As any management game ever, there needs to be an economy in place. We create a supply, we need a demand, with the goal of always being able to supply enough stuff to satisfy the demand.
Here is a simplified overview of the current game's economy :
- Player collect continuous and infinite amounts of Ore (iron, copper, etc.)
- Player collect continuous and infinite amounts of Fossil Materials (coal, fuel, uranium, etc.)
- Player collect fixed amounts of artifacts
- Player produce continuous infinite amounts of Goods from Ore.
- Player spend continuous amounts of Fossil Energy to supply Factory with energy
- Player spend continous amounts of Ore to make Goods
- Player spend fixed amounts of Goods to build more buildings
- Player spend fixed amounts of Goods and Artifacts to get new techs
So far the issue is that all the outputs for Goods so far are fixed amounts, while inputs are continuous.
Other successful games in the same style always have a balanced dynamic between the inputs from the beginning and the outputs and that's how they can be challenging and possess long term replayability values.
This is not a matter of "end game" that some suggestions already adressed but an issue in the core gameplay loop. The resources sinks need to be in place from the beginning so that at all point the player is making a factory with a purpose, and always have to balance inputs /supply versus outputs/demand, and have a real sense of challenge throughout the progression rather than artificial blockers in the form of milestones (which just serve the purpose of delaying content with grind rather than challenge).
Finally, if you have to wait the endgame to replace grind with challenge, then the game would have a flawed design, encouraging you to rush the progression (which becomes a glorified and forced tutorial) in order to reach the "real game" rather than making the progression challenging and part of the fun which is the common pitfall in the recent slew of "Survival Games".
Several games were successful at first, using similar system of milestones to drive the players, who will ultimately all stop playing once they all unlocked every piece of content, leaving the game abandoned because the devs never thought about adding something to drive the player other than "unlock more content".
Some ideas to resolve this issue :
- FICSIT needs a continuous supply of stuff, first to build the Space elevator (should be already a challenging achievement to build that massive structure), then for whatever Project Assembly is. Space Elevator would be built in visibly different phases (first building the base, then the tether, etc.) requiring constant feeding of new materials (ex : 1000 rods/minutes) rather than fixed amounts, then keeps on forever even after project assembly is complete.
- FICSIT require the player to meet more and more aggressive productions targets. Failure to meet them would have negative consequences (possibility to fail the game ?)
- Environmental consequences for building the factory, ultimate efficiency comes with a cost (pollution, alien attacks, etc.) visually affecting the landscape. Fossil materials could also be limited encouraging the players to turn to renewable energies. The player can then chose to limit polution or deal with expensive consequences.
- Maintenance costs to add a layer of planning and complexity to the factory.
- Competition : Some sort of offworld economy is simulated, and your factory needs to be more efficient than your competitors and able to adress the shifting demands of the population living on other planets
- Multiplayer mode with different teams competing against each other.
That's all i got for now, feel free to add more ideas.