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What Is Interesting About Factorio

It's probably the best game I've ever played

It's also extremely addictive to engineers.

What is so good about it?

Trust the devs

It's good enough that when learning new parts of it, I have to remember to just trust them. However they've set something up, it is probably done well. When I try a new mechanic, I'm regularly surprised at how nicely it's been done.

Self-insight

The game really functions as a test of personality and IQ. I've noticed a few traits about myself from this:

Tendency to continue using known technology and strategy rather than invest in learning more.

When I first played, I kept using belts, which I understood, for ~50 hours, rather than spending even 5 minutes learning trains. When I finally learned how to use them, I regretted having delayed. Learning train signals was another similar blocker. I concluded from this that I'm applying known tech too often relative to learning new things - at least in this kind of protected, well-designed system.

Thinking back, it was also pretty irrational to not trust the game - what I knew about it was nearly universally well-done and worth learning, but I didn't extend that to trust the parts of it I didn't know about yet. I'm not done yet, either - I still haven't used the red/green wire system, or a few other elements.

Tests experimentalism

If you don't understand how to use something, will you spend 1 minute to set up a test that will validate it? Or will you just think "oh that doesn't work / I don't understand" and then ignore it for hours? Defaulting to testing/investigating is a really good scientific way of thinking. Yudkowsky calls this the "Ugh field" - having negative emotions associated with something (in this case, a new mechanic or object you don't understand) will cause you to ignore/avoid it, sometimes for years. Spending time learning to see and overcome these is valuable. What problem do you know of which you just don't want to think about, that's a subtle weight on your shoulders?

Keyboard shortcuts

People often play for 100+ hours without knowing keyboard shortcuts for extremely common actions. A meme on factorio's reddit is "TIL (Today I Learned) this shortcut, can you believe it?"

This isn't so much IQ as testing someone's tool usage ability. By default, regularly doing process analysis is really useful for learning - similar to having people review your go games, or just hiring a teacher for whatever you're learning rather than doing it on your own. Every 10 hours doing something you should step back and do a process analysis on it to see if you have any leaks. I've even heard of people screen-recording them programming, and then watching later, to have an external view of how they spend their time, because in the moment you can't evaluate very well.

This process of going out of your way to get feedback is common in most high achievers, and technology allows it more

Resistance to perfectionism.

Finding the balance between orderliness and organization, with obsessiveness, is really hard, and is also really valuable in life. Example: you deconstruct a belt with a full inventory and a low-value resource falls on the ground. It's really tempting to spend the time to pick it up; should you spend the time to go over and pick it up precisely? That will entail some inventory management. But if you keep seeing it on the ground there, won't that be distracting, too? Oh, and now you're spending time analysing a choice where both options are not very important.

Psychologically appealing elements

Multiplayer

I've played about 10 hours of multiplayer and it's even better, for these reasons:

Automation principles

This game illustrates the principles discussed in Business Process Novelizations - books which fictionalize factory/management/automation process work and analysis.

So it's actually devops work

It's basically like working on networking/devops, but without any of the hard parts:

Themes

There are some deeper, more human themes:

Specifics about the game

Friction in factorio vs real life

What aspects of factorio have less friction (i.e. the difficulty of using and interacting with a system) vs real life?

Real-world effects

Usability issues

~400 hours in, here are the usability issues I still see:

What I'd like to see

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