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

Production Line: Early financial GUI

So… I have been busy with both Steam Dev Days and then Political Animals, but still found time to crack on with Production Line. So far a lot of the stuff you have seen in the video and my earlier posts has been about the look of the game and the isometric factory, but I have started doing very early work on some of the business side of the game. For example, we now finally have an actual financial data dialog which pops up when you click on the current cash balance:


This is very early days, and some of those categories are not working yet. Currently the rent, wages, capital expenditure and raw materials / component stuff is in there and functioning. I thought it made sense to show data for 1, 7 and 30 days in the past to get different snapshots of how your company is doing, although maybe 7,30 and all time makes more sense? who knows… I suspect also a few line charts showing how those categories have changed over time would make sense too, eventually. I’ll likely get the income (broken down by model of car) working first, then add a simple overview, and then worry about finnessing the display of it all. Once the raw data is being collected, saved/loaded and displayed properly changing the display of the data is relatively easy.

My aim, in design terms is to have the player spend some time fussing about the layout of the factory, and the bottlenecks that will inevitably ensue, some time deciding which R&D project to undertake next, and some time looking at the numbers, graphs & charts associated with the business. I found it interesting how delicately the balance of component costs and production efficiency was micro-managed by Henry Ford for the model T. When you are making a LOT of cars, changing the size of a single component, or using a lighter material (just by 5%) for a specific component can save an absolute fortune. I want the player to have the option to really drill down into things and be able to spend money to optimize a tiny thing (such as the speed at which tyres are fitted) which only makes sense when you have 10+ tyre fitting stations, and thus a vast factory. My feeling is that a lot of ‘big’ strategy and biz sims lose focus towards the middle and end game, and it becomes a simple matter of just copy-pasting the same layout. With any luck I’ll be able to avoid that.

Anyway…something else I did recently was restrict the placement of resource import slots to specific ‘ghosted’ areas, to give the player less freeform control over layout. I want there to be a LOT of these, so it isn’t *too* restrictive, but a complete free-form approach is perhaps too dull :D.


Feedback vastly appreciated.


10 thoughts on Production Line: Early financial GUI

  1. In the ‘real’ world, your resource import points are restricted by things like where you can fit docking bays (or docks and rail yards, once you get into properly big factories). Are you thinking of delving that deeply, or stick to the model of “stuff magically appears at the entry port”?

    On the middle/end game stuff – presumably once you reach a certain size, you’ll be exporting cars to different countries with different feature requirements (not to mention currencies!) to keep things interesting.

  2. Multiple currencies might be too complex and on the side of serious & boring vs simple & fun. Maybe different distributers all using the same currency but with certain order/car requirements. I think the real fun in these games comes from the factory layout, workers and upgrading machines etc. more than the finances although that is good too to make the game deeper.

  3. Currencies could have a lot of potential – this is an area when Football Manager is modelling Brexit!

    But it would need a lot of other systems in place to really come into its own. The interesting business question is “do you stick with your established, reliable supplier when exchange rates make someone else cheaper” – the risk being that a new guy might have teething problems, there could be delays and reliability issues, especially if you’re choosing on price.

    You can’t touch that without first having the *concepts* of part delays and reliability. And then – where’s the focus? Is this a factory simulator or a business simulator? If those concepts are in, what gets cut?

    With the Open Alpha model, the answer is probably to ignore them and get a minimally functional game running, and gauge player response at that point…

  4. Have you considered naming the game “Production Assembly” to make sure it’s abbreviated the same way as Political Animals and Prison Architect? :)

  5. I really like the idea of micromanaging some aspects of the game!

    Indeed, so many games just have a copy & plop gameplay style, but creating points of micromanagement to increase profits is a nice and varied game play addition. (I hope there will be negative ramifications for decreasing costs too much. E.g. if you buy steel from a manufacturer that has lower quality control, the engine you make is more brittle, thus the risk of part failure is higher, and the reliability rating may cause customers to think twice about buying your automobile.)

  6. Hi Cliff, do you plan to implement GAAP accounting? So many games lack realistic financials! GAAP accounting would seal the deal for me. Cash flow / depreciation etc.

    1. interesting. When more of the games biz model actually works I’ll be asking people what they would find helpful to show. I definitely like the whole idea of getting into the whole ‘borrow money sensibly to grow the business’ idea in a way that is more real world and less gamey guesswork.

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