Factorio Diary

I sympathize with the approach. In my experience this seems more like getting to that breakthrough phase in sim city 4, when you've got a positive-feedback budget surplus and enough public services and infrastructure backbone to concentrate then on undertaking interesting design projects.

July 26th, 2022

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Now that my little cousin (who shall be known from henceforth as their gamer handle), Titanseeker, is finally as obsessed with _Factorio_ as I knew they would be (because they tried it with their cool Twitch friends, not because they played it with their dear old cousin or anything...), and having some other people on the forum remember this crazy thread, I decided to threadrez.

Because Titanseeker and I have possibly around a thousand hours difference in playtime, we are playing pretty much completely vanilla, no mods other than just a handful of QOL/productivity mods which only homeopathically effect game balance that I insisted on. This was, of course, a much better starting point for a thread like this anyway, since it will give the sense of what a more standard initial experience with the game would be. I'm trying very hard to not micromanage my cousin so they can learn and experience the game and maybe make some fun errors in the process. It's very easy to not micromanage and prevent problems for us in the future by falling into common newbie pitfalls _* clenches teeth *_

We have played three sessions so far, with a total playtime of just under 10 hours. Things are going well, we'd probably be further along if it was 2 experienced players, but we're probably at least roughly around where a single intermediate skill player would be at 10 hours. My cousin also tweaked the overall map settings to adjust a few things, mainly making the ore deposits more concentrated with ore. As well, we're playing with the enemy bugs on, aka biters, and although my cousin tweaked them to evolve and become more dangerous I think at a slower rate, and to attack in smaller groups overall, they're still a factor we need to take into consideration that I usually just turn off. So, we're both learning!

I'll try to explain things roughly in the order that we did them while building, to try and represent how a standard _Factorio_ factory comes together and develops over time. These screenshots aren't taken from our actual live multiplayer game, I saved a backup of our game, popped into it on single player, typed a console command to kill all the biters so they wouldn't bother me while I was taking screenshots, and ran around the base that way. Forgive me if by the next time we play, I don't label the map the exact same way, but it should be consistent after that (and I'll get my cousin to say hi).

First, a view of what we've done so far from the Map interface:


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This probably doesn't mean anything to anyone who hasn't played this game even with the labeled map tags, but maybe, hopefully, it will make a little more sense as I go along. The blue squares in the centre are structures of various kinds, the thin yellow lines are the belt lines for moving various materials. The brighter blue lines, including that long one going southeast from the base, are power lines. The purple lines and squares represent what the game calls "ghosts," they are a sort of preview/placeholder/paint-by-numbers guide of structures which you can place to help you plan. Later in the game you can also get robot drones to build things that you've placed down as ghosts, which is very exciting, but we're nowhere near there.

The light gray blotches that are both in neat lines as in at the First Perimeter tag, and then intermittently woven along light tan lines elsewhere, are walls we've constructed to keep the biters out. Where they're woven through light tan splotches on the map is where we've fortified the lines of natural cliffs, of which biters cannot pass.

The darker gray lines at the top of the map are rails, and those white dots are train stations. If you look closely you can see little yellow rectangles with orange borders, those are trains. We've only just begun setting up our train network, so that is pretty rudimentary so far.


Moving on, here are our current Mining Drill set ups, of which form the starting area and your initial supply of core raw resources for a standard playthrough. On the map, I've labeled it Initial Ore Patches.


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Those gray lookin things in a row with the square borders and little yellow arrows pointing inward are mining drills. I removed a few for the purposes of the screenshot to show the ore underneath, the light blue chunks being iron and the reddish orange ones being copper. The mining drills harvest available resources directly underneath them, but also from the 1 tile perimeter around them, and they mine faster the more tiles around them contain more densely packed ore, so it's most efficient to cover the entire area of the patch of ore with tightly packed mining drills.

These initial ore patches, Iron, Copper, Coal in the top left, as well as Stone which is off to the right offscreen, form the nucleus of any standard _Factorio_ playthrough. The game is kind enough to generate a starting area with some key conveniences: it will always have one resource poor but conveniently located patch of each of these four core resources, to give you everything you need to advance to a certain point in the tech tree. It also gives you a safe zone from the biters, who do their own thing largely offscreen. The bugs are generally passive, until certain machines generate pollution, which concentrates as well as spreads out from the point of origin as if it were airborne. The pollution both irritates them, which is what triggers attacks, as well as causes them to mutate into more dangerous and more prolific forms. The starting area is generally just about large enough to give you enough space and time to set up some basic defenses against them.

Speaking of starting areas, our bastard starting area gave us a patch of iron and copper that were smushed up against each other. Yes, this causes problems, as the mining drills just mine whatever is underneath them, and if there are two different kinds of ore underneath them, they put either one on to the space in front of them. So we solve this problem using some basic logistics techniques. With apologies to anyone in the audience who may be colorblind:


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[color=yellow]**Yellow:**[/color] The gray things with the arrows are Belts, which you could probably guess. They're one of the fundamental logistic tools available to you. As you can also see, the section of Belt I've highlighted has mostly Iron Ore on it, but there are little bits of Copper Ore, caused by some of the mining drills being placed over top of where the ore patches are smushed together.

[color=red]**Red:**[/color] This is a Splitter. It's another of the fundamental logistic tools. Basically, you can route 1-2 Belts into and through it, and route 1-2 Belts out. By default, it will spit 50% of what is input into it on to one Belt, and 50% on to the other. That cascades out into a bewildering amount of applications, but here's one of them. You can set the output of the Splitter to filter out one material per Splitter, and output it on to that Belt. So basically what I've got here are two Splitter that will let Iron through to the left side of the Splitter, and sort out the Copper to the right, so that I won't have ore mixing before it heads to the smelting furnaces.

Sidenote about the color of those panels on the Splitters, those are two different tiers of Splitters. Yellow is Tier 1, Red is Tier 2, and Blue is Tier 3. They're just faster and thus more efficient versions of the same thing. There are upgraded forms of Belts as well.

[color=blue]**Blue:**[/color] Another application of Splitters, which is to compact Belts if more throughput isn't needed. The one belt of Copper Ore is enough for our purposes this early in the game, so we compress it back down into one belt's worth of copper ore, to save space as well as simplify organization.


The very first part of the game, the visual evidence of which is now basically gone, consist of first mining by hand, then setting up smaller, slower mining drills, which are powered using a combustible fuel, such as Coal or Wood (big surprise here, but wood comes from cutting down trees or harvesting dead trees lying around on the ground). You then feed your result into Stone Furnaces by hand, which bake them into Iron and Copper Plates, which you use to start to build, well, all sorts of things, but your first major goal at the beginning of the game is to set up a steam power plant...


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...which will be like this, but not this big straight away.

The belt is full of coal, which is a combustible fuel. Inserters grab coal and feed it as needed into the Boilers, which are also fed water through an attachment on the side you connect fluid transporting Pipes to, with Water as a raw resource generated out of an Offshore Pump (just off screen). The boilers output steam, which are fed to Steam Engines. Each boiler supplies enough steam for 2 Steam Engines, and each Offshore Pump supplies enough water for 40 Steam Engines and 20 Boilers. I'd normally have all of it set up in one neat column horizontally mirrored on either side, but it was a bit cramped in that area so the rest of it is off to the side.

Power generation is a fun little stream of the gameplay, since most things besides belts and splitters require either combustible fuel or close proximity to a power pole that is at least somewhere at some point connected to a power plant of some kind in order to function. Blessedly, belts and splitters don't require either to function, presumably because that'd be a bit of a drag, gameplay-wise. Steam is the first method of power generation you have, but it's not the only one. There is also solar power, generated from Solar Panels (which, due to the day/night cycle, do require Capacitors to store up power to be used overnight, but otherwise do not require fuel) as well as Nuclear Power (which requires both a complex combination of Reactors, Heat Exchangers, and Steam Turbines, as well as a method of refining Uranium Ore into usable Uranium isotopes that you can make Uranium fuel with), but Steam is pretty good for most things.

In the very early game before you have electricity, you're feeding ore into furnaces directly by hand. However, once you have power, you can use Inserter arms, and the most basic materials processing setup is the smelter array:


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Here's a shot closer up:


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The little [Ziggurat ](https://youtu.be/787E5YqDWmo)lookin things are Stone Furnaces, which accept both ore and a source of combustible fuel (coal works just fine). A few seconds later, it's created a plate of some kind of metal.

Each furnace is serviced by 3 Inserters (well, of the furnaces on the left, more on that in a sec), which are the spindly little blue and red things with the little arrow and bar icons overlaid on them. Inserts are very single minded. They grab any material from one tile behind where they are pointed, and then place it on a tile in front of them. They do so automatically as long as there is a) something they can grab and b) a place to put it. The difference between the blue and red ones is which tiles they grab from--the blue ones grab from the tile directly next to them and place things in the tile directly in front, the red ones are long armed inserts that do the same but from and to 2 tiles away.

The furnaces have 2 belts on one side, one feeding them ore, and one feeding them fuel. The inserts in between those belts feed the furnace as long as there is material to do so, and storage inside the furnace itself, as it can hold a decent amount of both raw material and fuel as well as a small amount of finished product. The inserter on the other side of the furnace takes the completed metal plate out of the furnace, and on to the belt in the center of the array. Smelter arrays, and a lot of different production setups in fact, are often mirrored on either side of a belt, as belts actually have 2 separate lanes, and while inserters will take material off of either lane, they will only place things on the far lane of the belt. So, to maximize belt capacity, you need to have output on to both sides.

Also, the array of stone furnaces on the right is slightly different because its product is Steel Plate, not Iron Plate. The game simplifies the process of creating steel by making it just a process of re-baking Iron Plates. So, in that array, half of the Furnaces are set up just like they would be for Iron but with no output on to the middle belt, and the other half have long armed inserter arms for fuel, but are fed Iron Plates from the furnace next to them.

Using these very first basic materials (Coal, Iron Plate, Copper Plate, Steel Plate), you can make all of your early game tools, intermediate materials, and structures. Many people in the early game set up what the _Factorio_ community have called a mall, where a simple feed of metal and such is routed and re-routed and turned into various intermediates and then turned into things you use to build and further automate.

Here is (most) of our initial mall:


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It's a mess and I hate it.

Some closer looks, as there's not a whole lot worth explaining in detail.


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All of that is highly temporary, and, despite my trying to set up something more long term, my cousin kept adding to it and adding to it. Well, okay, I also added to it even after I was ready to set it up elsewhere, but it's also not something we will want to tear down until we've created its replacement. So I can't blame Titanseeker entirely. I've enabled them in _Factorio_ sin...

These cool greenhouse looking structures with the beaker icons are the Science Labs:


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Science labs, which you can probably guess from the name, are the way in which technology is unlocked. There is a handful of tiers of Science materials, which are special recipes of exponentially increasing complexity to abstract down into those beaker items, which are consumed by the labs to do research. Tech research encompasses new tools, structures, new tiers of existing structures (like the 3 speeds of belts and inserters for instance), more general upgrades like inventory space and mining drill productivity, etc. etc. You need to supply the Labs with Science beakers materials from a specified number of tiers, and all previous tiers too generally, so the Science lab is basically your main focal point for progress, and requires an increasingly complicated spread of machines to supply it all.

Anyway, in the process of really getting your initial base's shit together, you want to route all of your basic materials that are used in a wide array of recipes, like so...


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...and feed them on to what is referred to as a Main Bus.


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This is the most easy to organized factory building philosophy. Basically, if you have all of your most commonly used materials being routed to one big supply line with dedicated lanes for each major material, you can siphon off what you need here from a splitter off to the side of the main supply line, and then off to their own separate areas as required.

The elaborate looking matching setups of splitters, curvy belts, and the stripey hood looking things in the centre which are underground belts (useful for weaving things in an around each other) are what are referred to as balancers. Using the way the splitters re-distribute items on to a belt and as they are feeding into each other, you are balancing the output across all belts and lanes. It's a little easier to see in action, but basically, if we were to assume the belts led to a bottomless pit and they'd be continually moving materials instead of staying jammed as they are now, you could feed one full belt into the balancer, and get 4 belts that are at 25% capacity. This is not really useful at all at the stage Titanseeker and I are at, but trust me, it's essential at some point to not oversupply some machines while undersupplying others.

You can see a very high priority usage for Copper and Iron Plates here, at the Green Chip production line.


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Electronic Circuits (usually just called Green Chips, since they're, you know, green as hell, but there are also more advanced tiers, which are red and blue respectively) aren't useful in of themselves, but they are a very widely used intermediate product, so it's useful to have a section of the main bus devoted just to them. So, I siphon off two lanes of both Iron Plates and Copper Plates off of the main bus, to bring it here, to output green chips, which I route back to their own lane of the main bus (that is more easily viewable in the previous screenshot.

I'm running out of well defined components to our factory, so here are some shots of some perimeter defenses:


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The yellow and black caution looking things are Gates, which open and close automatically when a player or player created vehicle gets near, but does not open for biters, obviously. The use and necessity of these is hard to point out with these screenshots, since I wiped out all the bugs to take screenshots, but we'll get into that at some point, I'm sure.


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We have had two perimeters established so far, which are just rough at the moment, to at least give us some time to respond to a co-ordinated biter attack. The first perimeter was quite small...


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...So we pushed out to another outer ring. It's still quite basic, those turret looking things are, well, turrets, which shoot biters on sight within a radius around them. They consume ammo, which my cousin has been supplying to them by, well, running around with a bunch of ammo and feeding them ammo manually. Very inefficient, we'll be working on that at some point...

There's one more detail on the map I didn't get in the first map shot:


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That long power line leads to our first little rough outpost, which has pumpjacks for pumping up crude oil.

The pumpjacks, and some basic machines for a handful of products only possible after the introduction of oil...


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This was all done by my cousin, and while I think their organization and sense of scale is lacking, they have rushed us to some very useful tech, largely by running back and forth with Advanced Circuits (the red tier of chip), which require Plastic, which is created from Petroleum, which is created from Crude Oil. We've also gotten Flamethrower ammo tanks, which were very useful in clearing a forest that used to be in the next screenshot, and we snuck to a few early tech upgrades this way. It wasn't very efficient, but hey, it was useful, and I said I was going to try to not micromanage.

Titanseeker at some point had a wall with turrets surrounding this, but they tore it down at some point, probably to get those chips getting made.

My last project, which I wasn't able to completely finish before my cousin had to stop for the day, was the beginning of our train infrastructure, which is our intake centre for train cargo shipments:


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More on this later, as it's still in its infancy, and it will be easier to talk about once it's in operation, which is our next major goal. Hopefully things will have progressed after the next time we can play, as this is the part of the game I really like!

I picked up the demo for this game this morning and spent about 4.5 hours on the completing 4 of the 5 tutorial levels. I don‘t like the bugs, but you can’t turn them off during the tutorial, so I spent a lot of time perfecting my defenses so that I never have to see/think about them. They creep me out a lot. I hate them. So, I made a big giant ammo conveyer belt that ensures all my guns always have ammo, which eats up a ton of resources but is necessary for my wellbeing, and then I made a big wall, so I could settle down and really figure out what I'm up to.

This game is so hard! I tried to read this thread when it was written but it was really hard to follow w/o knowing the game at all, but reading it know I probably could've learned something. The tutorial kinda constrains your play area, but even then I definitely should be spreading my stuff out a lot more. I end up with big crowded messes where nothing can get anywhere. They work for one specific objective, and then as soon as the game asks me to do anything else, I have to rip the whole thing apart. Which seems to be fundamental to the game itself, so maybe I shouldn't feel so bad. I end up sitting there a lot just looking at my base and being like, "What can I possibly do here to make this not totally suck?" and usually end up just squeezing in another underground belt that will inevitably bite me in the ass.

I will complete the tutorial but idk if I want to buy the game because I am worried it will take over whole days and make me feel kinda bad for playing so much. It's fun, though. It's rewarding finding better ways of doing stuff. I think I am at my best when working toward one specific goal, but as soon as I have to make 2 or 3 things at once I get overwhelmed pretty easily.


@“wickedcestus”#p117425 I will complete the tutorial but idk if I want to buy the game because I am worried it will take over whole days and make me feel kinda bad for playing so much.

Oh, buddy, if you made a turret ammo feed belt system in the tutorial, that's a clear sign to me of someone who has understood the game and been understood by the game on an elemental level. I've been Funemployed during these times so it was a way to make those doldrums pass, but, I've definitely spent entire days doing little to nothing else.

What I'll say is that maybe you shouldn't assume you need to feel bad about that. As I've shared on the forums in the past, I went through an extended period where, maybe it wasn't the only option for me, but the only thing I really felt I had the capacity to do for most of any particular day was basically to wait the fuck around while my life was held hostage and I was waiting for procedural decisions on whether or not I would be allowed to go back to the real world from purgatory. _Factorio_ is a "time warp" game for me in the sense that for days on end you can become engrossed while still, at least I hope, being mentally stimulated. It's also a game where I feel I can focus on it and a podcast or lecture while playing so now I have this tight association between _Factorio_ and the publicly posted lectures of Michael Parenti.

So for me while this was unproductive socially and even counterproductive on some meaningful personal levels (can't be great for the ol' vertebrae and cardiovascular system lol), I have only comforting associations with the way I can get absorbed into _Factorio_ for days on end. I think I could _probably_ figure out how to regulate it better and weave it into a more balanced life style, but, like, having just been rendered Funemployed once again and remembering how a lot of the job search process is just waiting around for shit to happen, I'm hearing that siren call again already...

But, you know, even for someone in a less unempowered life circumstance, I don't think you should feel bad for something that is engrossing to the point of demanding a lot of time and attention to fully experience. I personally find this game to be relaxing and even meditative. Nothing to feel bad about if you engage with it responsibly and knowing how you like to interact with it. And, I think even from my own place of immense bias towards the game, I don't think the way it places your focus into a Walls of Jericho-like submission hold is out of _misuse_ of the ways videogames can trigger compulsive play, I do think it's just that it taps into some sort of innate pattern-recognizing and problem-solving aspect of the psyche that feels engaged if not enriched by the game's actual substance and content.

To connect it to your recent positive (and very sweet) post in the psychological wellbeing thread, this game feels like a worthwhile hyperfocus inducing game and, like, I joke (but I'm not joking) that you can damn near use _Factorio_ as a diagnostics tool for someone being on the ADHD/autism spectrum, at least in a certain way. Both with how someone might like and get engrossed with the game, or not, but also how one plays the game too.

And, at least for me as firmly as it holds on to my focus for extended periods of time spread out over weeks, I might just not boot it up the very next and still feel a whole lot of satisfaction at the time I spent with it. There's always that little tingle in the back of your head if you leave a goal for some kind of design or factory concept or game progression milestone unfinished, and even with Vanilla it's not hard to feel like alienated from your own designs if you try and pick it back up after an extended break, but, I also like starting over from scratch well enough too.

To summarize, for me it's like an indirect way to trigger my brain's defrag function.


@“wickedcestus”#p117425 It’s fun, though. It’s rewarding finding better ways of doing stuff. I think I am at my best when working toward one specific goal, but as soon as I have to make 2 or 3 things at once I get overwhelmed pretty easily.

If you remember, I divulged fairly early on in this thread that I don't like playing with the bugs, I prefer to just turn them off (you can also put them into "Peaceful Mode" where they will only fight back and won't even get provoked by building directly next to them but then I just find that they become obstacles to remove by rote, no more exciting than building Landfill to fill lakes/seas up with).

No bugs alleviates the feeling of any sort of time pressure, so it circumvents that feeling of becoming overwhelmed, or like you ever have the need to do more than one thing at a time. You'll always have multiple things you _could_ be doing and there's probably an optimal order, but without the bugs not playing optimally just means you play the game longer. So you can more or less choose to just play it in the most personally satisfying way.


@“wickedcestus”#p117425 They work for one specific objective, and then as soon as the game asks me to do anything else, I have to rip the whole thing apart. Which seems to be fundamental to the game itself, so maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad.

There are two main schools of thought on this, that you shouldn't worry too much about scrapping and rebuilding because the only real thing you're spending is time and you can even retrieve the buildings and structures. But I'm really more in the latter camp where even if certain things will become obsolete, I feel that well thought out set up in one place, that is as and future proofed and expandable as possible, might not be super optimal most of the time, but I don't think it's a waste of time to do things well even if it's going to be replaced or made obsolete. If it makes everything else run smoother and lengthens the time until you need to replace/expand/upgrade it that's great, but I still just do what's best for my sense of satisfaction and engagement.

I guess the key thing there is to get a better sense of what you are going to use for 5-10 hours and then tear down as totally insufficient, and what you'll want to have a good foundation and modularity, so that you aren't needing to put everything on hold to replace it because you accidentally weaved in suboptimal dependencies into it or just put it in an awkward spot, just comes with experience and knowing what is used for what and where. You run into that a lot with a lot of intermediates, it's like, I can probably just shove a tiny bit of X production into this armpit in the middle of everything, I mean, when am I going to need all that much X?? Then like a hundred hours later you need big piles of X to make something else and your armpit production is now not remotely sufficient for that, and you gotta figure out a way to route the raw materials to new places, and it's a headache.

Anyway................. if you get the full game and want to play mp let me know

@“Gaagaagiins”#p117495 I used to joke when I was struggling to freelance that I was “self-unemployed,” but after making $40 in book sales last month I supposed I am now a small business owner, which places a whole new set of responsibilities on my shoulders. In real terms, I haven‘t been “working” for a year or so in order to focus on finishing the book, starting my podcast, getting my website rolling and etc. so that I can jump back into part-time work sometime soon (once I find a freaking job!!!) and still manage to keep that stuff all running while also making sure our apartment doesn’t fall into complete disrepair. What this means is that I‘m solely responsible for my time and when I choose to work/do chores, which is great and awesome but also a lot of pressure, which is where I’m coming from with the “feeling bad” comment.

The game is great and I love playing it, and I agree that, as far as time-sinks go, it does feel like it's engaging at least an _interesting_ part of my mind rather than just the part that wants to see flashing colours or big numbers or w/e. It's just that even if I set aside time specifically for "game time," there's always this struggle of like, "Am I using so much mental energy here that I will unable to write later?" which, if so, that's bad because I need to write!

So yeah, definitely didn't mean it in a "this game is a waste of time," sort of way, just thinking about the way it might fit into the way my life works at this particular moment. All that being said, I've probably played like 3000 hours of fucking Minesweeper in the last 6 months, to the point where my clicky hand starts to hurt, so it might be good to find another "listening to podcasts" / "listening to my own podcast while I think about editing it" game to play that is just _slightly_ more invigorating than _Minesweeper_, which is of course going in my Video & Games Poll Top Ten, but is also the bane of my god damn existence.

I say I won't buy the game but you know I will. I know I will. We all know I will I just need to delay it until at least the next episode of my show is finished, or else everything will go all out of whack.

I appreciate the tips! It's overwhelming that when I googled the game, all the footage is of crazy set-ups that I couldn't even dream of, but I understand that the knowledge will build up incrementally through investigation and trial-and-error, so I should just focus on one thing at a time, and part of the fun will be figuring out when I've been doing something completely wrong and then find a new way to do it! Definitely going to play without bugs, because I don't like the time pressure at all, especially if it's just a hang-out-with-podcasts game. (This is setting aside that the bugs are _so gross_ and _I hate them._) I do like to often pause the show I'm listening to, and just sit there for 5 minutes or so just thinking and planning in my head, and if I had to worry about bugs during that time than my only available thought would be "Oh no! Bugs!"


@“wickedcestus”#p117504 I say I won’t buy the game but you know I will. I know I will. We all know I will I just need to delay it until at least the next episode of my show is finished, or else everything will go all out of whack.

I'll be waiting.........