Challenge 3 – Prototyping Factorio and scratching the wall


This challenge is about reverse engineer a game using third-week prototype tools. I choose a game named Factorio for two reasons: it’s highly addictive and utterly complex. It is a survival sandbox game based highly influenced by Minecraft.

Published by “Wube Software” and created by a team of 10 programmers and artists. Factorio won some attention after a successful campaign at Kickstarter in 2013. After that, it was in early access for about seven years and officially launched in 2020. 

I always start by sketching. By some pen and paper, I draw all the elements of the interaction that I could see. And try to describe the interface and how the internal mechanics work.

At first, I drafted an overview. This game starts with the player after the crash of his spaceship on an unknown planet. The game’s first interaction is to discover what is possible with what is on the inventory. Exploration is a critical element of the early game.


Mechanics sketch

I sketched the core mechanics as long as I was able to identify them. It was a smooth transition between the mechanics and the design of the game. 

The player has just simple actions: 

  1. Move through the scenario;
  2. Gather some resources manually (wood, stone, iron, and copper ore);
  3. Then, transform all the resources gattered, following the recipes described on an inventory;
  4. Automate as much as possible using some of the crafted items creating constructions;
  5. Repeat it bigger;

Find, gather, transform, and automate are the key actions. The gameplay provides a set of simple steps to enforce those mechanics. And all rewards are delivered after each move. 

*mental note for next sketch: do it two times.

The interface is as simple as possible, and this rough sketch is a try to represent it.

The core mechanic evolves, increasing the complexity of the recipes. Some items demand hours of playtime to craft and a considerable amount of resources and other recipes. The complexity is crescent and constant. A technology tree is used to represent the correlation between recipes, materials and another recipes. I tried to describe them a little:

Another important mechanics is the leverage of difficulty provided by the addition of enemies (aliens named as bitters). They attack the player’s constructions over time and their power increase by the time played, creating pressure to increase the factory before they destroy it.


After spending almost an hour with my thoughts, I organized them in a mindmap.

In the end, I added some time researching different perspectives of how this game was developed and found that it’s hard to explain it in every way. I started to regret to try to re-engineer this specific style. The number of rules, mechanics, and the design itself it’s intricated. I felt like missing some point all the tasks.

It was my first attempt to use a unique tool for prototyping a game. And I tried to apply some familiar tools, like sketching. I felt like it wasn’t enough and that I missed a lot of the game design. And that was harder than I expected to represent a game in a fast prototype. 


Artym, V., 2020. The Formal Deconstruction Analysis Of Factorio. [online] Medium. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 November 2020].

YouTube. 2020. Patch Quest. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 November 2020].

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