It happens once in a while that my gaming interests take on a bit of a theme. Not by any sort of conscious decision usually. It happens rather organically. I might on a whim pick something to play, which reminds me of something similar, or triggers a conversation that prompts someone else to have a suggestion.

Last weekend, my brother and I were playing some Cities: Skylines together. It isn’t multiplayer exactly but its one of those games we love to play alone together. Jump on voice chat in Discord, and stream our game to one another to compare what we’re doing, how we design, what our populations are like — all that good stuff.

It’s fantastic and I think one of my favourite ways to play a game.

I admit that there might be a bit of sentimental value to it for me. When I left home (being the eldest, I went first) it was one of the ways I could still connect with my brother from time to time. But even that aside, I do also think it captures all the essence of a shared experience and togetherness that can come from a ‘proper’ multiplayer game.

This might be one of my bigger cities yet. Bit over 32k population and a traffic flow that still works. … It’s normally that latter part that gets me. ;)

Although this isn’t really the rabbit-hole I meant to journey down with this post.

Cities: Skylines with my brother is merely the catalyst. As I mentioned, we were playing this over the weekend been. Within our friend group though, the topic of builder-games alongside a well-timed Epic Games Store sale led to the pick-up of Satisfactory.

And Satisfactory has led to… Well, playing basically nothing else but. Every night since, after work, after kids in bed, after spouses content with the attention provided — Satisfactory time!

Unfortunately, I’ve been shocking with actually remembering to take screenshots. Which in a way is a measure of just how engrossing it has been. Another measure is the fact I’m writing this after midnight because I didn’t want to break away from playing for the night until we were done. At least it’s Friday tomorrow today?

If you’re unfamiliar with Satisfactory, it’s a factory game aka an automation game. You start with the ability to collect and craft a limited number of objects by hand but your goal is to automate everything from collection to the final product.

Look, it’s a lot more fun than it might sound.

Perhaps a trailer will help?

I spent way too long picking which trailer to link, before ultimately coming back to where it all started with the 2018 E3 reveal. Timely with E3 just around the corner again! Although the Steam launch trailer made me giggle too.

Wait! Have I actually mentioned that Satisfactory is ‘proper’ multiplayer yet? I don’t think I have. So there we go. There’s that. It’s ‘proper’ multiplayer, so unlike Cities we’re actually sharing a space and building together.

I have some experience with Automation games, so had some idea of the puzzle elements that would come our way. But they’re still all a bit different, and I find working through the logistics chain for the first time results in a bit of a spaghetti-jungle of conveyor belts going this way and that, up and over, and all around.

And then particularly with people entirely new to the genre in the mix, we just embraced the spaghetti and went with it for the first few nights of play.

It might not be pretty. It might not be efficient. But it worked! … Most of the time!

We had water piped and coal belted in sufficient quantity that we could run several coal powered turbine generators. That meant our power needs would be met for the foreseeable future, and let us get steel production up and running in our jumble of a factory. (Seriously; no work-safe advisor would ever have given this place a pass. But oh well.)

It was about then, with some knowledge in our pockets about how things chained together and where our bottlenecks currently were that taking a structured approach to things no longer felt quite so overwhelming.

No Satisfactory screenshots yet, so here’s another one of my weekend Cities: Skylines play instead.

We left the original factory doing its thing, building up stockpiles for us but also turned our eyes to a nearby field. As yet untouched by the forward momentum of progress.

Or concrete.

Both of these things would soon change. We wanted a solid platform to build from (which incidentally also gives you a bit of a grid to work to, vs. just building on the ground).

Starting with the Copper production chain which is the smallest one we experimented with positioning of everything from belts and splitters to the smelters and constructors necessary, through to vertically stacking the storage for all the final outputs to be later used for piping products out to other parts of the factory that need them.

Sure- it was a small start. The copper-only line only has three products (not counting the ingots themselves). But we were pretty proud of the optimisations and general ‘neatness’ improvements made. :)

Still a long way to go, but it has been great. :)

One of the things I really love about Satisfactory — and actually, the Factory/Automation game genre in general — is something I noted in my Dyson Sphere Program impressions guest post — there’s no pressure here. No real concept of being ‘wrong’. Or at the least — no punishment for it.

You can undo any construction you make and get the full set of materials back. Building in the first place is near on instant. Want to rip up a section of belting you’re no longer happy with, disrupting the supply chain? Go for it. Nothing is going to blow up or end your game.

Play it how you want.

While here in NZ and Aus where my multiplayer friend-group is, we’re in a pretty good state, I wonder if a game of this type might be rather cathartic given the wider world situation.