[0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Ideas, that are too old (too much things changed) or won't be implemented cause of some reasons or if there are obvious better suggestions.
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MoleOnDope
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[0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by MoleOnDope » Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:35 am

After Playing around enough with the new 0.17 Campaign I'd like to describe my experience, give my opinion on what I personally think it gets wrong and also give a number of suggestions that might help improve it.
What might help understand the given criticism a bit better: I first got the demo for 0.16.51 about half a year ago and decided to buy the full version only about 5-10 mins in. I currently have a bit more than 350hrs on the game and will probably spend a multiple of this number on it still.

My experience
Overall, I needed two tries to complete it.
  • The first time, I got anihilated.
    I was pretty excited to finally check out the brand new campaign and didn't give myself a whole lot of time. Maybe not very smart in hindsight, but probably not far from what any person would feel like when purchasing one of steam's best rated games ;) Also I decided I'd ignore what I had learned about factorio until then and just let things happen.
    In Short: I didn't have a clue what to do with the feeder, so I inserted directly onto it from contemporarily set up chests. Which had me absolutely neglect belts and only craft what I needed for completing the goals. Which meant I barely had anything when I started the second part of the map. I then had no time to catch up on automating production, because the biters had me pinned to the iron mining site pretty much from the beginning. At the time I naturally had no idea the attack intensity was tied to science progression, so I just let it running. With next to no automation and ever increasing attacks I didn't have a single chance. When I ran to the stone patch to see if my mining site there could still be rescued, I got surrounded by about 20 biters, practically disabling my movement and mauling me to death instantly. The Intro was confusing before the evacuation and pure hell after, resulting in my most comically drastic death in all my playtime.
  • The second time I succeeded rather easily, but not without a lot of thinking ahead.
    After My very crushing "first steps", I watched the discussions in the forums and learned a lot about the intro, like: Biter attacks scale with pollution and science progression and at 90% science progression will consume 100% of a factory's output at any given pollution rate.
    Source
    So: I knew what was coming and I simply wanted to see how hard it was to win using all my factorio knowledge.
    In short: I moderately over-produced on the first map, knowing from FFF#284 I was supposed to connect belts to the feeder. After evacuation I set up a properly automated production, switched to electric mining as fas as I could and had my turrets auto-feeded from belts. When I finished the last research I was kinda surprised about the now subjectively low difficulty.
My opinion
As much as I love factorio, I just can't bring myself not to seriously dislike the new campaign. The first time I just got shredded alive, I honestly don't know if I would have gotten the full game if that had been my first experience. I was able to beat it rather easily in the end as I mentioned but only after researching its basic mechanics on the forums for a couple of hours, using a number of tricks to reduce bitter aggression, implementing factory layout elements I had learned from youtubers long ago and simply ignoring the almost continously red-flashing damage notifications. Which I know would have driven me mad if I was new to the game.
But what exactly is it that I personally think is "wrong" with the current state of the campaign? I'll try to be as specific as possible here:
  • Introducing concepts that contradict themselves or actual free play mechanics.
    First machines don't use electricity, but only a couple of minutes later they suddenly do. Electricity first comes from nowhere, then must be produced. Feeders are one of the first machines the new player interacts with and yet he'll never see them again. Machines are first repaired by belting in raw materials, then suddenly with repair packs. Science progression correlates with enemy activity, so better go easy on that on my next game? Produce n electric circuits per minute now! ...What, for no reason other than... Foreshadowing lategame production balancing? And more...
    I get that all of this is part of the "creative learning" philosophy... But I honestly find it confusing and misleading as to what will actually happen in freeplay, sorry.
  • #NoWrongWayToPlayFactorio
    While I'd usually applaud that statement, it completely fails with this form of tutorial, at least for me. I discovered several playstyles to be fatal literally on my first try of the "first steps": Relaying a bit too much on spaghetti or manual transportation in early game? You won't be able to make up for that later. Not instantly dumping burner drill mining as soon as you possibly can? Prepare to be overrun because of pollution. Want to spend some time figuring out a neat little production setup? Here's a continous stream of biter attacks that will tear you apart if you don't fully focus on them. You want to look at all the new items you just unlocked? Well better pump everything you mine into Ammo production, or else...
    It's honestly kind of bewildering seeing this being supposed to teach creativity, it feels so restrictive, so severely punishing.
  • Perceived difficulty, or: the Balance between challenge and disappointment.
    People think the campaign is too hard. I know this has been discussed a lot and might be done some more here. But If you look at the forums, there's heaps of players are seriously unhappy with the current difficulty.
    Is it all just vet bias, would a true new player not intuitively do better? This has been brought up a lot even by the devs, but at least in my case, it's just plain wrong. I didn't give 100% (meaning using over 350 hours of in-game experience) and got destroyed, I decided to bring in some real strats and vet experience and did it easily. And even then: What damage would it do toning difficulty down in comparison to taking the risk of scaring away so many new players?
    It's called "first steps". There's nothing wrong with them being easier than what's to come.
My Suggestions
To keep it short: There are two big points that seem very important to me because they touch on most of what I've said above. But I'm also aware there might not be time or interest to make fundamental changes, so I'll follow them up with some rather small tweaks that would at least help improve the experience some in my eyes.
  • Splitting the tutorial into distinct parts feels good, however I think 3 stages would be a better choice:
    The Functional stage: GUIs, controls, Inventory, interaction... Elemental stuff.
    The Creative stage: learn and play around with mining, smelting and production, introducing the concepts of upscaling, optimizing and diversification in production. Teaches (very basic) skills in factory building without much pressure and is an introduction to default settings free play, which is probably going to feel similar in the first hour or two.
    The Survival stage: Putting the player to work under pressure. An ever inclining difficulty curve calls for quick reactions and new strategies, it can be seen as a foreboding to deathworld.
  • About the mechanical differences between Campaign and Free Play: There's two ways to counter that.
    One can either bring the Intro a lot closer to the main game in terms of mechanics and order of steps. That would mean streamlining the "creative learning" aspects of what we currently have, stripping off everything that doesn't properly translate into free play. I know this doesn't sound very appealing but would most likely do the job of getting new players ready to play.
    On the other hand, making it an entirely different experience is not only plausible but also kind of exciting. That, however would require an even more deliberate depart from the main game mechanics and a play time of several hours to not feel out of proportion.
Now for some rather minor tweaks:
  • Turn down difficulty at least a bit. I don't need to go into detail because when talking about optimizations, obviously the devs know their stuff a lot better than I do. But it's plain necessary looking at player feedback.
  • Make turrets available before the biters come knocking. Having new players sit through the research while attacks start coming in in 30s intervals is killing every sense of creativity.
  • I do believe that the player would profit more from making underground belts and splitters awailable rather than electric mining. With them being a core component of the game I feel like they need to be introduced early on. If they're available late enough, the player will already have played around enough with spaghetti to understand how things work. Electric mining however doesn't really add anything besides one or two steam engines.
  • More Compilatron! I like the guy. If I remember correctly, he was introduced at least partly because the start of the game feels so desolate. Right now he's just soulless machine, so some kind of quirk or distinct personality would probably help build attachment and spice things up quite a bit.
  • "Players should not receive help until they need it". It felt so awfully staggering waiting for compilatron giving the next hint for a dozen seconds or so at a time. He's there to help, let him do just that. If I want I can still ignore him, and of course he'll be rather silent during the later stages that allow for creativity.
I'll leave it with that. If Anybody made it through so much text, please feel free to comment and give me your oppinion on the matter, I'll be more than happy to know what others think! :D

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by McDuff » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:10 pm

+1 on this post

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by CDarklock » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:46 pm

MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:35 am
After My very crushing "first steps", I watched the discussions in the forums and learned a lot about the intro
I'd like to weigh in a little here on this and say I think this is exactly what a player should do if they have trouble with something: go look for help.
First machines don't use electricity, but only a couple of minutes later they suddenly do.
Draw power lines to the initial machines from the power source, maybe? Clarify that they are currently hooked up to power, but if you build another machine you'll have to hook it up yourself.
Feeders are one of the first machines the new player interacts with and yet he'll never see them again.
Have to agree on this. Feeders make no sense to me. I think the player should be taught to use inserters here.
Is it all just vet bias, would a true new player not intuitively do better?


I don't think it's so much "intuitively" as "rationally." There's a lot of vague threatening about making sure you have your defences set up. I'd like that to be less vague, but I think it's clear that you're about to face some attacks. It's just... not clear how vicious those attacks are going to be.
It's called "first steps". There's nothing wrong with them being easier than what's to come.
Agreed. I don't think the campaign as it stands is too hard, but I do think it's hard. And maybe less-hard is better.
Splitting the tutorial into distinct parts feels good, however I think 3 stages would be a better choice:
Aren't there three stages?

Stage 1: The first area, before any biters show up.

Stage 2: The second area, up to the point Compy tells you to research logistics science.

Stage 3: You start the research and everything goes right to hell.

I'm on my ninth run-through of the campaign right now, because I don't remember how much it tells you about electricity. The criticism has been raised that it doesn't tell you about pollution, and I was going to say "well it doesn't tell you about electricity either" and then I went "wait, does it?" and I wasn't sure. So now I have to play all the way through to the second area just to see what it says about electricity.

I also want to try completing the campaign without walls. I've never done that, and I think it might make a huge difference in the experience. If it's sufficiently large, I might come down on the side of "the player should be taught and told to put up walls."

There's a contradiction in the way I play the campaign, incidentally. I am talking out of both sides of my mouth on the question of "doing as you're told," because I also assume the player is going to snoop through the research and slyly research everything, but I object to the idea of the player overbuilding because I don't think they'll do that. But why would they over-research and not over-build? That doesn't make sense. Either you stick to the game plan or you don't.

The first decision point comes in when you are told to research basic mapping technology, and you get an option to research electric inserters. I always go "yay inserters" and do that first. But would a new player do that? Or just the basic mapping tech he's been told to research?

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by MoleOnDope » Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:07 pm

CDarklock wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:46 pm
MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:35 am
After My very crushing "first steps", I watched the discussions in the forums and learned a lot about the intro
I'd like to weigh in a little here on this and say I think this is exactly what a player should do if they have trouble with something: go look for help.
Well... Obviously that's a reasonable thing to do, especially in factorio... But I assume the first steps' to-do list should avoid concluding on "go on the internet and look up a tutorial for the tutorial"? ;)
CDarklock wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:46 pm
MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:35 am
Splitting the tutorial into distinct parts feels good, however I think 3 stages would be a better choice:
Aren't there three stages?
I think the FFF#284 somewhere even stated it's supposed to be three stages, unfortunately I can't find the passage right now...
From a technical point I agree that there really are (although I would draw the line just before the first biter attack), but not from what's being communicated. You start out on map 1 and get shown around, then after you evacuate to map 2 you need to set up defenses and survive. To me, that's clearly a two-phase game.

The rest sounds reasonable :D

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by CDarklock » Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:14 pm

MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:07 pm
Well... Obviously that's a reasonable thing to do, especially in factorio... But I assume the first steps' to-do list should avoid concluding on "go on the internet and look up a tutorial for the tutorial"? ;)
Isn't that how we all learned freeplay? Most of the game's systems are only vaguely explained, and if you're having trouble, turning to the manual - in modern terms, the wiki - is the usual solution. When you can't get the answer there, you turn to the community. If you literally can't complete the campaign without doing this, that's one thing, but plenty of people do. So I don't think turning to the internet for help is automatically a detractor.

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by MoleOnDope » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:25 am

CDarklock wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:14 pm
MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:07 pm
Well... Obviously that's a reasonable thing to do, especially in factorio... But I assume the first steps' to-do list should avoid concluding on "go on the internet and look up a tutorial for the tutorial"? ;)
Isn't that how we all learned freeplay?
My man, you need to start reading what I say ;)
It's amazing how you always try to take opposition even though you actually don't essentially disagree :lol:

A tutorial teaches everything you need to get started, external documentation everything beyond. If the first steps cause a considerable portion of players to see themselves ill-prepared for what they're told to do, its design is probably not optimal.
If the game isn't Dark Souls, that is :lol:

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by CDarklock » Thu Mar 07, 2019 1:56 pm

MoleOnDope wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:25 am
My man, you need to start reading what I say ;)
And you need to start understanding what you said.
It's amazing how you always try to take opposition even though you actually don't essentially disagree
No, I totally do disagree. If you turn to the internet in the first few minutes of playing a game, that is just fine, and there is nothing wrong with you or the game.

I did not want anyone telling me how many turrets to place or where to place them or what was driving the biter spawning algorithm until I solved the problem and beat the scenario myself. And if the game did literally anything more than what it did, I would have had less fun and faced less of a challenge. So I did not look for help on the internet, because I did not want any.

If you want the campaign to tell people more and make things easier, you're literally saying players like me should not have as much fun playing it. I strongly disagree with this. Players like me exist, and we matter, and we should not be thrown under the bus because some players might be frustrated when they don't know the answer and won't look it up. The part where they won't look it up is their own damn fault.

And don't give me this "you shouldn't have to" garbage. You never have to. Nobody makes you. You look it up when you think that's the best next step. You choose to look it up. Whenever you do that is on you.

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by MoleOnDope » Thu Mar 07, 2019 5:04 pm

I'm just... Baffled. Where do you take all this from? At no point did I suggest anything you describe?

Except for "make things easier initially", which you at least sort of agreed upon-
CDarklock wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:46 pm
Agreed. I don't think the campaign as it stands is too hard, but I do think it's hard. And maybe less-hard is better.
- This is just... unrelated.
CDarklock wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 1:56 pm
And don't give me this "you shouldn't have to" garbage. You never have to. Nobody makes you. You look it up when you think that's the best next step. You choose to look it up. Whenever you do that is on you.
Just like it's up to me to not buy the game because I dislike the Demo for being too punishing.
I've said it before: I bought the game because I loved the 0.16 Demo, even if it didn't even do much. However, I don't know if I would have cared to spend the money if I had played the 0.17 demo first.
I believe this to be potentially interesting to the devs and the community, no more, no less.

But I also see the language getting stronger, so it probably doesn't make sense to argue any more here.

You have your own playstyle? That's good.
I make my own experiences in the game? Ok.
We have different oppinions? Ok.

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by CDarklock » Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:10 pm

MoleOnDope wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 5:04 pm
I'm just... Baffled. Where do you take all this from? At no point did I suggest anything you describe?
Like I said: you need to start understanding what you said.

I said it's perfectly fine for people to search the internet when they want answers. You said your first steps shouldn't end with "look on the internet."

Yes. Yes, they should. That is exactly where they should end.

That's where every list of steps ends: "go get help." And the game cannot stop you from doing it.

The game can, however, stop you from solving the problem without help - by helping you, when you didn't want help, or ask for it.

It's a balancing act. On one side of the problem, you have all the people who want the problem to be easier. On the other, you have all the people who want the problem to be harder. And right in the middle are the people who like the problem just the way it is, at least enough to buy the game.

It doesn't matter whether you or I are in the middle. It only matters whether the middle is wide enough. Giving the player more help to solve the problem pushes the middle farther to the "make it easier" side, but does it make the middle wider? Because if it doesn't, there's no benefit to that. And the exact same problem happens on the other side, of helping the player less. That shoves the middle more to the "make it harder" side, but does it get any wider?

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by PhilZero » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:19 pm

It's a balancing act. On one side of the problem, you have all the people who want the problem to be easier. On the other, you have all the people who want the problem to be harder. And right in the middle are the people who like the problem just the way it is, at least enough to buy the game.
What about this: A difficulty slider
You kind of gave me that idea. Thank you.
viewtopic.php?f=227&t=67147

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by CDarklock » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:35 pm

PhilZero wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:19 pm
What about this: A difficulty slider
You kind of gave me that idea. Thank you.
Difficulty sliders, unfortunately, come with a serious stigma that if you turn them down you're a loser. Also, real gamers turn them all the way up. There's this whole elitism thing, where letting people make the game easier doesn't actually make the game easier for most people.

Which is a shame, since it means a lot of people are refusing to set games at an enjoyable difficulty level because people might find out and call them names.

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by abregado » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:15 am

MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:35 am
making it an entirely different experience
Thanks for your very well thought out post.

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by milo christiansen » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:04 pm

abregado wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:15 am
MoleOnDope wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:35 am
making it an entirely different experience
Since the current experience is a rather bad tutorial, yes, this is what ought to be done.

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Re: [0.17.3] Campaign Experience and Suggestions

Post by MoleOnDope » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:07 pm

abregado wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:15 am

Thanks for your very well thought out post.
You're very much welcome, that's what the community is for!

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