Friday Facts #329 - Campaign reassessment

Posted by Klonan, Abregado, V453000, Wheybags on 2020-01-10, all posts

Merch store open again Klonan

Our e-shop is now open again after taking a break over the holidays and new year.

We have also restocked our new Factorio sew-on patches, so if you didn't manage to pick one up over the last weeks, now is your chance to order one.

Campaign reassessment Abregado, V453000, Wheybags

Learnings from the Introduction/NPE

After deciding to cancel the Introduction/NPE (Tutorial/Demo) we took some time to assess what we learnt. Here are just a few of the points that we took away from the experience:

  • Players dislike being told that they must restart.
  • Players (ironically) don't have regrets after they restart.
  • It is valuable for new players (< 30 hours) to rebuild 1-3 times.
  • Lowering player constraints increases design difficulty.
  • People like Compilatron to be there.
  • People don't like it when Compilatron does anything for them.

In addition to those, self-motivated discovery of new mechanics (FFF-327) is a more important part of Factorio than actually using the new mechanics. This means letting the player do things the hard way, and not rushing them to the realization that there is a better way. For example, veteran players know not to handcraft science packs for 30 minutes while standing still, but forcing a player to discover this by artificially not allowing them to handcraft, lessens the Factorio experience.

The Campaign Conundrum

While we were working on the Introduction/NPE we were also researching and designing what we wanted from a full featured Campaign. The game already had a Campaign which took the player up until Advanced circuits, but there was a feeling that we could do better. For the last year we have been working on and off to implement the design we came up with (from here on called the Expanding campaign), as talked about in FFF-245, FFF-257, FFF-291. More specifically the design was trying to remove the feeling of lost progression that comes from starting a new level and being forced to build a new factory from scratch.

After the Introduction/NPE was cancelled, we took the holiday period to reassess if this goal was worth pursuing, and thought we should at least prototype some alternate solutions before committing completely to "the one design". The prototype came together very quickly this week because we were able to reuse a lot of work from the Expanding campaign prototype.

Now we have two prototypes and wanted to present the ideas behind them:

1. The Expanding Campaign

This is the main prototype that we have been working on so far. A single map which starts small but grows after each objective is complete. This would emulate Freeplay gameplay in that the player can build very large bases and expand in the directions they want, but with quest objectives to steer the player towards building the rocket.

Technology and progression are preserved perfectly, since we never ask the player to start again. As a result, the player can build a really big factory. This prototype focuses more on the long term problem solving that Freeplay requires, such as deciding where your next outpost will be.

Main Problem: At the end of each 'chapter' the number of different situations the player could have gotten themselves into is near infinite. This makes it very difficult to predict the state the player is in, and construct an appropriate challenge. Clever objective and map design should be able to mitigate this issue.

2. The Separate level Campaign

Consisting of approximately five separate missions, each with an interesting starting condition. At the start of the level, all the technologies available in the last mission are pre-researched, and the player is given a new subset of the remaining technologies to be researched.

Every level the player needs to build a new factory. They will have some starting items, and the gameplay is about short term problem solving. This would be very different from Freeplay and similar to what people expect from traditional campaign content. If the player fails, or wants to try a different strategy, they can restart the level and not lose a lot of progress.

Main Problem: Players need to rebuild their factory each level, repeating things they have already done. This is especially problematic in a game like Factorio. We imagine that this issue can be mitigated by making the starting conditions interesting.

Conclusion

While these two prototypes have some large differences, there are many aspects they share:

  • Freeplay will stay the same regardless of the choice here.
  • No story.
  • No exploration gameplay.
  • Same tech tree as Freeplay.
  • All content of Freeplay available at some point.
  • Complex concepts (oil/logistics/trains) are broken down into smaller pieces.
  • Almost identical quest structure.

These two approaches are actually very similar in their core quests, this is more of a decision on how we present the progression. Internally we are still discussing which approach is more appropriate for Factorio.

Community spotlight - 500 player 'speedrun' Klonan

Over the last weekend the Youtuber The Spiffing Brit hosted a server with the goal of completing a speedrun with 500 players online at the same time. There were 2 streams in total, one on Friday evening, and another on Sunday. Things went a lot more smoothly on Sunday, and we managed to reach a peak player count of 462.

Spiff has edited down the stream from Sunday into a much shorter video, so those who could not attend can enjoy the spectacle.

There will be some further attempts to set a new record soon, with some upgraded hardware. Just recently one of the organizers of the server on Sunday has confirmed the order of a i9-9900k with 10 gigabit networking. If you are interested in more info on the servers, you can join the discord here.

As always, let us know what you think on our forum.

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