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

Production Line Video Update #2

I took some time today to do another short video talking about what I’ve been working on re:production line. There will be more ‘feature-rich’ videos coming over the next few months. I’m getting quicker and more organized about the whole youtube thing now :D. I am really interested to hear peoples comments and ideas about any aspect of the game. Enjoy!

Don’t forget the website is here and the facebook page is here. Cheers :D


Production Line: Local production

One of the major design elements in Production Line is the idea of vertical integration. Put simply, vertical integration is taking all the various steps in the production chain for a product and taking them in house. Its like Steam making the games as well as selling them, and owning the data centers, and owning the networking infrastructure too, and owning a payment processing company etc.

The theory is that money is made by everyone in the production chain. In car-specific terms, the people who own rubber plantations make a profit. They sell the rubber to an exporter, who makes a profit. he delivers and sells the rubber to a tire factory which makes a profit, and they sell tires to the car maker, who is then paying for all of that. In theory, owning everything (including the plantation) helps you both capture all that profit, AND simplifies your logistics. your supplier isn’t going to go bankrupt or mess you around, or have problems anticipating your demands when you own them. In theory.

Henry Ford (he of the original production line idea) took this to extremes. He did indeed buy rubber plantations (although that was a disaster) and he expanded his factories to the extent that eventually just raw materials (wood, steeel, glass…) came in one end of the factory and finished cars rolled out ton the other end. This is a major undertaking, but also I suspect a pretty cool element to build into a tycoon game such as Production Line.

In the screenshot below (click to enlarge), I have my first steps at this. I haven’t gone as far as smelting steel yet, but the layout shows 3 main car production lines going from top left to bottom right, and at the bottom left of the screen is a collection of 4 different manufacturing slots. these slots are making car doors, car roofs, car seats and wheels. The very same over-head conveyor system which delivers components and raw materials to the production line slots is also used to ferry completed seats, wheels etc from those slots to wherever they are needed within the factory layout.


This is not different really to a game like factorio, where you have raw materials (copper, coal,oil) and they pass through some intermediate factory widget that converts them into something else, onwards and onwards. I doubt that production line will go anywhere near as far as factorio in terms of the *scale* of those production lines, but I do hope to spice things up in terms of financial analysis and efficiency analysis. I don’t know about you but when I look at my 60+ hour factorio maps I have acres of old equipment just spinning away doing nothing because I’ve oversaturated my copper or some-such. This should NOT be something that happens in PL. Factory space will be EXPENSIVE, and all slots will use power which will be EXPENSIVE. The aim is to ensure you have to keep an eye on efficiency all the time. Efficiency is the name of the game*

I haven’t decided how best to refer to the idea of making stuff inside the factory as opposed to buying it in as components. Maybe ‘Local Production’, Maybe ‘Internal Production’? In any case, I hope people will see it as the natural extension of their production line as they expand towards the middle of the game, and keeps the game interesting beyond the ‘I am making cool cars now and making a profit’ stage.

*it isn’t. The name of the game is Production Line.

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.


First Production Line video!

I didn’t give away too much about how Production Line (my car-factory sim) was going to look or feel when I announced it recently, but here today is the first video of the game being ‘played’ with my cynical face yabbering about it in the corner, like the kids expect these days. Without further ado, here is the legendary video:

My original plan was to get video out there, and talking about the game earlier than this, but even so, this is MUCH earlier in the development of a game than ever before for me to show the state of something. The R&D screen is clearly total placeholder, and 90% of the business side/marketing/tycoon style stuff isn’t even started yet. What we basically have is an isometric engine with car production lines being laid out and managed. That part of the game is obviously key, but what I will be building in the coming months will be ‘biz’ side stuff, such as marketing, pricing, AI competitors and so-on, and feedback there will be vital.

Also, at this point there is a lot of room for feedback on the GUI for the actual factory-floor view. This is very minimalist right now. Essentially I am after feedback on everything by everyone. No specific questions for this first video, other than a ‘how does this look to you’ kind of thing. All comments are read :D

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