Category Archives: production line

If like me, you have an interest in tech business and marketing in general, then the name of Scott Galloway is probably familiar to you. he is the guy who gave an excellent talk called the four horsemen and also another brilliant one about the death of the industrial advertising complex. The way he sees things (and he is pretty well informed), brands are essentially on the way out, taking advertising with them. the reason? user-reviews and review-aggregation by platforms such as amazon (and more relevantly to me: steam) means that the value of a brand is no longer what it was. Advertising to build a brand is essentially pointless in an age where you can bypass the PR spin and look at the real data about what customers think of your product.

I find thinking about this to be very interesting indeed.

Essentially you advertise for two reasons. 1) To inform the potential customer about your product and 2) To build up positive associations about your product. I would suggest that 2) is totally dead, but 1) remains viable. There are reasons why 2) can still work, if you are associated with external signalling, in other words your target market for the ad is actually not the customer.

That might sound weird, but its commonplace. Its a phenomena associated with luxury brands. You might occasionally see advertising for a luxury brand you cannot possibly afford, and wonder how the hell it can be targeted so badly. The first possibility is that they are building long term value by hoping that 1 in 20,000 viewers of that porsche ad will one day buy a porsche. that’s true, but they also get indirect value from the other 19,999 viewers of the ad, because they perpetuate the belief that a porsche is driven by winners. When someone buys a porsche, they get a relatively low performance expensive to run and unsafe, expensive to insure car (compared to a tesla :D), but what they are really buying is status, and a projection of jealousy/admiration onto others. This has real value.

Porsche aren’t really selling cars at all. neither are Rolls Royce or Rolex. they sell status and luxury. These things cannot easily be quantified in a user review, so the ‘brand’ still has value. What they are selling is the knowledge that everyone knows you can afford the expensive product. In a way, by buying a branded luxury product you are a time-share owner of a PR team that tells the world how successful you are. its outsourcing of bragging and status.

Thats perfectly reasonable in some ways, I sound snarky but I’m actually not. I have a stupidly flash car myself. Humans are humans, and success is something people like to have recognized. Most scientists *do* collect their nobel prize, most successful business people *do* buy a flash car, most athletes *do* put the medal on the mantelpiece.

When it comes to something like a video game, we can’t really sell luxury and status and bragging rights, although top-tier kick-starter rewards and ‘premium’ accounts do their best. I notice that buying ‘premium’ so I get the DLC for battlefield one puts a little ‘p’ next to my name. I don’t give a fuck, but that P is there because some people will. In this case, you are advertising WITHIN the game. The ‘premium’ feature is so you feel you have a higher status than the other players, but thats still within the ecosystem of already-paying customers. F2P does this really effectively only it includes non paying customers too.

For most game developers, making money from top tier kickstarter rewards and premium accounts isn’t really going to be your bread-and-butter, so is advertising still an option for us?

Absolutely, but you have to be aware of what you are doing. Essentially your advertising exists (and so do appearances at shows, youtubers etc) purely to announce to players that your game exists. You are essentially buying name-recognition, logo-recognition and shelf space. Logo recognition is a valuable thing. lets pause for a word from our sponsors…

…and were back.

Where Scott Galloway is absolutely right, is that for non luxury near-commodity goods, advertising that builds brands is now pointless. Do I buy a Sony TV next or a Samsung? or LG? I don’t give a fuck, and nor should you. I can look at the reviews on amazon/other stores and pick the top rated one. The products are similar enough that I really don’t care. As long as the TV is available, and listed on the store, and *has some decent reviews* it will get my money. In other words, its 100% about the quality of the product. he has interesting points about voice-ordering on alexa that relate to this topic too.

To some extent this is true on steam as well. if I search for indie strategy games, then as long as production line has top tier reviews, and is a quality product, I should do well. The only problem here is that there are a LOT of indie strategy games, and a LOT of them have high reviews. I am hoping to *not only* get some sales from people generally browsing steam, but also from people who actively search for my game by name. Not only that, but I want my name/logo to pop out to people as some game they have heard of, so my game gets clicked on, when other games do not.

Basically, you are either hoping for traffic ‘within the store’ by having a decent product, or you are hoping for additional traffic *to* the store because you have established yourself as a name. I’m trying to drive traffic *to* my game, and am prepared to spend some marketing $ to get people there. Five years ago, steam was sparse enough to make a living from ‘just being there’ but now…not so much. Now you have to drive some traffic that way.

Conclusion? Advertising is changing, a lot. but it might not be changing for you. as a game developer.

 

Wow, this one took a while, and involved a lot of work, but 1.16 is now live. I screwed it up, so if you grabbed it in the first 12 hours or so, re-grab it, as I had a bug that made cars process about 1/10th the speed of normal… ooops. Naturally I did a video talking about the new stuff…so here it is:

I’m really pleased to have finally got a second body type in there (SUV). Actually *doing* this, rather than just talking about it and planning for it had unearthed a huge amount of under-the-hood nonsense that I needed to change, tweak and make more flexible, but the good news is that now the game has multiple body types, adding future ones (we plan on a compact car next) should be a lot quicker and less hassle.

As its a new version, we now have a new ‘priorities poll’, and you can see the priorities of players on my priorities database table on this page. Here is a summary so far:

Which is interesting, and probably depressing for artists and sound effects people, because it shows that for games in this genre, gamers just don’t care about the shiny stuff. What they want are cool systems, lots of options, lots of stuff to play with. And that suits me fine because I am a coder first and foremost, and one who loves complexity, so this is the ideal; answer for me. Because I am aware that this is only a poll of the pre-order hardcore, I *have* arranged for better music (some went in to 1.16) and upcoming GUI graphics revamp, so it wont get completely ignored :D

There will be likely NO VIDEO next weekend as its just before I go on holiday (yes I know…amazing right), but I hope to be back the weekend after to talk about what goes in this week. In other news, if you are a modern tech worker who isn’t getting stuff done you could do worse than read this book. I also found this film pretty funny. BTW Big Pharma is 75% off for a few hours more, and Political Animals is on sale this week on steam.

Something that is much requested, and that I am also keen on (and currently working on), is different body styles for Production Line. Currently there is just one body style: the sedan. It has optional spoiler and aerial, and a bunch of colors, but otherwise thats it. Obviously we need SUVs and compacts and sports cars and pick-up trucks and many more (I held a poll, and SUV and compact won).

Deciding that new bodystyles need to go in, and will go in, is easy. The tricky thing is how to implement it within the game.

I’ve mused on this for a while now. My initial plan was to keep things simple. Forcing the player to have completely separate production lines for each vehicle might make sense in the real world, but I think it would be pretty annoying for the player. On the other hand, some players may want to do precisely this, and feel that not doing so is ‘cheating’. We all know that factories tend to produce just 1 model, and that the same robot/person does not screw the same headlight onto an SUV or a compact car.

Actually the main problem is that if we *do* have different production lines, that also means we start needing new resources (if we follow that train of thought). So suddenly we don’t have sunroof, we have sedan sunroof, compact sunroof, SUV sunroof…etc, and the complexity starts getting ridiculous. As a result, I want to have a compromise situation where there is reason for the player to organize his production lines into separate bodystyles, but not enough realism to force them to worry about 6 different types of trunk or 6 different headlight types. There is complexity that leads to interesting and fun gameplay, and then there is just annoying busywork… I *could* allow component re-use across body styles but never allow lines to cross or meet, but then does it become more like tetris and less like a business sim? and do I now need a lot more export slots? Plus the routing code would become even more like spaghetti.

So I think I’m going to say that a ‘sunroof’ is a ‘sunroof’, and it can be fitted to any car. Obviously the final visual effect ‘on the car’ will be different, but I’m not going to force the player to micromanage different types. Obviously this isn’t totally realistic, but then sexy elf boob-armor and men carrying guns six times their weight isn’t either so throw me a damn bone here ok?

My compromise back in the land of realism is this:

Because allowing components to be interchangeable, and therefore allowing fitting slots to be interchangeable between body styles *could* lead to the weird sight of a jumble of different cars all trundling along a production line, which feels *wrong*, I’ve decided to allow this… BUT…. *drumroll* …. have a ‘re-tooling’ penalty in time whenever the bodystyle changes for a slot. In other words, when you weld the doors on an SUV, and the next car to rock-up to your slot is a sedan, you have to wait X seconds (probably some multiple of the normal work time) to realign your welding widgets, or whatever. This *allows* for bodystyle changes and thus mixed-production, but penalizes excessive swapping.

I think that’s quite a neat compromise, especially because I can then allow you to research ‘rapid re-tooling’ to lessen the impact. I actually already have tech named ‘retooling’, which I can rename to ‘asset recovery’ as that’s more accurately what it does.

Anyway, that is my current plan. When multiple body styles are researched, the player will be able to select from a drop down list at the start of the line which body style each new vehicle uses, and that carries through its entire life. Obviously it will need more tweaking at the business side of things, and also I would liked to find a way to ensure that SUVs cost more (for example), but I think its best to get multiple car styles in there sooner rather than later as its clearly something people want to see in their factories.

I do have plans for proper design studios and clay car models, but they will likely come later, if people want them.

In other news I’m working on early access readiness for steam. GoG will come too. I have to get a video named (its in progress) and I’m getting proper music too. Busy busy busy. it looks like new car types are likely to be the last new thing (apart from polish and bug fixes) that goes in before we go into early access.

 

I admit that I didn’t expect so many thousands of people to pre-order Production Line. The target I set for ‘I should be on early access when this many people are playing’ has already been hit, and I don’t have the video done yet, or the steam info ready for early access. I’ve been caught a bit by surprise.

This latest build changes the way engines are built, changes (again!) the financial modelling, adjusts a lot of numbers, puts in proper achievement art and text, adds a simple bit of tutorial stuff fixes a whole bunch of small issues, and adds some new research tech too. I feel really good about this build, its definitely the most balanced, fun and playable so far by a long way. If you are already playing the game you should get an update popup, but either way, just re-download the installer and you’ll get the new version. You can trigger an order email re-send from here.

The near term will see me getting new car model types into the game (coming soon, my artist dude rob is already working on them) and some proper music (are you sick of that loop yet? :D), and then the immediate order of business after that is to get the correct steam and GoG integration done so that I can get into Early Access on both platforms. (I know GoG call it something else). The longer term will see me thinking about marketing, competitors, a better tutorial, mod support, multiple language support, more achievements, and an expansion of the tech tree in all sorts of directions. I’d also like to get steam workshop support in there, obviously trading card support, and a bunch of character and polish.

I haven’t really done much to promote the game other than my weekly youtube videos which are fun to do and fairly popular (by my paltry standards). I’ve spent a few hundred dollars on reddit and facebook to boost the game a bit, but nothing serious. I’ve partly relied on it having a bit of a bargain price (that is likely to go to $13 next week, and probably $15 for early access), but that wont be my strategy forever. I’m considering getting a booth for EGX in the UK in September (when I assume the game will still be in Early Access) to help get the word out a bit more. I haven’t made much of a push to contact youtubers, but once I hit early access I will start to do that a bit too.

Anyway, the most important thing by far is that I’m really enjoying working on it, its gets better every week, and so far the community have been really helpful and understanding when I break stuff or mess things up :D. If you haven’t already grabbed the game, its still $12 for a few more days:


Complete 1.15 changelist:

[version 1.15]
1) [Bug] Fixed crash bug when upgrading power plants.
2) [Bug] Fixed memory leak caused by the save game dialog. (Big one :D).
3) [Feature] Engine system redesign. Flywheel no longer used, engine is now a powertrain, new research, new slots for new engine production line.
4) [Feature] Stop-start engine is a new researchable upgrade. This is the first upgrade applying to a component you can manufacture.
5) [Bug] Fixed issues where changing the requirements for a supply stockpile would cause overlaps and confusion.
6) [Bug] Fixed routing for production line slots so resource requirements changes frees up the right room for newly required components.
7) [Performance] Vastly sped up drawing and creation of the car stock dialog when number of cars in stock is very high.
8) [Feature] Load game dialog now auto-sizes where possible and will not load invalid save games.
9) [Feature] Changes to economic model. Design screen now automatically matches market value unless you override. feature price tab removed.
10) [Feature] Basic tutorial pop-up windows added.
11) [Bug] Some achievements that did not display progress now do.
12) [Feature] 2 new researchable factory upgrades increase the refunds from demolishing equipment.
13) [GUI] Refunds now have a green rising value to distinguish them from expenditure.
14) [GUI] Supply stockpiles now also show their delivery point as a colored tile like normal stockpiles in resource-placing mode.
15) [Balance] Major re-pricing of upgrades and the market-values of features. Most upgrades to slots doubled in prices. Many features are now less valuable.
16) [Graphics] Some production slots now have work-pits next to the conveyor belt.
17) [GUI] Achievements now have final graphics and better text.

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