The other problem w. manual labour: Auto-repair of defences

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The other problem w. manual labour: Auto-repair of defences

Post by Peter34 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:28 am

I've already made a post about the biggest problem with the game, with regards to its pervasive "don't do it manually, automate it!" core ethos, Tree removal: ... f=6&t=9658.

This problem is comparatively smaller, but still qutie serious:
You have to progress very far into the game before you get the first kind of automated repair robots, to continously fix your Walls, Gates, Gun Turrets and Laser Turrets, as they get damaged. And I'm talking hours and hours of play. First to research all the necessary techs, then to build a bunch of Robot Frames (at least 15, I'd say) and then build RoboPorts to cover all the "hotspots" of your defensive perimeter.

Up until you reach that point, the game is to an extreme degree buildus interruptus.

To an extreme degree. I'm somewhere, trying to add something to my factory, like maybe get build and connect the first Oil Refineries, when the alarm sounds, my Gun Turrets are attending to some guests. Which means I have to stop what I'm doing and run over (slowly - keep in mind, this is way before Exeskeleton) to check that everything is OK and repair the 1-2 damaged Turrets. Ammo is fine, I can easily make and put 300-600 normal ammo into each Iron Chest, which'll last through many, many parties. But I have to run over, manually, to where the attack was, a long distance usually, to do needed repairs. Again and again and again and again.

The problem is that the game has a very abrupt transition, and quite far into the game, from manual repair to automated repair. And the kind of automated repair you get is a very, very advanced and very, very sweet form.

So why not introduce an earlier automation, based not on flying robots but on wheeled or tracked robots, robots that drive around on the ground, much more slowly, and much more awkwardly (as in, pathfinding doesn't need to be perfect) but which can still repair the damaged structures within the effect radius of their home building? Just slowly, being in every way inferior to the more advanced Robot Frame fliers that you get much later in the game.

The flying Robots require Batteries, which is realistic, since they run off an electric charge, but these wheeled or tracked Repair Drones can't require Batteries, because that's too far into the game, and we want to make it so that the player can reach the point where he can avoid buildus interruptus much sooner. Say, 2 hours into the game instead of 7-8 hours. Much sooner.

So these Ground Drones should run on physical fuel, meaning their stations should be stocked with a supply of fuel (Coal, Wood or Solid Fuel) in addition to Repair Packs for them to take. Then they trundle around, within the effect radius of their Repair Bases (and it doesn't have to be a large radius) and look for stuff that needs repairing.

Actually, the whole Ground-based Drones concept can also be used to solve the other problem, the one from the previous thread, of tree removal. You can have those robots do that too. This means they can actually perform two functions, remove Trees and repair damaged structures. It's OK if they're very slow, both a moving around and cutting down Trees and doing repairs. As long as they do it.

My proposal (for both):

1. There's a very early game tech, red only (say 50 packs or 100 packs - it doesn't need to be a cheapskate 10 packer), that you can research, which lets you make and operate 2 Ground Drones, which can only cut down Trees, in areas designated by you. Or maybe they simply automatically do it around any Drone Station you put down, say withina radius of 20 tiles. They trundle about, doing that very slowly, taking the Trees back to their Drone Station to store them, then later use them as fuel (if they run out of fuel, you must manually re-stock with Wood, Coal or later Solid Fuel). If you want another area de-forested you simply put down a new Drone Station, or remove the old one and replace it.

2. Techs are available to increase the number of Ground Drones you can have. First tech triples it to 6, costing red and green science. Second tech increases the number to 20, and costs red, green and blue packs. Fourth tech is likely to be skipped by most players, because by then they have flying Robots, but increases the number of Ground Drones to 60.

3. Another tech enables the Ground Drones to also repair damaged structures within the radius of any placed Drone Station, but only after all Trees within that radius has been removed. They move slowly, and they use repair Packs 5 or 10 times as slowly as a player does (HP repaired per second is much lower), but they get the job done.

Part of the idea is that while the Drones are large and heavy (about the same side as a player character, thus a significant fraction of a cubic meter in volume and weighing on the order of 100 kg), they don't have a lot of brains. Most of their thinking resides in the Drone Station, and this is why they cannot do anything to Trees or with repairs outside of the radius of a Drone Station.

It could also perhaps be a good idea to have each Ground Drone assigned to a particular Drone Station and be unable to move between then. Means more manual work for the player, re-assigning Ground Drones between Drone Stations as needed, although hopefully there'll be an interface so that you can tell any given Ground Drone to autonomously drive over to a particular Ground Station and apply for work there.

I realize that path finding is going to be problematic. The flying Robots of the later game have the huge benefit of being airborne, which means they can fly from any point to any other point without worrying about obstacles, which ground-based Drones obviously cannot. But the game must already have some pathfinding to control the Biter and Spitter aliens.

Keep in mind, this has to arrive early-game to make sense. And to strengthen and reinforce the "do as little manual labour as possible" core ethos of Factorio.

Based on a timeline of a fairly normal player (not some speedrunner who completes the game in 6 hours or whatever) where Roboports and flying Robots are usually achieved after something like 8 or 12 hours of play, I'd like for automated Tree Removal to arrive about 1 hour into the game, and automated repair to arrive about 3 hours into the game, provided that the player actively focuses on achieving those techs.

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Re: The other problem w. manual labour: Auto-repair of defences

Post by sillyfly » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:57 pm

I'm not entirely sure what I think about this (I will have to give it some more thought). In the meanwhile - here as some idea I had in the past about early-game automated repair: ... f=6&t=8122

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Re: The other problem w. manual labour: Auto-repair of defences

Post by ssilk » Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:06 pm

My opinion: you see the problem correctly, but your solution is too complex and it is not very clever, cause you just take a smaller version of the bots.

What I liked:
- I already tried to create a very similar idea, I think 1.5 years ago, where I tried to suggest bots consisting out of basic inserters. :)
- Ground bots on the rails. <splaatttt> :D
- Your view to the problem.

The problems are:
- No new gameplay, when you reach construction bots after you research ground bots. You know all that already... they are just ... flying? And what else?
- Too much new stuff for beginners in the early game.
- For what can I use that ground bots, when I somehow achieve construction bots? Don't say "We can make construction bots out of the ground drones". :)
- Pathfinding is a problem with that many bots you can create. Not even that: unlike the flying bots, the ground drones need to look for moving stuff in the way.

What I think:
- I think the problem will be solved in a veeeery different way.
- It's just too early. Wait until 0.12 to see, what we can do with the personal roboport, then let's develop a better idea for the early game. :)
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