Category Archives: production line

So I tested and released build 1.34 of Production Line today with the following changes:

1) [Bug] Fixed crash bug when dragging production line route placer off the map.
2) [Bug] Fixed bug where queued research could disappear and be untriggerable if requirements not met.
3) [GUI] Various usability improvements to the research queue and R&D screen.
4) [SFX] Factory sounds now controlled by SFX volume, and muted during research.
5) [Bug] Fixed bug where after reloading the same games, some cars were invisible at certain zoom levels.
6) [Tutorial] Hint now given if player has not done any research after producing 10 cars.
7) [Graphics] Added a bunch more machine animations for the metalpresses.
8) [Feature] Pickup truck is a new body style option!
9) [Simulation] Sports Cars, Compacts & pickups now require half as many seats.
10) [Bug] Fixed bug where wingmirror painted layers were not painted the right color.
11) [Balance] Adjustments to AI competition and component price variation.
12) [Bug] Fixed bug preventing dragging scrollbars vertically.

This is a fairly content-heavy update, with new animations and a new car body style. Who would have guessed that in the USA 18% of vehicle sales are pickup trucks? Anyway… its more stuff to research and sell, and hopefully people will be pleased to see the extra content.

I have a big list of minor things I really need to get fixed/changed/tweaked for the next build, and then eventually it will be time for me to tackle the big hybrid./electric power-train thing. In-between all that we have our super artist working away on steam trading card art, which is going to be AMAZING, so with any luck we will have those in the next update, for people who like that sort of thing. I’m also thinking that there should be a bit more variety in the games factory equipment. I would love to be able to tell from a distance which slot is which, and the re-use of a lot of components throughout the factory makes that tricky. Some items, like the Tyre-press or glass-cutter are distinct to specific slots, but a lot of it isn’t and I think its about time I addressed that and got some more little factory things made so that I can create more distinct looks for each slot. Plus that gives me an excuse to look at factory videos :D

I’ve set the new price to be $17.99 but valve have to ‘approve’ it before it changes, so if you are on the fence, buy NOW :D.

Or buy it now at full price from us direct … :D

There are no comments yet

Balancing games is really HARD. I’ve posted before twice about using stats to fine tune Production Line, mostly because I ma better with hard numbers than I am with reading forum comments, reddit comments, facebook comments, emails, reviews on steam and everything else the community has to say in order to draw conclusions. people generally dont comment on a game, so the 1% that do can give you a very skewed view of what is going on, and I want to ensure I am working to effectively improve the game for everyone. With that in mind lets look at some stats.

Here is a graph showing the progression within games from 50-500 game hours, expressed as the median value.

It looks like I kinda screwed up with build 1.32 and it was too generous(easy) in the long run, with the median player having buckets too much cash. I prefer the way things are now, although TBVH cash accumulates too much at the end anyway. This may be the effect of outliers running cheats though? If I look at the distribution for the current version I get this:

Which has a log scale and shows that we definitely have some people cheating at the top end, but a fair few people who have more than $100mill in hour 500. A cluster seems to be around the 1-10 mill level which is fine. overall, I dont see any major balancing issue here. Now looking at profit margins:

I really dont want the player to have significantly negative profit margins over the course of the game. Its fine in the short run, as loans can allow it, but not indefinitely. It looks like the last two builds did a decent job of preveting catastrophic meltdowns over the 100-400 hour mark, but I could still do with tweaking the marketplace to stop that negative margin being so low. it looks like the system is good at preventing excessive profits, but can resulty in unsustainable losses, so I’m going to need to tweak that a bit.

This chart is showing how strongly the AI competitors compete with the player. it looks like I made no noticeable impact on this in the last build. The AI basically runs on maximum from when you reach the 200 hour mark. This is probably related to it over-punishing the player and causing that negative profit margin. It looks like I just need the AI to back off a bit quicker once it starts having an impact on the players profit margins.

All fun stuff for me to think about today, and then tomorrow I’ll just be doing final testing before releasing build 1.34 to the wild. Talking of which…

I am increasing the price of Production Line tomorrow from its current $15.99 to $17.99. I thought this was a good time to do it, as I’ll be adding the new exciting Pickup Truck to the game:

As well as lots of new animations, and we are getting closer to the eventual point where it gets described as ‘beta’ and then eventually ‘released’. The games price has been the same all through Early Access so far so I thought it was about time. if you want to save yourself $2 you can grab it from the link below. (or steam/Gog). If you are enjoying the game, positive reviews are always nice to have :D

My Excel skills have levelled up since I last wrote about balancing production line using player statistics. As a result I now have more informative charts to look at when analysing play sessions from build 1.32. My intentions with this balancing are to increase the long term playability and balance of the game. basically player retention is good after 1 day, good after 7 days, but starts to tail off before 28 days, implying that the game is good initially but loses its challenge after a while. it may also suggest a lack of content, which is surprising given what’s in the game, but will be naturally fixed over time as more is added (Pickup trucks, quality control, branding, breakdowns).

Looking at the following chart I can see that the amount of cash players have after 50,200,200,300…500 hours. I’m quite happy with this. clearly the amount climbs over time, but is not exorbitant for the median player. I’d like the player to have the odd million dollars in cash, but beyond 10 million makes things a bit easy. Hopefully some expensive upgrades for luxury cars in the late game will push that down slightly.

This second chart shows the intensity of AI competition, and is basically a measure of how well the player is doing, as perceived by the AI. I can see that I was absolutely right to do away with the 50-hour moratorium of AI competitors, as clearly some players race ahead and needed to have the AI rein them in. The clear problem here is that the competition value is trending rapidly up to 100%. I feel that this is a strong indicator that the maximum competitive level of the AI just is not competitive enough. In other words, the metrics by which the AI judges the player are not being bought under control by the methods available to the AI. This needs fixing.

This final graph shows the profitability (as percentage margin) of the players business over time. Its not unreasonable for this to be low, even at a loss during the start, as the player invests in equipment and ramps up production. Over time this is trending to slightly above zero, and my raw stats show an average value at 500 hours of 7.2%. This isn’t too bad, certainly believable in an industry like car production. I dont see that anything really needs to change is response to this graph.

So my conclusions from the currently available data is that the competition index metric is too meek, and that the player should face potentially more challenging AI at the top end, but at the bottom end, it should definitely continue to act as before, taking its foot off the metaphorical gas pedal of competition. The AI seems ok at not crushing the poor-performing player, but too weak to offer a decent challenge to the high-performing one.

Of course the important thing here is to work out what my ideal metrics are for improving the game. I’m assuming that people only continue to play games that they enjoy, and thus the hours played of the game should be a decent metric to show whether or not the game is getting more fun. Right now those stats look like this:

Which isn’t too shabby. I compared it with another one of my games and this isn’t too bad, especially considering the much shorter time its been out, and the fact that it is not content complete. Ideally you dont just make a game for those hardcore who put in 20+ hours but try to move everyone along that graph. I’d like to see the number of people playing 2 hours go up a lot more. I think if you don’t like a game you find out before then, so that’s a sign I’ve made something enjoyable. To that end, I need to ensure the game remains challenging in the long run, so tweaking these figures should hopefully nudge it in the right direction.

I feel I should do some actual marketing fluff here, so if you like the sound of the game and haven’t bought it, here is a link :D

There are no comments yet

I’ve talked about this issue in the design of customer AI in Production Line before.

In the last patch, I made some changes. here is the current system:

Each customer arrives at the showroom and looks at the cars on sale. That customer has a fixed ‘budget’ and have some leeway around that budget, from 20% less to 20% more (so a $20,000 customer checks out cars between $16,000 and $24,000, regardless what price range this puts them into). Every customer looks at every car and calculates a ‘score’ for that car…

They take into account the value of the car by comparing its estimated fair value to its actual value (basically they look at the markup you set). They then get a value from 1% to 100% saying how likely they are to buy that car. if the car is a different body style to the one they had originally wanted, they penalize that score.

The top five cars by this rating system are then looked at, and the player effectively rolls a percentage dice against each one to see if they will buy them. They may buy one of them, or not buy at all. The other four cars (or maybe all five) get given feedback by this customer on why they did not get bought, with the options being:

  • Wrong Body Style (assuming thats true)
  • Too Expensive ( failed the random die-roll)
  • Missing features (The car was missing some essential features, and this had a 5% or more impact on the likelihood to buy.
  • Bought an identical model (The customer bought exactly this model, but there was just more than one).

So like I say…thats the current system. It appears to have problems.

The most obvious problem is the customer budget. A top budget makes sense, but a bottom budget kind of does-not. If the customer wants a top feature sports car, and has a set budget of $200,000 and we are trying desperately to sell them for $100k, they should snap that up!. This is clearly nonsensical. What the customer should have is reasonable feature requests, not the minimum budget (which was being used as a proxy for this). The problem is, I need to do this sensibly, accurately, correctly and also fast, because some people have a LOT of cars on sale and a lot of customers. So how can I do this…

Right now I think the first thing I’m going to try is to remove the lower budget limit, but instead represent it as a quantity of features, that at a reasonable price, would be equivalent to that value. In other words, if My budget range is $80-120,000, I actually cap my buying at $120,000, but will consider any car that has $80,000-worth of features, regardless how far below $120k that car is priced.