Therefore I have the feeling I need to present my point of view.
This includes the love towards Factorio the same as with a sales aspect.
Factorio is about to leave Early Access and I guess this makes everybody of us happy (Yay!!)
Considering that Factorio is still a niche game for people like me that like to discover a game even if it is bloody difficult to learn from scratch.
This basically is one core aspect of Factorio: Have consecutive epiphanies. The game is hard to learn and therefore your brain gets rewarded every time you learn to make something the better way. I call this the Masochist.
Masochists like to play games like Dwarf Fortress, where little goals are hard to achieve.
Another core aspect is to build the base of your dreams, make yourself a base that follows your own set goals. Like a sandbox game should do. I call gamers that like this the Builder.
And then there is the Slaughterer that only wants to kill mobs and doesn't really care about building a base, not to be messed up with builders of a fortress aka Tower Defense. They mostly like RPGs and stuff where you can gratify yourself on your level of achievements. Games like DOOM serve their visual demands and brutal needs.
And of course there are the Casuals that only play a game for a short amount of time once or twice per week, where they can just relax and don't need to care about calculating the throughput of a machine they have to tend at their jobs. Sims is a good way to do this. Just hang in there for an hour and be achieved a dozen of things.
Counting this together we have a range of gamers that would choose this games difficulty from insane - hard - hardcore - very easy (can you spot the Slaughterer?)
So.. Why bother about all these types of people when the game just fits my personal style???
The answer is money. Every developer studio needs to pay there people and therefore they need to earn money.
In return when they have more money available than necessary they can hire more similar minded devs and thus work on more features, tend the community, develop new awesome and better games than triple A does with our money.
Ok. The games beginnings were mostly aimed towards the Masochist. Having a cool game with endless possibilities about building factories. Calculating throughput rates and optimizing production. Maybe not even the devs knew exactly what effect a number had before the community did.
With time the Builder was served by making the game easier to understand and research saner. The Masochist is still served, because there is still tons of stuff to learn. The Slaughterer begins to have fun because there are nukes. Nukes sound cool. Nukes need to be crafted. What? I need to build a whole bloody factory just to make a single nuke??? Okay fine. There we go. First nuke crafted. Where are those filthy little twats??? Here you go! 2 hours of playtime to kill that Spawn! Wait.. what? THAT should have been a nuke? That graphical piece o' shit? ALT+F4...
Ascending in frequency of occurance we arrived at the Casual, that doesn't understand this game, because there is too much to do and he couldn't reach the goal of the rocket within 2 hours. He tries it maybe one more time and instantly gives up, because he has no idea what all this stuff he has built before does and doesn't want to get back into it.
And because there are these several types of players I propose a thought:
Enlarge the ways of playing Factorio.
Currently you are super strict bound to the research tree and are forced to be introduced to all techniques. Which is great if you are a Builder or Masochist that will research the whole tree either way. But if you just want to launch the rocket or mow through those nasty base invaders, that only hinders you to reach your personal goal / playing style.
There needs to be a lot of dynamics added to the game. Decide which branches you want to go. Skip stuff that might be too complex for your current skill level.
Effectively you would want shrink and enlarge the Research Tree and make necessities for crafting recipes smaller, maybe more expensive. Give the possibility to skip complexity for the sake of effectiveness. The Masochist is most likely eager to anticipate belt balancing, while the Casual will give up at train automation. The Slaughterer will find it unnecessary to launch a rocket, if there are hordes of aliens running to his base and he has to fend them off... As long as there is a big enough arsenal of weapons for him to research. And explosions. And nukes! (Maybe loot boxes all over the world might be a thing for these guys)
My guess is that the casual gamer doesn't want to deal with fuel reprocessing and coal liquefication to launch a rocket. These are things that those nerds shall deal with. I don't understand what that should be, I just want to launch that rocket and see the credits. BAM! Done. Oh shit.. I need to bring out the trash, before my wife's parents come over.
The current game is not made for Casuals or Slaughterers. However there is the potential to have that.
A first attempt could be to split the game into different game modes or difficulties, where you cut off certain branches of the research tree and skip certain steps in production.
The further we go, the more specific we can get:
Dynamic fluctuation in a miner output, steady lubrification of highly advanced belts, … Basically add features that would add complexity like some mods do.
On the other hand, complexity for lower technologies need to be kept simple. A coal burner inserter needs coal to function. That is clear and understandable. But why do I need to automate sulfuric acid for nuclear power? (I know there are readers whose fingers are itching to explain that right now )
Basically you can break it down to:
- You want the full potential of the game? Learn it, earn it!
- You just want to play for fun and don't care about all the stuff you could do? Do it!
Please don't get me wrong! This is not a thing for 0.18 or 1.0. This is a thing to attract a bigger player base, so maybe a 2.0. There is a lot of work to be done until we can get there! Tweaks have to be done to the research tree, visuals have to be reworked even further, studies have to be completed to research how to get to a rocket launch without taking away the fun for Masochists, further goals have to be thought of to ideally keep every player playing. And yes, there are mods that probably do all of this. But if I don't want to get into the whole research tree, why should I even look for a mod that fits my needs or actually write a mod myself!? Just too complicated.