When I initially designed the Production Line ‘car design’ system it sounded like it made so much sense. Cars were a list of ‘features’ such as ‘electric windows’ etc, and whenever a car came to be sold, we would see if we had sold a car with that list of features before or not, and if not, we popped up a dialog box asking the player what to call this design and how much to charge with it, along with information on the market value (fair price) for that combination of features. This seemed perfectly reasonable.

The problem is that a) there are about 999,999,999 permutations of features and b)actual cars arent really sold that way anyway.

If you buy a car, you decide to buy (for example) a Vauxhall Astra, and then you decide which options you want, effectively from a price-list of add-ons. Usually car companies bundle a set of features together as certain ‘models’ such as ‘deluxe’ or ‘GT’ or whatever, but essentially there is a base body design and a price list of features to go on top. In order to reduce the amount of pointless GUI and busywork in Production Line I decided to switch to a similar model for patch 1.13.

Now we have a new button in the GUI, which launches the ‘design browser’ in the game which shows you all of the actual properly different body types of cars you currently produce. (for now its hacked showing designs from an earlier version, so they all have the same body type, but for new games you will only have one here for now). That window lets you select which car design you want to view or edit.

That then brings up this new window, which will also pop-up when you produce a car for the first time, or when you ship a car with a feature that was not previously available in this design. (That should happen only when you have researched a new upgrade and then shipped an upgraded car).

This is where the GUI gets a bit confusing. Essentially any design is just a shopping list of features with the base feature being ‘basic car’. For each feature you can see the market value of that feature (the consensus in the market place for the fair value for one of those), the price you are currently charging, and the markup over the market value in both percentage and dollar terms (with buttons to adjust this).

You can price cars at a premium to earn higher profits, or a discount to shift them quicker. This is where the confusion will come..

This does not represent a hard profit or loss for that car.

because there are so many fixed costs, its very very hard to work out how much each feature really costs you to add, so you have to separately keep an eye on what that feature is costing you. The premium/discounts here are only a guide as to how competitive you are with your rivals, who may be more or less efficient than you. My big dilemma here is how confusing is this? and is there a better way to explain/present it? Obviously there will eventually be a tutorial.

I also think that probably what I need here is some option to copy a single premium/discount to all features, so you are not adjusting each one manually. I’m not sure of the best way to present that from a GUI POV. In terms of ‘why would you ever not want to do that?’ consider this: You rush ahead in the early stages of the game to research cruise control before anybody else. As a result, you have the ONLY cars with cruise control. You can therefore charge a whacking great premium for that feature, way above the premium you would charge for other car features.

Does that make sense? Is this an improvement on the old model? Feedback most welcome. This is hopefully going into the 1.13 patch coming this week. maybe even Wednesday! (more likely Thursday).

BTW don’t forget the price goes to $12 from Sunday. If you know you are going to get it anyway, order it below :D

2 Responses to “New Production Line car design interface”

  1. Alan says:

    I’m finding the mental model confusing. I’d expect the premium for being the only company with cruise control to already be baked into the market value.

    And what does market value really mean? There really isn’t a singular market consensus, it’s a curve of increased sales versus decreasing price.

    Given that one’s factory will always have limited production capabilities, market value may be best measured in terms of “What price do I have to set to sell X cars every day?” where X is user configurable. But that doesn’t make sense for individual components, since you’re not selling individual components.

    Here are some vaguely related potential thoughts for the market simulation to use or discard as you see fit :-)

    1. Eventually a feature crosses the line from “I won’t pay much for it” to “I don’t really want a car without that feature (at least not without it seeming like a monstrous discount).” Things like FM radios and disc brakes. There’s a promising looking list of such features that are on this edge at http://blog.caranddriver.com/stripper-poll-how-many-vehicles-still-have-crank-windows-manual-locks-and-more/ This seems like it might be an interesting part of the simulation to cope with the relentless need to match the general baseline or risk having cars you can only sell at a loss.

    2. Does the simulation handle different classes of buyer? As best I can tell, right now, given factory constraints, I should just manufacture as many of the most profitable car I can. It might be interesting to create incentives a range of cars, from budget models to luxury models.

    3. Will the part sourcing simulation include discounts as technology makes it cheaper to create? I believe that’s why some features went from optional to default; it became cheap enough.

    • cliffski says:

      We don’t have different market segments yet, but it is definitely planned. I agree that the idea of market value is hard to pin down, and the game does indeed model a curve of demand where the market value is just the ‘average’ price people will pay.

      I also agree that we need to model a point where components become real commodity items whose inclusion is expected. That will come too.