Friday Facts #275 - 0.17 Science changes

Posted by V453000 & Albert on 2018-12-28

It's the last Friday of 2018, and as such the last Friday Facts before the New year of 2019.

We all hope everyone has had a great 2018, and looking forward to a lot more automation fun to come in 2019. Albert has produced a postcard for you all to share to give the year a good send-off.

0.17 Science changes (V453000)

Science in Factorio or more separately, technologies and science packs, are the main progression mechanisms in the game, and all entities are unlocked by it. This is great but it also means that when we change or add almost anything to the game, it will certainly have some impact on science. Over time we have changed the technologies and science packs multiple times because their context and design goals moved and evolved with the game.

Before 0.15 we had a fairly linear progression of getting from Science pack 1 to Science pack 3 with increasing complexity, plus the go-fight-your-neighbours Alien science pack which didn’t really require much factory/crafting.

In 0.15 Kovarex introduced a new design where the player should be able to make a choice between different tech paths and get different benefits from each. The amount and price of these science packs also made the game significantly better paced and longer, meaning you have enough time in the game to appreciate the intermediate steps between upgrades, like for example, not ignoring Modular armor or Power armor Mk1. In 0.15 we also added infinite technologies with Space science packs, which give more sense to the large factories that never have to stop.

During 0.15 we did some tweaks to Production science pack as we realized neither the Assembling machine 1 or Pumpjacks were the right ingredients... and it ended up a bit too simplified.

I really like Kovarex’ general idea of the 0.15 science packs, but I also feel like it’s possible to improve the implementation in order to really make more out of its potential...

Current state - 0.16

Over time we have gathered a lot of experience through playing the game ourselves and feedback from reading your posts and comments about the technologies and science packs. Here are some of the issues we noted:

Military science pack

  • Gun turret in Military science pack is really expensive and the rest of the ingredients seem too small in contrast, which makes them feel redundant.
  • In the crafting menu, Science pack 3 is sorted before Military science pack, but when playing it’s almost certain that players obtain the military science first (except in peaceful mode), and Science pack 3 later simply because of the oil processing barrier which is hard for many.

Science pack 3

  • Science pack 3 suddenly adds the most amount of complexity (mainly oil mining, oil processing, setting up chemical plants), and a lot of extra resource requirements (4.5 times more expensive than the first two science packs combined).
  • Electric mining drill recipe in Science pack 3 has boring ingredients (Iron plates, Iron gear wheel, Electronic circuits) we use in multiple other places, and the Inserter in Science pack 2 is one of them. It is also the miner that raises the price of the science pack a lot.
  • Electric mining drill in Science pack 3 was supposed to hint to the player to expand production because things are about to get wild and expensive, but this hint doesn’t seem to work well.

Production science pack

  • Production science pack has surprisingly few ingredients (two) for its expected higher tier.
  • The step from Science pack 3 to Production science pack is minimal in complexity - use the simplest oil processing result (Lubricant) to upgrade Engines from Science pack 3, and produce more of the same (Steel and Advanced circuits) for Electric furnaces. For the first time you need a steady supply of Stone bricks, unless you have their smelting automated for Walls or for the handful of Oil refineries you needed earlier.
  • There are not that many unlocks that the Production science pack alone would actually give you. The interesting ones require High-tech science pack as well so in the end there is little choice as you simply need both anyway. This in combination with the difference in complexity and price between Production and High-tech science packs, means that most players don’t even realize that the design is that they can choose between the two science packs. Therefore it’s common to think that the High-tech science pack is obviously superior to the Production science pack... in fact even the name of the science pack implies that it is.

High-tech science pack

  • High-tech science pack is very expensive compared to the Production science pack.
  • The step from Science pack 3 to High-tech science pack is moderate in complexity but huge in price (crazy amount of Electronic circuits, Advanced circuits and smelting to support them).
  • Processing units in High-tech science pack are very expensive and the rest of the ingredients seems irrelevant and low tier.
  • High-tech science pack needs Copper cables as a high-throughput ingredient, which feels out of place to many people as you can craft Copper cables from the beginning of the game, and they don’t feel very high-tech. But it’s cool that it’s a little different - makes you consider using direct insertion in the build or not etc.
  • Batteries feel quite low tier - if you want early laser turrets, robots or accumulators, it’s usually the first oil product you make.
  • High-tech science pack needs Speed modules which have a much less interesting impact on the game than Productivity or even Efficiency modules.

In short, Military pack could be nicer and cheaper, Science pack 3 is a huge difficulty spike, while Production vs. High-tech science pack balance doesn’t really work. Let’s have a look at what we can do about it.

0.17 science

While the design idea stays the same, the new science is trying to make the progression difficulty smoother and the places with choice more clear. We will try to achieve this in three steps - changing the names, recipes, and technology dependencies.

Step 1: Science pack names

The names will make more sense once you know the rest of the changes, but I think it’s important to set a dictionary first so the article is less confusing.

One of the other factors which may have made things further confusing is that the naming convention of science packs is a mix of old science-pack-1,2,3 from pre-0.15 and unique names (military, production, high-tech, space). The idea behind this was that the specialized science packs get unique names, while the mandatory early game progression keep numbers 1,2,3. With the upcoming changes it’s a great opportunity to make this more consistent and fitting.

It’s noteworthy that we considered multiple options - whether we should keep the naming, give them numbered names or just name them by colours.

Naming by numbers

Giving them numbered names (1-7) would mean that any choices would be out of the window, unless we would add sub-numbers like for example Science pack 3A and Science pack 3B. That’s completely abstract though - would you ever remember which one is A and which one is B?

Naming by colours

The other option would be to just call them by colours - so many people do that already regardless. However, a lot of us also say green/red/blue circuits or yellow/red/blue belts. And that’s completely fine, but the official name in the game should be representative about the differences. The main difference between a green and a red circuit is not the colour, but the recipe and complexity.

Furthermore, I believe it has some value to have official 'formal' names, even if we know that we will call all of the things with simplified 'informal' names anyway. I believe that creating this informal language, in your mind or in the whole community, is subconsciously really cool. You’re calling things by their colour, it’s easy to remember and everybody understands each other - but only because you all share the knowledge of what the colour in that context means.

To summarize; it would be best to have unique names which represent each science pack well, they should be a representation of its purpose, of the stage in the game and the recipe, be short and easy to pronounce, it would be nice if each science pack name would start with a different letter, and so on... The only slight problem would be that those names weren’t easy to find, but I believe now we have them at last:

Step 2: Science pack recipes

One of the most important aspects of the science pack is its recipe as it defines how many resources it costs, how complicated is it to produce, how much do you need to research before being able to produce it (because of prerequisites), and how much time it takes to craft it including all the ingredients.

We are happy with the first science pack, especially when it gets a nicer name that sets the tone for the whole game.

The second science pack is fine. Here the name was not very easy to find as 'green science' is used to unlock so many various things, but logistics are a big part of them (red belts, car, trains, stack inserters, robots). In general Automation + Logistics is the first, and mandatory, part of the game so they fit well together, and the ingredients (Inserter + Transport belt) are both related to moving items around.

I have been considering to add 1x Pipe to the recipe to make getting to oil easier - if you have pipes automated, it’s so much simpler as you need a crazy number of them to build the refinery and even craft the items that the refinery consists of. Using it in a science pack recipe is not guaranteeing that the player will automate pipes and store them in a chest for later use, but it’s a step closer, or you can just pick up pipes from a belt if they back up and you need them. The ore price would be a little bit higher (+14%), and it would add a little more complexity in this science pack. Which might be a good thing if it makes Chemical science easier.

Especially since Assembling machine 1 does not have the 2 ingredient limit (FFF-266), I’d say this option is not completely off the table yet so I’m especially interested in what you think about this.

  • Piercing rounds magazine stays as it’s one of the more vital things to have automated for your health and well being on this planet.
  • Grenade stays as it’s a very useful weapon against large groups of enemies, like biters or trees.
  • Replacement of Gun turret with 2x Wall. This means more price balance between the ingredients so all of them feel reasonable, a lower price of the science pack in total, and now it requires Stone which is nice for variety and makes you automate Stone brick smelting you will need to craft Oil refineries.
  • It shows before Science pack 3 in the crafting menu.

  • Engine units and Advanced circuits stay, as they are the first intermediate products with longer crafting times and decent complexity, but they are not too resource expensive. You also need Engines for pumps/trains/cars, and Advanced circuits are useful for a whole bunch of other things.
  • Electric mining drill replaced with Solid fuel, giving you a lot more buffer room to produce something before your refinery deadlocks when one of the three oils has no use. The player is also much more familiar with item storage compared to the newly learned fluids at this stage so it is much easier to handle the possible deadlock. In general it also means that you don't need to rush towards Advanced oil processing to unlock cracking as early, especially if you send some of your Solid fuel to burn in boilers.
  • Since in the crafting menu it now shows after Military science pack, it would look weird that you get 2x Military science pack per craft, but just 1x Science pack 3. Now a single craft of Science pack 3 returns 2x as well. The ingredient count and crafting time has been increased to compensate. It’s also more clear that both Military and Chemical science packs are in a different tier to the first two science packs.

  • Electric furnace stays. It has a nice recipe and motivates upgrading to Electric furnaces, which in turn motivates players to extend boiler-based power generation, or replace it with with either solar or nuclear. Maybe you’re also motivated to build an external smelting because the 3x3 furnaces aren’t compatible with the old 2x2 ones, and external will likely be more expandable and use trains.
  • The Productivity module is not only an obvious choice because of the names and theme of getting more stuff produced. Using Productivity modules motivates you to extend your power setup since it makes machines eat more power, and extend your factory because it makes machines run slower, all while making you spend less time building mining sites. On top of that, it’s a common mistake that people research Productivity module 3 and then try to produce those immediately - which gets quite grindy because of the long investment return period of Productivity module 3 - but if you use level 1 first and work your way towards the top tier in smaller steps by upgrading to level 2 as a middle point, it becomes a lot more feasible. Since it is included in the science pack recipe, you are more likely to use Productivity module 1 earlier.
  • Rails. One of the coolest recipes in the game which also uses Iron sticks and raw Stone. Rails are also produced quickly while being relatively cheap - this means they can be used in high quantities in the science pack recipe to achieve the same 'high throughput ingredient' as 0.16 High-tech science pack had with Copper cables - except rails do not feel out of place because it’s never too late in the game to start building trains. The point of 'do you use direct insertion' is here twice as you can direct insert Rails into Production science pack machines, and you can do the same for Iron sticks into Rails (the ratio is also very nice by the way). The idea of making it easier for people to try using trains is also good.
  • Production science pack now returns 3x packs in a single craft, making it clear that it is a tier above Chemical science pack.

  • Utility science pack now returns 3x packs per craft, making it clear that it is the same tier as Production science pack.
  • Processing units stay, but their number is reduced from 3 to 2, it was just too many.
  • Flying robot frame is basically an upgrade to Battery and the Electric engine so it feels much more appropriate for a high tier science pack than either of those two did. And you are just a small step from worker robots - getting specifically Construction robots is one of the biggest power spikes that you get in the game - everything suddenly becomes much less tedious and defenses can be automatically repaired, while Logistic robots have their own share of awesome progression feelings when you get them, even just for personal delivery.
  • Low density structure. As hinted in earlier FFF-257, Low density structure is much more useful earlier on now, and since it is one of the ingredients for multiple advanced personal equipment items, it makes perfect sense to use Low density structure in the Utility science pack as most of the top tier personal equipment is unlocked by Utility science.

This recipe does not exist as it kind of is the process of the Rocket silo, but the values are representative. Note that it returns 1,000x science packs.

The Space science pack is only influenced by Low density structures having a slightly different recipe (20x copper plate, 2x steel plate, 5x plastic bar), but other than that it is the same.

Renaming of the science packs gave me an opportunity to rethink if it really should not be called Rocket science as many people have half-jokingly suggested. In my mind 'Rocket science pack' would mean you are trying to research some technology which improves rockets, which is not what is happening in the game. Space science pack tells me that I am discovering space, which is what the rocket is doing if you assume that the Satellite is sending you scientific data and the Rocket silo turns them into a bottle of scientific data, like any of the other coloured scientific data in the game.

Also space is said to be infinite, and this is a science pack for infinite technologies.

The math

Numbers are definitely important when it comes to science packs as they are a significant portion of where your resources are spent. When iterating the different science pack recipes, it was immensely helpful to use a spreadsheet in combination with my favourite Factorio calculator (thank you very much for this useful tool Kirk McDonald). If you are interested you can find the full spreadsheet here.

The spreadsheet can be pretty confusing so let’s just summarize the most significant points:

  • Oil is hard to quantify in the same formula as ore resources so it’s calculated separately.
  • Chemical science pack ore price is less than half of 0.16 Science pack 3 - the main hurdle is the complexity of oil processing so the oil price is also more.
  • Military science pack is significantly cheaper making it more viable earlier.
  • Using Productivity modules affects Military science pack very little as it includes no intermediate items, making it relatively expensive in the late game if you use Productivity modules for everything else.
  • Ore price of Production and Utility science packs is exactly the same, the Utility science pack is more expensive on oil.
  • The oil difference between Production and Utility science pack drops significantly with the use of Productivity modules.
  • Space science pack is more copper heavy because of the Low density structure recipe change.
  • The late game total ratio of Iron:Copper consumption is significantly different (1 iron : 1.4 copper), but Copper consumption is reduced more by Productivity modules (1 Iron : 0.76 Copper).
  • Coal and Stone are more relevant than in 0.16.
  • The total cost of all science packs combined is roughly 10% lower in ore resources, and about 10% higher in oil.
  • Another interesting number is the total crafting time required, which is also taken into consideration, as it basically says how large factory you need in order to craft the recipe at a given rate.

Step 3: Technologies and science unlocks

As it’s been hinted in FFF-245 earlier, one of the issues was the distribution of which technologies were unlocked by Production and Utility science packs. The same FFF also stated that we are trying to improve this and showed the tech trees for it. At that point the new science packs were not in our master branch yet so it wouldn’t be wise to include them in that FFF. Now we have a newer version...

Production science pack alone now unlocks:

  • Logistics 3 - Express belts always make sense for more production.
  • Level 3 modules - pimp my base, more production with less mining.
  • Automation 3 - faster Assembling machines with more module slots mainly for better utilization of Productivity modules.
  • Effect transmission - using Productivity modules with the help of Speed modules in Beacons - the recipe for moar production.
  • Coal liquefaction - very useful when you have a lot of coal but not enough oil. The Coal liquefaction recipe is also changed so it’s more useful - now it produces much more Heavy oil that you can crack into whatever you need, but produces less Light oil and Petroleum gas. If we cracked everything to petroleum, the maximum gain is almost doubled compared to 0.16.
  • Kovarex enrichment process and Nuclear fuel reprocessing - now you can get the full might of uranium processing with only Production science. You can also get Nuclear fuel without Military or Utility science packs. The Nuclear fuel cell reprocessing is also drastically cheaper as it does not do nearly as much as we once thought it would - now it basically just gives you something to do with spent fuel cells but the rewards are minimal compared to just storing them in some chest.
  • Worker robot capacity 2 - Better throughput for your robots - since you don’t have the full Logistic system yet, this is just for de-Construction robots and less Logistic robots needed for each personal delivery.

Utility science pack alone now unlocks:

  • Worker robot speed 3 - More convenient personal delivery and personal construction goes very well with the theme of Utility science. Speed for Construction robots is also very helpful when you are in a Tank and a Construction robot is chasing you to repair it.
  • Logistic system - The ultimate factory utility tool. Without Production science you can’t get ridiculous throughput, but you get the ability to move items by air.
  • Personal roboport, Power armor Mk2, Fusion reactor - More utility/personal equipment for combat, construction and faster movement.
  • Military 4 with Uranium ammo, Destroyer robots, Atomic bomb, Artillery.
  • High tier damage/shooting speed/follower robot count upgrades for military things.
  • Rocket control units - the final Rocket ingredient and Atomic bomb prerequisite.

With that the only technologies which require both Production and Utility science packs are:

  • Rocket silo
  • Space science pack (unlock of Satellite)
  • Atomic bomb (it’s fine if it’s super late game)
  • Upgrades like Inserter capacity, Worker robot speed/capacity, Mining productivity

During several playthroughs of very different settings and styles I have tried how viable it is to prioritize one or the other science pack (Production vs. Utility) and I got results I was very happy with.

Military upgrade technologies

Separately from any science pack rework, we have realized that we have a few too many technologies for damage/shooting speed upgrades.

In general the combat rebalancing Twinsen did for 0.15 is very good and all weapons have their uses, but in order to make for example Shotgun useful you have to invest a lot of time and resources into upgrades for it. This is hard to justify when you could instead research upgrades which benefit both Gun turrets and your Submachine gun and get a comparable amount of offensive power. A similar case happens in multiple places.

The tank had a specific issue where the tank Cannon shells would seem weak compared to all the automation and investment you would need to do to get them. Instead you can just put the Piercing rounds magazines in, and especially if you upgraded them, the damage was more than enough. This was majorly influenced by the tank submachine gun having +100% damage bonus. We have removed this bonus in 0.17.

Please note that the icons above are provisional, but the solution is that we are merging all military upgrade technologies except Artillery upgrades into 5, which should make a lot of technologies much less redundant. The new technologies are:

  • Physical projectile damage - Bullets, Gun turrets, Shotgun shells, Tank cannon shell
  • Energy weapons damage - Laser turret, Personal laser defense, Distractor robots, Destroyer robots
  • Stronger explosives - Grenades, Rockets, Land mines
  • Refined flammables - Flamethrower turret, Flamethrower (handheld)
  • Weapon shooting speed - Bullets, Shotgun shells, Tank cannon shells, Rockets

Artillery, Follower robot count, and Laser turret shooting speed upgrades remain as separate technologies.

The prices of these new upgrades are about double than what 0.16 individual upgrades used to be. However you almost always get more than two improvements in return and some of the science packs (Military, Chemical and Utility) are now significantly cheaper.

You don’t get all of the upgrades from level 1 though. For example Stronger explosives level 1 gives only Grenade damage bonus, on level 2 it gives both Grenade damage and Land mine damage, and from level 3 further it influences Grenades, Land mines and Rockets. That way we avoid that you would get an upgrade for something far before you could actually possibly unlock and craft it.

Also, it means for example Tank cannon shell upgrades do not have 7 tiers but just 2 (Physical projectile damage 5+ and Weapon shooting speed 5+), but instead they are expensive and very impactful.

All the weapons which have a shooting speed kind of make sense that they could be in a single technology, so we did just that. The Artillery shooting speed is separate mainly because it’s an infinite research unlike the Weapon shooting speed.

One of the reasons why for example Land mines didn’t have their own upgrade technology is because it would be just another research. With this kind of grouping it is so much easier to add it into one of the categories without adding more technologies which would feel like bloat.

Personal laser defense is now also influenced by Energy weapon damage upgrades (which also affect Laser turrets), but on the other hand we decreased the base damage it does, and also decreased its power consumption so it is fun to use even with Personal solar panels early on, and if you invest into the Energy weapon damage, it becomes quite good later.

Combat robot damage was quite hideous because it didn’t actually provide bonuses for all combat robots - just for the two later tiers. Defenders did still get upgrades, just from a different place - the damage and shooting speed upgrades for bullets. Now it’s much clearer as Defenders are kept the same way while the upgrade for Distractors and Destroyers are in Energy weapons damage which is clearly focused on laser and electric beams.

Both Personal laser defense and Distractor robots now have the same laser beams as the new high resolution laser turrets (FFF-228).

Rocket silo

With the military technology changes, Rocket shooting speed technologies no longer exist. This opens the question what do we put to the Rocket silo prerequisite instead of Rocket shooting 5... The answer is: Nothing.

Putting any arbitrary military upgrade there just makes that weapon type mandatory to upgrade even if you don’t want to use it. Not only that, but it was also the only reason why you would need to make Military science packs if your only intention is to launch the Rocket.

This makes it even more clear that the Military science pack is a separate branch of science. It depends on the progression of your factory, but its sole purpose is to deal with the distraction - the enemies - from your main goal.

Biters by themselves already give you a very good reason to invest into Military science regardless and it’s unnecessary to force the Military science pack on people who play without biters - just because of the few Rocket shooting speed (or any other) military technologies that you don’t even make use of. Or maybe you play with biters but are badass enough to just use more unupgraded Gun turrets and launch the Rocket without any Military science packs anyway, we’ll leave that decision to you.

Freeplay victory condition

It’s late at night, you have been playing for a while now (again), you built all the assembly lines to make the rocket parts, provided the gluttonous silo all the parts it demanded. You can finally see the counter of rocket components say 100%. You watch the great animation of the rocket preparing. All excited you hit the LAUNCH button written in capital letters because this stuff is lit. Your emotions are through the roof, your eyes are desperately trying to remain dry. In feelings of pride and accomplishment, thinking about all the effort it took to achieve this great technological feat, you observe your great creation flying upwards. The epicness of the moment couldn’t be much higher. At least until you see the following:

How many of you have seen this great message before and how many of you have seen it on your first rocket launch? It’s really easy to forget the satellite, especially as the GUI slot for it only shows after the rocket is ready to launch. Not to mention that a new player might not know at all that the satellite even exists and is required.

Mainly for these reasons, you now win the game by launching an empty rocket. The satellite is unlocked with the Space science pack technology and its only purpose is obtaining these science packs.

The idea of an escape pod has been abandoned but we will might try to somehow use it in the campaign.

Mods like SpaceX which redefine the victory conditions with a super-satellite can use a remote call to disable the default victory condition.

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