Satisfactory has been around in early access for quite a while. In fact, it was one of the first games we checked out on the Indie-licious livestream when it began in 2020. For a few years now, the Coffee Stain Studios team has been tweaking, updating, and meeting community requests head-on, but with a huge move of the game to Unreal Engine 5, they feel like the true release of Satisfactory is finally within sight, though there’s still a lot of work to be done. I recently got to take a tour of Satisfactory Update 8 with Game Director Mark Hofma and Community Manager Snutt about the latest features, the road here, and what lies ahead.
Rebuilding an entire game
One of the most important changes that came to Satisfactory Update 8, and the one that sets the stage for all things ahead, was the move to Unreal Engine 5. It was no easy task, Hofma explained to me, as the team actually began the effort somewhere around November 2022. Many parts of the game had to be rebuilt from the ground up in the new engine. More than that just making it look good in the new trappings, the team also wanted to make use of the tools that UE5 had been repping, such as Nanite (the mesh rendering tool). This allowed them to implement features such as better textures that can be loaded more easily and look good, especially from a distance, as well as toying with early efforts in global illumination and realistic lighting, which gives an impressive and dynamic look to nearly all facets of the game.
“We fine-tuned the graphics of Satisfactory overall,” Hofma told me. “It looks better even without using any of Unreal Engine 5’s new techniques, some of which you have options for in the game now. When people post on Reddit now, it doesn’t look like the same game anymore.”
Unreal Engine 5 also allowed the team to optimize how Satisfactory loads thanks to its world partitioning system. Where much of Satisfactory’s maps previously loaded in massive chucks, the system helped to break up that workload by segmenting the world into more manageable pieces.
Of course, it hasn’t been easy. The devs admitted that in moving to Unreal Engine 5, they discovered a wealth of new problems. The mere move of the game over to a new engine introduced a wealth of bugs that weren’t present on the old system. Some parts of the game had to be entirely reconstructed, such as the physics engine.
“Previously we used PhysX,” Snutt explained. “And now we’re using UE5’s Chaos. All of the physics in the game had to be completely remade, specifically for the vehicles… The physics issue was actually one of the main reasons we were hesitant to move engines when we were investigating the possibility. Even so, one of the reasons we did move was because we reached a point where we felt we actually needed to improve the physics anyways. So, we figured we might as well do it in an engine move.”
Other issues of the engine move have included systems that were either deprecated or simply didn’t work. The team also did a ton of custom work on Satisfactory’s previous engine to make the game function in unique ways that didn’t translate well into the default settings of Unreal Engine 5. One such way was the conveyor belts.
“The way we run conveyer belts at such a massive scale is that we tweaked how those meshes are instanced,” Hofma expanded. “That’s not something that’s supported out of the box in Unreal Engine, so that whole custom system that we put together had to be ported over to Unreal Engine 5.”
And that’s just one example.
“There’s too many things to count when it comes to all of the problems we’ve run into, but we’ve just had to tackle them one by one, and we’re still tackling them when it comes to certain hardware support for rendering techniques and graphics API,” Hofma added.
The future of Satisfactory
So, is all this frustration worth it? Why go through the trouble of moving Satisfactory over to Unreal Engine 5 if it created so many difficulties that weren’t otherwise present in the game? To this, the Coffee State devs told me that it was largely about creating a new ceiling in which they felt like they could achieve so much more.
“We’re future-proofing the game,” Snutt told me. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, because now, where the game is today, we have huge potential to improve the game and make it far more optimized than we ever could have before. It’s also frustrating because for many players that have been playing on old specs and hardware, the game is no longer supported for them because we have to base our build on Epic Games’ minimum hardware requirements for UE5. It’s a growing pain in that aspect, but we feel its going to make the game much better for the long run.”
It’s also a matter of rising to the demands that have come with Satisfactory gaining such a huge audience over the years. The developers never expected Satisfactory to become as big as it did. Many of the last years have been seeing how far they could take the game, based on their own goals and those created by player feedback. With the Unreal Engine 5 move, Coffee Stain feels it has more potential in improving the game and meeting those goals and demands. Despite the troubles created by the move, the team feels it sets the stage for the homestretch to Version 1.0.
“We’re very close to final on Satisfactory,” Snutt continued. “Content-wise, there’s still stuff to do that we can’t talk much about just yet, but the 1.0 release is going to be one of the last content releases. Up until then, we’re going to be working on quality-of-life stuff, fixing stuff, improving performance, and finalizing the game as much as possible. There’s an old adage in game development that the last 10 percent of game dev feels like 90 percent of making the game. We feel that here in what we feel we need to accomplish before we feel it’s complete.”
“We’re starting reach a point where we’re mostly working on Satisfactory 1.0’s final content and polish,” Hofma added. “But even in polish, we’re at a point where we have to start asking ‘what is actually important?’ I think it’s just about every day that someone comes to me with something they want to work on, and usually it’s a quality-of-life thing or something that’s a good idea. There’s almost always something we could do to make something in the game a bit better, a bit more fun, or a bit smoother, but now we’ve reached a spot where we have to make hard calls and decisions if we’re really going to wrap-up.”
Of course, there’s still time before Satisfactory hits that hallowed 1.0, and it still has some fun stuff to share with the community in Update 8. This update saw the release of two new structures: the Power Tower and the Priority Power Switch. In both these cases, Coffee Stain had actually done early work on these devices, but just never fully completed and implemented them. In the Power Tower’s case, it was a cosmetic flavor. The team saw that the community was already building things like the Power Tower by stacking other buildings together for several years. To that end, Coffee Stain decided to finish up work on the proper Power Tower and put it into the game for folks to have a simplified and good-looking version to use as they pleased. They also serve the purpose of being able to offer far longer connections than regular power poles. They can serve as beacons and are generally just great new large-scale constructions.
In the case of the Priority Power Switch, Coffee Stain accidentally leaked the structure itself quite some time back. It appeared in the build menu of a developer video and the community instantly latched on and started asking about it. Flash forward, it’s finally here as a means of letting players circuit multiple functions of their factory to one device. The Priority Power Switch allows you to group systems together to be turned off, or to divert power from one section of your factory to another, allowing for an incredible new facet of in-game factory programming. Both machines were a long time coming, and both have finally arrived.
There’s still a lot to do in Satisfactory before the team at Coffee Stain truly feels it’s complete. They will continue to burn through the bugs and glitches caused by moving to Unreal, and then prepare that last, big content push for the game.
“It’s wild for us,” Snutt said. “We’ve worked on this game for almost 7 years. It’s cool to see how much it’s grown since then. It’s even wild to look back at Update 3 and Update 4 and see what kind of solutions players were coming up with compared to what we have today. Even then, just quality-of-life improvements have also changed how players played the game minute to minute.”
“It’s also just great to see how positively our community has reacted as we’ve made those changes,” Hofma added. “I will always remember how in Update 4, we added a new tier of content that included drones and other crazy stuff, and the thing that most players were excited about was a change to stack size for concrete that increased it from 100 to 500. We take it for granted sometimes up until the point we announce it and then it’s like, ‘oh, people really dig this.’”
And the journey will continue. Satisfactory still remains in early access and Version 1.0 has no firm release date yet. However, the game continues to grow in big and bright ways, improving upon what’s come before and aiming to be a game that people can continue to spend countless hours of micro- and macromanaging on. The move to Unreal Engine 5 may have created new problems, but it sounds like it also sets the foundation for a bright future for Satisfactory, and we’ll look forward to re-exploring it on Indie-licious when that Version 1.0 release day comes. For now, you can find Satisfactory in early access on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Satisfactory Update 8 lays the groundwork for its homestretch to Version 1.0
I’ve restarted so many times in this game, it’s sad!
Great game though
There's a website out there that you can upload your Satisfactory maps to and then edit them and when they added rudimentary blueprints, rather than redo everything (because I had gone with some odd design decisions due to lack of blueprints) I started a new thing and then used the map editor to give myself a million coupons so I could speed run the eight tiers.
That was like Update 7 though, haven't tried 8 yet.
Nah restarting is super fun IMO
I played through this and Dyson Sphere when they first came to early access. And to keep myself from burnout, I've decided to not touch them until 1.0.
If I really need myself a factory game in the meantime, I always can start a Space Exploration run in Factorio.
Im sooooo looking forward to the combat update for Dyson Sphere. Gonna be so good. Its the best of the holy trinity of factory games
Dyson, factorio and satisfactory
Truly a golden age of gaming. The factory must grow.
Same, the combat update is going to breath some real life into DSP.
Same. I played the initial early access up to update 2, but stopped playing before update 3 came out (and didn't pick up after update three as it added water and would have broken all my power generation (100+ nuclear reactor's worth and no idea how many fuel generators).
I play to play 1.0 though!
Waiting to see how Josh breaks this release.
I played a lot just before the trains update came out and kinda burned myself out on it. Maybe I'll pick it back up once it hits 1.0, especially with an engine update!
Such a fun game. Pre release of 8 on the PC runs ok. Doesn’t work at all on steam deck
Also turbo fuel is THE SHIT 😎