Monday, 5 October 2015

UnOff. Factorio FAQ: About the Game

Frequently Asked Questions
for the computer game
(UnOfficial FAQ: About the Game)
(official link, though)
Link back to the index.
"This is a game that lets you automate Minecraft. [...] It just feels like someone looked at Minecraft and thought: 'Oh, this is wrong, let's do this properly!'"
- Dan "Nerd3" Hardcastle

Q: What is Factorio?
A: Factorio is a computer game about building and expanding a factory to automatically create and move objects.

You create both intermediate products and finished useable objects, including objects pertinent to production (such as Assembler Machines and Chemical Plants) and to logistics (like Transport Belts, Inserters or Pipes).

As of alpha 0.12 (often just called alpha 12 or a12), the game can be said to have 3 actual goals, with the 3rd being somewhat optional:

  1. Automate the production of the Magic Science Potions
  2. Defend your factory from the pollution-hating hippie aliens
  3. Build a Rocket Silo, and launch a Rocket (with a Satellite) into orbit
Or going into more depth:
  1. There are four kinds of Magic Science Potions in the game: The red ones are fairly easy to make, the green ones are a bit more challenging, and the blue ones are downright tricksy (requiring 4 advanced materials), while the purple ones require you to leave the safety of your cosy base and harvest Alien Artifacts, the violent hippiecidal way. To climb the Tech Tree, you start with the red ones, then add green ones, and then finally blue and purple (the purple ones are also called Alien Magic Science Potions Science Packs, and you can wait a bit with those after you've done the blue ones)
  2. The aliens are the original inhabitants of the planet that your "civilization" wants to conquer and colonize: Biters, Spitters and Worms (think of them as melee dudes, archer dudes and immobile wormy turret dudes). Factory defence involves the production of fairly large amounts (hundreds) of Gun Turrets and later Laser Turrets, and also Walls made of Stone Brick. Initially it also involves the production of ammunition for the Gun Turrets (many thousands of clips) and the logistics to move those ammo clips to where they are needed (usually using Transport Belts). Later you'll need large facilities for the production of power (Boilers and Steam Engines, or Solar Panels) and buffer storage of energy (Accumulators) so that you can actually use your Laser Turrets when the angry hippies comes a-visiting
  3. This involves producing large quantities of Concrete, Rocket Fuel and other components. One hint: You'll need lots of Plastic. Back in a11 Plastic was only really needed to make Advanced Circuits (the red ones), but now it is also used for the Rocket end game
sapientius, non contentius labora

QThat sounds like work! I play games for fun!! Work isn't fun!!!!
A: Then be glad that nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to play Factorio!!!!!!!!

More seriously, Factorio isn't a game about work. Factorio is a game about avoiding work:
The more work you're doing, in the game, the wronger you're playing it. The success criterion for Factorio is to do as little work as possible.

Let your machines do the work for you.

Initially you might have to manually mine a couple dozen units from the ground (e.g. 10 Stone, 9 Iron and 3 Coal), before you can automate mining entirely, but that can be avoided completely if you play like I do and move your first Burner Mining Drill around from patch to patch, gathering Coal, Stone and then Iron Ore, until you have enough mats to make a 2nd Burner Mining Drill, then a 3rd, then a 4th, then many.

It's a tiny bit slower that way but very doable (and it may feel faster, because you're not actively working). You will have to manually chop down at least one Tree to get the Wood (to make 1 Chest and use the rest as initial fuel), and unless you're using a mod such as Agent Orange then you'll have to manually clear away a lot of Trees, as (sadly) the devs haven't yet come up with a solution for this problem in the vanilla game (although later in the game, you can use Hand Grenades, and Poison Capsules, and eventually Construction Robots, to remove unwanted Trees en masse, or you can use the Shotgun, another popular option).

sapientius, non contentius labora

QWhere can I buy Factorio? Where can I get Factorio for free?
A: You can purchase Factorio in the official online shop here (call me cynical, but I recommend just buying the first tier, the cheapest. The scenario pack ended up not interesting me, personally, as I lost interest in puzzle type games long ago, it's the core game, in freeplay mode, that I like).

Also, from the 25th of February, the game will be sold from Valve's Steam store.

You can get the demo, if you want to try it out first, or if you want to see if the game can run on your system. Another option is to watch some Let's Play-style videos on YouTube, but beware that the game is a slow starter; the first 15-45 minutes of gameplay are quite boring to watch, and they consistently gives a false impression of how much fun Factorio is in the long term. The videos of early-stage gameplay are inevitably  misleading about the nature of mid-stage and late-stage gameplay.

The above links are to the "stable" releases, and while they are stable, the "experimental" releases are also impressively stable, so I highly recommend going for those instead: Here is a link to the experimental demo, and if you've bought the game (from Wube's website) then you need to click on the link to "experimental release" to download alpha 0.12.23 (instead of 0.11.22), or you can just click here (note that link only works if you're logged in, which means you must have purchased the game first).

Oh, you mean for free as in piracy? Well, I'm against computer game piracy on principle (with the exception of de facto abandonware - I absolutely do not accept the idea that idle IP should remain property), but to compound matters Factorio is actually a very cheap game at 16 euros (or 15 US dollars if you live in the USA).

So just go fucking buy it, you cheapskate! It's easily 30-40 hours of entertainment, and very possibly many hundreds of hours. And once you get tired of the vanilla game, you can start mucking around with mods, and mod the game a lil bit, or a lot, depending on your temper.

sapientius, non contentius labora

QIs Factorio available on Steam?
A: Not yet, but it will be launched on Steam very soon (no "greenlight" phase - Valve has acknowledged that Factorio is a very stable and feature-rich game, so Wube gets to skip that). The devs are just looking for the right moment, which turns out to be February 25th. Also, players who purchased the pre-Steam version from the devs' website will be able to get a Steam key, so they can transfer their game ownership status to the Steam platform if they so desire.

sapientius, non contentius labora

QWhat are the requirements for playing Factorio?
A: I'd guess an IQ of 110 or so. It is a thinky game, but not actually super complex. Not being dyslexic would be useful, but if you have another player to assist you in learning the game early on, then it might matter. Having problems with basic arithmetic (as can be the case for some people with 110+ IQ who are afflicted with dyscalculia) would be a show stopper, though. The game is to some extent localised, so I'm not sure it's even necessary to be able to read English.

While not a requirement, having friends (or enemies, or complete strangers) to play with makes the game a lot more fun, compared to single player which can get boring after a while; like many other survival/crafting-genre games, Factorio shines in coop MP.

sapientius, non contentius labora

QNo, I mean what are the computer specifications required to play this game?
A: I can't be arsed to look them all up, but I think the main one is half a GB of graphics card memory. Most computers these days have that, but not all. You don't need a fancy graphics card, since Factorio isn't a 3D game (it's entirely 2D) but you do need some CPU muscle and some RAM because Factorio performs a lot of calculations per 1/60s game time "tick". I don't know how much is needed, but probably most modern computers have more than enough of those two.

If you're unsure, try the demo, and play through to the last demo stage, see if your computer can cope with that, before you buy

Do note, though, that in MP each computer has to do all the work - it's not distributed between the computers. This means that the weakest computer determines how fast the game is going, if the game is able to do the full 60 updates-per-second speed or if there'll be a slow-down to 50 or 40 UPS or even lower.

As for operating systems, Factorio allegedly supports Linux and Mac, but I don't know how well that actually works. I see it primarily as a Windows game, but of course if someone can give me quotable "testimony" about having played the game successfully in coop MP mode in a Mac or a Linux system, then I'd be happy to include it below.


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