Solar panels less of a no-brainer

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab »

MeduSalem wrote:Well yeah, that's basically what I have been doing for the past 1.5 years now...
So I guess that solar isn't that much of a "no-brainer" for you then ?

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by MeduSalem »

Zhab wrote:
MeduSalem wrote:Well yeah, that's basically what I have been doing for the past 1.5 years now...
So I guess that solar isn't that much of a "no-brainer" for you then ?
I started using Solid Fuel/Steam Engines on grand scale back then because Solar is a "no-brainer" and nothing being changed about it for so long. :D

So one could argue "leave it as it is if you haven't been using for so long anyways", but in fact I would like to use it... but only if it would offer more interesting gameplay, which it currently doesn't.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab »

MeduSalem wrote:I started using Solid Fuel/Steam Engines on grand scale back then because Solar is a "no-brainer" and nothing being changed about it for so long. :D

So one could argue "leave it as it is if you haven't been using for so long anyways", but in fact I would like to use it... but only if it would offer more interesting gameplay, which it currently doesn't.
I would like to clarify your stand on this. are you not using solar because:

1) You feel it is overpowered ? As in the definitive best power solution by far. So much so that you feel like a cheater by using them and therefor you are willing to go out of your way to avoid using them.

2) You feel they are boring to use and play with. It's not really about overall efficiency, upfront cost, footprint or whatever. It is just that you are playing this game to have fun and solar (good or bad) is not doing it for you.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by MeduSalem »

Zhab wrote:I would like to clarify your stand on this. are you not using solar because:

1) You feel it is overpowered ? As in the definitive best power solution by far. So much so that you feel like a cheater by using them and therefor you are willing to go out of your way to avoid using them.

2) You feel they are boring to use and play with. It's not really about overall efficiency, upfront cost, footprint or whatever. It is just that you are playing this game to have fun and solar (good or bad) is not doing it for you.
Simply put: Both.



1) "You feel it is overpowered ? As in the definitive best power solution by far. So much so that you feel like a cheater by using them and therefor you are willing to go out of your way to avoid using them."

If there is a choice between two or more alternative routes providing the same output (in this matter: Solar Power vs Steam Power, both providing Energy) and one of the available approaches is lacking downsides then I eventually consider that approach overpowered compared to the alternatives.

That said Solar Power doesn't have any downsides I know of:
  1. Increased initial need for resources is not really a downside in a game providing infinite resources (going extreme and creating an island with limited resources is probably not the way most people play the game)
  2. Increased need for space is not really a downside in a game providing infinite space to build upon (limiting the map size is probably also not a setting most people will play with)
  3. They don't cause pollution, which is okay, but there is no serious downside to compensate for "Solar Power = Biters gone vs Steam Power = More Biters".
  4. They aren't location bound. Stamp them everywhere. Steam Power requires at least some lakes nearby.
  5. The efficiency of a Solar Power plant is not layout bound, while a Steam Power Plant layout largely depends on Pipe/Liquid Mechanics and on the oil refinery stuff if one is using Solid Fuel.
  6. The efficiency of a Solar Power plant is not size bound, while a Steam Power Plant eventually becomes a logistics problem either because there's no coal anywhere nearby or you don't have enough Oil Wells around
The above stated facts/problems need to be considered somehow when trying to make Solar Power less overpowered.

If nuclear power plants (which is probably the only other type of power plant we might get in the main game at some point in the future) ever become a thing they probably will have downsides attached to them. Probably finding the radioactive resource will be one problem (which may be compared to ssilk's randomizing idea), but at least the radioactivity will probably annoy the Biters a hell of a lot too like pollution does currently. Probably it will cause even more side effects like faster evolution and even stronger and/or mutated enemies compared to the current maximum evolution. And on top of that there will probably be a production cycle based around getting the Uran or whatever into the plant as well as processing the waste material (who knows what problems the waste causes) and probably even pipe mechanics with heat exchangers being involved and eventually getting hot Water to the Steam Power Plant to finally generate electricity from the heat.

If the Photovoltaic stuff would be Solar-Thermal instead like Phoenix suggested it would fit better with above in mind and also there would be some downsides to Solar Power already, because then there would be at least a production cycle (like Heat Exchangers etc) and some layout problems to solve beyond just cluttering the landscape with the same 2 items over and over. If combined with the deterioration effect of accumulators (or to be specific the Batteries inside them) like I suggested it might be a contraption deep enough to balance out the ecological benefit of Solar Power. And all that without having to roll the dice with a chance based system.

The problem would turn into:
  • Steam Power with Solid Fuel/Coal -> Average Power Density, easy/average build complexity, but attracts loads of Biters due to Pollution from the Boilers
  • Steam Power with Solar-Thermal and deteriorating Accumulators -> Low Power Density, high build complexity, but eco-friendly with (almost) no Biter attacks.
  • (Future) Steam Power with Nuclear Reactor -> High Power Density, average/high build complexity, but Biters don't react well to radioactivity and it may cause even stronger or mutated enemies.
Exact balancing of Power Density is then of course up to debate, but at least there would be no clear winners or losers. All have their ups and downs in layout complexity and how the Biters react to it.



2) "You feel they are boring to use and play with. It's not really about overall efficiency, upfront cost, footprint or whatever. It is just that you are playing this game to have fun and solar (good or bad) is not doing it for you."

Even without the Solar Power Plants being overpowered/lacking downsides I think that currently they add little gameplay value and are therefore boring.

To explain I only really need to say two words: Plop & Forget.

Well yeah, to build accumulators/solar panels you need to implement a sophisticated production cycle, but the ingredients are something you need to automate anyways in order to advance in research, like for example Steel Bars for Solar Panels or building Batteries for Accumulators. Both are needed for Science Pack 3 anyways. So Solar Panels and Accumulators are nothing but a byproduct on the way of automating Science Pack 3.

That said the bigger problem for me is that once you placed the Solar Plant down you are done with it. There is no more puzzle solving or efficiency problems to consider, nothing more to optimize. If you need more power: Make a blueprint of your favorite pattern and stamp it all over the place. As easy as that.

With Steam Engines based on Solid Fuel you at least have to consider some layout problems or how to maintain the efficiency (Amount of Oil Wells, Refinieries, Stall Resistance/Priorities, Cracking, Solid Fuel creation and how to get the Fuel to the Plant) the bigger you make your power plant. So there is more long term gameplay and problem solving involved even after you automated the process of creating the items needed for building the plant.

And that long term problem solving is what I miss the most about Solar Power. Even if it weren't overpowered it would still be somewhat boring because of how it doesn't involve the player anymore once it is placed, hence the term "plop & forget".

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab »

MeduSalem wrote:[*]They don't cause pollution, which is okay, but there is no serious downside to compensate for "Solar Power = Biters gone vs Steam Power = More Biters".
That is a fallacy that I have already addressed in a previous post.

Solar is not equal to zero pollution. The pollution produced by boilers is slight in comparison to the pollution of what you are powering. Especially a mega base that make liberal use of speed and production modules. Solar is a pollution discount. Not a free pass with bitters. For example, electric mining drills and pumpjack produce 9 units of pollution each and a single boilers (6 pollution) can produce enough power to feed several of them. You will also need several panels/accumulators to save just 6 points of pollution.
MeduSalem wrote:
  1. Increased initial need for resources is not really a downside in a game providing infinite resources (going extreme and creating an island with limited resources is probably not the way most people play the game)
I have a hard time acknowledging this point because then nothing actually matter. Why build efficient layouts ? Why use ratios ? Why productivity modules ? Why limit production to prevent overproducing ? Ressource are infinite... and so is your time for that matter... who cares if it takes you 1000 hours to do what others achieve in 30 ? Same result in the end am I right ? Why even bother replaying the game to "improve your setup" if none of it matters because infinity ? But ok... let's roll with this point for the sake of it.

Mining all those extra resources will require power and create pollution on top of taking significantly more time. The oil needed to produce enough accumulator to replace your steam setup alone can very much drain your starting supply of oil. Forcing you to adventure out and fight bitters sooner then you would have otherwise.

Electric mining drills and pumpjack produce 9 units of pollution each and a single boilers (6 pollution) can produce enough power to feed several of them. Needing more and/or working them overtime will aggravate bitters... and between you and me aliens are at their most troublesome early on in the game. Let's face it, once you have your defense perimeter up and running the natives can almost be ignored at that point.

Distant mining outposts might still be vulnerable, however how you chose to produce power all the way back at main base have nothing to do with how much pollution your mining outposts are producing.

Going solar early slows you down drastically and likely will make you face extra alien harassment early on then sticking to steam. Going solar later on is very likely not worth it at that point unless you are planing to play 200+ hours (mega base) which is only one playing style. And no I'm not hinting at speed running here. The value of solar increase with how much time you plan on spending within a single map. It goes from absolute crap to awesome. It is my position that only mega builders player will play (and mine/produce stuff) for long enough within the same map for solar power to become truly worthwhile.

Many people have mentioned that the devs should not balance the game around speed runners. That is fine and dandy, but devs should not balance the game around mega base builders either.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Afforess »

Zhab wrote:Solar is not equal to zero pollution. The pollution produced by boilers is slight in comparison to the pollution of what you are powering. Especially a mega base that make liberal use of speed and production modules. Solar is a pollution discount. Not a free pass with bitters.
Your math here is disingenuous. You need pumpjacks/chemical plants or electric mining drills to fuel the boilers, which produce lots of pollution in addition to the boilers themselves. This easily outweighs any pollution from solar production. In addition, once the initial pollution is paid for solar, it's free. The pollution from mining or oil pumping for boilers is in perpetuity, as boilers require constant fuel to provide electricity. So boilers produce infinitely more pollution than solar, over a long time horizon.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab »

Afforess wrote:
Zhab wrote:Solar is not equal to zero pollution. The pollution produced by boilers is slight in comparison to the pollution of what you are powering. Especially a mega base that make liberal use of speed and production modules. Solar is a pollution discount. Not a free pass with bitters.
Your math here is disingenuous. You need pumpjacks/chemical plants or electric mining drills to fuel the boilers, which produce lots of pollution in addition to the boilers themselves. This easily outweighs any pollution from solar production. In addition, once the initial pollution is paid for solar, it's free. The pollution from mining or oil pumping for boilers is in perpetuity, as boilers require constant fuel to provide electricity. So boilers produce infinitely more pollution than solar, over a long time horizon.
You completely misunderstood what I'm saying here. I'm saying that just using power creates pollution. I'm saying that powering your factory, your science setup or your mining outposts create pollution regardless of if that power was steam or solar generated. I'm saying that your factory that is pumping out a 1001 components generate a lot of pollution. I'm saying that removing boilers in favor of solar panels will not eliminate all pollution. Because the rest of your base is still making just as much pollution as ever. As such, solar power is a discount on pollution. Your base wont be 100% pollution free just because you are using solar like some people seem to be claiming around here. I was not actually talking about pollution cost associated with building solar.

As for what you are saying here. Are you aware that a single mining drill or single pumpjack is enough to feed several boillers ? I have a feeling that you are greatly overestimating the amount of energy needed to feed boilers and overestimating the pollution that this bring about. Furthermore, using depleted oil well is also an infinite source of power. But it does create some extra pollution.

I did talk about the pollution and extra weight on your scarce early game resources that the creation of solar power have in the early game. But that was in response to the "resources are infinite so who cares if solar is bloody expensive ?" argument. Which should not be confused with my reply to "solar power makes your base 100% pollution free" statement. I was also careful to mention and properly credit that solar is indeed worthwhile if you play for a very long time.
Afforess wrote:So boilers produce infinitely more pollution than solar, over a long time horizon.
Now that is disingenuous. To produce infinitely more pollution you would need to play an infinite amount of time. That will definitively not happen. You will play a finit amount of hours. How many hours ? I'm saying that this is a key factor in determining the worth of solar. The more time you intend on spending within a single save file the more worthwhile solar becomes. But I'm claiming that the turning point is further than most people think.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Koub »

I'm sure if I wasn't so lazy (and tbh more overworked IRL than lazy), I could calculate a break-even point below which steam is cheaper in overall pollution over time (power supply building and running added) than solar.
And I'm almost sure it takes literally hours (and many of them) to get to tht point solar is cheaper pollution wise than steam engines.

Additional fact : steam engines + boilers is less dangerous than solar+accus : if you donn't pay attention when using solar, and your solar farm +accus becomes undersized, at one moment, you switck from full power to nibs, so your laser defended factory (or even the turret defended factory with turrets reloaded by robots or inserters) becomes undefended until sun is back up, and you plant a new array of panels+accus. With steam, you just notice that you're saturating, your factory just turns a slight little bit slower, but your defenses are totally operational, and you just have to plop down a few boilers and steam engines. risk = 0.

Forgetting to upgrade your power supply is very forgiving with steam, not forgiving at all with solar.

[Edited for awful typos, thanks Ssilk :)]
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by ssilk »

Koub wrote: bread-even point bolow
:lol: :D

And when I'm on it: Guys, don't you think this is discussed to death? My grandma said to such discussions: "Man discuss a problem, even if women have already found a solution...". :)
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Koub »

Well Ssilk, past a point, I know it is impossible to make all people agree, I just argue for the love of arguing ^^. And even, who knows, it might be possible somebody finds a new idea that could be useful.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by MeduSalem »

Zhab wrote:I have a hard time acknowledging this point because then nothing actually matter. Why build efficient layouts ? Why use ratios ? Why productivity modules ? Why limit production to prevent overproducing ? Ressource are infinite... and so is your time for that matter... who cares if it takes you 1000 hours to do what others achieve in 30 ? Same result in the end am I right ? Why even bother replaying the game to "improve your setup" if none of it matters because infinity ?
If you want my honest opinion on that then... yeah, nothing really matters in a sandbox type game.
ssilk wrote:And when I'm on it: Guys, don't you think this is discussed to death?
Probably. Well, back to lurking it is for me.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Afforess »

Okay, for all the players in the faction that less reliable brightness / daylight will help balance Solar power, I have a mod for you: https://forums.factorio.com/forum/vie ... 94&t=19959

Let me know. I'm curious. Really.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Nasabot »

The mod I just created solves this problem completly different.

viewtopic.php?f=95&t=20479&p=128775#p128775

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Hexicube »

As someone who recently bought the game, and jumped straight to solar power and double efficiency 2 modules in everything (it's the best strategy for avoiding biter attacks from what I can tell), I agree that it needs a change on the grounds it's incredibly boring. However, I don't feel like solar panels are the root cause, but that accumulators are instead.

From what I understand, accumulators are supposed to be a stop-gap to fluctuating power demands (most likely from laser turrets) so that the entire base doesn't suffer from said fluctuations. This is compounded by the fact they have a very large transfer rate (300kW) compared to their storage (5000kJ) which gives a discharge time of 16.67 seconds. Maybe it would be a good idea to impact accumulators in some way if they see slow discharges (which happens when used as solar storage since they typically need to last about 2 minutes), but not in a way that requires unnecessary maintenance?


Here's my proposal: The total storage of any given accumulator drops by 1kJ for every second it spends discharging, down to a minimum of 500kJ, and restores 1kJ for every 5 seconds it spends full. It could also restore whilst empty too, but at a slower rate.

On the surface level, this looks like a disguised way of nerfing accumulators. Strictly speaking this is true, as it prevents solar + accumulator spam to remove power from the equation, but that should be discouraged due to how boring of a solution that is. You've basically taken two puzzle pieces, melted the ends on both, then glued them together. I feel that solar power should be a supplement, not a primary producer; a few solar panels could handle solid fuel production so that the boilers run without a hitch, or a large collection could completely take over during the day whilst the steam engines run overnight (which would basically quarter fuel usage), or even both.

The most important part of the numbers I suggested is the ratio of seconds degrading against the seconds restoring, the numbers could be made more aggressive (it would take over 15 minutes to fully degrade assuming constant draw, likely over 30 in practice) without affecting the reason behind it. This ratio must be more severe than the ratio of night to not night (for the sake of this argument, any time solar panels produce more than 50% power is not night), since it must gradually degrade each night. According to the wiki, this ratio is ends up as 3:7, which is a little below 1:3 compared to the proposed 1:5. You could spam more solar panels so that the accumulators fill faster, but the costs for this are in fact worse than exponential (you double production to halve transitional time), and that would be impossible if the ratio was made more severe (solars don't function for 10% of the day cycle) whilst barely impacting 'proper' usage.

In order to satisfy the 1:5 ratio, you'd need to supply 6x the demand so that the accumulators only discharge for a sixth of the dawn/dusk transitions and thus don't degrade overall, which is ridiculous compared to just using a hybrid system and creating a bit of solid fuel from oil for infinite energy and accepting the fact the steam engines will still run 20% of the time.

Additionally, it can't be based around the amount discharged (you could brute force it by adding more accumulators) or the amount stored (add more solars so they're filled more often), as this would both not solve the issue and discourage using accumulators in what seems to be the intended way.

Once 0.13 hits you could work around the problem by switching out accumulators in a cycle so that sets of accumulators power the factory for different periods of the night (using the circuit breakers), but at that point I'd consider it fair game since you've basically turned it into blocks of burst providers instead of a big block of constant providers. Mistakes would also have a limited effect, since messing up a single comparator would only affect two blocks of accumulators and the rest would chain as normal (I'd assume each set would be enabled when an accumulator in the last set is below 0.1%), and you'd only suffer power loss for a small portion of the night after repeated cycles (which would make it obvious what the issue is).

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab »

I stand by my position that solar power in it's current state might be somewhat boring but is not broken or overpowered. Not by a long shot. I wouldn't be surprised if you did not find the motivation to read through this entire thread. For more details on the bulk of my position on this just read my first and second post on the 3rd page.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Hexicube »

Zhab wrote:I stand by my position that solar power in it's current state might be somewhat boring but is not broken or overpowered. Not by a long shot. I wouldn't be surprised if you did not find the motivation to read through this entire thread. For more details on the bulk of my position on this just read my first and second post on the 3rd page.
Assuming it's directed at me, I actually read the entire thread before posting. It changed my opinion on the subject, and made me realise what solars weren't the issue in the first place. Their down-side is that they don't work at night, but accumulators basically remove that.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Koub »

Basically, nerf solar (panels and/or accus) until it's so much a pain in the ass that everybody switches to steam. And then, there will be posts all over the forum that steam power is so so much OP compared to solar, and there will be threads asking to nerf steam to give back some interest to solar :lol:.

My take on the subject : you don't like solar because too boring/not enough challengeing ? Fine, use Steam and pollute like there's no tomorrow :).
Hope to see some alternative options like ability to use steam with less to no pollution (geothermic for example), or only with indirect pollution (nuclear, with no direct pollution, but MASSIVE waste pollution), ... Like that, every one would have his preferred way in a rock/paper/scissors way. When one has only 2 alternatives, it'es very difficult to get to a balanced situation.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Afforess »

Koub wrote:Basically, nerf solar (panels and/or accus) until it's so much a pain in the ass that everybody switches to steam. And then, there will be posts all over the forum that steam power is so so much OP compared to solar, and there will be threads asking to nerf steam to give back some interest to solar :lol:.
If you bothered to read all the discussion you would know the only nerf powerful enough to fix the game balance would be to remove solar entirely.

I actually played Marathon factories with only coal recently and it was quite fun.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Koub »

Afforess wrote:
Koub wrote:Basically, nerf solar (panels and/or accus) until it's so much a pain in the ass that everybody switches to steam. And then, there will be posts all over the forum that steam power is so so much OP compared to solar, and there will be threads asking to nerf steam to give back some interest to solar :lol:.
If you bothered to read all the discussion you would know the only nerf powerful enough to fix the game balance would be to remove solar entirely.

I actually played Marathon factories with only coal recently and it was quite fun.
1) I'm a moderator, so I do read all posts, which is quite a job since Steam release
2) If you have read all the thread, you'll see several posts of me indicating I have read what was said throughout the thread's lifetime
3) I'm sure you would have had some fun collecting the zillion ressources needed to power you Marathon factory with solar+accus :lol:
4) Not everyone wants to run the http://www.hardrock100.com/, some just want to make a 30 minutes jogging around the block. Just because you are able and enjoy the hardest possible conditions doesn't imply every single Factorio Player should do the same.

[Edit] Typos
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab »

Koub wrote:Basically, nerf solar (panels and/or accus) until it's so much a pain in the ass that everybody switches to steam. And then, there will be posts all over the forum that steam power is so so much OP compared to solar, and there will be threads asking to nerf steam to give back some interest to solar :lol:.
From my experience hanging around forums of games in active development I would say that this is indeed how these type of things usually go.
Afforess wrote:If you bothered to read all the discussion you would know the only nerf powerful enough to fix the game balance would be to remove solar entirely.
If nothing else, this entire thread is a shinning proof that everyone have a different idea of what is balanced or unbalanced. So who's recommendations should the devs follow ? If you think that the devs will somehow find the magic spot and make everyone happy about the steam/solar situation you are fooling yourself. If the devs go out of there way to make you happy they will making others unhappy in the process.

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