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Factorio: Space Age

Hello, long time no see!

Today we are going to talk about the expansion which is called Factorio: Space Age.

(Click here for static image version)

What is Factorio: Space Age?kovarex

Factorio: Space Age continues the player’s journey after launching rockets into space. Discover new worlds with unique challenges, exploit their novel resources for advanced technological gains, and manage your fleet of interplanetary space platforms.

Vanilla Factorio ends by launching the rocket into space, so I always expected it to be quite obvious what we are going to do next.
Honestly the space platform related gameplay was actually planned a very long time ago, and we had shown a little bit in FFF-74.
We had a similar kind of story with the Spidertron. Its concept was teased for the first time in FFF-120, just to be quietly abandoned and then revived 4 years later.

But as you might or might not know, the name ‘WUBE’ is an abbreviation of Wszystko będzie, which means something like “Everything will be done eventually”. We didn’t abandon the plan, we just realized it would be way too ambitious to try to fit it into the 1.0 Factorio release, so it was eventually just postponed to the expansion. In retrospect, it was clearly a good idea.

The main structure

Instead of sending one rocket to space, you have to send many, because you need to use them to transport materials to build big space platforms in orbit.
The rocket is cheaper in Space Age to not make it drag forever, but you still are expected to build bigger in preparation of what is to come.

  • The space platforms are used on their own to generate space science, but mainly, they are eventually used to travel to different planets, and for automated interplanetary logistics.
  • We decided to go with the approach of having a small number of predefined planets, which represent your progression through the game.
  • The expansion contains 4 additional planets. Each of which has its own unique theme, resource, challenges and gameplay mechanics. Most of them also have different military targets.
  • Every planet leads to production of specific science packs and its technologies.
  • The order in which you exploit the planets is an impactful strategic choice.

The rewards

Since we have a lot of new challenges, we also had to balance the set of rewards you get for each stage of the game.
We have a set of cool new things in the expansion, but the player is quite omnipotent at the end of the vanila playthrough so we had to make some tough decisions.

Since the goal was to make the overall expansion experience as good as possible, we have rebalanced the tech tree. This means, that with Space Age enabled, some items that are available in vanilla are unlocked later on some planet. This specifically applies to artillery, cliff explosives (this is the masochist part of me speaking), Spidertron, best tier of modules, and some personal equipment upgrades.

Based on testing, these changes made the choice of where and when to go even more meaningful.
On the other hand, space will be available sooner and there will be some nice additions available directly on Nauvis (the vanilla planet).

This implies that technically, you could just take your vanilla base, activate the expansion, and continue playing. But the best way to experience it will be to play with Space Age from start to finish.

Version 2.0 is not just about the expansion

In the previous news about the expansion FFF-367, we declared that the content will be technically a mod taking advantage of the updated engine. What this means is that a lot of the improvements will be for all players, regardless of them having the expansion or not.

Examples of things that will be in the 2.0 update are: the ability to control train systems better, better blueprint building, better flying robot behaviour and many more. It will all be covered in more details in future FFFs.

The good news and the bad newskovarex

Lets start with the (probably) bad news. Since we know where we are and what is the goal, we can start to approximate
the date of releasing the expansion, which is planned to be about one year from now.
It is still a long time, but at least it is getting more specific.

Current state

In the previous post FFF-367, we declared a 7 step plan, where we were at step 4.
Now we are at the end of step 5, and have started some things from step 6 already.

It has been playable from start to finish for more than a year. This means that we have already made several improvement iterations based on the playthroughs behind us.

We are doing 3 types of testing which were all very useful:

  • Just playing the game on our own and contemplating how it feels.
  • Office LAN party, which is also a great way to test multiplayer.
  • Individual testers. We had a few outside testers who played it from start to finish and gave us detailed feedback.

The feedback led us to make different kinds of changes, for example:

  • Two planets were way too repetitive and similar to Nauvis, and we had to do a complete overhaul to make them more different.
  • The game was a little bit too slow and grindy, so we were speeding things up, which doesn’t mean dumbing it down.
    The goal was to be able to finish it in non-speedrun mode in less than 80 hours for an experienced player.
    We were trying to keep the mechanics and just cut down on the recipe counts and costs.
  • We improved many UIs related to the new (and sometimes old) parts of the game many times.

It was kind of annoying to redo so much, but based on the result and reactions, it was definitely worth it.

This means, that we have something we are happy with, is pretty stable, and we don’t expect any further brutal changes to come.
We have a relatively stable list of tasks to be finished both for programmers and artists, which makes us confident that we can release a polished product in about a year.

The good news

But then there is the (hopefully) good news! From now on, we are stopping the embargo on the expansion content, and we
will be publishing Friday Facts every week
about all the different aspects of the expansion until release!

We will mostly show what we have done, or what we are working on. We are also looking forward to the feedback from the
community which has proved useful so many times already. With the quantity of things we have, I’m confident that we
won’t run out of topics until the release.

There’s a mod for thatEarendel

A lot of people are going to make comparisons between the Space Age expansion and the Space Exploration mod.
I’ve worked on the game design for both: On Space Age I made the first space + planets prototype builds and plus I’ve been involved in most of the gameplay discussions since.
On Space Exploration, well it’s my mod, I made it.

I think that makes me the most qualified to talk about how these two things are very different from the ground up.
Sure there’s some overlap in the broader topics: you go to space, you visit planets; but these similarities end up being fairly superficial when all of the decisions along the way are made with different design goals:

  • Target Audience:
    Space Exploration is targeted at a small set of challenge-seekers, it’s not for everyone by design. Space Age is targeted at all Factorio players with better approachability in mind.
  • Game Length:
    Space Exploration is a long-form adventure designed for players to gradually uncover many interconnected challenges over 150-500 hours (or more).
    Space Age challenges are more streamlined and self-contained for a faster pace of 60-100 hours (rough estimate).
  • Complexity:
    Space Exploration challenges ramp up to a very high difficulty towards the end.
    Some of the last challenges cannot be automated without a set of arithmetic combinators, so it is not expected that all players will be able to complete it.
    Space Age has a lot of different challenges but they never get too extreme and the usage of combinators is quite lightweight, so we expect that most players will be able to complete it.
  • Engine Support:
    There are so many things that Space Exploration just can’t do because it’s a mod.
    Space Age has very different capabilities because the game engine can be made to support it.
    Large parts of the expansion are focused on game mechanics that just aren’t possible otherwise, so the gameplay will be unique and refreshing even if you’re a Space Exploration veteran.

There are many more differences that will become apparent when we look at individual features of the expansion in upcoming FFFs.

As always, let us know what you think at the usual places. We look forward to seeing you all in the weeks to come 🙂 .

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