Early this month, a friend on Twitter invited me to watch their streaming session, a tour of a power plant they’d just finished in an early-access game they’ve been playing and talking up for a while now: Satisfactory. The game’s a bit like a mash-up of a survival game (“you’re alone in this wilderness with a couple of basic tools, now make something of the situation”) and a systems-management sim (Factorio comes notably to mind).

It didn’t take long for me to decide that I needed to try this game for myself. The demo of the Hyper Tube sealed the deal, if I’m honest. “I have got to try this!”

(Spoiler: I have not yet tried the Hyper Tube. I’m close to unlocking the tech, but I have other priorities at the moment.)

I ponied up the thirty bucks, connected to my (ugh) Epic account (on the off-chance that at some point multiplayer is something I want to try), and found myself in the desert on an alien world, armed with a taser (needed for dealing with the occasional hostile local fauna, not that combat is much of a factor in this game most of the time) and carting around a box of parts to build my starter “hub.”

Weeks later, I’ve poured nearly 24 hours of playtime into this thing and am loving it. The gameplay loop boils down to facing a new logistics challenge and figuring out how to achieve the immediate goal in as efficient a manner as you can fashion, then moving on to the next one. It’s not really an “open world” affair: You are given a strict hierarchy of milestones, though within a given milestone level you can choose in which order you want to tackle them, and the details of exactly how to meet your goals is in your hands. This is ideal for me, as I work best to a clear set of guidelines.

The first stretch of the game is very… manual. You hand-craft most of the things you need, you hand-feed the various machines, your equipment is strewn around wherever you can clear the space, and so forth. A lot of your early game time is spent collecting every single piece of plant life you see in order to power the “bio-fuel” power generators that keep your equipment churning out needed materials. Your main goal at that point is to progress far enough along the tech tree to unlock coal power, then acquire said coal power. Once that’s up & running you can stop spending every free minute collecting & processing plant life and start focusing on the larger picture.

A big part of improving that larger picture is making your production environment look a bit less… haphazard.

Let’s talk about my latest project by way of example.

Over the recent weekend I created my first serious ironworks facility next to the two pure-quality iron nodes where I placed my hub at the start of the game. The factory takes all that iron ore, runs it through several smelters, then runs the resulting iron ingots through a bunch of machinery. At the other end a variety of iron-based products go into storage bins. It’s not particularly neat or tidy or efficient, but for a first effort it’s not genuinely terrible either. The whole point was to make sure I have some of every kind of iron product on hand for future projects, as well as to practice laying out larger production facilities on a proper building foundation. Kudos to me!

I’m not claiming that it’s a model facility, but I’m still quite proud of the work. Also: Have I mentioned how PRETTY this game is? Because it’s QUITE pretty.

With that completed, I started on my steelworks. (We won’t go into those details right now. Maybe some other time.) Which bumped me up against a problem: My meager ironworks facility doesn’t make enough Reinforced Iron Plate to create enough Mk2 conveyor belts to make the steelworks project happen. Making a bit of everything means not making enough of certain things, as it turns out. Aha, a learning experience!

Fortunately I have a third pure iron node nearby and I’d already (mostly) dedicated it to the manufacture of Reinforced Iron Plate. But… not very efficiently.

The old Reinforced Iron Plates facility, built when I didn’t know what I was doing AT ALL.

It was kind of a mess, honestly, but in my defense I was just scrambling to make anything work in between grabbing plants off of the ground to stuff into biofuel manufacturing rigs. Once I had coal power running and the main ironworks running, it was time to properly address the imminent material need.

So all of that stuff you see in the previous screenshot? I ripped it all out except for the storage bin on the left.

Oh, one nice thing about this game: Nothing is actually wasted. If you remove something (it’s a bit like “derezzing” in the old Tron movie) you get all materials back. This is good, because if you mis-place something (it’s a bit out of alignment, or whatever) you can’t move it, you have to remove and re-place it. I’m sure that’s a sensible game design decision for some reason, I suppose. On the upside, the game also allows you to basically build things that float in midair. Repeat to yourself “it’s just a game, I should really just relax.”

Anyway.

At this point I consulted a valuable resource: An online planner into which you can plug in your available tech level, source material quality, and desired output. It will tell you how many of what equipment you’ll need to get what you want, and how efficiently it can be done. Turns out, at my tech level with one pure iron node, I can make 10 Reinforced Iron Plate per minute by routing through four Smelters (process the raw ore), eight Constructors (turn ingots into materials and some materials into other materials), and two Assemblers (turn two different materials into a third material)… as well as a dizzying array of conveyor belt splitters & combiners.

Let’s walk through the site. First, there’s getting the ore from the mining equipment to the four smelters by way of some conveyor belts, arranged to attempt some modest load balancing.

Originally the site was going to be an enclosed building, hence the belt-enabled walls. Rookie mistake or lack of proper planning? You decide!

The resulting ingots are distributed to two conveyor belt lines, one for Iron Plate manufacture and one for Iron Rod manufacture, and are routed upstairs via conveyor lifts attached to the outside of the facility (not shown here).

Yes, the line feeding the Iron Rods And Screws material pipeline is much, much longer than the other. A better layout could have solved this, but I don’t need total efficiency, just MORE efficiency. For now.

I’m glad I unlocked glass foundations, because getting daylight into the building interiors improves the look of things considerably. Anyway, up top we find the Constructors making the (non-reinforced) Iron Plates and the Screws (from Iron Rods) we’ll need later on.

Glass foundations are shiny. I love the look of this game.
I’m playing during the “FICSMAS” event, hence the holiday wreaths on the power poles.

Placing conveyors, and especially their splitter & merger units, is one of the most finicky things I’ve dealt with in the game so far. Building my coal power facility at least gave me practice enough that I only needed two attempts to get this mess built the way I wanted it:

I have that criss-cross bridge in place so that the conveyors are paired up with the Assembler units down below, one Iron Plate and one Screw feed each, nice and tidy.

All of that effort went to getting enough materials into the big Assembler units to pump out a steady supply of Reinforced Iron Plate, hopefully enough to keep me in Mk2 conveyor belts (and other equipment) for the foreseeable future. Not that the future is terribly foreseeable in my first run-through of the game, I suppose…

I originally wanted all of the manufacturing to take place on the upper deck so I could put the storage underneath, but that big rocky sky-bridge above the iron site made that idea… impractical.

After checking and double-checking my work, I attached a power lead to the miner and… huzzah, we’re in business, as it were.

Storage bin on the right is where the Reinforced Iron Plates are going for now. The one on the left remains because it’s chock full of iron ingots and it’s too much trouble to relocate just yet.

Of course, having accomplished all of the above just means that it’s time to move on to the next challenge.

Bring it on.