Friday Facts #399 - Trash to Treasure

Posted by Earendel, kovarex, V453000 on 2024-02-23

Hello, It's Earendel back for another electric adventure.
You got your first look at Fulgora in FFF-398. (If you haven't read that already please read that first.) Now let's take a look at the new planet's mechanics.

Lightning storms

Every night on Fulgora brings an immense lightning storm. Lightning hits things at random based on material and height. If you're wandering around in the middle of nowhere expect to get zapped a few times. It can kill you and wreck your stuff so look for shelter when it starts getting dark.

Damage and frequency boosted for demonstration purposes.

Ruins provide initial safe areas. Not only are some of the large structures more likely to get hit because they're big and metal, but there are some ancient alien lightning attractors dotted around that guarantee protection in a moderate radius.

Lightning protection area The area with guaranteed protection is highlighted cyan when you interact with the structures.

Some of your own structures, like rails, can handle being struck by lightning, but most structures will take a lot of damage if they get hit. If you need to throw down a few structures of your own it's not a bad idea to do it near these ancient attractors.

Lightning Collection

Soon after arriving on Fulgora you'll figure out how to make your own lightning rods. These protect a slightly smaller area than the alien lightning attractors, but you can place them where you want. Better yet, lightning rods can capture some of the energy from each strike and add it to your electrical network. You'll need a solid amount of accumulators to store all that energy though.

There's something really satisfying about the sky trying to kill you but then you turn it around and exploit it. Lightning just went from a threat to a resource.

Once you're producing the planet's science pack you can unlock lightning collectors. An upgrade from the simple lightning rod, these collectors protect a much larger area and convert much more of each bolt's energy into usable electricity.

It may not seem obvious but the range is a double benefit. Not only can you protect a greater area with fewer collectors, but if they're at the edge of a plateau they can reach lightning further away from the plateau and grab lightning that would be unreachable with a smaller collection area. This is especially significant for very small plateaus as you'll see below.

Islands of stability

The plateaus of Fulgora are like islands. They are surrounded by sinking oil sands that act like quicksand for structures. You can walk across them, but the only things you can build on the sinking sands are elevated rail supports and offshore pumps.

Lightning is collected based on the bolts that would strike that area naturally, meaning that each island has a maximum energy collection rate with full coverage. Islands are usually separated by a gap that's larger than (basic quality) big electric poles, so in most cases each island will have its own electrical network.
Island size matters.

Fulgora mapgen

There are different types of island. The largest islands have expansive desert and more natural terrain. There's more space to build and more area to collect power, but no resources.

Medium islands are usually cities and have a mix of space and resources, but the resources are not as rich. These islands are a good place to get started though, as they have a good balance of space, resources, and ancient protection from lightning.

The small islands have some special significance. They're always isolated by a moat. The resources here are far richer but the lack of building space means they will probably need off-site processing.

The result is that you'll typically be motivated to create a train network that spans over many islands using elevated rails.

Scrap recycling recipe
Screenshot of a late game Fulgora factory. This is with older map generation, but demonstrates connecting islands with trains well.
Early on, islands are oases for multi-level train crossings, but very late in the game you unlock the ability to landfill the oily ocean.
As this is late game, you can also spot structures like rail ramps and electric poles placed in the middle of oil.

The first impressionskovarex

The things described so far work quite well and were not mechanically touched since the initial design. But the rest didn't have such a straightforward creation story.

When I was doing the historically first playthrough of the planets content in January 2022, everything was different.
I visited Fulgora as the 3rd planet. At that time it was a pristine desert planet. The only things special about it were the lightning, the islands, one new ore, and a few new recipes. Each island only had 1 resource, and water only existed on certain islands as water springs (like oil), but all of the resource mining, the processing, and the usual intermediates were all the same as on Nauvis.
And since it was the 3rd planet already, I started to feel worn out from the repetition of doing the same old mines, smelting, circuit production, oil refining etc.

At this time I started to feel skeptical about the whole expansion. It felt like the problem of per-planet repetition is not really solvable, and the whole idea of the expansion is fundamentally broken. Not a good place to be.

This problem of repetition was relevant to basically all the planets so it felt hard to solve. Giving up was just not an option, we had to try to improve things one step at a time, and hope for the best.

Since Fulgora needed some revamp and as I felt desperate, I was very open to wild changes. The first idea was a nuclear option and it sounded something like this:

"Remove the resources and just put some trash that some aliens have dumped on the planet, it could be directly transformed into any basic resource through assembling machines, so the game would be shortened and the repetitive parts removed."

This would already be an improvement, but Earendel took it a step further in a way that made everything fit together nicely. This was an amazing opportunity to integrate the recycler into the game.

Up until this point the recycler was mostly just a "quality recycling resource sink tool".
However, if the resource you're mining is made of some high-level scrap and the recycler just transforms it into all kinds of intermediate products in a fixed ratio, then the gameplay could become much more interesting.
The challenge wouldn't be getting the resources, but dealing with the flow of random/mixed products, sorting them, handling the excess, etc.
This proved to be a viable idea, and step by step it led us to the current state of the planet.

Ruins and resourcesEarendel

Factorio has certain themes around the engineer's impact on the world. There was something that felt really out of character for the engineer to collect and effectively 'clean up' trash from a planetary dump.

If the only sign of the aliens on the planet is piles of trash, it isn't very interesting from a lore or visual perspective. It's much more fun if they have an actual presence there. So, if we're going to officially add technological aliens to the lore, we should do it right. And for Factorio that means tearing through an archaeological site with a mining drill.

So the planet is no longer a dump, it's a ruin, albeit a heavily polluted one. Inhabitants are gone, but their technology remains.

The main resource on Fulgora is Scrap. It's not just trash but a big polluted mix of ruined machinery, fallen architecture, ice and rock. The scraps of an ancient civilization. This conceptual change also plays really nicely into getting higher tier items to feed into the recycling mechanic.


The recycler is unlocked by mining scrap and is critical to Fulgora's industry. When you recycle scrap, you get a few low-level products like ice, and stone, but you also get some high-level items like processing units. You don't get certain things like copper and iron directly. For those you'll need to recycle things like processing units and their recycled products repeatedly until you get the resources you need.

Scrap recycling recipe
The scrap recycling recipe as we have it now.

Crafting on Fulgora feels fresh, yet familiar as you don't need to learn many new items or recipes. Essentially the entire crafting tree is inverted.

There are quite a few ways to handle the 12-byproduct recipe - inserter filters, splitter filters, sorting it by robots, circuit network, and it's the place where the new train interrupts can be very handy.

Having quick access to high tier components means getting back into space after landing on Fulgora can be much faster than on other planets. You might even enjoy bringing some of the expensive items back too, that's all up to you.

Fulgoran fluids

As you may already know, the recycler can only output solids. So how do you get fluids on Fulgora?

The polluted sinking wasteland between islands is full of oil. If you put an offshore pump into the sinking sands you can pump out some usable heavy oil. Infinite heavy oil is slick, because it basically reduces oil processing into a bit of cracking. This can be done with the usual recipes, but for that you'll need some water.

The planet has no surface water, it's far too cold and dry. The only source of water in the planet is the ice you get while mining scrap. The ice can be melted into water in a chemical plant easily enough, but you do need to decide when and where to use it.

Needing ice for cracking and the other water recipes is pretty cool because there's still some scarcity to light oil and petroleum.


Fulgora's unique resource is Holmium. It's a very rare element in the solar system and Fulgora is the only planet where it can be found. Unfortunately the previous inhabitants also knew how precious it was, so there are no longer any accessible deposits.

However rare metals such as this don't just disappear after they are mined. Holmium oxides (ore) can be recovered from the debris and scattered remains of this long forgotten civilization. The ore is processed into some holmium intermediates such as electrolyte, superconductors, and supercapacitors. These new things are then turned into the unique end products of this planet, which include the electromagnetic science pack.

Electromagnetic science pack

Electromagnetic plant

This machine can make a lot of different stuff, but is specialised for the manufacture of electronics and electromagnets. It's this planet's equivalent of the foundry, and like the foundry, it's a game-changer when you get it.

The electromagnetic plant is a 4x4 machine with a crafting speed of 2, a built-in productivity bonus of +50%, and 5 module slots.

It can craft wire, circuits, electric poles, accumulators, lightning rods, supercapacitors, the new science pack, more electromagnetic plants, various tesla items, a few other things, and last but not least, modules.

The built-in productivity is really significant here, because unlike productivity modules, built-in productivity is not restricted to intermediates only. As you know, productivity is most amazing when it starts multiplying over multiple recipe steps. Tier 3 modules are crafted in multiple steps, so making all the steps in electromagnetic plants really compounds the bonuses.

Quality Module 3

Quality module 3

Fulgora is also the planet where you unlock quality module 3s.

When you combine tier 3 quality modules with the 5 module slots in the electromagnetic plant, plus the built-in productivity and recyclers to clean up the rejects, then it suddenly starts to be really convenient to mass-produce modules with quality.

The craziness usually starts with making the highest quality T3 Quality modules you can get. Quality quality modules adding more quality to new quality modules... so around and around we go in a wonderful quality carousel that ends with some very powerful machines crammed with very potent quality modules.

An electromagnetic plant full of rare quality module 3s

From there you make modules of other kinds, and over time you add all of the other things like assembling machines, chemical plants, platform components, equipment, spidertrons. Because growth is the only activity the factory deserves, and now that means 'vertical' growth too.

But wait, there's more. Remember that space platforms benefit from quality even more than ground bases. Space platforms are one of the main focal points for quality after power armor and the equipment grid. Quality means you can make platforms smaller but still do as much, or the same size while doing more and moving faster. This makes Fulgora another great option as your first stop after Nauvis. Which will you choose?


This planet is an excellent example of why development behind closed doors for some time was a good idea. We could experiment and make decisions that would normally be viewed as extreme, like overhauling how an entire planet works.

This allowed us to transform one of the most repetitive planets into one of the most novel ones. Since we were doing similar kinds of drastic changes all over the place, the original overall desperation described earlier is now long gone.
I'm not saying that everyone will enjoy the expansion, but now at least we do. This is quite an important requirement for a good game, isn't it? :)

Are you as amped for this planet as we are? As always, let us know at the usual places.