Category Archives: production line

I just finished uploading all the builds of Production Line version 1.49 (Still in alpha, early access). Here is a big long raw list of all of the changes:

1) [BUG] AI rivals now correctly check they have researched pre-requisites for a tech before researching that tech.
2) [Bug] Marketing achievement now correctly triggers at $5million, not $1million.
3) [Bug] Finance summary screen now ignores the current hour for calculating lifetime results, so it is consistent with reporting in the other columns.
4) [GUI] Left-clicking on a blueprint now brings up a menu allowing you to move, delete or buy that individual blueprint (if unlocked and affordable).
5) [GUI] Blueprint layouts are now saved and loaded within savegames.
6) [GUI] Features & components windows now moved to be part of the general efficiency window, and component chart redesigned so it shows production and consumption more sensibly.
7) [Balance] Customers now have a wider potential price range they are interested in, but base number of customers per hour has been reduced, so you run out of customers more quickly.
8) [Balance] Marketing campaign effects on brand awareness are now not as persistent as before.
9) [GUI] Breakdown of where customers come from now added to tooltip on market screen customers indicator.
10) [GUI] Redesigned main menu screens.
11) [Bug] Fixed crash bug when placing down a smart junction blueprint, converting it to a proper slot, then saving the game.
12) [Feature] New facility: Half size (mini) supply stockpile!
13) [Balance] Major changes to the costs of the different marketing campaigns.
14) [GUI] Marketing campaign progress now shown in marketing menu buttons tooltip.
15) [Balance] Make door panels, roof and steering wheel slots now takes twice as long but outputs 2 at a time, to reduce resource importer requirements.
16) [Balance] Make aircon power costs raised and production line raised, but output doubled.
17) [Balance] Make exhaust production time increased but output doubled.
18) [Balance] Slowed down production rate of make wheels slot, added more employees and boosted power demand.
19) [Balance] Increased build cost and process time of manufacture rollcage slot, but doubled its output.
20) [Balance] Reduced process time of manufacturing airbags.
21) [Balance] Increased construction cost of make exhaust slot and added 4 new employees to the slot.
22) [Content] Added 16 more car company logos to choose from.
23) [GUI] Archived designs no longer show up in the smart junction design GUI.
24) [Feature] New defect system, new rework station (and research requirement). Visual inspection slots can be placed anywhere, defects affect sales probability, based on new perceived brand quality metric.
25) [Bug] Fixed potential crash on car showroom screen.
26) [GUI] Slot picker now shows more sensible information on research office point generation.

…so! basically we have a lot of improvements to the blueprints system, new researchable mini supply stockpiles, plus a completely new defects system. The defects system needs some GUI improvements, and a tutorial and updates to the steam guide, and I will be working on all that sort of thing over the next week. It will probably require some balancing as well. Also note that we have made a bunch of balance changes to make it much more practical to produce components ‘in-house’ in this build.

This turned into a bigger than expected update because after doing all the requested blueprint improvements, I started work on defects, and then while that was being done, 16 new company logos showed up from the GUI artist, so its all been lumped into one feature and content heavy update, which is kinda cool. I really need to get working on tutorial stuff so the defects system is not confusing. I really like the way its working, but obviously I understand how it works, and its not that obvious to new players of the game yet.

As usual, I need to beg any players of the game who have not yet done so to review it on steam. Go to your page for the game in the steam client, and look for the ‘write review’ text on the right hand side (under LINKS). Its much appreciated.

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This is a big feature in my car factory game Production Line that I have been putting off until I could really set aside some time to think about the design seriously. I think I’ve finally reached that point in Early Access where I need to flesh out the design for this part of the game, and also importantly, to listen to feedback from current PL players about how they think this should work.

The current system is pretty simple. cars have work done to them on the production line, and then at the very end of the line, just before export, they go through a pre-export QA process that is broken down into emissions test, visual inspection and performance tests. All cars are assumed to be thoroughly free of defects, and are sold on the basis of their features and their price relative to the perceived value of those features.

Obviously in the real world, defects and car quality is a thing. You wouldn’t expect any defects on a $150,000 car, you would expect very few on a $70,000 car (unless its panel gaps on a tesla…dig dig…), and probably be more tolerant of minor things on a cheaper car. High end car companies (Rolls Royce etc) probably go overboard on quality assurance to ensure a reputation for zero problems (Lexus are also good at this), whereas at the lower end, its probably less of a concern. How to best represent this in the game in a way that both feels reasonable, and makes intuitive sense, and also works within the existing game design, and above all feels interesting and fun?

For a while, I have wanted to combine the idea of defects with the introduction of an area-of effect mechanic. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the designing the layout of your factory, and at the moment, apart from making sure importers and exporters are in the right place, and ensuring that you only place office slots (like research) in office zones, there is not that much *positional* decision making involved in the game. I thought I could introduce this with the advent of new QA slots, that had a radius effect.

The system would work by generating defects at every point along the line. there would be a base level of defects that would be generated each time a task was carried out on a vehicle, including tasks generated through upgraded slots. For example, adding the rear axle = 1% chance of a defect. Adding a tire pressure sensor… 1% chance of a defect… and so on. Some cars would go through the line entirely free of defects, but many would not. Eventually, if ‘untreated’, those defects would make their way into the final cars which would be sold.

For every car sold with defects (depending how many), there would be a negative impact on the reputation of your brand, a new, lagging indicator which would affect the purchase enthusiasm of your customers. Obviously this would be something you would want to keep an eye on, so as to ensure customers were not turned away, so how do you prevent defects? and how do you treat them?

To prevent defects, you can place down QA stations, which would be area-of-effect based, and would essentially reduce the percentage chance of a defect occurring at any specific point on the line. Covering the entire production line with regular QA slots would be a way to keep production quality high and defects low, but obviously would have a cost in terms of employee pay and the floor-space required to add those QA stations. This would be a ‘prevent defects from ever happening’ approach to QA. The second approach would be to introduce a new ‘re-work’ slot right at the very end of the line (maybe just before the current QA section) which would examine each car, and take whatever time is needed (maybe 2 minutes per defect?) to fix the problem and allow a perfect car to travel beyond that point. Clever players would eventually use smart junctions (which would need defect-based rules added to them) to ensure that cars that randomly seemed to be defect-heavy did not cause a major slowdown. As I understand it, in real factories, cars that need re-work are immediately taken off the line and dealt with separately so as not to cause any real bottleneck.

This is my first attempt at designing a QA/Quality system for the game. I’m very interested to know what existing (or potential) players of the game think. Essentially it boils down to this:

  • Defects are randomly generated on cars as they are constructed
  • Area-of-effect QA stations reduce the likelihood of those defects when placed on the line
  • A re-work area can optionally be placed to fix defects at the end of the line
  • Defects will affect the brand image of the company, and thus customer eagerness to buy.



If you aren’t already a player of Production Line, you probably dont realize that there is a part of the game where you can place down marketing facilities (once researched). These allow you to generate a flow of ‘ideas’ which are basically marketing points. Those points get spent on new marketing campaigns, in TV, Print or Movie form. Right now the only target for these campaigns is ‘brand awareness’ which essentially means more people will come into your car showroom and consider buying your cars. So far so good… This system has been in the game for a while, it works, there are no bugs, everything is kind of working as intended.

But yet it isn’t really, because it turns out that generally speaking people just don’t use the marketing features at all. They get excited when they research them, throw them down, and then run some campaigns (which cost a lot, but due to balance issues, some players at this relatively late stage of the game have LOADS of money, so its not an issue), and just kind of assume they worked, without really bothering with them any more. The major problem was the lack of feedback to the player on the progress of the marketing campaign, and its effects, PLUS there were balance issues meaning they may have been relatively pointless anyway.

Dealing with the GUI stuff first, I have replaced the event pop-up in the bottom right of the screen (easy to ignore) with a central modal dialog for whenever a marketing campaign ends which prompts you to run another campaign, and also for the first time it now gives you a breakdown of the extra customers the campaign bought in, how many cars they bought, and the revenue that this generated:

I also changed the GUI for the market screen which shows the current number of visitors to your showroom, so that it has a tooltip which breaks it down into the ‘base’ number plus those who are bought in by your marketing efforts:

And finally I’ve changed the GUI for the marketing screen itself, so that for campaigns which are currently being run, you can keep an eye on those customer, sales and revenue numbers as the campaign is running:

So with luck, that has a major impact on encouraging people to use the marketing feature in the game. They should no longer be oblivious to the effects of the campaign (which is probably the biggest factor), plus they can no longer be unaware that a campaign has ended. Obviously a campaign ending does not automatically mean you have enough marketing ideas to launch another, and maybe I need more hints and pop-ups/GUI indicators to point out to the player that they now have sufficient ideas for a new campaign, or to prompt them to maybe invest in some more marketing facilities.

So anyway… thats just half the problem, which was UI/UX related. The other problem was balance/Sim related, and that also needed some tweaking. Like everything related to balance in a game this complex, it will probably require a number of iterations to get the numbers just right, as designing a game with so many inter-connected parts really is a massive number-tweaking problem. The problem here was that the player was essentially never reaching a point where the number of customers in the showroom was a limit, so they never saw any pressing need to spend on marketing to get more customers through the doors.

Obviously the player can always sell to every single customer that walks through the door, IF their prices are low enough, but this may entail selling cars at a loss. What I need is to ensure that the player sees that by enlarging the number of potential customers, the number of actual buyers is going to go up, WITHOUT reducing prices. This may be intuitively obvious to some, but maybe not others. If you have 80 showroom visitors per hour, and produce 20 cars per hour, would you automatically think you need more visitors? This is hard to convey.

Regardless of communicating this, it did seem like the number of customers was basically not enough of a constraint, so I have adjusted the numbers so that fewer customers show up, but they are more flexible on price. That *should* mean that balance is not vastly affected, whilst keeping customer numbers low enough now that the player sees an incentive to boost them with marketing. I suspect it wont be enough, and I’ll need to communicate this in other ways, maybe by showing the total potential pool of customers, and what percentage of them actually check out your cars? I have a stat already for market share, but thats sales, not views…

Anyway…. I think its all progress on the playability and balance of the game. Bit by bit, the game is getting better every day :D

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