WILLIAM SPIES My Personal & Technical Blog

Few things are more enjoyable to me than reading about the experiences of a professional. There is just something special about getting a peek behind the veil of any serious endeavor, especially when the author’s passion for the craft and for sharing that passion with others shines through. The field of science has many instances of this: the outreach work of figures like Carl Sagan and legendary talks like Randy Pausch’s last lecture are but a few examples of that elusive connection between science and engineering, and humanity. It is rare to find people that can take a technical subject, distill it into an easily digestible form, and then make the reader feel good in consuming that content. It is truly special to do all that and, at the same time, create a bond with fellow people.

Factorio Friday Facts (FFF) is a blog series started in 2013 by a duo of Czech software engineers. They initially intended to document their experiences while developing the computer game Factorio as a way to keep in touch with their supporting community. While it started as the modest musings of two young professionals, over time their team grew and their game became popular (ranked #2 in the world among ALL Steam games in user feedback, with over 2 million copies sold). The simple end-of-week tradition where they talk about what’s happening in their office turned into one of the best technical blogs around. The subjects of this series range from designing systems around user experience, graphics and GUI development, AI, network troubleshooting, memory access optimizations, a whole host of computer science topics, the process of creating art and sounds, the process of growing a team, the process of working through adversity, and the long, risky journey of building something truly new.

My wife knows well of my occasional addictions to Factorio; it is one of the purest problem-solving, creation-oriented, whole-brain-tapping passtimes I can think of. Naturally, I lose myself in a world where I can freely create, refactor, optimize, explore, and experiment…and I am far from the only person who has done so. The developers behind this game are, in my opinion, some of the best in the business. Not only for making such a wonderful thing, but the dedication, effort, and thoughtfulness they display even when engaging in the most menial of maintenance tasks is the stuff of legend. They have been wildly successful, maybe in spite of Factorio not being alluring to all, and in doing so have something remarkable into our world.

Today is the day they officially released their product to everyone. As a way to celebrate their incredible journey, I wanted to share some of my favorite entries from the last seven years of Factorio Friday Facts:

Getting Started

Graphics and GUI Design

An Incredible Culture of Optimization

Crazy Times in Troubleshooting Networking

On Software Engineering

The Journey

The Human Experience

…and, finally,

It is hard to think of the right things to say at the end of all this. I believe there are many endeavors that can reveal the nature of the universe IF you have the will to see it; inspiration can come from anywhere. When I consider that belief, it makes me proud to share the work of these humble video game creators. For the past several years, I have been reading their posts, playing their game, and following their journey. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been watching them navigate the trials and tribulations of creating something new and unique, but a profound sense of sadness accompanies the feelings of joy. Attending the release of the final Lord of the Rings movie, watching the last launch of the Space Shuttle, moving away from my hometown to chase new opportunities, losing track of old friends; all of these have the same bittersweet taste as reading the Factorio team’s final post. The connections I have with all of those things are specific and personal, of course, but I hope to be able to relay just a fraction of what this content means to me as an engineer, as a creator, as a person. If they do not pique your interest, that is okay too. Instead consider that the world has many great and inspirational things to offer, many of which you may have overlooked or could be hidden in plain sight. Look harder for those things and you will be better off as as person.

And yet, even if you never read any of the above, we can still to sit down and build something in Factorio together … and that is a wonderful thing.