Coffee Stain Studios on Satisfactory's Early Access journey so far & Update 8
The advent of the Early Access game has been immense for game developers.
Though Steam practically gave it the platform, technically unfinished games making it to market have spread out thoroughly across the industry, both with the support of a larger publisher or without it. The greatest success story of this structure is of course Minecraft, a game that launched in Alpha and went on to become perhaps the biggest gaming phenomenon in history, and now as games appear on Game Pass as Game Previews, we’re starting to see companies embrace that the next Minecraft could be nestled under our noses in the form of Valheim or Phasmophobia.
Games have made the most of this for a while now, and there are plenty that exemplify the successes that can be enjoyed by the practice - but few have succeeded in a community-led way quite like Satisfactory has, bringing its fans along for the ride at every turn, almost as an act of gratitude for their faith. And now that the game has sold five million copies and grows to be better than ever, there is no better time to appraise the work of Coffee Stain Studios.
Satisfactory is for the fans
Satisfactory is a game that, on paper, probably should never have worked. Coffee Stain’s leap from absurdist Goat Simulator to immersive factory-building in Satisfactory is a bizarre one, and one that takes an immense tonal shift - luckily, though, the company had the good wits to launch the game in Early Access on Steam, giving them a little more confidence, and it’s paid off immensely.
“It was a really hard decision, and we were really nervous because Early Access had like, not the best reputation in 2019,” says Snutt Treptow, community manager of Coffee Stain Studios, and the face of the game’s community updates. “But it really made it possible for us to make it the game that it is today.”
The early squeeze on the game has paid off massively - without the community that Early Access has offered Satisfactory, many of the ideas that have made the game unique simply wouldn’t have been on the table. It’s the community that has led the production of the game, and Snutt doesn’t half know it.
As he takes GGRecon through the whopping factory that the Satisfactory team themselves have poured hours upon hours into, he explains that many of the additions being made to the game these days are thanks to calls from fans - even when they tank the physics engine with their more bizarre plans for the game.
“We make hyper tubes, which is like a Futurama-style buildable, and we made it physics-based, so when you enter it, you’re like a physics body,” he explains. “And people set it up in a way where they stacked so many entrances that it broke, they just crashed the game because it broke so fast. So that’s something that emerged, we made it possible for people to set it up like this, so this is one of those ‘not a bug, it’s a feature’ kinds of situation.”
Satisfactory’s new update makes building factories easier than ever
The latest update to Satisfactory makes for perhaps the best we’ve had yet in terms of quality-of-life additions, and it’s telling of the progress that the game has made in early access that we’re now reaching additions to the game that the dev team had never expected to reach. All of the big stuff is all but done - now, we get to reap the rewards of an easier factory-building experience.
“Whenever we have updates I always feel like ‘uh, this has always been in the game, right?’” Snutt laughs as he shows us the newly updated conveyor belt snapping. “That doesn’t by itself look like much, but it had a significant change for a lot of players because that’s something you do constantly.”
The quality-of-life features pour in with the new update, adding the chance to dismantle entire blueprints at once, use priority power switches to salvage factory output in the event of a power outage, and build pneumatic tubes that fire you across the map in mere moments, and they all come together to reflect an incredibly sleek experience. It’s not a lack of ideas that fuels this fan-forward approach, but rather, the aim of fine-tuning all of the parts that make Satisfactory the game it is.
Moving forward is key with a game like Satisfactory, offering players the chance to go bigger, harder, madder. This does mean that, thanks to an Early Access moniker and big plans, the game had to make some big steps away from its initial promises.
“We had to increase our minimum [PC] requirements, which is something that sucks. I guess that’s part of being in Early Access, and that’s also something we’ve had to make amends to ourselves. That sucks for everyone, but we just feel like moving forward with this engine upgrade [Satisfactory’s leap to Unreal Engine 5] really puts us in a better spot for the future, so to speak.” It’s this eye on the future that has kept Satisfactory the charming little number it is, and as the game’s community rallies behind the team, it’s clear that they’ve been making all of the right calls.
Satisfactory is at the top of its game
What we see now in Satisfactory is a game with bold ambitions reaching the height of its powers - sacrifices were made along the way, yes, but not only is the factory-building sim more efficient and simple than ever, it’s offering depth of gameplay like it never has before, and as the game either checks off fan wishlists or resets expectations in starkly honest update videos, it becomes the truest version of itself.
Satisfactory’s eighth full update brings the game closer than ever to its full release, and it begs the question - after fans have either received the features they want or accepted that they won’t get their bonkers bucket list items, what exactly can Coffee Stain Studios do next? It’s hard to say for sure, but if there’s one thing that we know, it’s that the team behind Satisfactory will make sure that you’re the first to know about it.