Jake Birkett, one of the developers behind Shadowhand is going to be at GDC this year, shortly before the final (yay!) release of the game. If you haven’t already heard about it, check out the website or read the announcement on Jakes blog:


Its a very interesting game, because its a sort of RPG/Card game/Visual Novel mashup with cool characters and a very interesting combat mechanic. I think it will appeal to casual card game players and Darkest-Dungeon lovers alike.

I’ll also be there, wearing a REALLY BRIGHT jacket, and pretending to be networking.

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This week has been tough. I’ve been busy, also been ill, and been totally rewriting a core bit of code in Production Line to fix some obscure bugs. I think the code is way better now, but the proof is in the play-testing. I didn’t want to keep the improvements I *know* I’ve made hidden from people any longer so today I released 1.05 and also this video…

Here is the complete changelist:

[version alpha  1.05]
1) Resource conveyors now have feint shadows.
2) New design and car stock dialogs now prevent autosave from triggering.
3) Powerplant efficiency upgrade now works in a more obvious way.
4) Massive speed-up to the delay between a stockpile needing resources, and them being ordered.
5) Floating values and particles no longer visible when quitting a game.
6) Fixed crash bug when preparing to place a new slot over a conveyor belt loop.
7) Game now paused whilst in R&D screen.
8) Erroneous robot upgrades removed from make windows slot.
9) Changes to floating values rendering makes zoomed out GUI less messy.
10) Fixes for possible causes of crashing when saving really big games.
11) Some crude rebalancing of starting funds for the first two missions.
12) ‘R’ as well as ‘r’ now rotates.
13) Clicking current balance now acts as an on/off toggle on finance window, which is no longer modal.
14) Various minor GUI fixes.
15) ‘Make valve’ is now visible on the slot picker.
16) Save game GUI now much more consistent with the load game GUI.

This code has been hell to get right. Its all to do with the resource items that get delivered around the factory. They can be created new (nothing is actually new() for memory reasons) and imported from an importer (or held in an importers queue), then can be in transit, then can be used up, they can be created by manufacturing slots, or heading to/from a supply stockpile or in an export queue for either of those things. Thats all EASY to manage. The code hell comes from the fact that the player can delete ANYTHING at any time, or change any route which makes some of those items ‘stranded’. You can delete the source of a resource, or some part of its current route, or its destination at any point, and code chaos ensues.

I think its much better now… I really hoper so, its actually stressed me quite a bit.

Ultimately all bugs can be fixed, but its frustrating because a) I have a lot of people playing and want them to be happy and b) I have a long list of ‘cool things’ I want to improve and tweak and add, and I’m not letting myself do any of that stuff until I have little or no bug reports, so its been really frustrating. I’ll be sooo happy if people say I’ve fixed some of the bugs and I can go back to doing some GUI improvements and some play balancing and tech tree fun and games!

The alpha continues to be really, really popular, almost entirely by word of mouth (not much press has come our way), so that’s really encouraging and I’d like to thank everyone who has tweeted, posted in forums, and generally told their friends about the game, it is much appreciated. I’m really hoping next week my video will be all ‘look at all the coool stuff we added!’.

This has been the softest launch of a game I’ve ever done. I spent about $100 total on facebook post boosts, I tweeted, I blogged and I posted to the ProductionLine facebook page. Since then…thats it, I’ve been pretty much going along on word of mouth, and even then, sales have exceeded my expectations! This is really good news, because so far the development of the game has gone exactly as I had hoped, with a lot more focus on what actual players of the game want, rather than me guessing, or doing just want I want, or me trying to guess what makes the press happiest.

This has resulted in a lot of bug reports! (many thanks for that) and some really good suggestions and ideas, some of which have already made it into the game. People do seem to be surprised how quickly stuff goes in or gets improved, but frankly thats because I worked on this game for about a year in silence so there is this whole huge library of decent engine code in the background that is *done* and thus I only really have to code new features and GUI stuff now. New GUI does not take that long, and thankfully I’ve got good enough at debugging multi-threading and recursive stuff that this is not a huge bottleneck either. I’m almost disappointed nobody is having frame-rate issues, because I love optimizing :D

This is just as well as there have been a LOT of ideas and suggestions. I’ve already seen factories way bigger and more efficient than anything I have managed to create. It never occurred to me to re-use the conveyor belts in cunning roundabout-style loops with the individual processing elements happening at different junctions…until someone found a bug in it.

Users feedback has been excellent, encouraging and invaluable.

But anyway! I’m actual;y sending out a puny mailing list today with 7,500 recipients, so that should open things up a bit, especially as some are press. I don’t expect massive press coverage, but I’m not relying on it either. The game remains very much in Alpha (not even beta) so I expect a lot of people, gamers and press alike will stay in a ‘wait and see’ mode.

In the meantime, I have just set a big patch(1.04) live, and here is the fairly hefty changelist. (not bad for about 4 days work).

[version alpha  1.04]
1) The task ‘make fuel tanks’ now unlocks when researched correctly.
2) Fixed some crashes and routing bugs caused by deleting resource importer bays.
3) Pop-up details on the slot-picker now should show decimal places for times.
4) Vehicle details windows limited to one per vehicle and can now be dragged by the player.
5) Fixed minute format bug in save games.
6) Pause now works as a toggle, and all speed controls have hotkeys.
7) Escape key now closes slot picker.
8) Slot picker has less visual ‘padding’.
9) Double-click on the relevant window now loads a save game.
10) The upgrades section of a slot details dialog is now hidden if there are no upgrades available for selection.
11) Any open dialogs are now correctly closed when going to the main menu.
12) Fixed crash bug when a single stretch of uninterrupted conveyor belt was over 64 tiles long.
13) Added new efficiency dialog which shows efficiency over time and also a snapshot of current slot efficiency.
14) Fixed bug where slots could be placed ‘spilling’ over into a locked factory area.
15) Fixed bug on low resolutions where the slot upgrades window did not fit on the screen.
16) Floating numbers fade out now even when paused.
17) Improvements to ‘load-balancing’ at junctions.
18) New ‘Efficiency’ dialog currently just showing global state of all slots now and over time.
19) Slight speedup of creating the load-game dialog.
20) New vehicle pop-ups show the reason a vehicle is stuck.
21) Some conveyor belt graphics now have darker, more obvious direction arrows.
22) Fixed incorrect sizes of some delivered resources.
23) New upgrade for painting slot: ‘High pressure paint nozzles’
24) Fixed bug where components built inside the factory at ‘make’ slots did not survive a save and load.
25) Corrupt resource deliveries to roof making and similar slots fixed.
26) New graphics for the tyre-making slot and the window making slot.


Thanks for everyone pre-ordering, and I also really appreciate it when people tweet or post online about the game, its really helpful. If you don’t have the game yet, here is the order form :D

Wow, fifteen video blogs. Its amazing how I have found the time. Also you note that my physical appearance deteriorates with each blog. I must remember to shave and wash my hair one week. Anyway, enough of that, my blog readers come for Production Line updates, not men’s grooming tips!. Here is the latest video blog:

Its safe to say that pre-orders have exceeded my expectations. You people seem to like this game! I keep checking that there hasn’t been some big news article on it, and no! its just word of mouth and some cool youtube videos. I’m working my way through a seemingly never ending list fo fixes, tweaks and suggestions, and trying to patch the game only when I have patched something that is embarrassing enough that it pains me to think of people playing without that fix! I’ll try to slow down the release schedule and have fewer, bigger updates, as that means less time spending doing and checking builds and more time spent actually developing fixes and improvements.

The full 1.03 fix list is this:

[version alpha  1.03]
1) Click-dragging on a slot to build a conveyor or a production line no longer launches the details window for the slot.
2) Fixed bug where the wrong entry was deleted on supply stockpile contents lists if the scrollbar had moved.
3) In game settings menu now pauses game, and some other menus now pause and resume previous speed when closed.
4) Facility and slot placer GUI now postpone the autosave kicking in to avoid corrupt saves.
5) Fixed crash bug with loading large save games.
6) New resource route highlight GUI for when you select a slot that has a resource stockpile.
7) Fixes to resource routing to recover from cases where resources-in-progress cannot get to their destination.
8) Fixed anomalies with slot details window not refreshing accurately.
9) Clicking a resource importer no longer shows a slot details window.
10) Checkbox now has a visible tick.
11) Fixed bug where time would pass when game was in alt-tab mode.
12) Fixed missing sales data for games with over 2,000 sold cars.

6) and 7) are the big ones, which solve a lot of issues, along with those save game fixes. I’m going to try and pack a whole bunch of tiny GUI improvements and fixes into the next patch.

Also worth mentioning we have a sale on right now for political animals, 40% off on steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/458630/

I know politics in the US has got very newsworthy lately. In the past when political events happen I have tended to run some satirical promotion or ads for Democracy 3, and I’m not doing it now just because people are so angry they are lashing out at everyone, and I’m just staying out of it. Also I’m going to GDC next month and don’t want to get involved in any political arguments. I *did* take the time to look at Democracy 3’s immigration code and noted that extreme border checks do actually reduce terrorism according to the game, and also cheer up patriots and annoy liberals. I guess it should also have a negative effect on capitalists (who tend to support free movement of labour) and maybe a hit to technology, as tech companies are especially keen on free movement. I’m surprised people haven’t done a ‘I played democracy 3 like trump’ video yet.

Anyway, enough politics, lets remind ourselves you can order production line right now :D

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A short rant about UK tax

January 24, 2017 | Filed under: Uncategorized

…not about it being too high. I think its probably ‘about right’ myself, and there are arguments in both directions, and I don’t want to get into that. My complaint is not that we are taxed too much, bu that we are taxed really badly. Theoretically our income tax system is simple enough:

Basic rate band:  £0-32,000 charged at 20%

Higher rate band: £32k- £150k charged at 40%

Additional rate band: £150k+ charged at 45%

All well and good. A few needless cliff-edges there, having a band between 32 and 150k wouldn’t exactly over-stress modern computers methinks. If life for a UK tax payer was this simple, it would be great. the thing is, we have a load of other bullshit:

  • ‘Tax credits’ are a thing that are basically benefits, but the government didn’t want to call them benefits so they get called tax credits instead, and are not credits against tax.
  • If you earn over £100k, the government starts taking away your ‘personal allowance’ of tax-free income at a marginal rate of 50%. This was a kludge to fix a bodged budget one year that nobody has the balls to fix.
  • As well as income tax, there is capital gains tax, which is totally different rates, at different bands, on money from different sources.
  • ‘National Insurance’ is a tax on employment paid by employers AND employees, again at totally different rates and rules. Its essentially just more tax, and makes no sense whatsoever to be separated from income tax.
  • TV License, is a tax you have to pay to use a TV, or a computer capable of receiving a TV signal. Theoretically you don’t HAVE to have one, but in practice everyone does, and a totally separate regime of costs, enforcement and collection takes place. FFS roll this into income tax.
  • Car Tax. This is a tax (technically a duty) for owning a car, even if you never drive it once. This is again, set, enforced and collected in an entirely different way to…
  • Fuel tax. A tax for using a car, assuming that its a petrol/diesel car.
  • VAT. A sales tax, whose rules are complex enough to be laughable. Some biscuits have VAT on them. other biscuits do not, depending how they are made. I wish I was kidding. I’m not.
  • Stamp Duty. This is a tax on buying a house, or buying *some* shares on the stock market. Apparently it seems to be designed to reduce market liquidity and reduce labour force mobility. No other explanation makes sense.

Essentially the UK tax system is one nobody in their right mind would design. We have several taxes (Car Tax, National Insurance, TV licenses) that could happily be abolished and rolled into a rise in income tax, but nobody has the balls to confront this and actually do it. The insane complexity of the system gives profitable work to an army of accountants who do their best to prevent the government collecting tax from the wealthy, whilst confusing the crap out of everybody else. The partisan state of British politics means that cross-party co-operation on issues such as tax-simplification is much needed yet impossible to achieve.

Eventually such system will collapse under their own stupidity. Countries like Italy and Greece show what happens when the majority of people start avoiding tax, you get more and more taxes to compensate for the evasion, leading to greater and greater evasion…

If I were Prime Minister, one of my first steps would be to abolish car tax and stick the revenue lost as an increase in fuel tax. I’d scrap stamp duty. I’d scrap the License fee and roll them both into income tax, and do the same with national insurance./

Accountants would hate me, but c’est la vie!