This is the web site of Denis Defreyne, a software engineer living in Berlin.

Factorio teaches you about tech debt

Note: This also applies to Satisfactory.

How a mess is created

In any Factorio play-through, you’re almost guaranteed to build something that is a mess, no matter how good your intentions are. Before you know it, you’ll have mess of belts and power lines criss-crossing each other with no apparent structure.

There are two reasons why a mess happens:

  • There is a resource (power or a constructed part) that you need right now before you can continue. You’ll end up creating a small quick-and-dirty factory setup, somewhere off the side, that creates that resource.

  • An existing factory setup isn’t able to produce resources to keep up with the demand. You’ll shoe-horn in more assemblers and belts, and in the process you’ll make the layout of that existing factory setup worse.

How to deal with a mess

Once the mess is too big, you have two choices:

  • You can start a new game. This doesn’t really solve the problem, because you will run into the same problem again in your new game.

  • You can refactor.

Refactoring is the only sustainable choice. If you start a new game every time you have created a mess, you’ll likely end up abandoning Factorio altogether.

Refactoring in Factorio is generally easy. There usually is little preventing you from wiping out an entire part of a factory and starting over. The only exception is the infrastructure that keeps the hostile alien lifeforms at bay — you’ll have to be more careful to keep that running.

As for how to refactor… that’s another story.