Unearthed #2: Conveyor Belts

In each post of Unearthed we expose and closely examine a single aspect of Project Automata. Not everything mentioned in this series will necessarily show up in the final game, but we wanted to share our development process with you as we ramp up to Alpha and the eventual release of Project Automata. Feel free to share any of your ideas or concerns with us in the comments!

Continuing from the last post on transportation, let’s take a closer look at how exactly conveyor belts will work and what they will be capable of.

Belts

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Conveyor Belts in action

Turning corners, going up and down hills and across roads or rail, basic conveyor belts can move items from one point on the map to another. When three or four belts come together in an intersection, such as a ‘T’ or ‘X’, the products from each line will be placed onto a single belt alternating between the inputs. For example, in the image below, item ‘A’ is coming down one line while item ‘B’ is coming down another. Both dump the items onto the output belt. Automatically the A’s and B’s take turns hopping on to the output belt.

Filters

While belts on their own can bring items together, filters are what you use when you want to spread them out. Filters come in two varieties: Dumb, and Programmable.

Like in the image below, dumb filters will always equally divide the input across two or three outputs. Essentially they do the opposite of what T or X belt intersections do.

With Programmable Filters, you will be able to select which items and how much of that item will go to any particular output. For example, if you set 100% of all coal to go to one output, you’ll be filtering out the coal from everything else coming down the line. I mean, that’s why they’re called filters, right?

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Filters and their design

Uses

The conveyor belt system is useful for any situation where you need to move a lot of material over a short distance, but by implementing intersections and filters it can be used solve a wide range of problems.

Let’s say you have a group of coal mines and don’t want to have trucks servicing each mine individually. You can set up belts to pull from all the mines and deposit everything into a single warehouse where trucks or a train can pick it up.

Maybe you have a higher tier product you want to produce. If one factory is producing metal, the other is making tires, you can drop those both on to the same belt and send it over to your car manufacturing plant. Use a filter to ensure each car gets the four tires and just right amount to metal needed to make a single unit.

“So why not just use belts for everything?” I hear you asking.

Even with programmable filters, conveyor belts are still quite stupid and will always attempt to move product down the line. Trucks, on the other hand, will only respond when product is actually needed. Conveyor belts are also ‘costly’ using resources to build and maintain. The longer a belt is, the more electricity it will use, so building conveyor systems from town to town usually isn’t the best option.

Oh, and the image below is animated, look closely! The texture is being remade as we speak, as I admit it’s not super clear to know what the flow direction is.

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Conveyor development

Development

The Conveyor belt system is a complex mechanic that’s in the early stages of development. We’re constantly changing how it works from day to day so expect it to evolve a lot as we continue production on Project Automata. Let us know if there’s anything you would like to see incorporated into the belt and filter system!

In the next ‘Unearthed’ post we’ll preview the trading system and how you can route the fruits of your labour to cities and towns.

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