Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Announcing: Production Line

When you really look at things in terms of what people bought… I’ve made 3 games. Kudos (Trust did well at the time), Democracy (ker-ching!) and Gratuitous Space Battles. I’ve also made spin-offs, sequels and side ventures such as Gratuitous Tank Battles, made some DLC, and published 2 released games (Redshirt and Big Pharma). But in terms of positech-owned IP, I’ve made 3 games of note. Hopefully this is number 4. its definitely the plan…


I never used to care about cars. Then I bought a nice hybrid one (Lexus) then I bought a stupidly flash electric one (Tesla). I started to realize cars had become interesting to geeks, not just petrol-heads. I then read a book by Henry Ford about the Model T, and how it was made, and his philosophy for business. I found it absolutely fascinating, not least because it is basically being copied to the letter by Elon Musk. The way production line efficiency transformed the way cars were made was fascinating. It also involved something that until recently was hugely out of fashion – vertical integration (essentially owning your own supply chain). When reading the book, I realized there was an opportunity for a new take on ‘production line’ games. Essentially, they are all about building more, building bigger. What I wanted to do was build more-or-less the same, but build it better, build it more efficiently, make the same product cheaper, make the production line better (which means breaking down the tasks and making it longer).


I took the idea pretty seriously. I even visited Detroit, specifically to get a tour of a modern car plant, and also visit the Henry Ford museum. Originally, my games was set in Fords era. At one point it was a side scroller, at another it was black-and-white and top down. Eventually it became color, and isometric, then got changed to the modern day. And I’ve been secretly working on it for ages.


For me, the big changes here are that its an isometric game (never done one of those before, but already coded my own engine, seems ok so far), and that I’m planning on really open-development. Its not in alpha yet, let alone beta. Big parts of the game are not finished. Coder art is everywhere. None of the sounds are final. There is no music. Its buggy. There is only one type of car, and half the research-tree stuff isn’t done. No text is final. Its really early. Its not shipping in 2016, and likely not in Q1 or Q2 of 2017.


However…I’d like to get people playing it early, in a direct-with-the-developer prison-architect style early access way. I’ll blog about it more soon, and do videos. I’ll probably bore you to tears with the details. I have come full circle on the idea of early-access and would like to see how it works for me. I recently got addicted to factorio (Long after starting work on the game) and I admit I am attracted to making the game support BIG factories. (I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of Teslas gigafactory). I also like a lot of options, and huge research trees, so you should expect me to be putting that sort of stuff in, if people agree that they would like that in the game. We shall see…

Right now, I’m at the ‘I’m making a game about this topic. Do you like the idea’? stage. I’d love to know what you think. Does the topic suck? what would you like to see in the game? Would you grab an early-access copy? Comment below!. And if you are press, you will find that the website for the game has a presskit link. Plus we set up a facebook page already, so please go join that :D. Oh and yes, those are screenshots of the current build :D

41 thoughts on Announcing: Production Line

  1. Ooh, sounds good. Let hope your engine is going to SCALE to gig-factory epic-ness. Oh, and robots, LOTS of robots. I love the big orange Kuka ones (recently rode on one!).

  2. I would be interested in this game for sure, part of the reason for that would be it’s topic. I love a good production line style game and this is a great theme for it.
    I would be interested in an EA copy of the game, but am likely to hang back and follow your videos for a while first. If it gets updated regularly and I see it’s going somewhere I will buy it.

  3. Just when I think I’ve managed to escape my tycoon game addiction they pull me back in. This looks disgustingly awesome. I hope you’re happy with what you’ll be doing to my wallet.

  4. I remember, in the 90s, there was game where you had a warehouse and built production lines to produce various goods (none as big as a car mind you).

    I can’t remember what it’s called now, but seeing your game art and description reminded me a lot about it. I spent way too much time playing that game over one summer, and would definitely get into a game like this. Would love to know when it goes into Early Access.

  5. Always been a sucker for tycoon-type games, and who doesn’t like a factoryful of robots?

    Can’t wait to follow the development of this.

  6. Sounds very interesting! The robot arm in the logo reminded me immediately of Factorio – and that’s never a bad thing.

    My approach to earliness always depends on how the wip project looks like. I will certainly follow the data flow with curiosity before jumping on anything.

  7. This is a game I am definitely looking forward to. It looks a little like Big Pharma, but with cars, in a good sense. So essentially it is a game about the machine that makes the machine, as Elon Musk put it? :D However I would love if it if you did not focus too much on the assembly line. R&D, Selling and most importantly the design part seems very interesting to me.

    Do you know the game “Oldtimer”? I always loved the idea of this game, but it had many shortcomings. It was cool to compose a new design and then look how it sells in the end.

    I definitely would sign up for alpha/beta testing if I can squeeze in a little time.

  8. That sounds amazing! I’d love to play it; I’m also addicted to Factorio, and what you’ve got so far looks good.

    Of course, my first thought was “oh crap, he’s making the game I’ve been keeping in the back of my head while I level up my game-dev skills,” so I’m also a bit envious that you’re as far as you are in it.

    I’ll look forward to this!

  9. this is awesome!

    i love cars, i love tycoon games…

    i’m looking forward to this! and i might preorder if the game will have enough content/proper “end game” etc.

    jet, diesel, steam, petrol, hybrid, electrical, hydrogen, nuclear… whatever kinda propulsion you can come up with, could be fun to add it in the game as an option

    i’m hoping for a nice mixture business-simulator and a factorio-like gameplay.

    test drives, sporty cars, business saloons etc. aaah im having a seizure already… gimme! :D

  10. Looks great! I look forward to hearing more and following the development.

    I have had an idea sketched out for something in a similar domain for a while now – but more aimed as an educational game for teaching manufacturing/industrial engineering concepts. If there is scope to go down a route like that I’d be happy to offer any assistance I can as a researcher in the field.

  11. I’ll be happy to help dev test the game; I’m a C# developer and currently work for a company that makes factory machinery (just as a coincidence).

    I think I can help you add a lot.

    By the way, I have a massive expansion/revision of Democracy 3 that I’m working on as an experimental project, which you may be interested in. It’s distinctly not just a mod; it actually builds on top of D3 and uses D3 as a game engine. It should be fully compatible with Africa as well. I think you’ll like it, and could use it for another expansion or to start Democracy 4.

  12. I buy everything positech, have for years even before steam was even a thing. Cant wait to buy into this early access. Im in.

  13. I’m definitely interested in the idea, and more likely than not I’ll buy it, but it also depends on the execution. I have a rocky past with this kind of puzzle/problem solving games, but at the same time I spent hours creating assembly lines in Factorio or in Minecraft (with mods)

  14. At first, I saw a tweet mentioning a new car production line sim and wasn’t interested so I didn’t clicked the link (I’m not fond of cars expect the Tesla and I thought it would be, well, a sim).
    Then, a friend of mine gave me this link telling me “Look, it’s like a cross-over between Factorio and Big Pharma !”. So I decided to read the article and, man, I really like the idea. This is the kind of game I like and I will definitively follow the development of this one. :)

  15. I live happily without a driver’s license and absolutely detest cars. So screw the topic.
    Though, I’d probably play the game, especially with alternative/futuristic tech.
    Would most likely purchase at late alpha/early beta stage.

  16. Your blog mentions a factory’s supply chain. Supply chain management is hugely important in the automotive industry. How free will players be in making decisions in that aspect? Will players be railroaded into one optimal solution, or will this be dependent on the nature of their car? A fancy sports car would require a completely different approach than a small mass production car. Are you planning on adding alternatives to vertical integration as options?

    Another question. The factory part seems quite obvious. But how much further does the game extend on either side of the production chain. Car tycoon allowed players to manage garages and dealerships as well, but that seems to be beyond the scope of this game. Do cars just disappear and you get money in return when theyre sold off? How about on the other side? Is there any management related to inbound logistics, or do things appear after you’ve paid for them?

    1. At the moment I am focusing on what happens ‘inside the room’; so currently you order components (or raw materials to make them in-house) and those come in on conveyor belts, stuff gets made, it gets exported and you get cash. I’m interested to hear from the community in general about the desired balance between factory stuff and non-factory tycoon stuff, such as marketing budgets, promotion, sales teams etc. I currently have some of that but am open to opinions on what the balance should be.

      1. I’d be interested in being able to control the various external factors, but it does depend on what the goal actually is.
        If controlling suppliers, sales, etc only contributes to improving profitability (your “score” I suppose), then I think they might just be a distraction main part of the game – building the best and most efficient production line. However, if all the ‘external’ factors all impact your production line in some capacity then they will more likely be worthwhile (eg. Sales need to meet demand for higher end cars, then you need to adjust your production line to suit, or component A is expensive to buy in, so you instead buy Components C & D and produce component A yourself)

        Looking forward to hearing more about this, would certainly be interested in an EA version.

  17. I like it and would love to give it a try to help you test.

    One thing of note, 90% of cars sold at least here in the US now are neutral colored. So make the vast majority of them white, silver, and black.

  18. Sounds like an awesome concept to me.

    I’m hoping that the game would include things like r&d, the possibility for limited models (e.g., a high perf version … think WRX vs. WRX STI, for example), future tech (driver assist, self-driving, super caps, new battery tech, new fuels, etc.), interesting challenges (e.g., self-driving AI gone wrong, local vs. foreign suppliers & mfg., dealer networks, marketing, recalls).

    OTOH, a straight ahead factory sim would be cool, too.

    Also, it’d be grand if there were many paths to success in the game. Some Tycoon games seem to have only one viable strategy.

    Really sounds like a game I would buy and enjoy.

    1. The currently design has a series of steps to make a car, with many of them optional. The default builds a really simple car, even no air con or electric windows, but these will be upgraded slots you can put down, so you will, depending how you lay out your factory, have the option of building expensive high end cars, or cheap ones or some mixture.

      1. Sounds cool.

        The more I think about it, the more I think I would go with a relatively simple factory optimization game first out.

        That would leave lots of room for fun details, but still not be overwhelming (i.e., wider audience), and would provide you many opportunities for sequels and expansions that could address some of the more niche aspects of a more involved sim or tycoon game.

  19. It’s all well and good to optimise an infallible, mechanical, automated robotic factory to be practically perfect in every way, but I think a much more interesting series of choices (thanks Sid Meier) exists in trying to make the best of imperfect situation.

    I played Star Trek: Online for a long time, and what kept me playing for long after the flashy space combat had grown painfully repetitive, and the awful away missions had failed to improve was the Duty Officer system. With this you would collect officers and civilian specialists, each with a different department, specialisation, overall quality, and a set of traits. Then you would come across a whole range of different assignments ranging from throwing a diplomatic banquet to launching a covert raid on a ketracel white facility. The assignments would have requirements – number of officers needed, certain departments or specialisations, and then how the outcome would be affected by particular traits, some increasing the chance of success, some of failure, and others of a spectacular or disastrous results. You’d then choose from your list of officers for each assignment. Sometimes you’d have the perfect officers for an assignment, and sometimes you’d have to make do with some bad matches for an unmissable assignment. You’d have to make choices about whether to assign all of your best officers to a mere handful of assignments, or spread them out amongst a wider range of assignments and fill the rest of the roles with lesser officers. Then you’d send them off, wait a time, and get a report of the results, giving you bonuses to help you along or penalties to deal with.

    I could see a version of this playing out in your car factory game where you need to hire staff – depending on how deep you want to go – whether it’s everything from the factory floor workers up, or just department heads/foremen. You could have R&D staff, marketers, QA, accountants, etc. The salary you offer could influence the quality of the staff you attract. You could preview staff before you hire them, but only some of their traits are apparent at this stage and hidden ones appear after they start working for you. They could acquire new traits while working for you, representing your investment in them. Perhaps they could pick up traits from being assigned to tasks in other departments when you’re short-staffed, lowering the chance of success of the task, but possibly benefiting your staff over all. Your staff could be headhunted, requiring you to up their salary or face a brain drain.

    Overall the game should have more tasks available across the departments than you can reasonably staff. Then the player has to choose where they focus, and whether they go for an expensive, smaller, highly skilled staff, or a larger, less skilled, but cheaper staff. They have to choose whether to focus on certain departments, and get bonuses there, and leave others to neglect, or if they maintain a minimum standard across all fields, but without any outrageous success or critical failures. For example, you could have a highly staffed R&D and marketing departments and be the Apple of car manufactures, selling slick, hi-tech cars with a huge profit margin, but you neglect your QA and end up dealing with a massive product recall.

    Overall I think it’s a relatively simple system that could add personality and interesting decisions to what could otherwise be a pure exercise in number-crunching and spreadsheeting (which I’m almost certain will feature in your game, and I’m certainly not discouraging).

    1. staff management and hiring is definitely something that I am open to, if people who try the game think it would add to it. Right now staff just come with a facility you place down, so a wheel assembly facility brings with it the staff (and robots) that carry out that task, and I’m thinking of having ‘advanced’ versions of most facilities if you want to specialize etc. It depends how complex people think the game needs to be :D

  20. Sounds interesting! I guess the question for me is what hooks you’re planning alongside the “optimise a factory” idea.

    E.g. Theme Hospital went big on humour; Prison Architect had a lot of emergent ‘human stories’ as you got attached to individual prisoners.

    What will the side interest be here? Hopefully something involving the cars like seeing finished models on display outside the factory, or seeing fake news articles about their appearance on car shows. Maybe other strings as well…

    1. I think a lot of these games miss out on giving the player decent data on efficiency. Like factorio lets me totally forget about entire production lines and facilities, without nagging me that, for example, ‘45% of your copper mines are currently idle’, which as an efficiency bug annoys me, but it doesn’t really give me the tools to keep on top of that.
      I also like the idea of tweaks, and researchable items that really squeeze efficiency. I’m sure big factories get very excited about finding a 2% efficiency boost, whereas in games everything seems to double or increase in similarly unrealistic ways.

  21. Count me in, Cliff. Glad to hear you’re on board with Early Access, too. While it is definitely abused by some “developers”, I’ve found it to be an incredible experience on several occasions.

  22. Hi! I like the look of this game, and look forward to it. I just have one question; what is the name of the Model T/Ford book you read? Thanks!

  23. Love the topic. I am a programmer, but for several years worked for industrial automation company, so I know a thing or two about automotive factories.

    From what I have seen, real-word factories are either of “produce large amounts of specific part” types (can be as simple as engine suspension elements, seats, headrests or as sophisticated as engines, gearboxes, electronic systems) or “final assembly” type, where aforementioned parts get delivered and cars drive out. I wonder how you’re going to handle that.

    Another thing that is extremely interesting is how you are going to handle research. I guess kinda like original UFO Enemy Unknown series weapons and technologies research. Would be cool to sponsor racing teams and get technologies from there…

    BTW: would love to see fork/mutation into Tank factories. Greater variety and simpler tech (bigger difference between for example Christie cruisers and Churchill, than between sport car and family salon). It would be great to become head of British tank industry prior to WW2, and have a chance to fix “The Great Tank Scandal” (great book by David Fletcher). Or to try and outdo Lord Beaverbrook making Spitfires and Mosquitoes. Oh man.

    Good luck, this is great idea.

    PS. Is there any chance for you to produce/publish something that is not a game (software product thought, 80% finished)?

  24. Hi Cliff,

    I’d love a game like this. These types of games are quite rare nowadays.

    Factorio and Big Pharma have brought it back from extinction so far to my recollection. I’m sure there’s a few others but these are the ones that I bought and played.

    Early Access can be good but too many developers have taken advantage of it so it’s gained a bad reputation over the years.

    Maybe stick to your own website like Factorio and Big Pharma did for the alpha and bring it to Steam Early Access when it’s nearly complete.

    You could start from early car manufacturing and then bring it up to the modern era and beyond with flying cars.

    I expect they’ll be a massive tech/research tree and some randomness involved as well to keep it interesting.

    Anyway good luck with the game. Hope to see and hear more about it in the coming months.

    Mark O’D

  25. Bring it on!

    I’m an efficiency buff, and love the challenge of squeezing that extra bit of performance where possible. I also really enjoyed Infinifactory, and Big Pharma, so for me this is a perfect mashup.

    One thing I really liked about Infinifactory (and other games by the same author), is being able to pick my own efficiency metric. For example, in Infinifactory, you could try to reduce the total space taken up by the machinery, or the number of blocks you used or the speed with which the particular output was made.

    My other main request is that you somehow make the optimisation a bit more nuanced than “I’ve got a working production line, duplicate that entire setup and now I’ve got 2x the output”. :)

    Looking forward to seeing this in early access.

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