There are just so many examples of captivating writing, innovative problem solving, and candid discussion throughout the FFFs. Taken all together, the Factorio journey is one of my favorite _stories_ to read...and it contributed to becoming a better designer and engineer along the way. I really encourage people to read more of their blog than just what I've linked, since it crosses so many areas of interest.
To anyone reading that's worked on Factorio, thank you and you all are wonderful people.
> FFF #243 - New GUI tileset: Showing off their GUI design document. A MUST READ, if only for a good example of a comprehensive design style that fits the game theme perfectly. (https://factorio.com/blog/post/fff-243)
> FFF #176 - Belts optimization for 0.15 : Incredible analysis of transport belts and optimizing their performance. A MUST READ. (https://factorio.com/blog/post/fff-176)
> FFF #204 - Another day, another optimisation : Solid technical writeup on how a prefetching optimization patch works across a number of resource-heavy factory builds. A MUST READ. (https://factorio.com/blog/post/fff-204)
> FFF #296 - All kinds of bugs : The snippet at the bottom is a perfect encapsulation of their attitude towards problem solving. It’s such a simple concept, just going a little farther, that can take tremendous discipline and focus. A MUST READ. (https://factorio.com/blog/post/fff-296)
> FFF #356 - Blueprint library for real : Michal “kovarex” Kovařík, one of the two cofounders, talks about falling out of the development process, losing his sense of purpose, and how playing Factorio with his son brought him back. Reading this one, even through the sometimes-broken English, is inspirational and a wonderful look at how things fall apart and come back together. Like I mentioned in the intro, this is one of those rare, special offerings that is technical in nature but deeply personal and human-centric in form. A MUST READ. (https://factorio.com/blog/post/fff-356)
> So, I still repeat the phrase: "Crashing on dereferencing null? Just add a null check!" as a reminder to myself and others to always look deeper into why and never stop at the basic symptom of a problem.
I feel this is a very important rule that people often forget - most anytime your "safety" code triggers, something went wrong somewhere else and it can be worth tracking it down.
The last bit of this post mentions UDP packets not making it through ISPs if their checksum is 0x0000 or 0xFFFF...what is THAT all about? This would have been in February of 2017.
> If you remember from the previous FFF, our map downloader was having some extremely rare problems with some mysterious packets that would always get filtered over the Internet. We already had a fix for it, but I was curious what was going on. Thanks to the investigative power of the Factorio community, we found out that all those mysterious packets, before NAT, had a checksum of 0xFFFF. Admalledd from the forum sent some hand-crafted packets through his Internet connection and surprise, all packets would go through, except those with a checksum of 0xFFFF or 0x0000. At this point I would just assume this ISP(and some other few ISPs around the world) have some faulty hardware or software that do not handle these special cases of UDP checksums.
The way he breaks his slump by sharing Factorio with his son -- what a wonderful, unexpected benefit of working in games. How many of us will get to do something like that?
A huge fan of the game, the team, and the entrepreneurial adventure.
Their willingness to share insights, every weeks, for 7 years is quite rare in the industry.
It was also awesome to read the thought process behind each design decision alongside some nerdy story about C++ optimization.
Factorio team, if you're ready this, thank you!
Those who look at Factorio and go: "That's my day job! Why would I do it for fun?"
and those who look at Factorio and go: "That's my day job! You mean I can do it for fun?!"
Somebody put in an ugly hack to deal with scaling rather than rearchitect? Well, I'd like to fix it but it'll mean downtime that'll interrupt player 2's OKR of getting the rocket control units made.
Plus, we didn't allocate enough space, so I need to talk to player 3 who owns the adjacent area (and whose functionality I don't understand). Player 3 doesn't like the idea of moving or redesigning that area, so I'm going to try asking Player 2 or Player 4 to help me rebuild it in an undeveloped area.
Building the new section while the old section is still running has overdrawn on our electricity capacity, which has been oversubscribed for a while but we just kept accumulating tech debt on electrical with ugly hacks. Which brings me back to step 1.
Of course Factorio doesn't come with obligations to document and hand over your glorious creation...
I've given Factorio dozens of shots now, and have played for hours and hours with people who are great at the game, but it just isn't for me. I get bored in the monotony of the early game, and I'm too stupid to keep things going in the mid game.
For me, I think it would me a fun game if there was more strategy or something else to do besides build the factory. It seems to me the progression system is actually really linear.
> I get bored in the monotony of the early game, and I'm too stupid to keep things going in the mid game.
This is my other big issue. I don't like putting in much effort when playing video games. It seems like just getting blue science takes hours of work, and those hours were fun for the first factory, but now it's just repetitive.
I think though that making train networks is my big pleasure with the game. Very satisfying.
That being said, I understand the sentiment. I have been playing lots of modded Minecraft and Factorio over the past decade, and lately I felt a bit of guilt because I feel I could be working on some other, more meaningful, project.
That being said, I do enjoy it at LAN parties because I just build walls and hunt biter nests
* "This game is scratching the same itches as my day job, but with more dopamine and less bureaucracy - how can I play this all the time?"
* "This game requires me to expend the same brain-effort as my work/side-projects, but I don't even get anything tangible out of it? Why would I ever 'play' this?"
Neither of them are wrong - and I suspect that the same person might even have different reactions at different points in their life.
I can't easily "refactor" parts of my factory without fearing it will break some pipeline that depends on the changes. I wish there was a way to "write" "tests" or do mass changes safely. Blueprints and robots help automate things, but it's not that flexible.
I wish I could use a "debugger" and step through the execution and play with changes to see how it affects the factory.
And then I finally get to the conclusion that this would all be easier from a text editor using proper programming tools, and more enjoyable to work on a real project that could have tangible benefits (and then never finish that either...).
Robots at least make it somewhat bearable.
• Belts are blocking CSP channels, as seen in e.g. Golang (where N producers have to share — or eventually “merge onto” — one channel representing the blocking-receive point of the consumer; which are best only used to transport messages of a single type, or if not, then the sum-typed channel must be demultiplexed at the end, with this tending to lower throughput; where messages of a given type “queue up” until the channel is full, and then all producers block when attempting to write to the channel; where if you’ve got producers producing at different rates, then the fastest ones can hog the capacity of the channel, decreasing throughput and unevenly spending input resources such that some components fail long before others; where the solution to this is to give each producer its own bounded outbox channel that multiplexes onto the consumer’s channel, such that the producer will block itself rather than blocking its siblings; etc.)
• Logistics robots are message-queue topics (where N producers can publish messages of a given type, without worrying about how they’ll get to a consumer; where consumers [demand chests] subscribe to specific event message types; where the bus itself can get overloaded, causing delivery failures of unrelated topics as delivery-threads sit around holding a message unable to deliver it; where the solution to this is to add reliable MQ-internal storage [network-linked storage chests] for the agents to offload produced messages to until demand comes for them.)
(Sadly there’s no exact equivalent to Erlang-style message-passing, where producers target messages of arbitrary type at a specific consumer, which all go to the consumer’s single inbox; and where, if that inbox is full, then the message just “evaporates” en route, since the passed message has async semantics where the producer isn’t linked to its delivery. But, interestingly, that type of concurrency totally could be added, with a not-even-very-complex mod — just add a “outbox” chest object that can be configured to “target” a specific “inbox” chest somewhere else; and a second type of logistics robot that only moves stuff from outbox chests to inbox chests, not according to “demand” but just because anything currently sitting in an outbox chest is “intended to be” in the corresponding targeted inbox chest; and then ensure that this alternate type of logistics robots have non-reliable delivery semantics, where if the “inbox” chest signals to the network that it’s full, then all active delivery-threads targeting that inbox will literally “drop their messages on the ground”.)
IMHO it’s actually possible to learn how to be an effective distributed-systems engineer, just by playing Factorio and trying to scale the throughput of a resource-constrained system. In the process, you’ll likely re-invent many real-world concurrent software design patterns. Doing this first, and then reading a Distributed Systems textbook, will have a much more visceral impact on you, because you’ll have already faced these problems, struggled with them, and now you’re being handed all the techniques for solving them on a silver platter.
The idea being that this could be (A) a cool hack (belt speed factoring into ping time, lmao), but (B) a way to visualize data flow in complex queue systems.
If you can translate a real-world problem to in-game problems, it'd be so much fun to solve them that you'd probably launch a new epoch in human history - the Factorio Age
Train stations plus circuits can do this. Trains can be configured to leave a station when not empty (after receiving a
message item of any type), and recipient stations can be disabled by a circuit if the receiver is full, causing the train to skip the station. The last station on the train's route would empty it before it goes back to waiting for a message item to deliver.
N logistics bots are a much closer analogue to N scheduler threads each working in parallel to 1. take a message from a priority heap (really, to take a schedulable process from a priority heap and then run it to produce messages, but same difference) and then 2. synchronously shuttle that message to its destination queue.
I suppose you could get the same semantics with N parallel train tracks, one per scheduler-thread; plus an actual scheduler priority-queue implemented in circuits. But I feel like that's a "non-idiomatic case", in that, no matter how you designed your stations or where you put them, it'd be incredibly painful to design a loader/unloader for a "bus" of parallel train tracks. Especially if all the trains arrive together. It'd be a setup the devs would take one look at and say "that's too much of a kludge, and yet the kludgeyness is necessary, and that's our fault for not including a necessary abstraction. We'll just put in that abstraction."
(The alternative would be a mod that allows trains to pass through one-another on a track. Then you could have one train-line where each train cleanly represents a scheduler thread. No idea what would happen if they tried to stop at the same station at the same time, though. Ghost trains~)
I think my "holy crap I'm working on factorio, pinch me" was equivalent to some people's "holy crap I'm working for Microsoft." I still remember the odd smell of the office when I first walked in ("sorry it smells like acid in here", I was told, and was later disappointed to learn that when Europeans say "smells like acid" they just mean it smells bad; there was no open use of entheogens while I was there).
I'm glad fff-200 made the cut for this guy's list, as that's the one where I announced the new 'programmable noise' terrain generator. More deets in https://www.factorio.com/blog/post/fff-207, https://www.factorio.com/blog/post/fff-258, and https://www.factorio.com/blog/post/fff-282, among others.
What are you up to these days?
As a developer, it allowed me to determine what kind of developer I am, where my interests lie, and how I contribute to code (or a base). The analogue between coding and Factorio is incredible.
Factorio is so analogous to coding that I just couldn't get into it. I laid out a neat little factory and then requirements changed and I realized that I needed to basically abandon what I had and build something new. My factory was not really "open to refactoring". Something about that feeling felt so similar to what I have to do at work all day that I closed the game and haven't gone back to it since.
I got really into a technical Minecraft mod back in my college days (Better Than Wolves). For some reason I never really had the same problem with that, in fact I really enjoyed crawling around in tunnels and changing things around. Something about the 3d-ness of Minecraft made it feel more like tinkering maybe.
Idk, this post has become a ramble - but suffice it to say that Factorio felt _too much_ like programming for me to truly enjoy it. Maybe that says something about the kind of developer _I_ am ;)
Every Factorio player I know has an enormous laundry list of things they wish they'd done better after their first game. That urge never completely goes away, and if that feeling is more distressing than energizing to you, then perhaps Factorio is not the game for you.
Still, the process of analyzing a system in a factory and redesigning it to be more efficient is massively satisfying. New challenges arise at every stage of a factory's growth, and before long, your 'starter base' is just a small part of your whole operation, and the shortcomings there just don't matter in the whole scheme of things.
Depending on how long you played you might have missed out on the part that's the most fun (for me at least) - the later/end game.
Once you have bots the game changes a lot and you stop building stuff yourself and let bots build stuff for you. Once you have a few hundred bots (and resources) you can build/destroy/rebuild/scale up huge parts of the factory.
The starting factory is usually abandoned but a megabase can be a beast of it's own with constantly tweaking bottlenecks - which can be quite a lot of fun (or it is for me at least)
But yeah once you start thinking about on-demand rail delivery using signals as RPC...it's pretty work-like. :D The async nature of the inventory system means long-range signal transmission handling ends up feeling exactly like bit-banging on a microcontroller, which is sufficiently out of my current work scope that it's fun and interesting. Oh no, this makes me want to attempt the Ben Eater computer in factorio...
And then I run into bottlenecks arising from the utilization of the old factory and the process repeats itself.
Also no combat/bugs, at least not yet. The dev team is Chinese and are releasing amazing quality-of-life updates at a rapid clip, too. Truly impressive piece of software.
I no longer start a new factory from scratch if I want to do things differently. I use my existing - and now outdated - factory to launch a new one a few minutes run away.
I learned this trick watching AntiElitz speedruns. He'll build a manual bootstrap "factory" (really just mines and smelting) to get plates, then build a very-polished-through-iteration bootstrap base which builds all the development essentials - circuits, arms, belts, ammo, etc. That's used to build the real base.
Makes me a little more interested, in general.
The constant things I always buy are 4 heavy oil, and 200 plastic. I usually get 10 miners, electric furnaces, and level 2 assemblers. Once I have power, and coal gasification up and running for plastic/explosives/batteries, it's just a grind.
I've settled on using an Island terrain, to give it an end, rather than just not wanting to keep expanding forever. Once the island is cleared, and has radar, it's time to start again.