It took eight years, but they finally did it: the developers of Wube Software, in Prague, published the official « 1.0 » version of the factory management game Factorio a few weeks ago. For one of the original creators of the game, however, this is just the beginning.
For a game whose motto is « the factory must grow », and where there always seem to be another objective to conquer, another ore patch to mine, or even another alien insectoids nest to destroy, talking about publishing a « finished » product feels… strange. Since the very first version of the title, then in « early access », Wube Software have upgraded, modified and accompanied players, including with weekly written updates religiously read online by the especially passionate community.
Fortunately, in the spirit of the more than chronophage game, the development team still has secrets up their sleeves. « Personally, I don’t feel like it is done, this is why 1.1 work is on full throttle. Personally, 1.1 is the real 1.0 for me, as a lot of the smaller and bigger tweaks and finalizations can be done », says Michal Kovarik, the Technology Director at Wube who also gave his name to the Kovarex process, an in-game system linked to nuclear power generation.
For Kovarik, this 8-year production schedule, if it can be described this way, does certainly not correspond to what was imagined at the beginning, not long after the start of the current decade. « When I started, I thought that it would take 5 months, which became 8 years eventually », he says.
New environments, new resources, new high-definition files for the in-game sprites, but also thousands of little changes, here and there, to ensure that the gaming experience stayed fun for the players. Is there many more games where the developers have to verify that the fluid mechanics are solid enough? All this while programming the trains to accelerate and brake on time? And calculating heat dispersion from a nuclear-heated boiler? Or that you can indeed use the internal basic electronic circuits and tools to create a prehistoric processor, or even sync coloured lights and music speakers to… play the nyan cat, moving cat/pop tart included.
With a game as complex, as minute as Factorio, one could think that the players could become easily frustrated, especially since its gameplay mechanics can be quite complex if you rely on a Wiki or on online tutorials. « I was always mentally preparing for trolls and haters, so I was pretty surprised that the community is not like that at all », explains Kovarik in a interview with Pieuvre.ca.
« Vast majority of the people are helpful and the criticism is mostly constructive. »
And if Wube’s Technology Director mentions that he never wanted to set a numbered objective in terms of players or sold copies, because « these kinds of objectives are more of a wish than anything else », and « clinging to these kinds of numbers leads to wrong motivation for work », there can be up to 20 000 people playing Factorio on a single day. And the reviews are almost entirely postive, with a rating of more than 97% on Steam, the online gaming platform. It’s also the second best rated game there, just behind Valve’s Portal 2.
For now, adds Kovarik, the idea is to work on version 1.1, including resolving all the outstanding bugs. Publishing a version 1.0 is also useful from a business point of view, he adds: « A lot of people and reviewers don’t buy or review games that are for early access, and no one can’t blame them. Having 1.0 is basically saying that we are ready to these people. »
Beside the bug fixing, what’s next for Factorio? Michal Kovarik talks about 2 to 3 years of new content, following a plan that will be revealed « in the coming months ». And there’s also a little something talked about by the team way back in 2015: expanding the factory to the stars, with the possibility of building on space platforms.
Still, Kovarik stays prudent: « We are more than aware of the typical trap of a studio with one success that thinks that they can do anything and it will just work again. »