I had this prepared for FFF304, but this just as good place for it...
I have no idea how typical my noob game was, but since it was very recent, it might add some value in this thread (about $0.02 I reckon, adjust for for inflation and how blue the moon appears tonight as you see fit). I was putting off buying factorio for a long long time, even though I was sure it would be just my type of game. Got it on Apr 30 this year, my first version was 0.17.34. About 2.5 months later, I already passed 200h mark and during this week I obtained the "there is no spoon" achievement - won in 7:20. So, I still remember my first game, and at the same time I already do know a bit how the game really works. Of course I made some very silly mistakes in my first game. How I dealt with the two topics that so many people find so controversial here?
- robots of any kind are concern for advanced players, not newbies
- of the solutions offered so far, I think I'd have appreciated tutorial after researching basic old the most. It's very satisfying to finally get it right, even if I didn't invent it myself - I just looked up how other people do it for my next game. My current refinery design is original enough to be proud of it. So, tutorial focused on piping, and specifically how underground pipes allow you to avoid mixing fluids - both input and output. Maybe have three refineries side by side and goal of the tutorial is to connect all the outputs to three storage tanks - available resources: 18 normal pipes and plenty of underground pipes, leading players to the tripple T output piping. Or more normal pipes if you don't want to force players to the most space efficient piping (maybe put in an optional last step - "try to optimise this with less surface pipes, hint, all you need is X") and let them discover it themselves. What it is important is giving them playground to play with the pipes without pressure. Advice that "you need to empty all refinery outputs to keep things going" could be included in the flavour text. Oh, and have them switch to AOP as one step to teach them that there WILL be AOP, and to explain to them what the "cannot mix fluids" really means when switching single-input recipes to multi-input ones.
Now the main wall of text:
- robots - I knew about them (there is tutorial for them), tried them in practice and then ignored them because... Main reason was that I noticed that there is an achievement for winning the game without active logistics network, and decided "hey, this looks doable". So half of the robots were out by choice. I still don't use them much, I always forget to include space for roboport coverage in my factory and they are so power hungry...
As for construction robots: they only shine when you a) know enough about the game to use blueprints, upgrade planners and ghosts, or want to reorganize your factory with copy/cut/paste - all of that was still a mystery to me at that point, no tileable production, everything was spaghetti, etc... b) researched couple of item/speed upgrades c) have personal fusion reactor to power them. Using just solar panels to power suit batteries to power everything else... I was having trouble feeding my exoskeleton and nightvision and belt immunity gear, and personal roboport seemed much more hungry than all those combined (now I know it's perfectly fine tech with just portable solars, just saying what I thought then). Covering entire base with roboports just for building stuff seemed like huge resource drain: adv circuits were rare (I might have been cooking them in inventory with no automated production at that point). Putting down roboport where I'm building, filling them with robots, putting required materials into passive provider, then tear it all down and move somewhere else, just so that I could place ghosts of machines and have robots deliver them, instead of just placing the machines themselves... I tried that couple of times and got tired of it very quickly. Also, horribly inefficient factory = low polution = no problem with biters, so even the autorepair function didn't provide enough incentive. My point - newbies have load of OTHER problems to deal with, conbots just add more complexity for no gain at that stage of game knowledge. (*)
- oil processing - I didn't rush to setup refinery immediately when I researched BOP, technologies were flying past me too fast and this was just one of many. I started to think about oil when I was running out of green techs to research. I must have taken some time to browse the blue tech tree, because I knew that refinery area will need access to water. Which led me to put it in the same area as boilers, and major problems with both oil and power - I had no room to expand either. At least it allowed me to easily feed boilers with solid fuel, manually restocking their coal chests was becoming too time demanding.
I don't remember struggling with the concept of output blocking at all. I probably already encountered assemblers that stop at blocked output too, extending it to 3 outputs just seemed natural - when I stopped getting more plastics or whatever I needed, it was easy to go back to source and find out the reason. Using the waste fluids for solid fuel to relieve my energy crisis was obvious too, I had one factory reserved just for that and re-piped it to consume whatever was the current blocker, until I added more. What was hard was dealing with those 3 outputs in practice. I struggled a lot with piping all the fluids without mixing them and without trapping myself or making something completely inaccessible, with room for inserters and power poles... Most of that game I was using a tank for each of the outputs, with pump on both the input and output (so I could pressurize or empty them just by rotating the correct pump and I wouldn't loose any of the "precious" fluids during the many reconstructions) and huge mess of pipes in between. In the endgame I ended with something passable (two refineries and several chem factories that could output what was needed at the moment), but it cost me several evenings of building and rebuilding and it was still far from compact design.
What if BOP only produced PG at that time? Chance is I'd learn almost nothing from that step, just struggle with manually restocking fuel chest for a while longer. Everything else that is being said about oil spike... Pumpjacks - trivial, just electric miner in another coat, with storage tank instead of chest as buffer. Transporting crude - setting up train with fluid wagon was very easy. I did learn something about trains at this step, but could have learned it just as well from transporting ore if it ran out sooner. Overload of new products and how do they fit together, in what ratio I'd be consuming them - I just produced some of each as a matter of principle and learned by experimenting, no spike here. Any learning about fluid specifics would be postponed until later, when I had even less space to solve it.
I still don't like the changes to oil at least on the grounds that I'll have to rebuild both my rocket fuel and blue science industries, but I had to accept such possibility when buying game in development. Do whatever you think is best for the game, I'll deal with it somehow. I just think there are way less disruptive ways to try first.
(*) Experience from my last game also added d) you don't have the whole base prepared as blueprint. Because when you do, they will get overloaded with build requests, build random bits of stuff with nothing in working condition and then cause massive blackout - but that is definitely NOT a newbie problem.