Factorio Diary

I was thinking last night of how to make some real forums-y ass content for this here forum. And really my favourite kind of forum content is “weirdo doing their weird own thing to an audience.” And then I thought, I dunno what I‘d talk about because all I’m really doing right now is playing Factorio, the obsessively detailed factory simulator game. If you've never heard of it, the easiest way to describe it is if you took most of the depth of combat out of Starcraft and made it all about building a base that automates its own production.

I LOVE Factorio. I submitted it as my pick on this very forum for my GOTY pick, slightly because I thought no one else would, but also because that was the honest pick, from me. If Factorio is your kind of thing you are probably already aware of it, but hey, maybe not.

So then I thought, hey, if more than zero people show an interest in me indulging in a little public info-dumping about my current game of Factorio, I'll come on here and make little approximately daily reports about what I did in Factorio, recently. I'll take screenshots too! I figured if any community is going to appreciate something willfully arcane and obtuse about a game they might not even ever play, it'll be this forum.

For those who have played Factorio, I'm playing AngelBob's, and I've turned off biters.

For those who haven't, I'm playing the game heavily modified. There are two well known modpacks, Angel's Mods and Bob's Mods. They both basically dramatically increase the complexity of their own respective halves of the game's overall structure (resource processing and production respectively). And so some truly weird players combine them which compounds the increase in complexity of the game. For example a thing that takes 3 ingredients in vanilla with 2 intermediates, now takes 5 ingredients and 7 intermediates. And so on. I've also completely turned off enemies because I find that aspect of the game stressful, and for the time being, am using a sort of unlimited crafting mode, basically because I had a prior save that got broken by mods and I don't want to do everything the hard way again until I've caught back up.

Anyway, yeah, if anyone is even remotely interested in that, Smash That Like Button

Sure! Always interested to hear about cool games I‘ve never experienced. In fact I checked out Factorio on the googles after I saw your post about it in the GOTY thread and it sure looked interesting! Seemed like something that could scratch that Sim City, Civilization, slow-burn logistics game itch that’s always there for me.

@CidNight#11428 And so, Pandora's Box has been opened…

I think I will try to start at some point today! I feel I have a lot to explain. Hopefully even if it's just totally incomprehensible, it will be incomprehensible in a way that will get people to check the game out, because I think it's really great.

So… it makes sense to me to at least explain what Factorio is about in a broad sense.

Factorio is about a little guy who crash lands on a planet populated entirely by hostile, hive-minded, unintelligent bug aliens. That's the last in this thread we'll be hearing about them, because I intentionally turn them off, 'cause yeah, this is my relaxation game and I don't find dealing with them fun or relaxing (there is not too much to the combat in general really, it's more like it makes the game have tower defense elements).

Your win state is to build a rocket and launch it. It is at the end of a pretty huge tech tree, even in vanilla. It took me 150 hours of play to launch including one do-over when my factory building mistakes became too aggravating to deal with. It might have been easier to just rebuild but I wanted to start from scratch.

The fundamental activity in Factorio is making stuff and moving stuff. You make stuff, then move it somewhere to make stuff, which you either use to move or make new stuff or move or make stuff better.


[Image description: A labeled-by-number screenshot of Factorio]

1: Conveyer belts move two lanes of materials in one direction. This belt is moving Iron Plates and Iron Gear Wheels.

2: A power grid is essential to power many things. Most things need power but some don't (belts, blessedly, don't require power). Some things require fuel instead.

3: An inserter arm takes Stuff from the tile behind it and places it on or into the tile in front of it. There are countless uses of this, of course. Inserts will take from either side of a belt and will either move anything indefinitely so long as there is space, or if it is inserting something into a machine or something, it take whatever is needed.

4: This 3x3 building is an Assembly machine. As you might be able to guess from the icon overlaid on to it, it builds Inserters. Inserts require Iron Plates and Iron Gear Wheels to be built (actually they take a third ingredient but never mind that for now). It accepts input of needed materials from inserters as well as outputs material via inserter. The inserter labeled in 3 will input Iron Plates and Iron Gear Wheels as needed...

5: ...and the inserter above it will remove them once there is completed stuff. It can move stuff directly from the Assembler to, in this screenshot, a crate for storage, or on to a belt, or whatever.

Of course, the art to it is in making things efficient, streamlined, and organized, using better more flexible tools, but also just by making smart design choices.

[Image description: A labeled-by-number screenshot of Factorio]


In the simpler layout I had Iron Plates and Gears on the same belt to move to the Inserter Assembly machine. However, Iron Gear Wheels are made with Iron Plates. Sometimes it makes sense to have belts with two materials like this, but often, it is simpler or more convenient to just build intermediates at the point where you need them. Plus it means I can move in more Iron in general by increasing the throughput of the belt to move Iron. In a situation where I'm routing in plates and gears from gosh knows where, it means only half of the belt is devoted to a necessary material with overlapping uses. I could run into imbalances like having too much iron and not enough gears. In this example, since Inserters are only taking what is needed, I will have as much Iron coming in as possible and only what is needed from that Iron will be made into gears. So at least I know if this set up uses iron plates too fast and is starved for material I just need to figure out how to feed in more plates, not gears as well.

This belt has little red arrows, bit hard to see, instead of yellow like the ones above. It's an upgraded version that moves faster. Same with the Red Inserters. Same thing but faster.


This thing is a belt splitter. It accepts input from one or two belts and outputs on to one or two belts, making the output on either side roughly equal. You can use them for a variety of reasons, compressing a higher number of belt lanes down to fewer lanes, but here I'm using it to divert Iron Plates in order to ensure the Gear assembler will dependably have Iron. If I didn't have one and just wrapped the belt close to the Gear assembler, I could run the risk of Inserters eating too much Iron and starving themselves of Gears. It would probably still work out in the end because Inserters won't indefinitely overfill Assemblers, but the splitter means the whole system will operate more consistently since it gives it the best chance for providing both with what they need.


Inserts take Iron Plates, Iron Gears, and this third material. Well, not exactly this material, in Vanilla it's Electronic Circuits, and they're basically the same graphic but green. They're red here because of my mods.

For simplicity's sake, let's assume that Inserters require 2 Iron Plates, 1 Gear, and 1 Electronic Circuit.

This is a good example of when it's good to have a belt with 2 materials. I haven't represented the exact ratio, but let's assume that 1 Gear Assembler and 1 Electronic Circuit can produce Gears and Electronic Circuits fast enough to provide enough for 2 Assemblers building Inserts. That means instead of having a ratio of machines of 1:1:1 I can have 1:1:2, one more machine for double the output.

As well, if the Gear and Circuit Assemblers can provide enough, I can just load them on to the same belt and send them up that way. Inserts will pick up things from either side of a belt, but they generally place things on to the far side of the belt (easiest to see with the Circuit Inserter placing the Circuits on the belt over the Gears).


A very handy tool for increasing the density of setups, the Underground Belt, which will extend in a straight line a certain number of tiles. Upgraded underground belts both move faster and also reach further underground. I can criss cross the Plate belt with the Gear+Circuit Belt and have it come up from underground right where it's needed.


Having that belt in between the Assemblers with Inserters on either side means that I can load completed Inserters on both sides of the belt, too. As well this power wire lookin guy right next to the number label is called a Substation. Unlike the other power pole, it is 2x2 tiles instead of one tile. But it provides power to a much wider area and its max length for a power connection is further.

Basically, the game gives you tons and tons of means to lay out and fine tune your set ups. This is a very very simple example, of course, and I intentionally hid the materials for the Electronic Circuit, because otherwise it would be roughly twice as big. Part of that is mods but Vanilla is not a whole lot different at this simple level. Modded play gets significantly more complicated especially in the later game.

If you‘re thinking, you know, that doesn’t sound so bad, although it's probably relatively simple due to it being Vanilla and a simple example.

Well, ok, here's fairly heavily modded play, and what I've been setting up for the past few days.

[Image Description: A wide, narrow screenshot of Factorio with a lot of different buildings and stuff all over it]

Now... I'll only go into detail into everything in here at explicit request (at least upfront cause I intend to babble on itt either way), but this is one relatively ratio balanced setup for one thing.

In the base game, you plop down an electronic mining drill on to a field that just has Iron laying around on it, and it will spit out Iron Ore on to a belt. You schlep it into a furnace, and voila, you have an Iron Plate. You need some copper? Mine some copper ore, furnace, plate.

In Angel's mods, things are not so simple. Angel's Mods introduces slightly more realistic ways of getting what you need to make usable metal. You mine a base ore, and then feed it into crushing machines. That, also, creates a byproduct of non-metallic crushed stone, which you also need, but not to make metal. You can then take that crushed ore, and you can sort it with an ore sorting facility. So 4 Crushed Base Ore = 2 Iron Ore, 1 Copper Ore, and 1 Slag, a relatively inconvenient byproduct.

But you can also put that Crushed Ore through 3 further refining processes. Each refinement process means you get more valuable ores out of the end result of sorting it, and at the final one, you also don't get Slag anymore.

That screenshot shows those 3 refining processes, 3 Flotation Cells, 3 Leaching Plants, and 1 Ore Refinery. I have crushers set up at the mine. The Flotation Cells and the Leaching Plants require added fluids and the Flotation Cells produce byproducts to deal with as well. The sorting facility is on the far right.

This is the set up for one type of base ore, Stiratite. Through refining and sorting the ore, I get Copper, Iron, Cobalt, Tin, Uranium, and Aluminium. Just for Stiratite, I have 26 of these setups, and I've designed it to more or less be freely expandable, so I can always have more. There are 6 types of base ore total, and this is the map view of about half of them:

[Image Description: a screenshot from Factorio of the simplified map interface. There are repeated patterns showing the buildings from above arranged in a grid]

Just to be clear, I'm playing on what is almost more like a creative mode where I can just craft some things freely, and simplify a lot of things, at least for now. If I had to do all this legit it'd probably take me hundreds of hours. I'm gonna turn that off eventually, but probably not for a while, I'm having good fun with it.

going to be following this thread and will read when I have a moment, just chiming in to say that I'm interested as well thank you

I have a few buddies that play this, and I have watched some streams. It is my very own version of hell. A nightmare. I am having a panic attack just thinking about playing this game.

@Jtwo#11463 Oh boy, I hope you‘re joking about the panic attack, or, if you’re not, that you can handle it!

Modded play is one hell of a rabbit hole too. AngelBob is pretty dense but there's one particularly famous one that is in a totally different order of magnitude. That would be downright weapons grade. Don't look it up. Even I feel scared of it

Yeah I am definitely joking but maaan, games like this stress me out sooo much.

How badly can you fuck up in this game? It looks like a tower of cards without having played it.

@yeso#11478 Hmm. That's a good question.

I don't know to what degree the hostile aliens change the equation, because they actually are motivated to attack for a specific reason and as far as I know they may stop at a certain point. Their attacks are triggered by concentrations of pollution from your factories and they target the pollution producers specifically. So I don't know if they will ever completely overrun you and make it more or less impossible to keep going from a reasonable state, they might stop once they've dealt with the parts of your factory they find most offensive and then not continue.

But as far as how badly you can fuck it up, the only thing you can really lose is the time you take to rebuild something, really. The map is infinitely expandable in all directions. Well, not literally, but basically. The default extent to how far the map will stretch is approximately the size of Australia in the real world. And the base resources will always be reproduced throughout that virtually limitless space.

There's barely even any consequences for a bug killing you or getting run over by one of your trains. You can respawn and go get your corpse with everything in your inventory like it's Diablo.

Basically, the worst thing that can happen is that you've built something that is unreasonably or unsatisfyingly inefficient. In most cases it's not terribly hard to tear it down and build something better, although, one of the most common mistakes newer players make is to not utilize the virtually limitless confines of the map and end up building cramped sections on top of cramped sections. Once there are lots of interdependencies involved and cross crossing resource routing (affectionately called "spaghetti" by the fanbase) it might be just as easy to just restart. Spreading out and spacing things out and getting a good sense of what can be compressed and what needs to be able to expand according to growing need is the best way to minimize the consequences of anything even sort of like failure. Then you can just start again on a new section without redoing everything.

I think in a lot of ways it's one of those games that rewards, not failure I suppose, but not worrying about success or failure, cause you're always learning new things and tinkering with things and coming up with your own new plans and ideas.

OK, that's encouraging. I like that kind of design that permits expression and personal satisfaction.

I played a lot of “spacechem” and setting up the automated routing of materials to end up with a particular product at the end reminds me of that. Though that game was explicitly puzzle like and this one is more of a sandbox. Is there anything like a factorio “puzzle mode”? Perhaps a constrain the player might put on themselves.

I've done my time with dwarf forteess, I've seen what they do with their "megaprojects", in what is essentially a sandbox game. Are there any similar feats in factorio?


@Moon#11507 I don't know precisely how it works but there is a mod called Seablock that I think would sorta fit that description. In Seablock you start on a single tile of land in the middle of untraversable ocean. You can build landfill to increase the size of your island but resources are much more limited and the lack of space means you have to use it as economically as possible.

Unsurprisingly I don't think any other game could match the breadth and scope of creativity and flexibility possible within Dwarf Fortress, but at least in a more abstract sense, yeah, getting to the point where you are building the rocket is just the starting point for a lot of people. There is a sort of postgame thing where you are launching rockets to launch satellites at will, which retrieve an abstraction of research data called space science packs. The basic post-game challenge is to see how many space science packs you can retrieve per minute, and some consider a base a "megabase" if it can produce a certain number of science packs per minute. I think the baseline is 1000/m. I've never done anything ridiculous like that... yet...

There are also a few major different ways to structure a base generally, still mostly about different ways to move stuff around of course, but end up looking and operating and spreading out in very different ways. And some true fanatics do weird stuff like build bases with no belts, no trains, no robots, etc.

This stuff is out of my wheelhouse, but I‘m curious to know what’s the major drive when playing this game - is it the construction in general? is it the efficiency? is your (own) goal to create a large play space, or a thriving factory, or something else?

This definitely seems like the sort of thing that appeals to a certain sort of person that I don't usually get to talk to about games.

I got distracted and haven‘t played Factorio in a little while!! I’m still gonna do this though


I find my enduring fascination with this game strange too, to be honest. I usually bounce off of sandbox, make-your-own-fun kinds of games pretty hard, if I have to make too much of my own fun. _Minecraft_ is a good example where I played it for a few hours once 'cause I'd gotten in my head that it would be fun to turn a cave I'd found into a full tunnel through a mountain, and then pretty much never again. There's an alternate timeline where I stuck with that long enough to get hooked on the idea of building a base and mine carts and such. Maybe the difference there is that it's too analog and my patience wouldn't have persisted.

I would say that the major justification, which is getting to the end of the tech tree to build the rocket which is considered the win condition, is pretty paper thin. So it's certainly not that (although a variant of this would be people who do speedruns to the rocket or go for some of the more tricky achievements, which I'm not interested in at all). The construction in general is fine, sometimes it can feel tedious, but a lot of that is mitigated with some of the cooler tools.

I think the fascination for me is making something that _works._ A lot of that does end up meaning it's large and thriving and efficient, but I think it's the way I'm being presented with one overall logistical problem (build the rocket) that just has hundreds if not thousands of logistical problems nested within it. At the end of the day it's kind of a similar feeling to playing _Pipe Mania_ aka _Pipe Dream_ aka the hacking minigame from _Bioshock_. I think it's fulfilling some primal urge to arrange and sort and fix things. I am autistic so to be clear I mean this totally sincerely but it makes me remember that before the field of psychology existed, instead of saying "oh that guy 'has' autism" they probably said stuff like "oh that's the guy who is _really really_ good at organizing the storeroom."

I also easily get engrossed in the idea of creating things in games that are functional from a gameplay perspective. Building the factory is one thing, but also building it so that I have a personal passenger train I can get around my factory in or have robots that will bring me the materials and schlep away excess stuff at the same time, is really fun and engaging for me. I like "base building" in that sense where I'm building something functional from a gameplay perspective. I just remembered how engrossed I got in re-building the road network and building and adding to zipline networks in my instance of _Death Stranding._ I think based on the way I had to do weird game flow interrupting tricks to amass enough materials and how much of my total playtime was spent bringing materials to the road building consoles, not even the big man Kojima Hideo himself could have anticipated a more obsessive fan of the groundbreaking strand genre's collaborative building mechanics.

I am curious whether you‘ve played any of the “programming” games where you’re sorting inputs/outputs and trying to essentially make a functional program? I can‘t really think of the names of any right now, but there are loads that are basically teaching you assembly or other things, basically a bunch of on/off switches which contextually do different things. I bounced off every on I tried but reading about this it seemed kind of like it might scratch a similar itch, so I am wondering whether you’ve tried anything like that and if it is indeed a similar feeling, or if this one has a much different vibe?

@exodus#12995 I bet I would really like something like that, haven‘t had the opportunity to try anything like it, though. I’m pretty sure I know what you mean, there are very simple versions of stuff like that for kids, right? I don‘t have kids but I think if/when I do I’ll totally get them cool stuff like that. I took Programming in High School so I know what a Logic Gate is!

Factorio _does_ have that kinda vibe, at least sometimes, though... I mean, besides the fact that it already has a whole system for hooking up all sorts of different things into what are essentially in-game logic gates to more flexibly control the behaviour of certain things. Sometimes configuring a setup does kind of feel like a simplified coding. Perhaps more than that, if something doesn't seem to be working well or at all, combing through what you've set up and finding that an inserter or something is pointed in the wrong direction feels like debugging lol.

Also, as promised, here is the inaugural Factorio Diary Entry #1, January 5th, 2021!

In this entry I will be detailing an error I have made, and roughly what sort of crap I'm gonna have to go through to correct it. It's not gonna be fun but it _should_ be worth it...


This is a bit of the drop-off zone for one of the current 3 and future 6 Ore Processing facilities I'm setting up. There is a good deal of stuff that is specific to the mods I'm using so this is not really standard gameplay or even standard gameplay problems, so be warned.

The Green square is around one of 3 of the train stops where trains bring in crushed ore. I have 3 because... well it's a bit overkill if I'm being honest, but I wanted to give my trains the best chance they got to be able to keep the ore crushing facility, which is elsewhere, from not getting too clogged, even though they kinda are already anyway. Oh well.

Around the Red square are mod only Warehouses, massive storage facilities. They take up a lot of space but they're a relatively simple way to condense a whole lot of stacks of stuff into that space. Each of em can hold 153,000 units of crushed ore. That's a lot, even by mod standards. The Warehouses act as buffer for the larger ore processing facilities above them. They can't work through the ore as fast as I can crush it and get it over here by train, so having storage up in front of that means that the ore processing facilities will always have ore to process, those machines can run as efficiently as possible. Also the little red rectangles are called miniloaders, they're modded as well and generally overpowered. They are basically for giving any old thing an input directly from conveyer belts or output directly on to conveyer belts. They're faster than inserters but less flexible.

Unfortunately for me, I made a grave error when I set up these ore processing facilities. This was for Continnium ore, and I had copy pasted them from a similar set up for two other ores, called Saphirite and Stiratite.

Here's the Saphirite one:


Red: Flotation Cells take Crushed Saphirite and rinse it with Purified Water, pumped in at the top. This creates 1 product, Saphirite Chunks, and 2 byproducts, Sulfuric Waste Water, and Blue Geodes. The waste water is pumped away to a nearby train stop, and the Geodes are moved down to their own train stop below too, to be shipped (eventually) to their own destination once I have that set up.

Green: The standalone Purified water generator. Ground water bores can generate water from anywhere, in unmodded play you can only get water from bodies of water and Offshore pumps. With ground water bores you don't pump up a lot of water, but I don't need a lot. That gets pumped directly into the Electric Boilers on the bottom, which turns it into steam. Then the steam is pumped into cooling towers, which creates purified water (distilled water I guess!).

Blue: Leaching Plants, which turn Saphirite Chunks into Saphirite Crystals. No byproducts, but requires Sulfuric Acid. Luckily for us, that Sulfuric Waste Water we generated in the earlier step is pumped away to be processed into Sulfuric Acid in a different area.

Purple: Last but not least the Ore refinery takes those Saphirite Crystals and turns them into Purified Saphirite Crystals, no other ingredients required or byproducts. The Purified Crystals are then sent to an Ore Sorting machine offscreen, which is relatively simple, and sorting those chunks gives us the "usable" ores I can make into various plates for turning into machines or buildings and whatnot.

I had most of this set up for Crontinnium, thinking that I could just use the same set up. Unfortunately, there's a big problem with this. Firstly, Crushed Crontinnium in Flotation Cells does require purified water and has a byproduct of geodes, but it doesn't produce Sulfuric Waste Water, it produces _Chloric_ Waste Water, and, in the Leaching Plants, requires Hydrochloric Waste Water.

One issue, though. When you rinse Crushed Saphirite or Stiratite (and a third type Bobmonium) ore you get Sulfuric Waste Water, which in turn creates enough Sulfur, which in turn creates enough Sulfuric Acid, to be able to have more than enough Sulfuric Acid to create your Sahpirite/Stiratite/Bobmonium Crystals. In other words rinsing those crushed ores is a net gain of Sulfuric Acid. Which is fine, even good, since Sulfuric Acid is used for a lot of things so you end up needing a lot of it.

Unfortunately, for Continnium crystals and Chloric Waste Water/Hydrochloric Acid, that isn't the case. Rinsing Crushed Continnium and getting Chloric Waste Water, then creating Acid, is a Hydrochloric Acid net _loss,_ meaning, to keep your Leaching Plants supplied with enough Hydrochloric Acid, you need to create Hydrochloric Acid elsewhere and pump it in. So, in other words, my Ore Processing set up that I copy pasted is not going to work for Crontinnium. Instead of pumping away the Waste Water, I think I will create a new set up where the Waste Water is treated and processed mostly onsite, I can still pump in Hydrochloric Acid from elsewhere, but I'll worry about making Hydrochloric Acid another day.

So, I tore down what I'd already placed down for now, and now I'm going to design the Crontinnium processing line now, and maybe also set up my Bobmonium processing today too because that will be easy.