I'm aware of mods which add BWEs to Factorio, and I've seen that BWEs have been suggested on the forums as a strong candidate for strengthening Factorio's late-game--I have yet to see BCEs in either. I agree with the general sentiments for BWEs (enabling higher level automation, reducing UPS and monotony, pushing Factorio's theme and endgame enjoyability forward) but the point of this post is to redirect that idea to make Factorio's endgame mining as
First, addressing BWEs, and why they (rightfully) don't belong in the game: BWEs are awkward in Factorio from an implementation perspective. Ore patches don't lend themselves to excavation from a stationary rotating arm.
- If the BWE can move, it's more awkward--how should it move around as it excavates a patch?
- If it's not rail-mounted, automated pathing will eat into any CPU resource gains--one of the points of this proposal.
- If it is rail mounted, the digging pattern will be unnatural, trying to make circles out of Factorio's grid or else dance on the rail strangely to try to mine in straight lines.
- Or, giving up on all this, the mining area could simply be reduced to a square, which isn't a solution satisfying enough to deserve implementation.
What?A programmable, rail-mounted, Bucket Chain Excavator (BCE)--effectively, a mobile mining outpost. But this is no lazy endgame solution--it's a smart one. BCEs mine everything on the ground, from the base of the superstructure all the way out to the tip of the boom, all at once. In Factorio this means it'll mine neat rectangular strips. Mounting the BCE on rails provides the dynamic solution we need, reduces the complexity of vehicle pathing, provides a path to total automation, and meshes with and enhances Factorio's existing train dogma and aesthetic. And it's beautiful. Devastating Nauvis with gas-guzzling, thousand-ton, automated rail-riding mechanical strip-mining behemoths is so Factorio I'm at a loss for words.
For your comparison. Bucket Chain Excavator (BCE):
Yes. (Note that in Factorio it should be rail-mounted.)
Bucket Wheel Excavator (BWE):
A hasty sketch of the BCE as to be used in Factorio.
- Reduce UPS and monotony. A single venture-capitalist-size BCE with a 4m by 50m bucket chain (the excavating bit) and a counterweight could easily take the place of vast fields of copy-paste electric miners of olden times. Impressive. Big. Sexy. The BCE would also be the dirtiest of polluters. 1/s per tile (assuming it pollutes ~ the same per tile as electric miners) * 4 * 50 = 200/s = 12k/m max unmoduled.Nice. The gross pollution will add interesting challenge by inviting all the biters over at once. How will you protect your new assets? Spidertron legions?
- Automate. The BCE would function just like a train station as a programmable destination, permit trains to pass straight through, and allow fluid trains to be more useful by supplying sulfuric acid to the BCE. With the new station limit coming out, combinator logic should be built-in, allowing toggling the BCE's limit by current storage load, etc. Cargo trains would carry away mined ore. Logistics robots (e.g. in Spidertron units) or trains could resupply the BCE with fuel and ammo.
- AUTOMATE HARDER. The BCE needs to be programmable. Place it on rails, tell it to go forward mining one or more select ores. It's conceivable one could also direct it around to different ore patches via the map, similar to the Spidertron remote. Expanding your production with the BCE would be as simple as adding rails. The BCE should also include radar and artillery, so you may access it no matter how deep it's gone into the wilderness.
- Pushing Factorio forward. In the real world, BWEs are mining superstars, while BCEs are mostly used for resurfacing. But Factorio isn't real life.A BCE is the optimal solution for Factorio, where all ores are sitting on the surface. Plus, dragging the bucket chain over sprawling patches like a greedybastard(while absolutely devastating the environment) is more satisfying, efficient in scale, and less complex than BWEs. A rail-mounted BCE would support Factorio's central thematic elements and reduce complexity in the endgame: simpler is better. There's no reason we need to build and manage tons of outposts. Fundamentally, it also necessitates the player has an established, high-functioning train network, requiring them to work for the reward rather than passively receive it.
- Set up outbound parallel tracks at most 100m apart for 100% coverage.
- Place your new BCEs on each. Set them to drive forward, mining only one ore type each unless you enjoy the sadism of mixed ore mining.
- Enable station limit by your preferred train load size. Name your BCEs as you would your outposts and set up your train network.
- Ensure you have a one-way return rail connected to all your mining lines, so outbound trains may return.
- That's it, you're done. You can sit back and watch as your factory runs and the ores flow unceasing from your strip mines, giant bucket chains mowing over fields of sparkling ore, reeling in the good stuff. If you need more ore simply continue the rails. Obviously, there will be accompanying challenges, but the tedium of establishing outposts will be gone forever.
Details?More (entirely suggestive) technical details, for the interested.
Six (6) to Eight (8) module slots
Subject to mining productivity bonuses
Preliminary base (unmoduled) stats estimates:
Size: enormous. 50m boom, 50m (?) counterweight. Probably 4-6 train cars in length to accommodate parking trains.
Storage: 50,000 ore units = 1,000 slots (equals 25 cargo wagons). Yes, it's absurd. It's also a behemoth machine larger than a house, and it digs like nobody's business.
Weight: around 5,000,000. It appears that Factorio's weight is measured (unofficially) in kilograms--which produces reasonable results, such that a locomotive weighs ~2 tonnes--though it's not specified anywhere I've seen (even the wiki). If indeed measured in kilos, this figure (5,000,000) correlates with reality, where BCEs can easily weigh around 5,000 tonnes. Side note: IMO it's unrealistic that the weight doesn't change between loaded/unloaded when there are 50,000 units of ore in storage, but that's up to the devs to decide.
Acceleration power (i.e. fuel consumption while moving): 50,000 kW. This is genuinely heavy machinery--it needs a lot of power. The power:weight ratio (0.01) is far lower than a locomotive (600 kW / 2000 = 0.3), as it should be, and the moving consumption is also considerably more than the digging consumption, as it should be. The fuel consumption serves to temper how badass it is. Consider that Nuclear fuel would last for just 24.2s of moving (i.e. relocating to a new ore patch/strip). For Rocket fuel, 2s. Three full stacks net you ~1m and 3m respectively. Even better, the intense fuel consumption (esp. if using Nuclear) provides impetus for further resource collection, leading to the cycle of usage seen everywhere else in the game and potentially opening new areas of development in the late-game (particularly with uranium/rocket fuel). Since the player effectively offloads the mining duty previously borne by electric miners to gas-guzzling machines, fuel will become even more important than it is currently.
Fuel consumption while digging: 2,000 kW max. Adjusts based upon actual digging area. This is derived as follows: 10kW per tile * 4 * 50 = 2000 kW max. 10kW per tile matches power consumption per tile of electric miners. (90kW / 9 tiles = 10kW per tile.) This means you need one Nuclear fuel changed out every 605s (10m) of mining.
Excavation width: 4m
Excavation length: 50m. It really should be this long--as an endgame tech it should revolutionize mining, switching completely to the large-scale, rail-based format that already happens with outposts.
Excavation rate: 2/s per tile * 4 * 50 = 400/s max. Even when mining strips only 4m wide at a time, with a 2/s production rate per tile (fourfold as fast as unmoduled electric miners; an appreciable upgrade) we find a base production rate of 400/s. This would fill a 50k ore hopper in just over two minutes (125s), without incorporating modules.
Pollution: 1/s per tile (whether it should pollute more or less while aggressively strip-mining the ground is open to argument) * 4 * 50 = 200/s = 12k/m max unmoduled. With modules this will change drastically.
If you're curious how the BCE and another train could both run on the same rails, fear not. With rail-mounted ramps at either end of the BCE, trains could access a loading platform inside the BCE without hindering the BCE's own locomotion. For more technical details, the BCE would always align itself to the tile grid when stopping (mining), meaning the boom will remain perpendicular to the rail while mining. The BCE could not be allowed to mine on curved or angled rails--only to travel over them. The BCE would also need to zone itself by acting as two moving rail signals. The BCE would only mine while stopped. Invisible inserters could load parked trains. There's also the challenge of what happens when a BCE that has an inbound train suddenly starts moving--this situation is basically identical to the station limit mid-route-state-switch scenario, and could likely be handled in the same way.
I'm also interested in the slightly radical possibility of throwing random stone ore (say, 20% chance on each mined ore) into the BCE's mining output since it's scraping the surface so aggressively. This would add complexity in a simple way by forcing players to deal with mixed ore.
There are plenty of minutia to discuss. But first, I'd like to hear what you think--do you see this bringing an added layer of depth to Factorio's endgame? Do you see this contributing highly to the vanilla experience?