is the best game I have ever played, period. I know it doesn’t look like much in first (and maybe even second) glance, and I know it takes 2-4 hours to pick up (minimum), but this is a crazy time sink with endless depth. A single play-through for the uninitiated can easily take 100 hours, and you’ll still be a noob for all purposes. After you feel you understand the core mechanics of the game (after about 1000 hours or so), you can install huge game-changing mods which make the vanilla game feel easy (it’s not).

    To top it all, the community on the official forums and reddit is the most non-toxic gaming community I’ve ever encountered, and the devs are active there – they listen and interact with the players on a daily basis.

    If you’re on the fence on buying it – just do it. It’ll potentially save you money, because you won’t need to buy any other game. If you do, please join us at the Cracktorio.. er, Factorio Reddit.

    • automatic says:

      I tried it and didn’t liked it. To me it seems to follow the Prison Architect development formula (and a lot of early access building games), where people who are playing from day one gets the thrill of new features while they are also building their in-game stuff. It’s almost like waiting for the game to finish is part of the fun. For new players who get it finished though it feels like a 10 thousand piece puzzle you can assemble any way you want. Not my kind of game. Maybe in a multiplayer open universe…

      • MiniMatt says:

        Gosh no, Prison Architect has a right way to do things and encourages you to restart until you do it just right.

        Factorio has a right way to do things but teaches you to do it good enough.

        There’s a Mechanic article in this for sure, Factorio’s two key tweaks are that (a) tear downs are free – nuke & rebuild bits or all of your factory and you lose nothing but your time, and (b) you’ll never make it optimum and that’s ok.

        (b) is crucial. There is a perfect ratio for everything. Whereas Prison Architect might have a “perfect” 3×2 prison cell resulting in “perfect layouts” available on the internet, Factorio has a perfect “3 copper to 2 circuit fabs” green circuit production – but everybody’s green circuit layout will look a bit different, and be a little short on perfect due to…. iron being starved due to gears production or routing problems leaving only a half belt of copper supplying the fab.

        There is a perfect mathematical ratio for every item in Factorio yet everyone’s solution will look both different and recognisable. Prison Architect (and its ilk) kinda encourages you to just look up the “perfect” block on the wiki and copy paste.

        • Nogo says:

          I was reading your post and wondering if you got the names wrong. Both games are highly susceptible to optimal layouts you can find online, and both have very limited variations or variables to alter your overall plans.

          If anything, Factorio is the more rote one. PA has prisoner personalities, high/mid/low security tiers, and many assets and systems meant for self-expression inside the implied politics. Factorio has different sized resource plots, distances, and you pretty much just unlock a tech tree. There’s some question about pollution and genocide in there, but very little to help the player customize their approach.

          • MiniMatt says:

            We have…. on a biblical scale, interpreted the same game in completely different ways.

            Games might actually be great :)

    • MiniMatt says:

      Yep, Factorio & KSP are my most played games *ever* (and I have WRINKLES – my “ever” includes A LOT)

      An RPS premature evaluation (possibly Brendan, possibly Marsh Davies?) reached the beautiful revelation that just maybe the player is the baddie. But by God am I an efficient baddie. Kinda. Just as soon as I sort my red circuit production.

  3. Calculon says:

    I was kind of left with a so-what feeling with factorio which precludes me from opening the game.

    What I mean by this is – sure it was fun to build all of the systems initially and optimize them etc – but in the end I was thinking – for what purpose? What am I playing ‘against’? The bugs are of little consequence with some properly placed turrets. And then….,your just building and teching for the sake of doing it.

    Maybe multiplayer is the point? Unfortunately I don’t have the time to dedicate to a game with multiplayer – so if that’s he case – other than some fun with building a pseudo factory – which is again kind of fun for a bit – I don’t see the point of playing

    • Shadow says:

      Building your increasingly voracious, convoluted industrial machine is precisely the fun. The bugs can be tweaked to be really dangerous, if that’s your thing, and there’s also the rocket construction for those who can’t live without objectives in their games. But it’s all about the building, for the most part.

      It’s in many ways a creative excercise, like building something out of Legos. It doesn’t require a practical end.

      • automatic says:

        It doesn’t felt like lego building games to me exactly because what you build has no purpose besides the building itself. The lego like games I know all have environments where you can use the stuff you build. In Factorio it seems the only purpose of the environment is to serve as a resource for expanding your factory.

        • Shadow says:

          I meant actual Legos (and similar building bricks). Building is the purpose. Don’t tell me you don’t know Lego beyond videogames…

          • automatic says:

            Sure, but even real legos can interact with the environment and be interacted with. Unless you’re talking about stuff people build to admire, like sculptures. In that case Factorio is an even poorer platform. How much creativity freedom can you have when the major challenge in the game is to improve efficiency? To me it seems like building the electric circuit of a machine that does nothing.

          • Raoul Duke says:

            Both of you stop using “legos” as a plural, god dammit.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      As best I can tell the people who like it most are in it for the flow optimization and production rate tweaking.

      Which, really isn’t as atypical as it sounds: a substantial percentage of RTS games, say, are basically about flow rate optimization, avoiding bottlenecks, build order; with some amount of rock/paper/scissors and/or micro tacked on when units actually start shooting.

      Factorio mostly skips that (even if you crank up the bugs it pretty much just increases the rate at which your factory needs to produce guns and ammo in addition to science modules, the bugs have limited strategic depth); in favor of letting you go nuts with the flow rate optimization phase.

      It’s pretty blatant about its “this is about optimizing the numbers”; but a great many games are about optimizing the numbers(RTS build order/rate, MMORPG(and single player to the degree that the game is punishing enough to encourage min/max) optimization of DPS builds, that sort of thing); and by making absolutely no attempt to pretend otherwise Factorio has the advantage of being able to quality-of-life most of the stuff surrounding flow optimization except the optimization process itself, which is the challenge(eg. the graph views for electricity and production rates of various things as a function of time are pure quality-of-life; while battling the fact that T1 inserters are slow is part of the game mechanic, they deliberately suck because fast and filter inserters are a thing toward which you need to build).

      • Sin Vega says:

        You say that, and you’re not wrong, but that’s not the only way to play it. A friend bought it for me last year and I had the best time just building labyrinthine networks with all sorts of weird quirks just to make an area or line more interesting or prettier or just to see what else I could do with it. Maximise The Numbers was never the goal beyond a basic ‘keep things from clogging up the whole system’ level.

        Also, when we played together, there was the meta-game of who could leave the funniest phrase in the most unexpected place for the longest before the other noticed it and fell over laughing.

        • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

          That’s true enough. When I play, in no small part because I’m terrible, I tend to turn down the aliens and noodle around at a relatively tiny scale because I’m blessed/cursed with that peculiar defect of mind that makes constructing simulated toy things feel like rewarding accomplishment. Factorio has more than enough sliders(even without mods) that it can be played at almost any level of skill and seriousness.

          That said; I also played Starcraft mostly for the campaign; and that wouldn’t change my assessment of the fact that, at a population level, Starcraft is about CPM, juggling expansion of multiple resourcing operations; and keeping a close eye on the cost/benefit of each skirmish with the opponent, with a heavy side of micro; and is swift and unforgiving. It does have some side content with a story and missions that even incompetents like me can handle; but that’s not what keeps the people who play it playing it.

          Thanks to being quite configurable; the base difficulty level of Factorio is “well, did you decide to set yourself an objective?”; but to the degree that games have characters of their own, Factorio wants you to optimize. C’mon, just a little taste of improved efficiency couldn’t hurt, could it?

    • soulis6 says:

      While MP is definitely a lot of fun, the game has a definitive ending. Building a rocket and launching a satellite into space is the ending, it even gives you all kinds of stats and replay viewing options.

      If you’re finding that it’s not very challenging though, you should do yourself a favor and select the ‘Death World’ world type at the game start, without changing anything else.

      • kalzekdor says:

        That is most certainly not true. There are whole swathes of technologies that require Space Science to unlock, which you gain by sending satellite after satellite after fish after satellite after car… into space.

        And, yes, before you ask, I was launching cars into space on rockets before it was cool. :-P

    • Excors says:

      I struggle with motivation in pure sandbox games, but Factorio’s long-term goal of launching a satellite was sufficient direction for me. After that, I started again (several times) with the goal of designing more elegant well-balanced sections of the factory, e.g. a self-contained block that takes in iron and copper and produces exactly 1 science pack per second, because my brain seems to enjoy finding tidy solutions to essentially pointless logical problems. Repeat for the ever-more-complex varieties of science pack, build railway stations etc to feed it with enough raw materials for 1 of everything per second, then reoptimise everything once I got productivity modules. After that I felt I’d done enough and didn’t want to build even bigger factories, but I’d played for almost 200 hours and I think that’s plenty.

    • Calculon says:

      I suppose for me I prefer to have something more than just a objective such as ‘launch satellite’ which I could achieve ‘at some point’ – but prefer competition and a little story combined with my manufacturing and process play. How much more cool would it be to be playing against AI with a market? Attempting to manipulate the prices with supply and demand and make a fiscally viable corporation set in a simulated growing economy?

      Probably too much to ask – and probably a good thing they didn’t make that – otherwise I would die from starvation.”…must…optimize…togain market share! *flatline*”

      There were soooo many cool angles they could have gone with it – I suppose I was disappointed in the end. I recall thinking while I was playing – “this is really cool, and I’m sure there is some amazing overarching reason I’m building all of this stuff for that is going to be introduced at any time now…”

      • Skiddywinks says:

        Sounds like you want a cross between Factorio and Offworld Trading Company.

        You are a dangerous man.

        • kalzekdor says:

          I don’t think I can link to a comment directly, so I’ll just link the page and quote my comment from there: link to steamcommunity.com

          Kal Zekdor Jan 28 @ 8:39pm
          I’d dearly like to see a scenario that takes some ideas from Offworld Trading Company. A central market where teams buy/sell goods, land claims for expansion/resource acquistion, etc.

      • wheeb says:

        Sounds like a mod waiting to happen. I’d love to make such a thing but to be honest I still haven’t launched a rocket in this game never mind feel competent enough to design the AI for it. I’d love to have the the time to do this.

        That said, you could easily get the gameplay you want out of the multiplayer, they have competition scenarios.

    • KDR_11k says:

      The bugs grow in power over time and as you expand your factory to get closer and closer to that rocket launch you cover more and more area in pollution and provoke bigger attacks. Your ores run out and you need to claim new territory, again facing the biters. You’re in an arms race with them because your puny starting gun will soon stop hurting them so you need more and more expensive gear to keep them at bay.

    • The K says:

      There is no real “point”. It is just fun to watch your gargantuan industrial titan grow and devour the landscape, belching smoke and choking the wildlife, and slaughter the critters by the thousands.

      At least, i had a lot of fun with that, even without the satellite launch.

  4. dethtoll says:

    I was definitely considering getting this, but their weird, incoherent stance against sales puts me off. I don’t have a whole lot of money. “Worth full price” is a fundamentally meaningless statement when you’re on a very tight budget. I’ve had situations where games go on sale and I still don’t buy them because $9 is out of my price range at that particular point in time. Gaming on the cheap pretty much guarantees that you won’t be playing much that’s newer than 5-10 years. So listening to some pissant little indie house tell me that sales are dishonest doesn’t tell me a lot about their game but it does tell me a lot about them, and if they want to take a principled stand against sales then I can take a principled stand and not buy the game. Clearly they don’t need my money, after all.

    • AngoraFish says:

      lol. Well, you are certainly right about one thing, the devs don’t need your money. In fact, they only need to sell one game for every three players such as yourself who pass on the experience.

      Regardless of your own personal circumstances, game developers gota eat and game development is not a charity.

      Think of it this way, SteamSpy lists Factorio as having an average playtime of 97 hours and a median playtime of 33 hours. If you’re genuinely gaming on a budget, and Factorio is likely to be your thing, one might assume that a better metric for judging where to spend your scarce dollars might be how many hours you’re likely to get out of the purchase rather than the actual up-front cost. By this measure, for most people, Factorio stacks up pretty well.

      • Skiddywinks says:

        I’m really stingy with my game purchases, and I don’t know why because compared to some things (going out for a meal, a bottle of whiskey etc) the value is so much better.

        But no matter what I do pay for a game, if I get 1 hour of gametime per £1 spent, I consider it a good purchase. I have been burnt on some games I have paid a lot for and played very little of. But most of the time it works out really well.

        Games like Factorio, Mount and Blade, Stellaris, FTL, etc are all incredible value.

      • Sin Vega says:

        And when you can’t afford the up-front cost, it’s still too expensive for you, and that is not an unreasonable thing to say.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Perhaps the standards at RPS are different from those in the real world, but accusing the Factorio devs of being a “pissant little indie house” simply for refusing to give their game away for pennies in response to some self-entitled first world toddler tandrum does indeed seem to me to be an unreasonable thing to say.

          • dethtoll says:

            They can do whatever they want with the price. What you’re failing to grasp is that their justification is bad, nonsensical, and comes from a place of high-minded arrogance. That’s what I have an issue with.

            And let’s be honest here: they ARE a “pissant little indie house.” Just like every other indie house. Who are they kidding?

            I’m not bashing indie devs, I’m just saying don’t pretend to be anything more than that with this kind of principled incoherence.

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            Nauallis says:

            Actually, what you’re really saying is that you’re incapable of saving for the things you really want, instead of slavishly binge-buying and blaming a third-party for your lack of self control.

          • dethtoll says:

            Or maybe I have to save money for more important things like furniture and house repairs, like any functioning adult. I don’t suppose you can relate?

    • The K says:

      Yes, how dare some “Pissant little indie house” demand a whooping 30 Dollar for a game they put years of blood, sweat, and toil into, when it only offers dozens of hours of fun and near perfect optimization.

      I still remember when the only “sales” you got were games lying around in a real, physical garbage bin, while nowadays players demand sales immediately after a game releases.

      We all cry about evil EA and big video game industry, but woe to a honest indie dev that wants even half of usual full price for such a gem of a game, that is just greedy, right?

      • ScottTFrazer says:

        “when it only offers dozens of hours of fun and near perfect optimization.”

        Dozens. Lol. noob. :-)

      • dethtoll says:

        They can charge whatever they want. They can decide the game will never go on sale if they want. But their justification is insulting. This isn’t a hard concept to grasp.

    • UncleLou says:

      ” So listening to some pissant little indie house tell me that sales are dishonest doesn’t tell me a lot about their game but it does tell me a lot about them”

      And it doesn’t tell you as much about them as it tells us here about you.

    • Mr. Unpleasant says:

      Hey I don’t sh!t money either but with that game you will easily reach the magic 1-money/hour ratio. And that’s a pretty good deal even without any discount.

      • dethtoll says:

        It’s really not about the value per hour. I’m sure it’s a good game and well worth every penny. But either I don’t have enough pennies, or I can’t justify spending the pennies. And that’s fine too! But their stance against sales makes no sense and just reads like a middle finger to people like me.

    • dethtoll says:

      Boy, I knew my opinion would be unpopular, but I sure didn’t think y’all would fail to grasp my point so badly. Good job.]

      I suppose “pissant little indie dev” was the sticking point, but that’s really what they are. I expect this kind of nonsensical libertarian “sales are dishonest to the customer!!!” logic from big companies like EA. The Factorio devs should be above that. It’s cool if they don’t want to put the game on sale, but wouldn’t it be simpler to just SAY “we put a lot of time and work into this game and want to charge what we think is fair value for that product” instead of making some dumb shit up for a justification?

      • Mr. Unpleasant says:

        I think what we don’t grasp is why you would pick THIS game at THAT price to make your stand. For what it offers, they could make it twice as much and justify the price with having to hire an assassin to kill their grandmother. And people would still buy it in droves.
        Earth Defense Force 4.1 is a so-so port of a 3 year old so-so game and still costs 45 € with no decent sale until a few weeks ago.
        Attack on Titan 2 costs 70 €. Seventy!
        Maybe you’re just bad at picking your fights?

        • dethtoll says:

          I just laid it out for you and you still don’t get it. How is this hard? It’s about the principle, not the price. If the game was $5 I still wouldn’t buy it because they chose to insult potential customers’ intelligence instead of just being honest about why the game wouldn’t be on sale.

          To reiterate: “Sales are dishonest to the customer” is patent libertarian nonsense and any thinking human should be able to recognize that. If they wanted to be honest with their customers they could have just been straightforward: “We’re charging the price we think this game deserves.” They did not do that, and in the process undermined their own argument.

  5. FizicsMcmanus says:

    I wanted to like this game and am glad I bought it to support a developer who obviously had great love for it but it just seemed too much like work. That and I am too dumb (dumbness applies but is not limited to simulation games and may cause side effects like dizziness, nausea, irritability and can lead to serious complications)

  6. Byrnghaer says:

    I’ve got around 250 hours into the game and still learning, and improving with every new factory. To keep things fresh I don’t calculate precise costs for most things and rather err on the side of overkill, though I’ve figured out some preferred setups for several core components like green chips.

    Past the point of launching a rocket into space I tend to lose motivation to keep building more, as all items have been built and at that point it becomes a simple question of more more more, but what really makes this game work for me is starting with extremely humble beginnings and ending with an absolute monstrosity of a factory that takes significant amounts of time to cross without trains or cars, and all the quality of life improvements you keep making for yourself, figuring out smart solutions for problems, or dumb solutions because you inevitably start making belt spaghetti which ends up with hilarious rerouts to make things barely fit.

    Then you step back, have a look at the map and witness the sheer immensity of what’s happening all around you, for your single benefit. The amount of things happening can be truly staggering, but it all makes sense because you built it brick by brick. Until you come back to it after a two-week break, probably.

  7. AskForBarry says:

    So, I played this around christmas 2016, and was hooked for a while. But I felt it was not developed enough then, and decided I would wait until it got a full release.
    Should I pick it up again now, or should I keep waiting?

    • ScottTFrazer says:

      Really depends on what felt “unfinished” to you.

      If it was combat, maybe wait or pass entirely. I don’t think combat will ever be more complex than a wave-after-wave tower defense style game.

      If it was “I want a better story for the game” then maybe hold off as they’ve said they want to beef up the campaign portion, but know you’ll pay an additional 30% premium for waiting.

      If it was “the graphics need to improve and they need to add more stuff” you should check it out again, they’ve done that.

      And the mod scene is ridiculous. If launching a rocket is your end game and you’re concerned because you can easily do that in 60-100 hours on your first try, maybe add Bob’s. Or Angel’s. Or try a Seablock and see how well you do :-)

  8. Doug Exeter says:

    Bought it. Played it. Refunded it. It’s a perfectly fine game but my brain is simply not wired to get enjoyment out of what they were trying to do.

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