Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

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Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

Hi All,

While I love all the tremendous accomplishments that certain mods have made for the community (Angels, Bobs, Py, Seablock, and Space Exploration to name a few), I've found much more success incorporating smaller, standalone features into the game with my group of friends. This way we can play the main game and it's not a major overhaul for all of them. I also personally love finding certain mods that keep the game balanced but give me flexibility and variety in playing. My dream would be able to take small pieces out of existing mods and bring them into the game as alternatives (e.g., would like to have Kerogen/Shale Oil/Reformer/Retorter from Py into our game without all the other stuff that's required for all of the Py dependencies).

So that arrives to the ambition I have: I want to make a Coal Power Plant as a mid-game alternative to power, before nuclear but somewhere before or after solar/accumulators. I know we have steam engines and boilers that serve this purpose, but some of the things I love from mods like Py is seeing this big ol' power plant that provides a large amount of energy while still requiring an initial foundation/investment and/or complex production chain.

But this is where I start to question purpose and game design. If a mod is a straight upgrade, it feels like it's cheating and not rewarding. If it makes other options obsolete, then it feels similar; however, what are all of your thoughts on steam engines/boilers as the game progresses?

For main bases, once you get solar/accumulators, a lot of people will switch out steam engines. Once nuclear is achieved, steam engines are nearly always gone unless as a small backup. We're running a rail world game right now and I see viability to steam engines when a resource patch is near water, and I'm current using it as a backup source at times, but it's limited.

If my goal is to introduce a Coal Power Plant with a different production chain, then my design philosophy is to enable players with different, viable options before they have nuclear and/or don't have uranium nearby and/or don't want to go the solar/accumulator route.

Tl;DR I want to hear your views on the viability/usefulness of steam engines as the game progresses. Do you mind that it is obsolete mid-late game? Do you disagree if it's ever obsolete? Love to hear your thoughts.
Last edited by SherpaMcDerpa on Mon Feb 19, 2024 8:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by computeraddict »

One thing that you see some speed runners do in some categories is start running boilers and steam engines on solid fuel from oil instead of coal.

Or if you want to continue using coal for power, running it through coal liquefaction and converting the result to solid fuel also increases efficiency over using raw coal.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

Yeah one of the mods that my group was willing to embark on was space exploration. We're using solid fuel for the burner turbines. Those things are badass.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by FuryoftheStars »

It is an interesting concept putting in a specific coal power plant, but it can also be seen that boilers and steam engines are already that as the internals of it, just without the outer building structure to hide them. *shrug*
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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

Yeah that's part of the problem with my approach but also the part that made me arrive to the conclusion of how people view steam engines/boilers usefulness from mid-late game. I ultimately don't want to create an upgrade where people always go the coal power plant route over a large steam engine setup. I'm also not a fan of MK1, MK2, Mk3, etc setups so this would have to survive on it's own.

I agree that the steam engine and boiler setup act like/emulate a coal fired power plant. In my mind, what makes good game design/alternatives stand on their own are when factors like cost, space, optimization potential, integration potential (e.g., steam engines/turbines setups with heat exchangers/boilers) and technology restriction gives player the flexibility to choose. While steam engines/boilers serve as an early and potentially limitless, scalable power solution, they take up a lot of space. Whereas this coal power plant could have a more complex production chain and require multiple levels of research to invest in before it becomes available/optimized.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by NineNine »

You should look at Industrial Revolution 3. There's a ton of steam power in that mod (and it looks gorgeous).

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

Yeah Industrial Revolution is really cool but I'm looking more to do a coal-fired power plant as opposed to just using steam as a central theme. Didn't see any other power options in IR3 that follow what I'm referring to, but I could be wrong.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by Tertius »

SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2024 7:23 pm
I agree that the steam engine and boiler setup act like/emulate a coal fired power plant.
Do you know how coal fired power plants in the real world work? Inside, the burning coal heats a boiler, the boiler heats water to steam, the steam drives a turbine, the turbine drives an electric generator. It's almost exactly how you build it in Factorio, except there are no separate turbine/generator parts, and the water/steam cycle is simplified.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

Tertius wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 7:17 pm
SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2024 7:23 pm
I agree that the steam engine and boiler setup act like/emulate a coal fired power plant.
Do you know how coal fired power plants in the real world work? Inside, the burning coal heats a boiler, the boiler heats water to steam, the steam drives a turbine, the turbine drives an electric generator. It's almost exactly how you build it in Factorio, except there are no separate turbine/generator parts, and the water/steam cycle is simplified.
I do, but I wasn't asking that nor is the goal here to understand how factorio abstracts the coal-fired steam production chain. It's straight forward and simple in factorio (the entire chain in real life, a lot more). My question was how people view steam engines through mid-late game.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by FuryoftheStars »

SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 8:19 pm
My question was how people view steam engines through mid-late game.
I mean, for me, nuclear > boiler/steam > solar.

Once I get a nice, good nuclear setup going, that is my primary with boiler/steam being a backup/overdraw source. I'll put solar in, but more as a supplemental/isolated power delivery thing due to the sheer space requirements.

I laugh internally when I see people talking about trying to be eco-friendly with the bugs, knowing full well that they're (essentially) carpet bombing the **** out of the bugs to make the space for the solar. Similar with the threads requesting features to the game so they can save a couple tiles of space between setups, again knowing that if they're a big solar user then they're using 10x as much space from that than they're gonna save.
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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by Tertius »

FuryoftheStars wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 9:01 pm
SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 8:19 pm
My question was how people view steam engines through mid-late game.
I mean, for me, nuclear > boiler/steam > solar.

Once I get a nice, good nuclear setup going, that is my primary with boiler/steam being a backup/overdraw source. I'll put solar in, but more as a supplemental/isolated power delivery thing due to the sheer space requirements.
For me it is more nuclear > solar > boiler. I don't build vast solar panel fields, but I use it as support for boilers. In my earlier maps, I always had the issue that in midgame, I had never enough fuel for the boilers. Coal was inefficient, and even solid fuel from oil was not enough. So I built a small solar field to have backup and permanent power and it helped with the brownouts. A few days later, I discovered a full chest of solar panels and one full with accumulators, because I forgot to stop production and didn't limit the output. Well, I had what I had, and so I put them into power production. It was about 150 MW I guess, and this helped unexpectedly very much with coal/oil saving. So a few solar fields with combined 88 .. 300 MW are always part of my midgame maps since then. It's obsolete of course after having a working nuclear reactor infrastructure except for the moment when I add the next tile to the tiled nuclear reactor setup and the reactors have to heat up again. For this, I'm disconnecting the mall and science production from the main power grid and power the reactor environment, the biter defenses and the mines with solar power in case the buffered steam from the reactors runs out. It's just not possible to seamlessly build and warm up the next tile. Something goes wrong every time.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

FuryoftheStars wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 9:01 pm
I laugh internally when I see people talking about trying to be eco-friendly with the bugs, knowing full well that they're (essentially) carpet bombing the **** out of the bugs to make the space for the solar. Similar with the threads requesting features to the game so they can save a couple tiles of space between setups, again knowing that if they're a big solar user then they're using 10x as much space from that than they're gonna save.
Hahaha I never thought about that but it's so true...
Tertius wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 10:25 pm
FuryoftheStars wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 9:01 pm
SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2024 8:19 pm
My question was how people view steam engines through mid-late game.
I mean, for me, nuclear > boiler/steam > solar.

Once I get a nice, good nuclear setup going, that is my primary with boiler/steam being a backup/overdraw source. I'll put solar in, but more as a supplemental/isolated power delivery thing due to the sheer space requirements.
For me it is more nuclear > solar > boiler. I don't build vast solar panel fields, but I use it as support for boilers. In my earlier maps, I always had the issue that in midgame, I had never enough fuel for the boilers. Coal was inefficient, and even solid fuel from oil was not enough. So I built a small solar field to have backup and permanent power and it helped with the brownouts. A few days later, I discovered a full chest of solar panels and one full with accumulators, because I forgot to stop production and didn't limit the output. Well, I had what I had, and so I put them into power production. It was about 150 MW I guess, and this helped unexpectedly very much with coal/oil saving. So a few solar fields with combined 88 .. 300 MW are always part of my midgame maps since then. It's obsolete of course after having a working nuclear reactor infrastructure except for the moment when I add the next tile to the tiled nuclear reactor setup and the reactors have to heat up again. For this, I'm disconnecting the mall and science production from the main power grid and power the reactor environment, the biter defenses and the mines with solar power in case the buffered steam from the reactors runs out. It's just not possible to seamlessly build and warm up the next tile. Something goes wrong every time.
Interesting on both responses. But does it generally feel cheesy to you if a mod allows you to put down a single structure that is fed coal, that's earlier than nuclear, and provides 20, 40, or maybe 60 MW of power? What if it requires more complexity to achieve than simply boilers/steam engines + belt line? What if it produces a lot more pollution as a detriment? Outputs flue gas than can be turned into sulfur from a chemical plant? Outputs ash that can be used for a new brick and/or concrete recipe?


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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by mmmPI »

SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2024 5:45 pm
Do you mind that it is obsolete mid-late game?
No, i'm glad as i either go solar when i plan to make a base to the limit of my computer, or nuclear when i'm after fast deployment.

SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2024 5:45 pm
Do you disagree if it's ever obsolete? Love to hear your thoughts
I think in vanilla and in most overhaul mod i played it become obsolete and it's a good thing.

I think computeraddict's link is very interesting and is the kind of thing that would actually make the coal power plant also interesting for me. Looking at the values, there was some 400 MW mentionned, and i think that's the range of value that for me would justify the complexity of maybe managing 4 new entities and their fluids loops and temperature of fluid and steam and water and fuel ratio. for a setup that would be similar to the "realistic nuclear reactor mod".

The complexity to setup a little higher than a vanilla nuclear reactor, because it's modded and i expect players familiar already with the game wants a little extra challenge, but not too rewarding to the point where it obsolete the other sources itself.

a 2x2 nuclear reactor is around 480 MW but require uranium ore, 480MW of solar require either time or a dedicated subfactory to produce them, so there would be room for something at this level to me, +/- 400MW of coal and water efficient power.

The additionnal "good" that is also a "cheese" factor maybe (for me) is the number of entities that will have fluid moving in and out. If you make it "too" efficient on fluid , it's too easy, like a cheat, but if you don't, the energy source risk being burdened by its UPS cost which is not good, it would be better if there was no incentive to scale its number not to avoid UPS consequences but like regular steam engine, because they would become obsolete due to the better technology.

In many mods i found more complicated challenges, requiring bigger factory ,and providing "stronger" power generation so i think it would be harder for a" coal power plant mod" to compete for a spot in late game whereas those large turbines mentionned i think
SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2024 3:12 am
But does it generally feel cheesy to you if a mod allows you to put down a single structure that is fed coal, that's earlier than nuclear, and provides 20, 40, or maybe 60 MW of power?
40MW without water need i think i have used and it was ok because the entity was 7x7 or bigger and consuming a lot of fuel, so needing a lot belts and it waste space and was quite unpractical to use more than 100. for 4GW which is already a "big factory" by my standard, not a megabase but often enough to finish a playthrough.
It was the scaling of the fuel requirement that became prohibitive to me.

If instead of plopping 10 times the same building IF i had to manage a setup like a little nuclear reactor to produce 400 MW, that would make it an alternative non cheesy to an actual 2x2 nuclear reactor, thinking that it wouldn't scale as well due to fuel requirement so it would be fine in that mid game, large but lower tech, that is often happening with large overhaul mod.

I was skeptical at first, but i can see something i would want to use now :)

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

mmmPI wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2024 11:41 am
SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2024 5:45 pm
Do you mind that it is obsolete mid-late game?
No, i'm glad as i either go solar when i plan to make a base to the limit of my computer, or nuclear when i'm after fast deployment.

SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2024 5:45 pm
Do you disagree if it's ever obsolete? Love to hear your thoughts
I think in vanilla and in most overhaul mod i played it become obsolete and it's a good thing.

I think computeraddict's link is very interesting and is the kind of thing that would actually make the coal power plant also interesting for me. Looking at the values, there was some 400 MW mentionned, and i think that's the range of value that for me would justify the complexity of maybe managing 4 new entities and their fluids loops and temperature of fluid and steam and water and fuel ratio. for a setup that would be similar to the "realistic nuclear reactor mod".

The complexity to setup a little higher than a vanilla nuclear reactor, because it's modded and i expect players familiar already with the game wants a little extra challenge, but not too rewarding to the point where it obsolete the other sources itself.

a 2x2 nuclear reactor is around 480 MW but require uranium ore, 480MW of solar require either time or a dedicated subfactory to produce them, so there would be room for something at this level to me, +/- 400MW of coal and water efficient power.

The additionnal "good" that is also a "cheese" factor maybe (for me) is the number of entities that will have fluid moving in and out. If you make it "too" efficient on fluid , it's too easy, like a cheat, but if you don't, the energy source risk being burdened by its UPS cost which is not good, it would be better if there was no incentive to scale its number not to avoid UPS consequences but like regular steam engine, because they would become obsolete due to the better technology.

In many mods i found more complicated challenges, requiring bigger factory ,and providing "stronger" power generation so i think it would be harder for a" coal power plant mod" to compete for a spot in late game whereas those large turbines mentionned i think
SherpaMcDerpa wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2024 3:12 am
But does it generally feel cheesy to you if a mod allows you to put down a single structure that is fed coal, that's earlier than nuclear, and provides 20, 40, or maybe 60 MW of power?
40MW without water need i think i have used and it was ok because the entity was 7x7 or bigger and consuming a lot of fuel, so needing a lot belts and it waste space and was quite unpractical to use more than 100. for 4GW which is already a "big factory" by my standard, not a megabase but often enough to finish a playthrough.
It was the scaling of the fuel requirement that became prohibitive to me.

If instead of plopping 10 times the same building IF i had to manage a setup like a little nuclear reactor to produce 400 MW, that would make it an alternative non cheesy to an actual 2x2 nuclear reactor, thinking that it wouldn't scale as well due to fuel requirement so it would be fine in that mid game, large but lower tech, that is often happening with large overhaul mod.

I was skeptical at first, but i can see something i would want to use now :)
Love the response and details! Thanks! Yeah I had the 2x2 nuclear reactor setup in mind when I think of raw power and still want that to reign king, but then want to emulate a non-nuclear, high MW alternative when I read this: https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/news/b ... al-plants/

Was experimenting with the idea of cooling towers having an additional effect on the power plant, but it felt like it broke the factorio mold a bit (basically the purpose of modules/beacons).

All in all really like your thoughts and gave me some inspiration!

Also appreciate the link computeraddict sent. I actually had a desire to do the combined cycle power plant as well and put together a basic design a while ago when I went down this same path but for natural gas instead of coal. It used a heat recovery system but used natural gas instead of coal. My handwriting/drawing is pretty bad, but the design follows similar principles as the wiki link and I thought this simple design would be a fun alternative to use. Also liked the idea of steam methane reforming (grey/blue hydrogen) later on since hydrogen is popular these days (politics aside) and that would also be a potentially interesting alternative to accumulators for energy storage. The idea of storing massive tons of hydrogen in storage tanks for energy storage appeals to me a lot so I like that aspect as well. Also why I love Cheese's Concentrated Solar Tower mod so much (renewable 500 degree steam storage FTW!)

Was also debating if there is any value/fun factor in bringing in a more complex turbine for the coal power plant that uses different high pressure --> intermediate pressure --> Low pressure turbines but thought that would be overkill. It also feels immersion breaking when you have this awesome nuclear reactor setup that produces 480 MW with vanilla steam turbines next to these more complex multi-pressure turbines that produce less power.
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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by FuryoftheStars »

Interestingly, I was going to say something to the affect of an NG or other liquid/gas power plant would be more interesting to me than a simplified single structure solids (coal, solid fuel, etc) power plant for an in-between boiler/steam engine & nuclear power plant.
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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by MeduSalem »

Well, I stopped playing with Mods for reasons. Usually because modders abandon it eventually, and i am tired of things breaking. So I will not say much about mods. In general I say... "you do you". Because there are things that definitely can be annoying in any game (not just Factorio) and if you are not happy with how something in the game works... just get the mod that changes it to the way you like it. The point is to have fun.


However if it is just the base game itself then... My take on it is that since I already plopped the boilers/steam engines down and made the investment for them... why tear it down and let it rot in chests? So rather I leave them in place even into endgame as a low priority backup plant that only kicks in after Nuclear power is insufficient or fails. And usually when the steam power starts running I set an alert that lets me know just in time that I need to expand on my nuclear stuff.

The Nuclear power obviously is secondary to any Solar power. But I am not much of a solar power fan because I dislike the boring monotony of huge solar power & accumulator arrays, so I am only having a small one that feeds high priority stuff and that is able to kickstart nuclear power production and nuclear fuel (cell) production so that I can never run into a complete brownout.


Anyway back to steam power.... the Boilers & Steam engines start up much faster (basically instantly) than Nuclear power with the delayed Heat exchanger mechanic. If something weird happens in a nuclear power plant then you will only notice the catastrophe after a while and then it is too late. Then it takes just as much time to get it back up and running as it took to shut down. Hence why it is nice to have that "buffer" from the boiler/steam engine plant.


But late game I never really feed coal to the backup plant. There are much better uses for coal... usually stuff like plastic eats a lot.
Sure, I have also coal liquefication going, but that usually only kicks in if oil output is not sufficient, and then I also set up a warning for that to expand on oil fields.

Anyway I absolutely switch over to Solid Fuel, and later to Rocket fuel and then turn the Rocket Fuel to Nuclear fuel, using Productivity modules in all the steps, which insanely increases the efficiency beyond that of Coal or Solid Fuel. ^^

Anyway in late game my backup boilers run on Nuclear fuel.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by jamiechi1 »

I still use mods and I find the above reason for not using them is just an excuse for giving up.
Mods in this game are so extremely easy to use and modify in this game. (Might be partly since I have been programming everything since 1976, first year of college.)
If you have problems with writing mods, just ask.

1. Some of my mods were written by me to modify the Base mod or to alter to conform to my needs.
2. Many mods from others are Locally modified again by me to satisfy my playstyle. (Note that I would never release any of these.)
3. The mod community for this game is very helpful with new users and many of the mod devs are very happy to change and add features to their mods. Several mods in this game were changed or had features added due to my input.

I agree the point overall is to have fun. And for me that means Making and Using mods to play the game my way.
And I find that nothing is completely useless in mid/late game. Using a small array of solar in a mining area away from the main factory is very useful.

As for Power Priority modding. This is one of the main issues I have with the game. So I change the priorities as much as the game allows. I also use circuits in game to insure that Nuclear Power has the highest Priority over Solar. Less than half a dozen things in a blueprint to do this. Very easy. The Priority system in this game still does need a bit of work.

Also switching over to Solid Fuel as soon is possible is good as mentioned above. Then only use coal in recipes that specifically require it.

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Re: Looking for input on a Coal Power Plant mod design and Steam Engines/Boilers

Post by SherpaMcDerpa »

Haven't replied to this in weeks but read these replies earlier and appreciate them! I've put the coal processing plant on the backlog and instead focused on a natural gas power plant (quite different from above) as my first MVP. I've gone from design to actual implementation at this point.

@Medu - I like your take on things and I have recently (over the past few months) put alerts on many process chains when playing a coop Space Exploration game with friends. Backup power latch system, petroleum gas low indicator, and solid fuel low indicator (for a second burner turbine backup power) all use alerts now. Love the notifications it can give to the group and we rely on those now when someone in our group of four messes with something that has downstream implications :)

@Jamiechi - Agreed on mods and the local changes front. I don't have a CS background, nor much aptitude for it, but Lua has always been easier to mod with than other games (e.g., SupCom modding was intuitive and used Lua). I haven't been paying attention as much to this thread as I've already been developing my own mod and slowly learning over time. I have a working prototype and while it's a bit messy (my Lua folder structure is pretty much just the data.lua file instead of a proper folder structure and referencing the various prototype/entity files), it still works. It's been great opening someone else's mod in Visual Studio Code, looking at what they did, and then using that as a baseline (plus my best friend, ChatGPT) to recreate something similar.

This is my (very messy) design that I'm working towards. My design philosophy has changed into an alternative power-producing option while focusing on using the byproducts of power producing buildings to provide uses for other power production alternatives (e.g., CO2 from refinement of natural gas to feed into algae farm to produce algae for a Biomass power plant) and/or production chains (e.g., H2S from refinement of natural gas to provide a new recipe for producing sulfur). Would also like to introduce H2 in a non-cheesy way, which I think I found the right way to do it by basically requiring purified water, thus instilling a bottleneck on the infinite water mechanic present in the base game of factorio. Posting to see if anyone has thoughts or observations as I'm generally intrigued about how people view designs and just general factorio modding discussions. This stuff is so fascinating.
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