Coal Electricity separation.

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Garm
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Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Garm » Thu May 22, 2014 3:13 am

I decided to start a new thread since this is a specific suggestion, even though it falls under general "Early game rebalance"


From the beginning there are multiple problems associated with current early game:

- cumbersome burner inserters
- overall inferiority towards electric systems
- significantly different belt design, resulting in painful upgrade.


All these problems ensure, that players will spend as little (if any) time at coal age and advance right away to electric age.

Changing research, or making electricity more expensive won't help this problem much. Since players will be "forced" to remain in coal age longer they might hate it even more resulting in less enjoyable gameplay. As such I've decided to approach this from another angle:

Make "Coal age" less of early stage, but separate stage.

- While it is available from beginning make it useful during later game as well.
- Remove \ replace burner inserters
- Shift idea from "pre-electric" to "coal"


Best solution I've come up with - Belts and possibly pipes. Since electric designs rely heavily on inserters and robots, coal age machinery could use more direct approach working with most basic modes of transportation . Imagine electric furnaces working as they are right now, while coal furnaces have direct belt input slots, and output into belts as well similarly how liquids are handled now. To expand even further it could be possible to split priorities of each type, electric favoring efficiency, while coal favoring speed.

Absence of burner inserters as well as belts working autonomously allows quick and robust automation even at early levels making it less of a headache as well.

Obviously using coal as main fuel for everything won't work as such I would propose using steam and at later stages oil and oil products as viable upgrade of the "coal path"


Problems

- needs complete redesign of multiple structures.
- needs new forms of energy (steam\fuel) implementation for advanced machinery.

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Panis » Thu May 22, 2014 3:21 pm

Hey, I've been playing this game only couple of weeks, but I think you have a really great idea on the Coal/Electricity subject. And I don't understand why people hesitate to comment, maybe It's because everyone rushes the Coal era, because It's boring. I think people would love it if you could reach the same progress (like with electricity) only using coal and fossil fuels directly, screwing up the environment (because it would be realistic and I think this game is trying to go that direction). Also, more variety would help a lot.

My Thoughts (I have not mastered the game yet, so don't be harsh if I get something wrong)

I agree that players need more to stay a bit longer in the "pre-electricity" era.

I would suggest splitting fuel-using machines into two types:
1. Solid Fuel Machines
2. Liquid Fuel Machines


Solid Fuel Machines being the ones that are currently in the game, plus Solid Fuel Assembling Machine(1/2/3). As for the Inserters, you can't really automate them in their current stage, but they could be equipped with secondary arm that would grab nearby coal and put it in the Inserter itself, or as you said, have it connect to transport belts automatically (like Assembling Machine 3 + Pipes). Also added variety of different solid fuel powered Inserters.

Liquid Fuel Machines would be machines just like the ones in Solid Fuel category, but powered on the products of Oil Refinery/Chemical Plant. This would replace the products of Light and Heavy Fuel (which are Solid Fuel) by Petrol, Diesel and Oil (or just Liquid Fuel, because I'm not sure if people would like to go that far). Also these machines would be faster than the solid fuel and electric ones. Also it would need automation which could be achieved with a piping system similar to electricity grid.

This might not be up everyones alley and it might be too difficult to implement, but I'd really love to be able choose which path to take, environmentally friendly or not. At least there could be more variety in electricity generation, Coal/Natural Gas/Diesel/Petrol generators, which would be more powerful than Solar panels, not only a Steam Engine.

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Drury » Thu May 22, 2014 3:45 pm

Here's an older thing I had written up based on my post in the early game thread.
Mechanical Power

Expanding on my idea from another thread.

Taking heavy inspiration from Better Than Wolves mod, mechanical network would be an early game alternative to electricity, although it would remain important throughout the game as the main means of generating electricity and to power certain contraptions. It's use differs from electric network in how it's meant for the more crude (fun) stuff, like cranes or shredders. It makes early game more automation-based, and conversely provides more manual interaction in the mid-game (similar to cars).



Mechanical Power mediators:

Gearbox - this is to mechanical network what electricity poles are to electric network. They have 4 connectors for shafts.

Drive Shaft - they connect the gearboxes, making mechanical networks. They're built similarly to tunnels, you plug one end to a gearbox, the other end to another gearbox in a straight line (linear with the grid). Shafts run underground and are normally invisible, except for connection with gearboxes, where a mechanism transferring power to the underground shaft is seen. Shafts can be max 10 tiles long. A single shaft can serve multiple mechanical power consumers above the ground, assuming they're built directly above it.

Both Gearbox and Drive Shaft could be ingredients for crafting vehicles.



Mechanical Power generators:

Steam Turbine - similar to our current Steam Engine, it consumes hot water (heated up in good old boilers) and turns it into energy - except in this case it's not electricity yet, but rather mechanical power applied to a shaft connected to it.

Wind Turbine - analogy to Solar Panels, you need a lot of these to get the same amount of mechanical power as you would from a Steam Turbine. Doesn't always work, performs better further away from trees.

Clockspring - analogy to Accumulators. Stores those precious megajoules and releases them when your wind turbines have the wind taken from their sails (or blades). Technically can be used as a cheap alternative to store energy for electric network as well (see electric network interaction).



Mechanical Power consumers:

Hopper - the primitive form of inserter. Intended to be built at the ends of transport belts, hoppers powered by a shaft will pick up anything that happens to enter their tile and insert it into anything their funnel is facing. This makes hoppers perfect for filling up chests as they can handle large amounts of items instantly - even if you supply one with three express belts. Make sure not to fall into it, though.

Mechanical Drill - an alternative to burner drill, mines resources when provided with a spinning shaft to draw power from.

Mechanical Assembling Machine (AKA Assembly Machine 0) - a simple shaft-powered cog-based assembler for early game. Crafts stuff as fast as you would, except automatically.

Item Shredder - similar to hopper, except turns items into iron/copper scrap (depending on raw material ratio of the item), which can be smelted back into iron/copper plates. Intended to be used for scrapping obsolete early game technology.

Railway Turntable - is a railway turntable that is operated from inside the locomotive parking on it using A/D keys. Useful for turning around the weird Factorio locomotives that can't go both ways properly. Might be even more useful when locomotives won't be available to be picked up and carried in one's pocket. Which brings me to...

Mechanical Crane - a really big inserter. Can be used for picking up vehicles and small (1x1) buildings up and placing them down on pre-marked locations. Makes chest-on-a-belt possible (albeit the chest is unavailable while being transported). When used with new flatbed cars, can place chests on trains.

Vehicle Shredder - scraps vehicles placed on it. When you put a full chest on it, chestsplosion happens. Fun.





Electricity Network interaction:

Power Generator - when you connect a powered shaft to it, it generates electricity. Replaces Steam Engine.

Electric Motor - the opposite of Power Generator, consumes electric power and provides it to Mechanical Network. Useful for solar-powered factories and balancing power between the two networks.
Actually wanted to make a mod based on this but I can't arse myself to.
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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by MF- » Thu May 22, 2014 11:36 pm

Sounds like more of a mod idea.

Having a machine that uses steam to do stuff
and having another machine that uses electricity that does the same stuff
is not really in the factorio way I believe.

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Garm » Thu May 22, 2014 11:50 pm

Panis

Thank you. Although I wanted to clarify something:
Panis wrote: ...I agree that players need more to stay a bit longer in the "pre-electricity" era...

...As for the Inserters, you can't really automate them in their current stage, but they could be equipped with secondary arm that would grab nearby coal and put it in the Inserter itself, or as you said, have it connect to transport belts automatically (like Assembling Machine 3 + Pipes). Also added variety of different solid fuel powered Inserters....


...I'd really love to be able choose which path to take, environmentally friendly or not...
These parts I would disagree with. As I've mentioned in my proposal I dont want to elongate the "pre-electricity" era. I dont even want it to be called "pre-electricity" I am hoping for completely different design that can work along the electric networks. not because its vast but because its different.

About inserters - As I've mentioned previosly - I am actually hoping for a system without any inserters at all. Exactly because of the fuel reason: additional pipelines/belts already pose sufficient challenge to the "fuel system. I wish to see fectories, plants, and smelteries that simply have belt entrances, where you would be able to route material, no inserters, or roboports involved at all.

Although I've mentioned "coal" system preferring more speedier but polluted solutions I do not believe in pollution dichotomy. these are just small biases, I will try to elaborate on this further below.

Drury

Your mechanical power is another good idea, however I thing it would work better as completely separate style. The way I see it is as something similar to current electric setup with few additional limitations (need 2 separate buildings [gearboxes and shafts] to propagate power instead of 1 [electric pole]) (also possibly additiona hassle connecting each factory to grid) and that is balanced by adding some specific buildings that utilize only mechanical power. I am not saying that is bad, just its a bit too identical to electric system as of now.

MF-

I could've agreed with you if this was addition suggestion. This is however rebalance suggestion trying to fix currently lackluster coal aspect of the game.

"Fuel system" Continued

I am sorry i didnt expanded well enough last time: it was late and i had a ton to do at work in the morning.

Why I want direct insertion system instead of trying to fix horrible burner inserters:

- Makes this system less imbalanced than electric one, thus players dont need to bypass it at all.
- Allows early automation (currently impossible at all)
- Allows less painful and cumbersome upgrade towards electric setup ( and in some cases it might remain good enough to be kept as is well until end of the game)
- Most importantly:
Allows rapid and easy expansion

About last one: think about it. Now if you want to establish large mining outpost you usually start with rails, then extend electricity all the way from main base. Then start building defences and drills. Now imagine if there was no need to place electric poles at all. All you would need to start is rail connection. Train will bring coal for smelteries, fuel for diesel generators, or factories themselves, Perhaps same fuel could be used as ammo for flamethrower turrets to protect this colony. Not only it would promote train usage it would also promote very far colonies. (hint: building rails in moving train is much faster than building poles)

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by MF- » Fri May 23, 2014 7:56 am

Garm wrote: -snip-
About last one: think about it. Now if you want to establish large mining outpost you usually start with rails, then extend electricity all the way from main base. Then start building defences and drills. Now imagine if there was no need to place electric poles at all. All you would need to start is rail connection. Train will bring coal for smelteries, fuel for diesel generators, or factories themselves, Perhaps same fuel could be used as ammo for flamethrower turrets to protect this colony. Not only it would promote train usage it would also promote very far colonies. (hint: building rails in moving train is much faster than building poles)
Why would I expand electricity by poles?
Drills aren't that heavy power consumers and some other thread showed that they can run just fine on depleted oil wells -> solid fuel
Or just ship that coal to a remote power plant instead of inventing a distinct set of coal-consuming machines?

PS: So.. you want two distinct games with distinct mechanics on the same terrain?
(That's why it's hard to figure out how to improve the pre-electricity era, which indeed DOES feel like a stub)

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Garm » Fri May 23, 2014 10:24 am

Well outposts need protection as well. I usually cover entire ore deposit with miners in order to facilitate extraction and it does paint the map red for many squares around. Some deposits are also located deep inside the landmass with out any decent water sources (or oil for that matter). Piping becomes rather difficult in such situations.

I don't believe what I want is two distinct games. More like another viable solution to solve some ingame problems. Currently we already have that in the form of inserters and roboports: Player can establish belt network with inserters all around, or chest network with robots all around. Having these two options doesnt necessarily mean we have two games there, but two options. What I am proposing is extension of this dichotomy into 3-state:

- lots of belts, no chests nor inserters
- average amount of belts, chests and inserters
- no belts, lots of chests and inserters.

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by ssilk » Fri May 23, 2014 11:44 am

I think the parallel existing of those 3 states is useful. And every addition to the game should try to bring out the different usage of the entities in those 3 states.
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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Rusty » Sat May 24, 2014 2:23 am

Maybe there's a story element here that's been overlooked. You're a future civilisation, come to colonise an alien world. You're not simming the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, you'd create the efficient technology as soon as you could.

Another note, most of the early game is still coal, as the coal is used to make the electricity. The differentiation isn't really there at all.

On the other hand, there are some scenarios that could be generated if the target planet was lacking in a specific resource, meaning a different approach was required.

On the belt-only feed: wouldn't the coal just keep piling into the furnace, burning wastefully?

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Re: Coal Electricity separation.

Post by Garm » Sat May 24, 2014 3:30 am

Rusty wrote:Maybe there's a story element here that's been overlooked. You're a future civilisation, come to colonise an alien world. You're not simming the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, you'd create the efficient technology as soon as you could.

Another note, most of the early game is still coal, as the coal is used to make the electricity. The differentiation isn't really there at all.

On the other hand, there are some scenarios that could be generated if the target planet was lacking in a specific resource, meaning a different approach was required.

On the belt-only feed: wouldn't the coal just keep piling into the furnace, burning wastefully?
AFAIK, the current lore is more closer to "You crash landed on this planet, so you need to build all the infrastructure yourself (hence the lower tech level compared to space-faring civilization of yours ) in order to survive the harsh environment of this planet and eventually get rescued \ allow others to come help you.

About early game - this concept is actually more geared towards mild/late game making coal more useful there as well. Early game wont be that much different from now anyway (since I dont believe anyone is making burner inserters in large quantities)

About scenarios - that could be another separate topic I assume since what I am trying to propose isn't hard choice between both designs but much more vague - allowing layers to pick and match at any time what type of machinery they wish to use. For example I could electrify all my factories, yet at the same time still use coal or oil powered smelteries to smelt basic resources. Or I could build solar farm for main base, but use diesel generators for far away colonies.

Coal doesn't burn indefinitely in current coal smelteries - why would it change? As far as coal bottle neck I see two solutions:

A) Buildings accept fuel only when needed (current design), you can see this currently in oil byproducts. If the buildings dont work they would stop accepting fuel from belts allowing fuel to accumulate on belts and wait.

B) By-pass setup. Upgraded version of the (A) system: buildings would have 2 entrances for fuel - In and OUT, If only IN used - works identical to (A), If player adds belts to OUT then building will take as much fuel as needed and when it doesn't need anymore it will let it pass by unhindered. Somewhat similar to how splitters currently work.


Edit: About differentiation. Currently electricity is a medium. Unified "power" currency that your factory trades in so to say. My proposal revolves around allowing some of the machinery, instead of using "currency", to use "barter" instead. Additional hassle of not using the universal "currency" is then balanced by providing additional perks, and specialization both to "currency" systems as well as "barter" ones.

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